by John O'Hair
Please e-mail your responses to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Respect for Others' Property
The eighth commandment, 'Do not to steal' is the next in line of the commandments we are considering. This command is built upon the preceding commandments, an idea I picked up from Vishal Mangalwadi in his book ‘Truth and Transformation’. Remember God is giving the Jews commandments to show them how to live as free people after 400 years of being slaves. Respecting property flows out of honoring family, life and one’s sexual behavior. If you have no respect for family, life or sexual behavior you will certainly not respect property.
God is the creator of all things visible and invisible. As Psalms 50:10-12 says, everything on the planet belongs to God. God made things and beings. They are His and He owns it all. The idea of property rights originates from this truth. God owns and we being image bearers of Him also own. God commanded Adam to work and develop the Garden, therefore work, developing resources and possessions have their origin from the beginning. This reality is still in play for every person.
With the fall of man, sin entered the world and has had an effect on this area. As my friend Dave says, there are two types of people today, producers and plunderers. As sinners in a sinful world we either produce or we plunder (steal). God wants and expects us to produce. In Deuteronomy 8:17, 18, God tells us that He gives us the ability to make wealth. The way the world is created, it is possible to multiply the resources God has made to prosper us. Hard work, wisdom and creativity (all attributes of God) allow humans to unlock the resources of creation to supply our needs and wants.
The injustice of slavery is that the labor of a person is stolen from them for the benefit of another. Because of this wrong, slaves would themselves steal from each other and their overlords. If people steal from me the thought is, “it is ok for me to steal from others.” After 400 years of this behavior, patterns and habits were established. God is saying that living as a free person requires one not to steal.
Stealing is a reason for poverty. When Jesus said, “the poor will always be with you”, I believe He was telling us that sin will always lead to poverty. Theft of labor, property, resources or time does not foster wealth or flourishing for people. I saw this in Kenya, when people stole property or possessions it left the victims in desperate circumstances.
God wants us to work, produce and make wealth. Wealth is intended to bring us joy, 1 Timothy 6:17 and to have something we can share with others. Paul in Ephesians 4:28 exhorts thieves to stop stealing and work with their hands so they would have something to share with those in need. Generosity is a result of working and producing (1 Timothy 6:18, 2 Corinthians 9:8,10,11).
Respect for property is an important idea. Helping children and students understand this truth is foundational to their character development and their freedom.
God's Protection from Sexual Sin
The seventh commandment is ‘Do not commit Adultery’. This commandment is grounded on the foundation of the previous two commandments of honoring ones parents and not murdering. God has designed the family to be a husband and a wife and children. Mom and Dad are to be honored by the children, the children are to obey the parents and life is to be sacred in the home, neighborhood, and community. So the next area to be addressed in our exploration of the ten commandments is with regard to the sexual actions of parents.
Adultery is the sin of a married person having sex with someone who is not their spouse. Remember God is giving these commandments to a large group of freed slaves. The Jews had been slaves for over 400 years when God freed them from slavery. As Os Guinness says in his new book, A Free Peoples Suicide, “there are three phases to freedom; winning freedom, organizing freedom and sustaining freedom.” These three phases are seen in God’s dealings with the children of Israel. He won them their freedom over the Egyptians through the plagues and Passover. At Mt. Sinai he gave them the law (the commandments) to organize their freedom and then moving into the Promised Land they get to sustain their freedom.
In a slavery culture men and women are items of property that can multiply. Family is not valued in slavery, but owners want their slaves to have sex to reproduce more assets. Sex amongst slaves is not tied to a committed relationship but only for the momentary enjoyment of the slave and the economic proliferation of the slave owner. God knew that the whole worldview of slaves toward sex had to be changed so they could develop healthy families and through them a healthy and free community.
Sex outside of marriage damages a family, it leads to a loss of trust between spouses, and it is a form of betrayal. We call it unfaithfulness because it is a violation of the vows made at the marriage of the man and woman. Sexual abuse between a parent and child is very damaging to a child. It is evil and destructive. Sexual sins tear apart the fabric of families and society. Hence God commands that we do not commit adultery.
Our culture contends that sexual sins are victimless crimes. No one gets hurt. The reality is that sexual sins destroy the fabric of the family and do not lead to human flourishing. A loving and stable family does not guarantee perfect kids, but it gives a pattern of a well-adjusted healthy relationships built on love, trust, and commitment. Sexual sin from adultery to abuse to addiction to pornography ruins all three qualities (love, trust, and commitment). It destroys families and, in the long run, the community.
I think Paul says it best, “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.” Galatians 6:7-8 (NASB)
"You Shall Not Murder"
We now move on to the sixth commandment which is, "you shall not murder." Murder is defined as killing another person deliberately and not in self-defense. There are circumstances where the taking of a person’s life is not murder such as self-defense, combat in war and manslaughter (accidental killing). God’s focus in this command is the deliberate (premeditated or passion) killing of another person being wrong.
Jesus told us that it is not just the action of physically murdering but He expanded the meaning to include the verbal abuse of a person (calling someone a fool) that God is concerned with in this verse. Few of us have physically murdered a person, but we all have deliberately or in passion said something to or about another that has broken this sixth commandment.
This command flows logically from the 5th Commandment of honoring ones father and mother. The creation of family by God puts people in close relationship and God expects those relationships to be marked by love, honor and respect. Our sin comes out in this assembly (Proverbs 26:26) and that causes fights and quarrels (James 4:1-3). We end up demanding our way and we thus fight, quarrel and kill as James says!
The family by the design of God is the center of generating new life through the birthing of children. Family is designed to be a place of life and safety where parents and children are nurtured and protected. Where love grows and is shared. Where we learn obedience and respect, where we learn about God.
It is instructive that after the fall of Adam and Eve the first sin recorded between people was the murder of Abel by Cain. Brother murdering brother. God warned Cain that sin was crouching at the door and it would master him and yet Cain went ahead and in premeditated fashion killed Abel. Of all the sins that people could have committed after the fall, this was the first!
The family was designed to be a place of love, safety and intimacy. A place where murder is not committed. Sadly murder does happen in our families; abuses whether verbal, sexual, or physical are all forms of murder that violate the sixth commandment. Abortion murders the child in the womb. Murder is in our hearts and thus in our homes!
One of our key values at Desert Christian is safety. We want our school to be a safe place, safe physically, emotionally and spiritually. We want no murder here! In partnering with families we want the institution of the school to reflect the values of the home, the values God designed into the family a place where love honor and respect are practiced.
Honoring Others so that it May Go Well with You
Continuing with my series on the Ten Commandments, I now move to the Fifth Commandment.The first four commandments all are related to our relationship with God. They focus on Him and how we are to act toward Him. The first four are the foundation to the next six. The first four commands are summarized by Christ in the commandment to ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart soul and mind.’ The next six are summarized by the command to ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'
Keeping the next six commandments will not count for much if the first four are not followed and believed. Look at Jesus discussion with the rich young ruler. He told Christ he had kept all the commands (mentioning ones from the last six), but when Jesus asked him to sell all and follow he chose not to do that. He could not keep the first commandment (no other god before you) since his fortune was more important to him than God.
The Fifth Commandment is to honor your father and mother. Marriage and family are designed by God and are the foundational building blocks for community and society. Implied in this command is the presence of parents, two different people Dad and Mom who form a unit, ‘The Parents’.
The command to honor them flows out of the reality of the structures of authority that God has ordained and that flow from Him. Parents love, protect and provide for vulnerable children, those children in return are to honor, love, respect and provide for parents. When this exchange is broken by irresponsible behavior or social policy (the state taking on the role of parent or taking the responsibility to care for aging parents) the family is damaged and our respect for life and people is damaged.
This might explain the strategy of the enemy to destroy the family. Divorce, gay marriage, euthanasia are all realities that bring destruction to the family and weaken the concept of honoring ones parents. Once the honoring of parents is gone, the slippery slope to breaking commandments seven through ten comes into play. This is why the sixth commandment comes with a promise, ‘that it may go well with you.' By honoring ones parents, one’s life and health are protected.
Honor is one of the values we esteem at Desert Christian Schools. We have signs around campus proclaiming that honor is treating someone as special. We want our students to honor those around them, peers and elders alike. Honor is first learned in the home and is something God expects of all children for our best. It has implications for our lives and our community.
Trusting in God's Love through Trials and Suffering
In the parable of the sower Jesus said that some seed fell amongst the rocks and when the sun came up the plants withered and died. In his explanation He said that the sun represented trials and tribulations of life and because the plants had no root they withered away in the heat.
Trials reveal a lot! CS Lewis said that ‘suffering reveals what we believe about God’. Suffering does not take faith away or build it; it just reveals what is there, ‘If there is no root, the plant withers’. Over the holiday Mrs. O’Hair and I read a book out loud together, ‘The City of Tranquil Light’ by Bo Caldwell. It is the story of a missionary couple in China in the early 1900’s. They lose their first born daughter to dysentery. In the pain and anguish one of them points out that God does not require that we understand what is doing, He does ask us to trust Him. Suffering reveals whether we trust God or not or to what degree we trust Him.
This past Christmas holiday a former student of Desert Christian High School was in a bad auto accident. This young lady is currently in a coma with a substantial brain injury. Her family is hanging onto the Lord in the midst of their pain.
One thing that is encouraging me in his ordeal is the behavior of some DCHS grads to this situation. Several young men and women friends of the young lady have been at the hospital daily and are serving her family in this difficult time. The love, service and selflessness of these DCHS graduates touches my heart. I am encouraged by their maturity, compassion and kindness. They are displaying the fruits of the spirit in the midst of a confusing and painful situation.
I commend these young men and women for their maturity and Christlikeness that I see in their actions. They are truly living out 1 John 3, ‘let us love not in word or tongue but in deeds an in truth’. So often this generation gets rightly hammered for their self-centeredness and lack of involvement yet in this instance I am seeing a depth that is glorious.
God’s thoughts are not our thoughts, so understanding suffering is not easily discerned. God is good and we are called to trust Him in all situations. Showing the love of Christ is something we can all do whether in pain or not. I rejoice in His grace expressed in the love of His children.
Keeping the Sabbath
I have covered the first three of the Ten Commandments and how they are linked in a progression. This idea of the commandments being progressive and linked I picked up from Mr. Mangalwadi in his book ‘Truth and Transformation’.
The first three commandments contain the truths that there is only one God, that nothing we see or anything else is god and God is to be feared and esteemed. These three initial commandments lead us to the 4th commandment; to rest weekly from our work and treat the Sabbath as set apart.
You see if God is Lord over all things and He is feared and respected then what He says will carry weight with us. If God tells us to do something we are obligated to obey and do as He says. We are to reflect our esteem for God by resting one day each week from our work. The Sabbath is God’s day. It is set apart for Him. Our not working one day in seven is also evidence that we are dependent on God to supply our needs from the other six days I work. Keeping the Sabbath is a sign that we fear and trust God.
Yet like everything God does, there is also a benefit for us in how He has designed it all. In our busy, frenetic world we hear the message that to get ahead one must give 110% and we must work 24/7/365. We believe that working oneself to exhaustion is how to be successful. Yet, here is God saying that when we rest one day out of seven we will be better off compared to working all the time.
Keeping the Sabbath also shows we are not slaves to our work or anyone. Slaves must work at all times and any time their master requires them to work. God wants us to rest and not work one day out of seven. God required that even our servants were to have a Sabbath rest. God is our master and he does not see us as slaves nor treat us as such. As image bearers we are to take a day of rest just as God did. Keeping this commandment reflects the truth that God is master over all of us and we are not slave labor.
The Sabbath rest also demonstrates the heart of God. God rested, not because he was tired, worn out or fatigued. He rested because it is in his nature. We are created beings and we do fatigue, God is limitless in his energy, yet He stopped creating and rested. The festivals and feasts God which commands show us that God loves celebration and remembrance. The Sabbath shows us that God loves the peaceful quiet that comes from resting from one's labor.
So the fourth command is founded on the truths of the existence of the only one true God who is to be feared and those truths are demonstrated when we rest weekly from our labor and depend on God for our lives and for what is best for us. May we all obey and practice rest in our great God!
I am doing a series looking at the 10 commandments and the progression God has built into the commands and its impact on our worldview. This is an idea I learned from Vishal Mangalwadi in his book Truth and Transformation. The first commandment tells us there is only one God. The foundation of all the other commandments is this commandment to have no other God’s before you. The second commandment tells us not to make an idol (an image of any god). Since there is only one God putting anything in the place of that one true God is wrong.
The third command tells us not to misuse God’s name in any way. God warns us that if we misuse his name there are consequences; God will punish the person who does this. This God is to be feared. He is jealous of his name. Idols which are not really God are incapable of saving or punishing us (the truths of the first two commandments). The real God is capable of both saving and punishing us all. He rightly is to be feared.
We live in a time where the fear of God is waning. The fear of God is a powerful motivator of behavior when no one is watching. The fear of the Lord comes from the realization that God is always watching and I am not “getting away” with anything. When I lived in Kenya we had a refrigerator at the Navigator office. We stocked the 'fridge with sodas for people to buy on the honor system. It started out great but over time people were taking sodas and not paying for them. This was not malicious but a sin of omission. To deal with the situation I put a sign up in the refridgerator that read, “God is watching”. Immediately the problem ceased. Why is it when people are aware that God is watching they behave differently?
As Mr. Mangalwadi points out in his book, in the US our elected officials’ state in their oaths of office, “so help me God”. People giving testimony in court swear on a Bible that they will tell the truth, “so help me God”. The fear of the Lord is a foundational part of our western heritage. The fear of the Lord helped to create a culture of honesty and decency. Look at how much more profanity is publically heard today.
A person’s word used to mean something in our culture. When you promised something you would do it. Contracts were upheld, responsible behavior was the norm and a handshake sealed the deal. Not anymore! Pro athletes do not honor their contracts, vows in marriage do not mean much, and lawyers have to be summoned for the most basic of agreements. Why, we have lost the fear of God!
Numbers 30:2 says that God holds us to our vows. I remember the teachers strike in TUSD in the late 70’s. We had signed our contracts in May and in the fall the teachers union came back to us asking that we go on strike. When I was asked I told my colleagues that I would not go on strike since I had signed my contract and my promise would not be broken by going on strike. This colleague asked me, “what if 51% vote to go on strike? I said, “The majority does not tell me what is right or wrong, God holds me to my promises”. I know God is holding me to what I have promised. When a people do not fear God, their promises do not mean anything.
This is why one of the things we are partnering with Christian parents to reinforce with their children at DCS is to fear God. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” Proverbs 1:7. Public schools cannot bring God into the equation of education and therefore cannot bring the fear of God into school. Parents might be emphasizing it at home, but the public school is saying God is not to be feared! Children who do not fear God and think they can get away with it are just ‘clever devils’.
Worshipping God in Truth
Last month I began a series for this blog of looking at the 10 Commandments and the progression they communicate. Each command is built upon the previous one and as a whole they speak to all of life and our worldview. This is an idea I picked up from the book Truth and Transformation by Vishal Mangalwadi.
So building off of the first command to have no other gods, the second command tells us not to make an image of any god (an idol). If our worldview begins with the truth that there is only one God, then worshipping any object or thing is a corruption of the truth that there is one God. Jesus said to the woman at the well that God is seeking worshippers who worship God in spirit and truth. Spirit is non-material (Luke 24:39 – “for a spirit does not have flesh and bone”). So God tells us not to look to the stars or sun, or to look at the created things in our world as objects of worship. God wants us to worship what is true and not a fake god or a lie.
In our modern world we are being called to worship many created things and not the creator. For example we hear people talk about 'mother nature’, as if nature is a personal being. The advent of radical environmentalism is placing the creation ahead of the creator. Radical environmentalism sees nature as a being that is being harmed (the move Avitar depicts this) and who needs to be worshipped and protected. In the US culture there are other gods being touted; sex being glorified by the media, political power promising solutions to everything, wealth and prosperity seen as the goal of life, sports and sports figures as more important than life. The danger for us all is the ease to which we can begin to make these our gods and worship their images; they easily become the focus of our affections and worship.
Mr. Mangalwadi says, “Whoever makes your gods will also make your morality.” So look how these false gods are changing our morality in America. Resources are not used, it is better to protect the environment rather than use resources to ease human needs or suffering. Sex outside of marriage is expected and sought! Pornography is normal and “healthy”! Government can solve our problems, electing the right party will save us! Money will make us happy. Win at all costs. These false gods enslave, they do not set us free. They corrupt us and destroy us.
What you worship defines you and controls you.
Our worldview informs what we value and how we act. At Desert Christian we teach that there is but one true God. A major focus for us is on the true God and what He is like. God transcends His creation; He is separate from and over it. The true God is the one who commands and reveals true morality, which frees and liberates us. He is to be worshipped and Him alone.
The world is a marvelous thing to be studied and explored because it is created by a wise loving God. We all need to learn to worship God in spirit and in truth!
Start with Putting God First
A good friend recommended a book to me this summer, ‘Truth and Transformation’ by Vishal Mangalwadi, it is published by YWAM. In one of the chapters Mr. Mangalwadi explains how the 10 commandments are connected to each other. They are a progression of one building on the other. This is a wonderful idea. I want to explain and develop his thoughts on this over the next few months.
In Deuteronomy 12:28, God tells the people, "Be careful to listen to all these words which I command you, in order that it may be well with you and your sons after you forever, for you will be doing what is good and right in the sight of the LORD your God.” The commandments were given to help us to know and do what is good and right with the result that we and our children would prosper.
With the fall and sin we have been corrupted. Evil brings death and destruction. Righteousness brings life and health. God is working to redeem us and our world. The commandments address our worldviews (our view of reality) and the consequences of those worldviews both positively and negatively.
The first commandment, to have no other God before us, is the starting point. The starting point of any worldview is that view of God. There is one true God and there are many false gods. We in our minds choose to believe who is God. “Putting some created thing in the place of God is the greatest evil,” is what Francis Schaeffer said. That is the definition of an idol, some created thing put up in the place of God. Idols can be man-made things (like a statute) or actions. In Ephesians 5:5 Paul says that immorality, impurity or covetousness are forms of idolatry. What that means is that sexual sin is idolatry. Many people are putting sex in the place of God. They are breaking the first commandment.
Idolatry leads to poverty and destruction. In less developed nations where people worship idols, the idolatry changes their whole view of reality and the world. I have seen people in Kenya who worship idols paralyzed by fear of doing something because of how the ‘god’ would react. They would not seek to change the situation but work to appease the deity. I see that same helplessness in the lives of those caught up in sexual addictions. Their idol is controlling them, improvising them, killing them!
Our God is a forgiving and gracious God. We are called upon to confess and repent and turn back toward God, to have no other God before us than the true God. Have you put something or someone else up in the place of God? It is time to put aside our idols and put God first.
Let Us Shine for Christ
"Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe."-- Philippians 2:14
When I was about 11 years old I had a memorable fight with my younger sister. We were home alone; my folks had gone out. Like clockwork, when they left we started fighting, verbally and physically. I hit my sister in the solar plexus and knocked the wind out of her. I thought I had killed her! After that incident, I never hit her again, but boy did we still argue.
Did you argue and fight when you were kids? Do your children argue and fight? This seems to be a common human issue. Have we grown-ups changed that much? How do we act at sporting events when we are faced with poor officiating? How do we react when the pressure is on?
We live in a darkening world. There is evil all around us. If anyone should have had a negative outlook on life, the apostle Paul qualified. Paul wrote Philippians while in a Roman jail awaiting his execution. Yet Philippians is a book whose central message is a focus on joy.
Paul's admonition to believers was to do everything in life without complaining or arguing. Why? Because, complaining and arguing short circuit what God is trying to accomplish in our life. Whatever is happening to us is no surprise to God. James (James 1:2,3) tells us to consider it all joy when we encounter various trials, because we know that those trials are a test to our faith. Will we trust God when things are hard? For trusting God will produce endurance which will have a perfect result of making one mature.
Look at the similarity of the conclusion Paul offers in Philippians 4:4-6 – “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” and 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."
God reveals through Paul in Philippians that the result is that we will shine like stars in a dark world. So for the sake of Christ, let us work to avoid complaining and arguing and to begin shining like stars.
Identifying our Trials as Pure Joy
I have been talking with several different friends recently who are going through some tough times. Tough times come to us all. Some of these trials we bring on ourselves and other times we are caught unaware. Either way when difficulties come we have a choice in how we respond to them.
In Genesis 1:26, 27 we are told that God made us humans in the image of God. In Genesis 2 God proceeds to tell Adam to do certain things that reflect the image of God, like work and take care of the garden (2:15). This shows that man reflecting the image of God is to enter chaos and bring order to the creation, just like God did. Adam is told to name the animals (2:19). God names the stars (Isaiah 40:26) he renames Abram, Jacob and Simon. People were built to name, just like God.
Dr. Larry Crabb in his book ‘The Safest Place on Earth’ says because of the fall, our capacity to name has been corrupted and we use it to declare and define our circumstances. We name things, good and bad, healthy and sick, constructive or disastrous, in short life or death. We proclaim things a reality based on our understanding of the situation. So in our trials we tend to say this event is horrible and terrible and then use that statement to justify our efforts to get out of or end the trial.
God has a very different perspective on such matters. His view of our trials is not as negative as ours. He tells us trials should not unsettle us (1 Thessalonians 3:3). We are told to consider trials as a joy! (James 1:2 and 1 Peter 1:6). He also says trials should be of no surprise to us (1 Peter 4:12). Why does God have such a different view of trials than us?
God is all wise and all powerful and He has a goal in mind for us. He wants to transform us to the character of Christ (Romans 8:29). He changes us completely when He saves us (2 Corinthians 5:17). So we are already changed! We have no reason to be trying to change ourselves by our efforts. We are His children and we are not on probation! God’s focus now for our lives is for us to mature. This is why we can consider it pure joy when we encounter various trials. These trials are a test of our faith (do we trust God, rely on the fact that He is good, and depend upon His grace?) Trusting God in a trial produces perseverance which God uses to mature us.
Dr. Crabb’s point is that our passion to define what we think is life or death is evidence of our walking in the flesh, and that walking the in Spirit is displayed by a passion to grow! Do we want to grow up? Are we committed to allowing God to do what He needs to do to form us into the image of Christ? Is it our passion to grow or to get out from under trials?
As Hebrews 2:18 points out we have a high priest (Jesus) who has suffered and knows what it is like for us and can help us through. He identifies with us. He is aware of what we are going through and he gave us an example (1 Peter 2:21). Let us consider it pure joy!
The Bibles’ View of Children
My eldest son and his wife just had their first child last month. Momma and Gracelynne are healthy and well, for which we thank God. Mrs. O’Hair and I are grandparents for the first time! It is quite a thrill. Yes, you do show pictures to complete strangers and you do not care if they are interested or not!! It is so much fun.
When my wife and I lived in Kenya in the 1980’s we heard a comment many times from our African friends. Why is it that you westerner do not like children? We would ask what they meant. They saw that we westerners had very few children and they thought that it must be because we did not like children. The thought being, if you like children, you will have many. I laughed off this thought as a cultural difference. .
Once we returned to live in the US, one of the things I kept an eye on is our country’s view of children. There is much talk about concern for the ‘little children.’ It is declared that our political decisions reflect a compassion for kids, yet so many of our policies are not good for children. I have the feeling that this ‘concern’ is more expedience and not genuine concern. Do we, as a culture, really like children?
America aborts about 1.2 million babies a year (2005). We have 4.1 million live births a year (2005). So 20% of our children never make it to birth. The majority of these abortions are because people do not want the baby. That says something about our view of children. We want them when it is convenient for us. The incidence of sexual abuse of children is growing too, either from better reporting or because more people see children as something (not someone) they can abuse. Five children a day in the US die from some form of abuse and 80% of those are under the age of 4. An estimated 6 million children a year are abused! Do we as a culture really like children?
Have you ever been on an airplane when there is a crying baby? Did you notice the reaction of people for the child or for the mother? Do we really like children? It seems our culture tends to think of children as something that hinders and limits a person. Children should be seen and not heard! A child is an economic drain on an adult. Children are a nuisance.
That is not Gods view of children. The Bible says children are a blessing from God (Ps. 127:3). They are a gift from God to parents. They are also a trust. A child is a person that God places in the home to be loved, develop and prepared for whatever God wants for them (Prov. 22:6). Children are important to God (Mk 9:42). They are vulnerable and weak. They each bear the image of God (Genesis 1:26,27). They reflect something of God that no other person has or ever will reflect.
At Desert Christian we like children! We embrace God’s view of children as a blessed gift. In fact, as a school, we only exist because God created children! As a school we want to partner with parents in seeing their children develop and mature to become the man or woman God created them to be. We value each child and we want to teach them what they need to know what God wants them to go do and be. We see in each child something of our Lord being reflected that we want to see shine forth for God’s glory. Children are a treasure. Therefore, as Christians, may it never be said of us by either word or action that we do not like children.
http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0005067.html - Live births
What to remember before entering our Promised Land
I recently spoke with all of the teachers and staff of DCS. I shared, out of Deuteronomy chapter eight, the words that God gave to the children of Israel as they sat poised to enter the Promised Land. They had just spent 40 years wandering in the desert and were now moving into a permanent home.
God first calls on them to remember. He wants them to remember how He has led and provided for them the past 40 years. He explains how He has humbled them through the ways he led them, by allowing them to be hungry and through the provision of manna. God was training them. (Deut. 8:2-3)
There is a parallel here for us in the DCS community. God wants us to remember what He has done for and to the DCS community. God has humbled DCS through the years. He led us to begin at Christ Community Church, move over the El Camino then to purchase the Speedway property. We did not own property of our own for many years. DCS has been a humble organization; we have not had much compared to some schools and we have always been mindful to rely on God to provide everything from salaries to buildings. God has provided for DCS each step of the way, God has been training us.
In Deuteronomy 8, God then tells the children of Israel about the kind of land He is moving them into, a land of good things and abundance. He wants them to bless the Lord for his provision and blessing. God also warns them that when they prosper and eat and enjoy abundance that they will be tempted to forget the Lord and become proud. Their humility and dependence will give way to pride and forgetfulness and disobedience. (vs. 7-14)
The danger for DCS is that as we prosper with our own facilities and see our students succeed that we will come to that place where we might forget the Lord and all He has done and to be humble. We run the risk of thinking our abilities and methods have brought us this success. The fact is that God gave us our abilities and these facilities and He has blessed our efforts and He alone is worthy of the glory.
The last part of this passage is God warning his people that after forgetting Him and becoming proud they would then begin to disobey Him and give their love to worship something other than God. (vs. 19) The danger for us at DCS is that we would subtly begin to not love the Lord but start loving the world and what it claims. We could lose our first love and choose not to obey the Lord.
There is a pattern here of cause and effect that is seen in many Christian educational institutions. We begin to enjoy success (good academic and athletic success). People flock to success, the world praises you for what you are doing and we grow to like the accolades. We could slowly move away from humility and dependence on God to pride and reliance on our efforts. We could then begin to want to reproduce our success and start loving that more than the Lord. The move away from reliance on God leads to falling out of love with God and falling in love with the world.
So how do we prevent this from happening? First, we (the leadership, faculty and staff of DCS) need to remember the Lord and all he has done (Deuteronomy 8:2) for us in DCS. Second, we must humble ourselves (1 Peter 5:5) and not become proud by focusing on our accomplishments. Third, we must rely and depend on God (Proverbs 3:5-7) and not on our methods and techniques. Last, we need to guard our hearts (Proverbs 4:23) to make sure to love the Lord (Mark 12:30) and obey Him (John 13:34,35).
These instructions and warnings are not particular to DCS, but applicable to all Christians. Let us keep our eyes on Jesus as we walk forward.
Is Christian Education a business or a ministry?
I was recently reading an article written by Dr. Mark Eckel, the plenary speaker at our ACSI conference this year, on the question whether Christian education is a ministry or a business. It got me thinking and wanting to put down in writing my thoughts on the matter.
One of the things about being a private school is that we operate financially like a business. Families enroll students, tuition is paid and results are expected. There are business components to what we do. So is this a ministry or a business?
I choose to refer to our endeavor primarily as a ministry for several reasons. I know we have to conduct certain aspects of this ministry in a business way, finances, bookkeeping, paying teachers, and overseeing facilities. Those are all operational activities to be able to conduct the real purpose at hand, partnering with Christian families in educating and discipling students.
See there is a danger in looking at Christian education as a business. The business model of education is built on some presuppositions that are a problem with a Christian worldview. Most people today think of private education as a business. That is why there is a call to bring competition into the market place of education. Break up the state monopoly in education and let competition and market force develop good schools, people say.
In business you have a producer who provides a product or a service to a customer. In the business model the responsibility is on the producer to give to the customer what he or she wants. When this idea gets into education and becomes primary then several things go wrong in the worldview department. The student starts to be viewed as a thing (blank slate) onto which instructional inputs are applied and after an appropriate amount of time and pressure a person capable of making a contribution to the economy of the country comes forth. Ouch! People do not grow and develop this way; we are not machines--let alone blank slates.
Another thing that is assumed is that the producer (teacher or school) is capable of making something happen to the child. People think good teachers produce the educational objectives in students. There are things a teacher can control and cannot control. The outcomes in a child are not something a teacher has control over. The problem here is that the responsibility of the child and family in their education become secondary to the teacher! Hebrews 5:14 says that each person is responsible for their own learning. The teacher has responsibilities, to ensure the subject matter is being covered and taught, that the classroom is conducive to learning, that students are monitored for behavior and their learning. The teacher is not responsible for whether a student learns or not, that is what a business model implies.
Thirdly, in a business model the consumer is ‘always right’. The consumer wants and needs drive the producers endeavor. This is opposite for a ministry. As a ministry we are motivated by what God commands and tells us what is best for people. We are committed to speaking the truth in love over telling you what you want to hear.
A child is an image-bearer of God. Each one uniquely reveals something of God that no other human in history has shown. Children are also fallen people, they have a sin nature. As John Eldridge says,’ they are glorious ruins.’ They are unique persons, designed and crafted by God with certain attributes and talents which we can enhance or ignore, but not produce. They are fallen people who struggle with sin and its consequences. These individuals are also responsible before God for their choices. They are not blank slates or raw material (things) but significant individuals.
There is a responsibility for a teacher, as the Bible says it is to be faithful (1 Corinthians 4:2), faithful to model Christlikeness, to teach with passion, control the learning environment. Learning is the responsibility of the student! These are not business principles but Biblical mandates for both the teacher and the pupil.
My answer to the question about ministry or business is that Christian education is a ministry, because we are passing on the truth of God from one generation to another. Not necessarily giving the child what they want but what they need. Not giving the parent a finished product but developing the built-in bent that God has created in each child. All of this is done for the glory of God and not for financial gain. We minister to the child and family to advance the kingdom of God, not to make a profit!
The Sacred-Secular Split in Our Culture
Our mission statement for DCS says that we partner with parents in discipling and educating their children. To address this partnership with DCS fathers, we recently held our first ever meeting of “For Dads Only” at DCS. We invited the fathers of kindergarten to eighth graders on a Saturday to discuss the place and role of a dad in their children’s education in today’s world.
Part of the problem for Christian parents in our day is the underlying idea of a sacred – secular split in our culture. This split affects the responsibilities and relationships of the father and mother to their children and to each other. We live in a time where most people believe there is a fundamental difference between activities. Some activities we call sacred (bible study, church services, prayer meetings) and some we call secular (homework, movies, eating out). This split came out of the philosophical split that began in the 1800’s where the idea was put out there that reality is split into two parts. One area is the Naturalistic, where reality is based on the five senses only. The other area is the Idealistic area where reality is based on feelings and experience. Nancy Pearcy covers this split in her excellent book, ‘Total Truth’.
This fragmentation of reality is what led to the split between science and religion that in turn led to the idea of that which is secular and sacred. This in turn led to a split between public and private, and finally to a split between the real world and the world of home. Men are seen to go off to the working (real) world and women stay home dealing with the ‘unreal world’ of raising children and keeping house. This split took men away from the daily active role of raising their children and said that this was the woman’s job. Women feel this split and long to be involved in the ‘real’ world. This is partly behind the women’s liberation movement. Hence you hear some say they want a real career and not just to be a housewife who raises the children.
The Bible reveals that there is NO split between sacred and secular. Colossians 3:17 (NIV) says,‘And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.’ Whatever we do is to be done in the name of Christ, from homework to praying, every activity is equally spiritual before God. If this is true, then there is no ‘real’ world compared to an ‘unreal’ world. Biblically there is no split between private and public! We live our whole lives under the watchful eye of God - Hebrews 4:13 (NIV) ‘Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.’
Lastly, there is no split between Dad and Mom on raising children. Scripture says that the father is the one responsible for the education of the child. Ephesians 6:4 (NIV) ‘Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.’ Both parents have responsibility for their children (Deuteronomy 6), yet the father is the one who is held accountable before God for the upbringing of his children.
DCS wants to help students learn about their world from a Christian perspective. We want students to see the mind and hand of God in all things. Since we are partnering with parents we want us all to be on the same page about this reality with parents and the school believing and behaving consistently with the truth revealed in the scriptures. Learning and living out of the reality that is, that all we do is not fragmented but equally spiritual before God.
Twenty-Five Years of Discipling Young People
For 25 years Desert has been discipling students while giving them a liberal arts education from a Biblical worldview. These three cords have been, are and will always be the distinctive for DCS. Dr. Spears of BIOLA says, ‘Education should be about revealing to students what is real or true about the world! Education used to be about understanding ourselves, our world and our role within it. Public education today is not so much about truth or morality as it is about tolerance and contributing to our economic growth.’
The cord of Biblical Worldview is about teaching that there is truth, with a capital 'T'. It is about teaching there is a God and He has spoken about reality. Being able to distinguish Truth from error is important; Jesus said that the truth would set us free.
The cord of Discipling develops the moral character of each child. Teaching children all that Christ has taught us gives them a moral foundation and expectation for living an abundant life. To know good from evil frees one to choose what is best
The cord of Liberal Arts is about developing the whole person by teaching them a broad spectrum of subjects and interests. This produces a foundation of general education that prepares the student for whatever future God directs.
As Richard Weaver says, “The aim of a liberal arts education is to develop the mind and character in making choices between truth and error, between right and wrong. A liberal education liberates!”
We live in a time where there are other philosophical approaches to education. Education without moral development leaves students to their own preferences as to right and wrong. Education without teaching students to think renders them incapable of understanding the difference between demagogy and reason. Education without God leaves students blind to the truth.
Let me relate a story about one of our graduates who went to the U of A. In a history class one day his professor asked the students if their ideas had ever been labeled illogical. Several raised their hands and the professor proceeded to tell them that there was no such thing as logical. There was no truth, only social constructs and to say something was wrong or illogical is nonsense. Our grad remembered the lesson at Desert that "an argument that refutes itself is nonsense," and sat there thinking, "how can I demonstrate the inconsistency of her argument." Now this professor had a single unchanging rule for their class. No student was allowed to leave once class was started. He decided to stand up in class, hoping she would ask him what he was doing so he could explain that her rule by her own definition was only a social construct and that he was doing nothing wrong by her own line of thinking. She glared at him but said nothing so he left the room and then wrote her a letter, apologizing for his behavior and explaining he was trying to show the inconsistency of her thinking. This student asked me to check the letter and we made sure it was respectful and clear. She wrote back saying she was glad she made him think. Really? And that if he ever did that again she would make sure he was removed from the University! I was so proud of how this student had the courage to stand up for truth and goodness.
This current generation needs to be prepared for this very different and challenging world. The ministry of Desert Christian is committed to developing the minds, morals and spirits of children who can grow up to live lives that reflect Christ, free to be and do what God has designed them for, in short, to live a life where they experience God's abundant life!
Developing hearts that are willing to follow Christ
I recently read an excellent interview in World Magazine* with Phil Vischer. Mr. Vischer is the creator of ‘VeggieTales’. The interview has several thoughts and ideas that really resonate with me about what we are facing here at DCS.
In the interview Mr. Vischer says that he spent 10 years with ‘VeggieTales’, “trying to convince kids to behave christianly without actually teaching them Christianity.” Telling kids to behave because the Bible says so, “isn’t Christianity, it is morality.” This is a very big distinction, our desire is not to produce moral people, it is to produce young men and women who are willing to follow Jesus as His apprentices. So many times Christian schools are teaching kids to behave, be moral, follow the rules without developing in them a heart to listen and follow Jesus wherever He leads. I believe that many of the kids who are told to be moral come to the belief that life will work out for them if they are moral. When they go off to college they see people living fun ungodly lives and feel they have been fooled about where life is found. They ‘fall away from their faith’ and live in the flesh. It is costly and painful to follow Christ, to be conformed to His image. This is why Paul told the Thessalonian believers that they would suffer to follow Christ (1 Thess. 3:4). If Christ was a man of sorrows acquainted with grief (Isaiah 53:3) why would we expect to be different from Him? This is not an easy message to pass on to kids. Do not get me wrong, obedience is important but not as an end in itself, knowing Christ is the end we must pursue.
A second though he shared was that we are not called to be a people of vision; we are called to be a people of revelation. Mr. Vischer pointed out that we have made our vision or our dreams sacred. We are told it is most important to pursue our dreams over everything. This is not right. We are to pursue God in Christ! He reveals, He speaks and we follow! Our hopes, our dreams, our visions for ourselves are secondary to what God is saying and commanding us. John Eldridge says discipleship is learning to follow Jesus in wisdom and spirit. There are two areas of revelation that we are exposed to, the Scriptures and the Spirit. We learn the wisdom of Christ through the scriptures. At DCS we want our students to be people of the Book. That they learn to read, study, memorize and meditate on the word of God. In the scriptures they will learn about Christ and what he commands us to do and how to live. In learning to follow Christ in spirit we learn to listen to the Spirit of God, to moment by moment keep in step with the Spirit. The Spirit of Christ lives in us who believe (Romans 8:9) so learning to recognize and hear His voice and follow Him is key to being His disciple. As a school we want to help students come to know how God has gifted and oriented them, to know themselves. That revelation must be in the context of following Christ or else they will follow themselves and put their interests over Christ’s.
What is worth valuing?
Our house was recently burgled. While we were out, some men broke down one of our doors and came inside and stole a variety of things from us. As any of you who have been through this experience know there is a feeling of violation, of loss, and of helplessness. We live outside the Garden of Eden and man’s sin is painfully evident.
You progressively discover what else has been stolen for a few days after events like this. Just today I discovered they had stolen our iron! For me it has been interesting to see how I react when I discover that something else is gone from my possession. Most of it is stuff that can be replaced and aside from the annoyance of going and getting the replacement it is really not emotionally difficult. There are a couple of things I am truly going to miss. It is the things that have sentimental value that are hardest to lose.
I relate all of this to you to ask, what has value to you? Jesus said in Luke 12, "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions." He told us that possessions, even in abundance, do not make up one’s life. We live in a country and at a time in its history when we have lots of things! Our things do not make our lives. The ancient Hebrews knew about what is valuable. Proverbs says that ‘to gain wisdom is better than getting gold or silver’ (16:16). I wonder how many of us actually believe that truth in modern America.
Those of you who are choosing to send your child to a Christian school are making a large sacrifice. I used to teach economics and the idea of opportunity cost comes naturally to mind here. Economists observe this phenomenon that they call ‘opportunity cost’ being played out every day by people. When you purchase something it costs you not the money you spend on the item but it costs you all the other things you could have purchased with that money. So choosing to send ones child to a Christian school and paying tuition costs the parent all the other things they could have purchased with that money, like a new car, or a larger house or a phenomenal vacation. Opportunity cost reveals what it is that people value over other things or opportunities, what they are willing to give up in order to have a certain thing.
As a school we know that a person’s life does not consist of the abundance of their possessions. The bumper sticker that says, “He who dies with the most toys, wins!” is not true. People who have learned wisdom and knowledge have gained something of real value.
Desert Christian works to teach and disciple students to give them a Biblically integrated education and to develop their faith. Simply put, we are working to provide these students both knowledge and wisdom. So how much is a Biblical worldview for your child worth to you as a parent? How much is it worth to you that you have a school partnering with you to pass on shared values and beliefs? How much is it worth to you to have teachers who are people of faith caring and teaching your children?
The Purpose of a Christian Education
Recently at my church one of our associate pastors spoke on Ephesians 2:10 about the idea of purpose. What is our purpose? Why are we here? What does God want to do? It was a good reminder about this question related to education. Why do we educate our children? What is the purpose of a Christian education?
The answer to these questions is tied to the overall question for our purpose for being. For what purpose did God make us? Some say God made us because He was lonely. Others say God needed someone to praise Him! The truth is that God needs nothing. He is self-sufficient in Himself. We were not created to fill any gap for God.
Ephesians 1:4 says, “We were chosen by God before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.” God made us to be holy and blameless. Holiness is the same as being righteous, to be perfect and pure. To be blameless is to be someone who cannot be accused of anything wrong. No one can point the finger at you. We were created by God to be holy and blameless. Because we have willfully rebelled against God, none of us is holy and blameless. Christ’s work on the cross addresses both of these areas. His blood forgives our sin and makes us blameless and the sacrifice of his perfect body grants us the gift of the righteousness to our account. (Romans 5:9 & 5:19)
God’s redemption returns us to a place of relationship with God. We are now as God intended us to be, holy and blameless in Christ. So what is the purpose of relationship with God? I like the Westminster Catechism answer to the question of the chief purpose of man. The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him. We are created to bring glory to God and personally enjoy Him as God. Bringing God glory is reflecting the image of God in us to our world. Being who God made us to be in truth and humility. Enjoying God is our experiencing the wonder, mystery and goodness of God for who He is and what He does.
So the answer to the question of what is the purpose of a Christian education begins with the answer to the purpose of man. A Christian school has the high calling of instructing, modeling, and developing in young people their relationship with God. The Christian school gets to teach students about God, His world, His people and to prepare them for whatever it is God has for them to do. This then prepares the student to glorify God through their thoughts and actions and enjoy God.
At DCS if our students come to know God in Christ and learn to love God, love His people and love His world we will have succeeded in the purposes of God in the lives of those students. That then can be judged as truly doing good!
Why do we do Christian education?
Why? The ubiquitous question of all 3 year olds! It is a question to ask of any activity to discern the reasons for the activity. It is a great question to ask of any organization. So here goes, why do we do Christian education?
The more thorough answer requires some context. God has created human beings in His image, we are image bearers. The reality that God has created for human beings is that at birth we know nothing. We learn everything we know over time as we grow and develop. A third reality is that image bearers are complex beings. We have a mind, will and emotions, we are spiritual, relational, and physical beings. In short, we were built to grow up; our development takes place in all these spheres God has revealed in the Bible. He wants us to be mature in each of these spheres of our lives (socially, physically, mentally and spiritually). Christ modeled this as seen in Luke 2:52.
Remembering Who is in Control
For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
Colossians 1:16-17 (NIV)
This passage in Colossians is an important proclamation about Christ and our world. Jesus is our creator, not only that but the creator of all, seen and unseen. He not only created beings and things but powers, rulers and authorities. So all leaders, rulers and powers are in existence by the will of Christ and they are there to do what God has willed. Christ has first position over everything and everyone and He holds it all together!
That last phrase is fascinating in the light of the current economic situation. At our recent annual meeting I talked about the cheers and challenges we as a school are seeing. Good things are happening; God is going before us and providing for us. We also face some challenges related as a result of the economy.
How do we deal with difficulties in our lives? How should we approach challenging situations? It is easy to praise God and get on with life when everything is going well, but how do we do this when there are difficulties?
There are a couple of things I believe we need to remember (by the way, in scripture God repeatedly calls on us to remember). The first thing to remember is related to the above Colossians passage. There is a God, we are not Him. He has created all that is seen and unseen and He is in control of it all. He is the one who holds all things together. I need to keep things in perspective; things are NOT careening all over the place out of control. God is on the throne and He is holding it together. God creates, sustains and brings things to an end. I can rest in this assurance even though it feels out of control.
Second, is remember that a school such as ours is God’s school; it is not mine, nor the administration's. It is not the Board's school or even the parents’ school. It is God’s school. God used several families twenty-five years ago to create it and he has sustained it over the years. In fact, we have stories about the many miracles God preformed in the past using His people to keep Desert Christian going and growing.
Lastly, as Colossians says, Christ holds DCS together even now. So remember there is a God, this is His school and He holds it together.
So what do we do besides remember? What can we do? We are created to join God in His work. In John 5:19, Christ showed us and told us what to do. We are to look for what the Father is up to and doing and we are to join Him in that work. What is He doing in your life? What is He asking you to do? Look to see where God is working and join Him there.
The result of our trusting, watching and obeying will be that God receives the glory for what He accomplishes in our midst. Soli Deo Gloria
Wanting What God Wants for our Children
What do you most want for your child? Every parent has dreams and desires for their children. What do you want for them? Success, health, happiness, good marriages, and good jobs are a few things parents want. I have heard parents say they do not want their children to experience what they went through. ‘I grew up poor’ or ‘I had some person in my life that made life painful or difficult.’ As parents we naturally tend to look back on our painful or difficult circumstances and not want that for anyone, least of all our kids. This is normal.
To desire good things for our kids is legitimate. I would not expect any parent to wish ill for their child. It is one reason that disciplining a child is difficult for a parent. It is why we say “this will hurt me more than it hurts you”. Yet what would life be like if we never experienced difficulties? We all know people who are spoiled. Spoiled people have not had to experience much in terms of want or difficulty or pain. What are they like as people? Is that what we want for our kids?
I think the more important question we need to ask as parents is, "What does God want for my kids?" As Creator, King and Lord what He wants for them is far more important than what I want. As Jesus pointed out, “If you being evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him (Matt 7).” God is good and He wants good for you and your children. So what does God want and what are you asking God for on behalf of your children?
In Romans 8 it says that God’s will is that believers would be conformed to the image of Christ. God wants you and your children to become like Christ, to be conformed to His image. This is God’s will. So what does the image of Christ look like? The fruits of the spirit are the measuring stick for the image of Christ in me. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control all reflect Christ. A person with these qualities is reflecting the image of Christ. Who would not want these qualities reflected in themselves and their children?
We also live in a fallen world and as Isaiah says about Christ, He was a man of sorrows acquainted with grief (Isa. 53:3). If my children are to become like Christ they will go through times of testing and difficulty. They will experience sorrow and grief. If Christ was like this, why do I believe me or my children will not or should not go through this? How do the fruits of the Spirit get developed? James 1:2,3 makes more sense if we see that God uses challenges and difficulties to form the image of Christ in us.
The child who never faces difficulties and challenges does not ever have to trust God. It is the challenges and difficulties of life that put us in the place of depending on God to minister to us and walk with us through the valley of death. I do not fear the evil because, as David told us, the rod and staff of God comfort me. The key for us as parents and teachers is how to teach and model trust in God during those times to our children.
So I go back to my initial question, what do you most want for your child? The answer would be that as a Christian parent I want what God wants for them. That they would grow to become like Christ. Is that what you pray for them? Would you pray and ask God to do whatever it takes to make your child into the image of Christ? That is a very difficult prayer but a prayer in keeping with God’s will.
Why do we educate our children?
Our culture gives us reasons and we accept them many times without thinking about them. We are told people need an education so they can get a good job. They need an education so they can keep up with the modern world. Both of these reasons are based upon a worldview that permeates our national discussion. The first is based upon the idea that education prepares us as “human capital” to work and produce economically for societies benefit. The second is based upon a similar idea that we need technical knowledge to compete economically in our world.
Why do we educate our children? These answers by our society are, I believe, secondary to the real reason to educate a person. They are commendable but not the real end of education. I like to respond to these answers by proposing a different question, why does the world say, "get a good job" and not, "create a good living"? The first answer says education is about creating good employees. Why is it not about creating good entrepreneurs? But even that idea is still making education all about an economic issue and not a character or spiritual issue.
Again, why do we educate our children? The Bible states it is to prepare our children to be the adults that God has designed them to be! God wants us to mature and grow up in all areas of life, physical, socially, spiritually and intellectually. As the writer of Hebrews says (5:14) “the mature have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil”. The purpose of education is to train children to know the difference between good and evil, right and wrong, beauty and ugliness. To be able to think. To clearly understand right from wrong. To choose to conform to God’s design and pattern.
The naturalist worldview says that reality is only what one can learn through their senses. This worldview says that we are only biological machines. There is no spiritual or metaphysical part of reality. Ethics are only those things that promote efficiency and social order. Their view of education is to ‘tinker’ with the machine to optimize it. Preparing one for some future utility (benefit) for the greater whole is the goal of this worldview. This is the view that permeates our cultures views on education.
The Christian worldview takes a very different view of reality. The Bible makes it clear that people are both physical and spiritual beings. We learn through our senses and we learn things through revelation. We are image bearers of God, designed by Him to reveal his glory in unique ways. Ethics for us are about transcendent truths that God has declared and revealed about how He has designed us to live and act. Education is teaching and training us to understand the reality of God and our world and choose to act according to His reality. Developing all the facets of the person as they are designed to be is the goal of education in the Christian worldview.
What do you as a parent want for your child? Why do you want them educated? Are you interested in more than test scores? I know that all parents want the best for their kids. What is that best? Who is defining the best for you? Jesus said in his prayer in John 17:14-17 that we are not of the world, we live in the world. The world is not the one to tell us what is important; He gave us His word and prayed that we would be sanctified by the truth. As Luke 2:52, said of Christ, so I believe every Christian parent wants their child to grow in wisdom (mentally developed), stature (physically developed) and in favor with God (spiritually developed) and man (socially developed). Christian education aims to develop the whole person not to prepare them for a job!
Created to Remember
The start of every New Year presents the opportunity to look back and to think forward. We look back to remember and we think forward to dream. This is why you see so many articles by news outlets about what happened the past year and what to look forward to in the year to come.
Recently at church our pastor spoke about remembering and one passage he used was Psalm 106. The Psalmist laments how the people of
God has created us to remember. God himself remembers, “He remembered his Covenant with them, and, immense with love, took them by the hand. He poured out his mercy on them while their captors looked on, amazed’. (vs. 45, 46 The Message) In making us in His image God created in us the capacity to remember. We are built to remember! This is why I believe every child can learn and remember.
Notice in those verses how forgetting leads to bad things. The people’s unfaithfulness was rooted in their not remembering what God had done for them! This issue of not remembering is a problem of sin, choosing to not remember. There are things we need to remember and there are things we need to forget! Because of sin it is easy to forget what we should remember. This is why God continually commands us to remember what He has done.
God has been so good to us in the DCS community. Through the years He has provided all along the way. God is so faithful and generous with us! So as we start the New Year, take time to remember what the Lord has done for you this past year. Give God glory and thanks! Happy New Year!
On Gratitude and God’s Good Gifts
I love this time of year, from Thanksgiving to Christmas. The weather is cool, the kids are excited about time off from school, and these two holidays are just plain fun! Our family alternates where we celebrate Thanksgiving each year between my wife’s family and mine. This year we had her family over and with guests, we ended up with thirty-four people for dinner! What a joy to have all those loved ones to celebrate a feast together. We took time to give thanks to God for all his blessings to us. We also took time to express our thankfulness for each other. Gratitude is so important!
Gratitude is a function of goodness. For without goodness there would be nothing to be thankful. Gratitude is recognition of goodness. It is a declaration of acknowledgement for goodness being present and received. One of the most basic questions each person asks and works through is the question, “Is God good?” We all have an answer to this question already in place. The revealed truth for this question is that God is good! Gratitude is a proclamation of goodness and should be our natural response to the presence of God’s goodness.
Gratitude is a very important value and characteristic for people to develop. I know every parent wants their children to develop a grateful attitude and we start teaching it early to our kids. The reason we have to teach it is because of sin in our lives. Original sin is present in even the youngest of us. One of the ways that sin is seen is the presence of demandingness in each of us. Because of sin, we demand we get what we want. On an episode of the Simpsons, Bart at the dinner table when they go to pray prior to a meal says something close to, “God I do not know why we thank you for what we have purchased, prepared for ourselves without you.” That is an example for the presence of sin in a life. It is an attitude of contempt for what we have been given, and not gratitude. Contempt is ugly and gratitude is beautiful.
Being only a month apart, it is interesting that Thanksgiving and Christmas are so close to each other. There is a message in that observation alone. We first get to express our gratitude for the many blessing in our lives and then we get to prepare for the celebration of the coming of our Lord, Immanuel (“God with us”), to live among us. God sent, gave His only son who left the glory of heaven to come live on earth in the presence of sinful people. God gave! God was, is and will be generous beyond measure! Jesus showed us the goodness of God, His grace and truth. What a thing to celebrate, God’s generosity to us!
As 2 Corinthians 9:15 so eloquently ties it all together,
A Clash of Worldviews in Education
Our understanding of the nature of education is built upon our understanding of the nature of man. Who are we? Where do we come from? Why are we the way we are? There are two different answers to these questions in our world today; The Humanist/Darwinian view and the Biblical view.
The Humanist/Darwinian view is that man is the product of time and chance, contending that man is a being that evolved from the primal soup millions of years ago. Man is merely an animal, a higher order of animal, but still only an animal. Man is basically good (like your dog) and perfectible (he can be conditioned to behave certain ways). The issue of evil and corruption is not due to man himself but due to corrupted and evil social institutions, like religions. The French philosopher, Jean Jacque Rousseau, in the 1700’s said that ‘man was born free and is everywhere in chains’ due to the corrupt institutions of Western Culture. He also said children are born with minds like blank slates and when properly taught can be molded into productive people. The Humanist/Darwinian view is a mechanistic and utilitarian view of people and the world. People are only cogs in a larger machine and are considered valuable based on their contributions to the evolutionary advancement of mankind.
The Biblical view is quite different. The Bible teaches us that man was created by God, created after God had first created angels and animals. Man is neither an angel nor an animal. Man is both physical and spiritual; he has a biological body and an eternal invisible spirit. Men are created in the image of God, so there is much in each of us that is set by God. We are glorious! People are not puppets but volitionally free individuals who co-author their life story with God. We were created to learn and we all learn, yet we are gifted by God in individual ways! We are also sinners. Adam’s disobedience in the Garden of Eden has an effect on each of us to this day. Our sin nature produces the destructive thoughts and choices in each of us. In contrast to the Humanist/Darwinian view, society is not the problem, man is. We are as Larry Crabb says ‘glorious ruins!’
The implications of these two worldviews on education are in stark contrast. One contrast relates to the question about the nature of education. Is education only about imparting information? This is the prevailing idea of the Humanist/Darwinian view. Since we are only physical beings, putting information in our minds is all we need. Everything else is biologically hard wired. This is why so many believe that education is the answer to large social problems like teen pregnancy, AIDS and poverty. This prevailing worldview sees that education will solve our problems. This is also the reason why some emphasize education is only about academics. Simply put this view sees education as teaching children to prepare them for a job.
The Christian understanding is that education is three fold. Informing the mind (Job 34:3) along with training minds to distinguish truth from error (Hebrews 5:14) and developing character from learning to distinguish what is good and evil and then act in a good way (James 4:17). This view understands that knowledge is important particularly when distinguishing truth from error. Knowing the truth is very important. It also understands that the spiritual moral side of man has to be addressed as much as the mental side. Simply put Christian schools must be in the business of training minds along with training character!
A second contrast is how these worldviews look at the role of the teacher. The Humanist/Darwinian side views teachers as responsible for whether a child learns or not. The teacher is the technician who if she pulls the right levers will produce learned and competent people. If children fail to learn it is the fault of the teacher. The teacher is the focal point of the educational processes’ success or not.
The Biblical view says the teacher has a responsibility to model character and pass along content to the student (Luke 6:40). In this view the student is responsible for learning (Hebrews 5:14). The teacher is responsible for the content, and the environment for learning. Success is placed at the foot of the student. The teacher is responsible to be faithful (Luke 16:10).
There is a clash of worldviews in education. At DCS we strive to proclaim truth and act in keeping with the truth because we believe ‘the truth will set you free’. We see education as an activity that God has called us to in the work of redeeming His glorious image bearers.
Grace and Truth
Grace and Truth, two very important ideas. These are the two most important ideas in Christianity. Jesus, incarnate, gave us a tangible view of God. What John said he saw was the glory of the Father a glory full of grace and truth!
Some of the teachers at DCS are currently watching the Truth project for certification purposes. The first video is on truth, it is excellent. The point is made that Christ came into the world to testify to the truth (John 18:37). Jesus came to tell us what is true. We live in a fallen world. A world where there are lies being put forth. Satan started it off by telling Eve the exact opposite of what God had said. Since then there are two camps – two kingdoms (the kingdom of God, a kingdom of light and truth and the kingdom of Satan, one of darkness and deception) Colossians 1:13. Christ who is The Truth came as the light of the world to testify to the truth.
Truth is very important. This is one reason we work at teaching from a Biblical worldview. We want what we teach to be tethered to the truth. No one is neutral, everyone teaches from a perspective and it is possible that ones perspective is based on error and permeated with lies. It is said that the Greeks discovered logic. They did not invent it; they discovered that it is a reality all around us. They discovered that the errors in ones thinking could be identified and that the wrong conclusions could be explained.
Currently in the
Yet, Christ incarnated two traits! Grace and Truth! We must work to embody both these elements in our lives and study. Grace is the mercy and compassion of God for those enslaved and imprisoned by lies. Too often Christian schools just emphasize Truth without the equally important component of Grace. If we only emphasize truth, we tend to get self righteous, proud and dogmatic. If we only emphasize grace we get sloppy and fall into license. The key is to focus on both, Truth and Grace.
We live in a world where there are lies and deception all around. Our culture is full of lies! Why is that so, because we ourselves are deceived and we believe lies! The place to begin is to address the lies in our own lives and appropriate the grace to God to us. Remembering that God has not dealt with us as our sins deserve! He has shown us grace and we can show ourselves and others that same grace. This is why Paul exhorts God’s servants in their approach to teaching. 2 Timothy 2: 24-26 – The Lord's bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged,25 with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth,26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.
* Separation of School and State, message given by Marshall Fritz
The Value of Christian Education
In economically challenging times, people always review and consider what they are spending their money on and why. Decisions are made whether to save, curtail, or modify spending. One area I see this happening in, and rightly so, is with education choices. Our own families here at Desert Christian are weighing the financial commitment needed to send their children to a Christian school.
Why spend precious resources for something that one can get free by going to a public school? Each family must wrestle with the question of what is the best educational option for their children. There is no one answer that fits all. Each family must choose what they hear God is telling them to do as a family.
I can articulate some reasons why parents make the sacrifices necessary to choose a Christian education.
All education comes from a prevailing perspective or worldview. No one is neutral! Even when someone says they are neutral, that is in itself a position and the question can be asked, neutral to what? A Christian education is not neutral. A Christian education is about learning from a Biblical perspective about every subject covered, from Math to PE and from Drama to Sports. Colossians 1:16, 17 - proclaims that all things were create by and for Christ and that Christ holds all things together. Therefore everything we study was made by Jesus and for Jesus and therefore from a Christian perspective Christ and God should not be left out of the discussion and learning. A Christian education offers this distinctive.
An education involves a community. A Christian education is also a community effort. We learn from the company we keep! In a Christian education the community is other believers. While every child may not be a believing child, the parents (or parent) agrees with the Christian values and mission of the school. To be surrounded by others who value and support what you value and support drives home the message to your children. A Christian school offers this type of environment.
A Christian education is interested in the development of the whole child. Some schools only want to develop the mind of the child. As Christians, we see that children bear the image of God and have four major areas to develop in their lives: one’s mind, one’s body, one’s relationships and one’s spirit as Luke 2:52 points out in the development of Christ as a human. A child needs to develop their mind, body, spirit and social abilities. A Christian school offers an education that touches and develops all those areas from a Biblical perspective.
Making choices in a difficult economy requires that one weigh all the costs. I so appreciate all our families who have thoughtfully considered and then committed their treasure to provide a Christian education for their children.
Keeping the Unity of the Spirit
Our theme verse for the 2010 – 2011 school year is Ephesians 4:3 – Make every effort to keep the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace.
One of the things I like best about being an independent
Notice, Paul says to ‘make every effort to keep unity’. We serve a God who loves diversity and unity. The world’s way to create unity is to promote uniformity. Unity requires that we acknowledge the differences yet unite through something greater and outside of ourselves. In this case it is the Spirit of God. The Spirit gives us life in Christ (Romans 8:1-11), baptizes us into the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13) councils us (John 15:26) and leads us, teaches us (John 16:13) and convict us (John 16:8-11). Every believer regardless of the tradition they come from has this ministry from the spirit to them in common with every other believer. We are united in Christ and His Spirit—not in a uniformity of outward practice and beliefs. So one application for us is to acknowledge the diversity around us and remember that the Holy Spirit who is alive in us is the same Spirit alive in all other believers.
We live in a progressively fragmenting society. Philosophically, fragmentation began to enter the field of ideas in the late 1800’s through Immanuel Kant’s’ teachings. We are living out the acceptance of those views of reality today. These days, no one is expected to know about anything broadly. Education is now about specialization and all topics are compartmentalized. It is one reason why I believe we have lost a sense of community in modern
The effort to keep unity is to be done through the back drop of a bond of peace. As you are well aware, there is little peace in our world yet it is spoken of and dreamed about often. World peace is a stated objective of many. What makes for peace? Where does it come from? How does an individual attain it? The world thinks peace comes from the absence of war, weapons or conflict. I like what Isaiah says in chapter 32:17 – “the work of righteousness will be peace.” Peace comes from righteousness. In doing right, one of the outcomes is peace; the knowledge that one did the right thing. It is like the proverb we have here in America; “tell the truth and you will never have to remember what you said.” There is no doubting, or second guessing when one tells the truth. Likewise, when one does what is right no matter the outcome whether it is pleasant or painful, that person has peace about doing what is right. Another aspect of this is that there is a righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. The righteousness of Christ makes us right with God and gives us peace with God. Trusting in His righteousness leads to peace. So the application for us is to do what is morally right and personally trust in the righteousness of Christ which will create a communal bond of peace.
We are different and diverse community at DCS, yet God calls us to be united in His Spirit through a bond of peace. A community that lives this out is going to be ‘a light on the hill’ to all those around them. So as we begin this year, let us make every effort …
Walking in Step with the Spirit
In his book, The Safest Place on Earth, author Larry Crabb talks about walking in the flesh verses walking in the Spirit. Anyone in a community is either walking in the flesh or spirit at any moment in their life. Dr. Crabb looks at ways we were created to live and examines how the corruption of sin has produced motives in us that lead to walking in the flesh.
We as people were commanded by God in Genesis 1 to “rule over the beasts of the field, the birds of the air and the fish of the sea”. We were created and commanded to rule. To rule over the animals God had created. Note that he did not command Adam to rule over people. God is our King! He is our ruler. Leadership is important, but it is not about ruling! (Look at what Jesus said on this in Matthew 20:25-28)
Now Genesis 3 follows after this command by God and man disobeys and falls. Corruption enters the world. Dr. Crabb says that our command to rule has been corrupted so that we have a passion to control. We are desperate to control any and everything. This is a major motivation behind our walking in the flesh. We expect that we can be in control of pretty much anything, particularly people. This is one reason I think we have such a hard time with change. Change shows us we are not in control, much like suffering. As I tell the kids, “there is a God and you are not Him!” If we are in control, we do not need God!
The list of the acts of the flesh mentioned in Galatians 5 reveals the actions produced by a persons’ passion to be in control. Jealousy, fits of rage, dissension, factions and the like come from a persons demand that life work they way they want. When life does work out the way they want, these characteristics rise to the surface as evidence of our demand to be in control.
In contrast, walking in the Spirit is motivated by a different passion, a passion to trust. God is King, He is in charge! He rules! These are truths we know in our heads. The question is do we believe it in our hearts? Does he control the circumstances in our lives? Does He know what is or is not happening? Does He care? These are all questions we ask ourselves almost daily. God is good and He wants us to trust Him, to believe He is working in whatever circumstances to achieve His purposes and plan. To rely on Him and trust His control of the circumstances, as Romans 8:28 says, “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him…”.
To rely upon the Lord is synonymous to a passion to trust Him. A passion to trust God will produce an entirely different type of result in our lives. These fruits of the Spirit; Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control are evidence of a person passionately trusting God.
I am not saying we never stand up to wrong, that we never speak out. We should and must do so, but not out of a passion to control the circumstances but out of a passion for what God has said is right and good. As a spiritual community when we see something we do not like, it is a good time for us to stop and examine what is bothering us and ask questions. What is God telling me? Does He want me to confront this, to reflect the impact it has on me and others, or to seek to understand the issues. I know in all of this, He is asking us to trust Him in this situation. He is not asking us to burst out in fits of rage, discord, dissentions or envy.
Let us follow the Spirit’s lead, as Galatians 5:25 says, “let us keep in step with the Spirit.”
We either walk in the sinful nature or we walk in the spirit. There is no third possibility!In Galatians 5, Paul points out these two paths. In verse 19, he identifies the outward evidence that are the result of our walking in the sinful nature – sexual immorality, impurity, debauchery, idolatry, witchcraft (we believers know these are wrong). As he continues, the next behaviors of the list are the ones we see more of in the midst of believers. Hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy. The list ends with two more that we believers know are wrong, drunkenness and orgies.
Paul’s list does not place a scale of which are worse than the others. Walking in the sinful nature produces destructive behaviors. These behaviors are evidence we are on a path to death! These behaviors do not please God. (Romans 8:6 & 8)
Paul then, in Galatians 5, contrasts the outward manifestations that are the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. You can look and tell about how a person is walking by the fruit seen in their outward actions. You can see if a person is being patient or is responding in a fit of rage. The way someone is being gentle as opposed to someone creating discord.
In Ps. 51:6 God reveals that He desires truth in our inner parts. God wants us to be honest with ourselves. It is wise to look at ones actions and ask yourself, what impact they are my behaviors having on those around me? Proverbs 14:8 – a prudent man gives thought to his ways.
So is fruit of my actions something that reveals love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control, or does my behavior produce hatred, discord, jealousy, rage, ambition, dissension, factions and envy? Am I raging? Am I full of joy? Am I sowing discord here? Am I displaying kindness in this situation?
As a community here at DCS we see how individuals behave. From students to parents to teachers to administrators, we see either the fruit of the sinful nature or the fruit of the spirit in people. So as Jesus said in Luke 17:3-4, “if your brother sins, rebuke him and if he repents forgive him”, we can confront the sin we see in others by pointing out the evidence of walking in the sinful nature to them. Remember, how we confront also reveals whether we are walking in the flesh or in the spirit!
So look at yourself and take a fruit check! Am I bearing the fruit of the spirit or the fruit of the sinful nature? God wants us to be growing in producing the fruit of His spirit. 2 Peter 1:5-9. My prayer is for a fruitful spring around here at DCS!
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery – Galatians 5:1The apostle Paul faced a constant issue in preaching and advancing the Gospel in his day. This problem continues to be an issue into our present time. It is the problem of living in grace or living under the law. Notice the prepositions of that last sentence, in grace as opposed to under the law. The law sets a standard and requires us to live within the confines of that standard. Living in grace is different. It is enjoying and partaking of an environment, not achieving a standard. It is the difference between swimming in a community pool during the summer and doing the high jump at a track meet.
Paul wrote to the Galatians wanting them to understand that they were no longer under the law as believers in Jesus. They were free! Christ had lived a perfect life and his righteousness was now imputed to them. They met the standard of God in Christ through trusting the work of Christ and not by their efforts to be moral. The Galatians had started out well but were now trying to win the favor of God by their efforts (Galatians 3:1) Many today think and act the same way, I accept Christ by faith but now I have to live a righteous life to be ok with God. Paul refutes that idea in this book of Galatians.
In Galatians 5 verse 6, Paul points out that circumcision (any external standard of religion) does not matter, the only thing that counts is faith working itself out in love. I understand this to mean that the thing to look for in the life of a believer is evidence of love. Our faith must be producing the fruit of love. One of the things we desire to see of students at DCS is that they are growing in love. Love for God, others and creation. Do they love God, people and learning? The only thing that can produce that type of love is the spirit of God as we trust God.
So how does this get integrated into a Christian school? We want to be truly Christian as a school. How do we work out being a place of grace? First is to realize that we want to see our children learn to love – love God, love people