Don’t Bow to the Idol of “Safety”

moses-on-the-mount-3a-jpg“You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3).

After the Hebrews escaped Egyptian slavery and wandered in the wilderness toward the Promised Land (see the Book of Exodus), they were given many laws to be obeyed as the people of God (Exodus 20:1-17). One of the most egregious sins listed in the Law of Moses regarded idolatry, or worship of an image made of stone or metal. The Canaanites engaged in horrific religious rituals that included child-sacrifice.  Idolatry would inevitably lead to such behaviors, and unfortunately, the Israelites fell into the ideas and beliefs of the society around them.

Christians today do not worship statues of gods that are placed on their window sills or tables in their homes.  Nowadays, the idols pinpointed by pastors and teachers include sex, money and power, as perversions of these lead to destructive lifestyles that interfere with a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Risen MovieDuring the Passion Week prior to Easter, I went through a five-day devotional entitled, “Risen,” which includes short clips from the movie of the same title, devotional thoughts, and passages from Scripture. Day two of the “Risen” devotional hit me right between the eyes and is called “The Idol of Safety.”

American society is obsessed with safety, which is a noble effort. We implement numerous safety policies and procedures at my school as children must be protected.  But there is a spiritual component that can negatively impact one’s faith.  I believe there exists a spirit of fear that has gripped many today, especially parents.  The author of the “Risen” devotional summarizes our generation,Safety First Sign

We are the most seat-belted, bike-helmeted, air-bagged, kneepad-wearing, private-schooled, gluten-freed, hand-sanitized, peanut-avoiding, sunscreen-slathering, hyper-insured, massively medicated, password-protected, valet-parked, security-systemed, inoculated generation in history—and all it has done is make everyone more afraid of everything.

Please do not send me the reasons why each of these items are enhancements to western civilization!  The point is that we can cross a line from being wisely cautious to irrationally paranoid about events we cannot control.  This fear about the world can erode our faith in God too.  Instead, the next generation of children need to develop into risk-taking entrepreneurs, unwavering leaders in our churches and communities, and fearless men and women who shape America’s future, with God’s help.

Daniel Refuse to Bow to IdolShadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to bow to the golden idol of Nebuchadnezzar even though everyone else in their society submitted (Daniel 3:8-30). This was not safe and resulted in their being thrown into the fiery furnace.  Unfortunately, for us and our children, we live in a society that demands we live in fear.  And if you aren’t scared, then you really don’t care.  Just watch the news, they will tell you why you should be terrified, with an accompanying video clip.

Paul wrote to the Ephesian Christians facing an unsafe Roman Empire that fought the spread of the Gospel, “Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power” (Ephesians 6:10).  Then, he instructed them regarding the full armor of God, metaphorically acknowledging the dangerous world in which we live, both physically and spiritually.  God’s people shouldn’t think, talk and act like fragile flowers easily blown over by a soft breeze. As the old Petra song says, “More Power to Ya!”

I pray we never elevate fear above faith.  For when our well-reasoned concern about safety becomes an obsession and we simply wait for the next disaster to strike, it has become an idol that must be eliminated from our life.  In God’s plan, doing the safest thing is not always the right thing.

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What Makes a Christian School Distinct?

Students PrayingOne of the most common questions I receive from prospective parents is “how is Renton Christian school different from the local public schools?”  Typically, the conversation revolves around how our standardized test scores compare with the students from local government-run schools.  The answer is not quite that simple.  Private schools do not take the same tests that public schools do, so it is not possible to create a spreadsheet that results in an apples-to-apples appraisal.  And it must be emphasized that standardized test scores are only one measurement of student progress, and probably not the main indicator of future student success.SAT Test

The primary purpose of public schools is very different than Christian schools.  The goal of a public school is for the maximum number of students to reach basic student literacy.  The goal of a Christian school is to develop a biblical worldview in students and to foster a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  Such an approach to education not only prepares students for college, but transforms their lives.  See what I mean?  It is a challenge to compare public schools and Christian schools because we are not even doing the same thing.

A Christian philosophy of education is faith-based and asserts that the minds of Christian students can only reach their fullest potential by being enlightened by the mind of Christ.  The intellectual aim is to develop a biblical worldview within students, who are well-prepared to succeed in any academic discipline.  Students at a Christian school, such as Renton Christian, are expected to show accomplishment in a variety of areas, not all of which are directly curriculum-related.

First, accurately interpret the Word of God.  Bible is a foundational academic subject alongside the other academic areas and students will learn to apply biblical principles to all areas of thought and research.

student-giving-presentationSecond, master the skills of communication, which include writing and public speaking.  A Christian school should place a strong emphasis upon students’ ability to express themselves with the written word.  Plus, we press students early and often with opportunities to give presentations, reports and speeches in front of their peers and teachers.  This can happen in class, in chapel or an assembly.

Third, show proficiency in math and science.  No student can expect to succeed in the 21st-century without a thorough background in math and science.  While STEM has become one of the current marketing and political buzzwords of education today, the emphasis on math and science has always been, and always will be a foundational piece of Christian schools.

Fourth, understand history and the role of God in it.  Christian schools approach history from the perspective that the Almighty God moves time forward in his own providential way.  The Christian hope is in the all-powerful God who has authority over nations and rulers past, present and future.

Fifth, appreciate the creativity of the arts.  Music programs, such as choir and band, as well as drama programs are vital to quality Christian education.  The stage venues provide students and staff the milieu for creativity and expression of their God-given talents, who reflect the creativity of God in their pursuits.Emma Playing Flute- Close Up- Spring 2015

And sixth, reason and think critically.  This aspect covers a lot of areas, from Christian apologetics, to debate, to understanding the scientific method, just to name a few.  Students must be allowed to question academic dogma and the term “settled science” should never be allowed in a true intellectual setting.

As I circle back to the original question of “what makes a Christian school distinct?” one could discuss numerous other elements than space allows here.  I will conclude with this.  A Christian school is a competitive atmosphere filled with high-achieving students, teachers, and parents, all of whom want to see students reach their fullest potential in Christ, intellectually, spiritually, and otherwise.  For families who want to see their kids develop into confident, well-spoken, and academically-prepared students strong in their faith, then find a Christian school and enroll right away.  You won’t be disappointed!

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The Low Bar of Tolerance

“Tolerance” has become one of the cornerstone virtues of an “enlightened” and “compassionate” person, according to secular culture in America. Public schools aggressively teach students “tolerance” and present it as the ideal for someone who doesn’t believe in silly notions such as God, or even definitive right and wrong.
The irony of the proponents of tolerance is that they often smugly lecture Christians, who are viewed as intolerant and backwards.  While the world has set forth tolerance as the litmus test for sainthood, Jesus taught that love is the true test for his disciples.  But I submit that tolerating others, or simply “putting up with” people who look, act, and behave differently doesn’t make someone a wonderful person.  It’s not a challenge to jump over such a low bar.

LoveOneAnotherJesus clearly expressed how his followers must live: love God, love your neighbor, and even love your enemies.  Let’s imagine Jesus taught a Gospel defined by tolerance rather than love. Here is how some biblical passages would read:

  • “For God so tolerated the world that He gave his one and only Son…” (John 3:16).
  • “A new command I give you: Tolerate one another.  As I have tolerated you, so you must tolerate one another” (John 13:34).
  • “By this everyone will know that your my disciples, if you tolerate one another (John 13:35).”

These passages do not have the same ring.

Can you imagine if Christians only tolerated people rather than loved them? I could give it a shot.  Maybe tomorrow morning I will wake up and tell my wife, “Honey, I promise to tolerate you today.”  I don’t think that will spur on any romantic moments in the near future.  Or, I could pat myself on the back for reminding my son and daughter how much I tolerate them each day.  How would that make them feel?  Far less valuable then when I tell them I love them.

But apparently, tolerance is the standard we ought to achieve.  The reality is that tolerance is the Common Core of relationships; a low standard packaged as a spectacular new advance in human progress.  Jesus taught something different.  We need to love others unconditionally by putting their needs above our own.  We need to further love others by sharing with them the love of Jesus who died for their sins.  To withhold this message is the opposite of love and allows your friends, neighbors and enemies to continue living destructive lifestyles that harm themselves and others.tolerancegkchesterton

And for those who religiously believe that tolerance means acceptance of others, please know that it actually means that you stand for nothing.  And for some in America today standing for nothing is the ultimate of all virtues.  The non-virtue virtue.  Instead, let’s allow God to produce the fruit of the Spirit in our hearts and minds: love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).  Only in this we will find peace, joy and salvation in the God who loves us, and doesn’t merely tolerate us.

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“The One Who is Unwilling to Work Shall Not Eat”

Reading from the Book of Proverbs is a smart way to start each day, especially since it contains God’s wisdom that can be applied easily to our lives today.  One of the subjects addressed repeatedly is hard work vs. laziness.  It is universally accepted that a person who works hard is more admirable than a slacker.  Every parent instinctually understands that they should teach their children to work hard rather than to strive to be a lazy couch potato.  According to Proverbs, one’s work ethic is a reflection of one’s heart for God.

couchpotatoPositive benefits and characteristics for the person who works hard include:

  • Increased wealth (10:4)
  • Abundant food (12:11)
  • Granted supervisory roles at work (12:24)
  • Earn profits (14:23)
  • Become skilled at your work (22:29)

 

 

On the other hand, there are numerous consequences and characteristics of the lazy person:

  • Become poor (10:4; 14:23)
  • Irritate your employer (10:26)
  • Go hungry (19:15)
  • Love sleep (20:13; 24:33-34; 26:14)
  • Make excuses for why you cannot work today (22:13; 26:13)

And to put it in a New Testament context, it is contradictory for a lazy person to claim to be a follower of Christ.  The Apostle Paul established a rule with the Thessalonian Christians, “If a man will not work, he shall not eat” (2 Thessalonians 3:10).  Apparently, in 1st century Thessalonica, there were lazy Christians living off the earnings of other Christians who did work, and this was to be prohibited among God’s people.

Seahawks quarterback, Russell Wilson, is transparent about his Christian faith and a perfect example of hard work.  His work ethic is quickly becoming legendary.  He is up at 6 AM every day, including the off-season, breaking down film of opposing defenses.  Then he writes reports, which he gives to his wide receivers to study.  Not everyone thought this was a wonderful approach when he was first drafted.  It has been noted that wide receiver Golden Tate thought he was too serious and over the top, but now has been won over by Wilson’s dedication, because he recognizes the results.Russell Wilson

Russell makes no apologies for his intensity as he discusses his work ethic in a recent article from nfl.com:

“I believe in my talent,” he said. “I believe in everything that I’ve been given. I expect to play at a high level, and I expect to be fighting for a Super Bowl every year. I put all the hard work in, and I expect great things when I put the hard work in. Like I always say, the separation is in the preparation.”

There are many elements of life that are out of our control, but our effort at work or school is our decision.  This is one of the most important choices we can make and model for our children and those who know we are Christians.  As we have chosen to follow Jesus, chosen to love one another, let’s choose daily to be productive members of society.  It is only when we earn profits and increase our wealth that we can help those in need.  I pray that God will grant each one of us the motivation and self-worth as disciples of Jesus to put forth our best effort, so that we can be a blessing to others.

Go Hawks!

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Online Schooling: The Educational Wave of the 21st Century

What an exciting time to be a Christian school administrator! This fall, Renton Christian has launched a new online high school. The effort to bring this to fruition was difficult and took a couple of years, but we are now operational. The Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction in Washington initially denied us permission to start our online campus, despite the fact that public school districts around the state had online students. Through the efforts of state representative Mark Hargrove and the Freedom Foundation, we were able to pass into law the ability for private schools in our state to offer online courses for students who choose this path for their education. Renton Christian is basically the pilot program as this new era of private schooling has begun in the state of Washington.  The narrative of our legislative efforts is well-told in this video.

tablet-surfaceThe face of education in America is changing quickly, primarily due to technological advancements, and quickly improving online curriculum and vehicles for delivering it. Tablets are replacing textbooks.  Technology is not an obstacle for today’s students, called “digital natives,” as it might be for their parents or grandparents, but an often-used tool with which they are quite comfortable.  I strongly believe that teachers and administrators who insist on doing school the same way it’s been done for the past several decades, may well become as irrelevant in the 21st century as the one-room school house became in the 20th century.

There are numerous benefits to online thCALF4RNDschooling, but a few include: it’s more cost-effective for a budget than to manage than a brick-and-mortar school, the rigorous academic programs are more accessible to a wide range of socio-economic levels, the format offers a more intense level of scrutiny over each student, the program offers a freedom and flexibility to study at the times and pace of a student’s choosing, and it prepares students for the type of learning they will be pressed into at college and for professional development in the 21st century work force.

I am thrilled to be part of this new wave of education and I look forward to seeing what the future holds for those courageous enough to ride it.

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Are You a Saul or a David? Do You See the Future with Fear or Faith?

As a Christian school administrator, the summer grants me time to reflect on the successes and failures of the past year.  But it also allows me to ponder the next school year and beyond. The burden and responsibility of so many students, staff, and the finances of Renton Christian can be daunting if I put too much thought into it.  As I look to the future of my leadership at Renton Christian, I ask myself and God, will it be successful, or not?

When I feel this way, I am reminded of what Phil Tuttle, the president of “Walk Thru the Bible” wrote, “Many times God puts us in situations that we don’t understand and don’t feel equipped to handle” (The Crucible, workbook, p. 21).  Isaiah 55:8-9 says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways…As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”  Let’s put that in simple terms.  Even though we don’t understand everything and can’t see the future, God does.  We can put our faith in him, rather than live in lonely fear.

In 1 Samuel the stories of Saul and David intertwine.  Saul was the first king of Israel and David would later become king #2.  These were very different men whose lives went opposite directions.  Saul functioned out of fear and David functioned with faith about the future.  Saul’s life ended with an appointment with a witch, followed by a violent death.  David’s lineage resulted with the birth of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, hundreds of years later.  The Goliath story exemplified the difference between the fearful king and the faithful king.  King Saul cowered in his tent while Goliath taunted the Israelites and God.  But the teenager David became righteously angry, stepped up, and killed Goliath.

Are you like Saul or David?  Saul could certainly justify his fear.  “Have you seen the size of that guy out there?  He’s huge and will kill me if I face him!”  What fears about the future are you justifying?  Are there habits, illnesses, broken relationships, past hurts, and financial problems that you use to excuse your attitude of fear about the future?  David didn’t care that Goliath was large, but that he was an enemy who must be defeated at all costs.  All of us have Goliaths to face, but what will make the difference is whether we handle it like Saul or David.

Do you have fear or faith about your future?  Please don’t listen to the news, politicians, or even other Christians, who want to tell you how terrible things are and that it’s only going to get worse.  A terrible future is not what God has planned for you.  In Jeremiah 29:11, the Lord declared, “I know that plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  God knows your future already, will prepare you for it, and will be with you every step of the way.  And because of that, every follower of Jesus Christ can live in faith, and not fear, about the days ahead.

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Worship the Creator, not the Creation

As I tour prospective parents around the Renton Christian campus and introduce them to our school, questions regarding curriculum inevitably arises.  I summarize our biblical worldview upon which all of our curriculum is based by saying we teach about the Creator and his creation.  As students learn science, history, math, social studies and all the other subjects, one learns about the magnificent God who put it into place (see “God’s Systems” video).

The Bible makes clear that amongst the creatures He made, human beings are distinct and special from the rest.  No one else has been created in his image with an eternal soul, the ability of complex rationale thought, and the invitation for a personal relationship with God Almighty.  He knew us before we were even born.  King David declared this in Psalm 139,

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth (Psalm 139:13-15).  Human beings are special and the earth was created for our needs and comforts.

Secular American culture teaches that your children are no more special than an Orca whale, a spotted owl, or a tree from an old-growth forest.  As a result, the idea is pressed that the animals and trees have as much right to the space on earth as humans do.  This perspective rejects the Creator, minimizes the value of his prize creation (us), and elevates the rest of creation to a place of worship that is not appropriate.

My sense of tree-huggers is they perceive themselves to be the most enlightened among us.  Yet worship of the sun, moon, stars, trees, and mountains is the most ancient form of idolotry known to the world.  Radical environmentalists, and others who worship earth (Wiccans, for example), are the oldest re-treads one could ever find.  One could say they are the least illuminated among us.  They have repackaged a false ideology that has existed in a variety of forms for thousands of years.  I can think of the worshippers of Ra and the Druids, to name a few, in a long list of occultic religions found in human history.  Today, the radical environmentalist movement, whose doctrines have permeated the political arena in the United States, Europe and much of the world, seek to prevent human use of land, water and natural resources.  They teach evolution, global warming, the need for green energy, and an overall attitude that humans are a nuisance at best, and destructive at worst, and should apologize for using the earth’s resources.  And for the earth-worshippers, these are moral issues.  Those who do not believe in their doctrines should be labeled heretics and called out for their “sin” (drilling for oil, cutting down trees, fishing, hunting, driving SUVs).  This is worship of creation, and not the Creator. 

As Christians, we must be careful not to allow the “wisdom” of this age to infiltrate our minds and behaviors.  It is a challenge because we are inundated through the media, public school curriculum, college professors, and politicians, with friendly-sounding terms such as “sustainability,” “carbon footprint,” and “green energy.”  These are rooted in the concept that there is no God and human beings are the problem.  God does not view us in this way and doesn’t want us to believe it either.  Your children (and you as well) were specially created by God and placed on a planet made just for us.

Let’s enjoy God’s wonderful creation that he made for our provision and pleasure.  Not to do so is an insult to the Creator.  Let’s be good stewards of what has been given to us so that the generations that follow can live the full life God intended when he made the Garden of Eden.  Worship the Creator, love others, and enjoy his creation.  Only God could come up with something as marvelous as planet earth, and then place people as incredible as we are to maintain it.

 

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2013: A Fresh Start

It’s January 1, 2013.  Today, Americans all over the country are setting resolutions for the upcoming year.  According to dictionary.com, the word “resolution” means “the act of resolving or determining upon an action or course of action, method, procedure, etc.”  A “resolution” is stronger than a “goal” because it asserts planning, determination, and action.  I know what my first resolution will be: write articles for my blog more often (this if my first one in over two months).  There are numerous other resolutions I will set out to accomplish in 2013.  Some include:

1.  Continue through the Dave Ramsey steps.

2.  Have more date nights with Tammie.

3.  Finish my annual Bible reading plan (Youversion.com is perfect for this).

4.  Stay fit.

5.  Work on my skiing.  It’s still not fun for my wife to go with me.

6.  Complete more items on Renton Christian’s Strategic Plan, so that the school is better at the end of 2013 than at the start of the year.

Everyone of us failed in at least a few of our resolutions in 2012.  But it doesn’t matter because now it’s 2013.  A new, clean calendar goes on the wall, which symbolizes the new start in our lives too.

As we set our resolutions for the new year, be sure to set some spiritual goals too.  One of the most remarkable characteristics of God’s nature is his willingness to put our past behind us.  When we confess our sin and shortcomings to him, He immediately forgives and grants us a fresh start.  And God goes a step further, by re-creating us more in his image.  2 Corinthians 5:17 states, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”

We can apply that principle to a new calendar year.  The old year has gone and the new year has come.  Set some resolutions, and ask God’s help to complete them.  Recall the Apostle Paul, who was in prison when he wrote, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13).  Resolve to be a better spouse, parent, employee, and most of all, follower of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.  Happy New Year!

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Debt: The New Normal in America Today

In America today, it is accepted, and even expected, to carry debt.  It is the American way to purchase items, even though the funds aren’t available in one’s bank or investment accounts.  Here is a fact: whenever a person purchases a car, clothes, TV, or a computer by financing it or putting it on a credit card, this means the money had to be borrowed in order to buy it.  Let that settle for a second.  Here is a commonly believed myth: “If I can afford the monthly payment, then I can afford it.”  This is the angle by which car salesmen approach potential buyers when entering the showroom.  For my money, I could envision replacing my Nissan Altima with an Audi A8.  I’m sure I could afford the payment, and I have earned it, right?

The salesman knows that selling a vehicle and charging interest for it over years and years is highly profitable.  In the end, he has sold the car for thousands of dollars more than it was worth.  Consumers who make purchases in this manner often are the same ones who have a large house, two new cars, nice clothes, private school for the kids, and are flat broke.  But it’s a selfish way to live and here’s why.  How can one give to God or to their neighbor in need if they’ve already spent all of their money on themselves?

Our political leaders are often the worst models of fiscal responsibility, who put the citizens of our country into great danger by spending trillions of dollars more than the government brings in.  It seems as though there are no adults left at local, state or federal levels of government who will say “no.”  Where are the responsible leaders who will put on their big-boy pants and cut spending?  As King Solomon stated long ago, “the borrower is slave to the lender” (Proverbs 22:7).  Any individual or nation that spends more than they collect weaken themselves and literally enslave themselves to others.

Even though we may not lead a nation, everyone of us have been given resources to manage.  Wherever you are at financially, it’s time to establish a plan and get out debt and servitude to others.  How?  The first step is to visit Dave Ramsey’s website and get started.  He is a financial guru who provides lots of tools for budgeting, debt reduction, and savings.   And he teaches finances from principles found in the Bible.  A couple of my favorite Dave mantras are, “debt is dumb” and “cash is king.”

If you do enter Dave Ramsey’s “Financial Peace University“, be prepared to be considered a little wierd by your friends, neighbors, and family.  They will tell you that debt is reality and borrowing money is just how things are done.  It’s time to live better.  Seek after the peace that comes from being debt-free.

Posted in Biblical Worldview, Money | 2 Responses

Christians and Politics: Are We in or Out?

In case you weren’t paying attention there is a fairly important election happening in November.  This begs the question, “should Christians involve themselves with politics?”  Should they share their opinions and thoughts about the Constitution, the economy, national security, and the proper role of government in a free society?

There is quite a diversity of opinion amongst Christians regarding this question.  On one hand, some Christians treat voting for the president of the United States as though they are selecting the next pastor of their local congregation.  For this group, Romney’s Mormonism or Obama’s attendance at a Muslim school in Indonesia as a boy become rationales for dismissing their candidacies without considering other matters.  On the other hand, some Christians declare, “Jesus never involved himself in politics, so neither should we!”  Instead, they assert that Christians should ONLY help the poor and preach the Gospel to those who haven’t heard the good news.  And for them, politics is for those hungry for wealth and power, and not true followers of Christ, who should focus solely upon benevolence towards the less fortunate.  Who is right?

Politics is about ideas and ideas shape society.  American laws that cover educational, economic, environmental, military, and social policies are based upon ideas.  Upon whose ideas should America be governed?  I agree with Dr. Jeff Myers, the president of Summit Ministries, that Christians must be influential participants in the American political process.  Dr. Myers persuasively makes the case that the ideas which will shape the future of America rests on whether evangelical Christians get involved in politics.  He has developed a thought-provoking new video teaching series entitled, “The Political Animal.”  I highly recommend this study for individuals, families, small groups; anyone wrestling with the question regarding the appropriate level of participation in American politics at the local, state or federal levels.

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