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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“You Get What You Get and You Don’t Throw a Fit!”

One evening our family was sitting at home for dinner and our 8- year old daughter Emma began to complain about the menu.  Suddenly, our son Andrew, who is 5, blurted out “Emma, you get what you get and you don’t throw a fit!”  Tammie and I burst out laughing.  This was great wisdom from our son.  We asked him where he heard it, and he said his pre-school teacher taught him the phrase.  Since his teachers work for me, I should have given her a bonus, or at least a Starbuck’s card for imparting such enlightenment upon my son.  As parents, we want our children to be appreciative for what they have rather than be jealous about what they don’t.

The tenth commandment states, “Do not covet,” which is where most of us leave it.  However, the full commandment reads, “You must not covet your neighbor’s house. You must not covet your neighbor’s wife, male or female servant, ox or donkey, or anything else that belongs to your neighbor” (Exodus 20:17, NLT).  It is not virtuous to envy others’ success and possessions.  Yet, it is within our selfish human nature to desire what others have, even when we accept that God has chosen to bless another family with more financial resources than us.

In America today, there are politicians, journalists, and other activists, who teach an idealogy that demonizes the successful.  They paint successful Americans with the same broad brush that says they didn’t earn it, cheated their way to the top, and because they are rich others will now be poor.  These are excuses to justify jealousy.

As a parent, there are few things that grate on the nerves more than hearing my child complain about so-and-so’s new Nintendo 3DS or IPhone (why does an elementary kid need an IPhone?  A discussion for another day).  I wonder what God thinks when we whine about what we don’t have and are not grateful for his many blessings?

King David wrote numerous psalms that are called psalms of “thanksgiving” (Psalm 30, 34, 40, 138 and others).  These are prayers to God on behalf of David individually and the nation of Israel thanking God for the gifts He had given them.  I hope we model our prayers in a similar manner, so that they are not filled with selfish requests and complaints, but of thanksgiving and appreciation to the Creator of all that is good.

Trust me, you’ll feel better if you choose to live with an attitude of appreciation rather than jealousy.  But when you encounter those who drive a better car, have a bigger house, and work at a higher-paying job, don’t childishly declare, “that’s not fair!”  We don’t let our kids get away with such whining.  And please remember what we teach the children here at Renton Christian, “You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit!”

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Parents: Teenagers are Capable of Much More

Every adult has an opinion about teenagers, and many of those opinions slant negative.  A good place for Christians to ponder the proper role of teenagers is to examine what the Bible says about them.  What does the Bible say about teenagers?  Absolutely nothing!  The Apostle Paul wrote “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child.  When I became a man, I gave up childish things” (1 Corinthians 13:11).  Paul simply reflected the culture of his day in which a phase of childhood development called the teenage years didn’t exist.  Did you realize that the term “teenager” did not even enter the American vocabulary until the mid-20th century, in a Reader’s Digest article?  Prior to this point in American history, and throughout many cultures of the world today, there is no such phase of life, as a person is categorized as either a child or an adult.  “Teenager” is a newly-minted term that represents a society that has gone backwards in how it raises children and prepares them for a successful life that contributes to a better world.

A couple of years ago, I came across a book written by twin brothers, Alex and Brett Harris, entitled, Do Hard Things: A Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectations.  As teenagers they began to realize that the world around them, their teachers and parents especially, did a poor job of preparing them for life as adults, and decided that a “rebelution (rebellion + revolution = rebelution)” needs to take place.  They authored this book and their message and influence have grown ever since.  They assert, and I wholeheartedly agree, that the teenage years (ages 13-19) are not be a vacation from responsibility but a launching pad for life.  But American society today places little to no expectations upon teenagers.  The Harris’ cite an article entitled, “A Parent’s Guide to Survive the Teen Years” which expresses the low bar teenagers are expected to clear.  Here are a few parental expectations this article suggests impressing upon teenagers:

  • Make your bed every day.
  • Clean your room every week.
  • Do a daily chore (just one).
  • Make sure the gas gauge stays above a quarter-tank.

And to top it off, the article encourages parents not to expect teenagers from accomplishing all of them at once!  Is this the pathetic level of expectation we have on our teenagers?  Teenagers who are raised this way end up occupying Wall Street with the rest of their self-entitled, lazy friends.  Brett and Alex would call them “Kidults.”  But it’s not completely their fault.  Parents have failed them and the Kidults don’t know any better.

Do Hard Things contains so many great ideas that it’s difficult to highlight any one or two without leaving out many other insights.  But I will try.  The Harris’ identify one major problem as the “just do your best” trap.  This is a favorite of adults.  This phrase is deceptively disguised as loving and accepting encouragement that doesn’t hurt the fragile emotional state of teenagers.  But teenagers aren’t children and they aren’t as fragile as we think.  When teenagers know that no matter what the result of their effort, they will be told, “at least you did your best,” the results are complacency and just getting by.  Alex and Brett state that this contradicts the heart of a “rebelutionary.”  A rebelutionary pushes oneself to do more than is asked, expected or required by his parent, teacher, or youth pastor.  To illustrate their point, the Harris’ share the stories of three teenagers: George, Clara and David.

George’s parents died when he was eleven.  He mastered geometry, trigonometry and calculus and by 17 earned a job as a surveyor of Culpepper County, Virginia.  He performed this job, often alone, for three years using heavy logs and chains as his measuring tools.  He was a full-fledged man at 17.  Clara nursed small-pox patients and oversaw a class of students when she was 17.   David captained a prize ship at the age of 12!  George Washington, Clara Barton and David Farragut (the first navy admiral and hero in the Civil War) worked hard, accepted responsibility and chose a more difficult path while they were still “teenagers.”  The intense work ethic they cultivated as teenagers developed mental toughness and leadership skills that allowed them to excel later in life.  Developing a strong work ethic is a Godly virtue (1 Corinthians 10:31; Colossians 3:23).

Parents who don’t expect their teenagers to work hard, to feel uncomfortable, or to experience failure, do not prepare them for adulthood when mommy is no longer there to tell them “at least you did your best.”  If a person’s first tough challenges occur in a class from an impossibly hard college professor or a boss who has high expectations, then failure at this point could be devestating.  It’s time for parents to rebel against American culture and raise their teenagers differently.  True parental love is expressed by those who raise the bar of expectation and challenge their teenagers to “do hard things.”  I highly recommend reading the book, and then having your “teenager” read it as well.

Posted in Biblical Worldview, Family | 1 Response

Church is Not Enough

Christian schools have been a part of North America since the early 1600s, basically as soon as Europeans immigrated to the continent.  For over 300 years it was assumed that schools were rooted in the Christian faith.  But things changed dramatically in the 20th-century as secular dogma began to infiltrate school curriculums.  After World War II, as public schools became more secular (prayer and Bibles were removed, for example), Christian schools grew at an exponential rate.  Many recognized the growing need for privately or church-sponsored schools to fill a gap in the spiritual and moral development of students. 

The influence of a school and its teachers cannot be overestimated.  Simply do the math.  Take a student who spends a couple hours per week involved in the church and it’s activities.  At 52 weeks per year over 13 years (Kindergarten-12th grade) that equals 1,352 hours.  But students spend 15,000 hours in school during those same years.  Even students who attend church on a regular basis will spend over 10 times more hours in school than church!  Who has more impact on that kid’s life?  Their youth pastor or their teachers?  And think about how difficult it is for parents of kids who sit in classrooms that teach: there is no God, the Bible is a fairy tale, their lives are no more valuable than a whale or a spotted owl, and they should start having sex whenever it feels right.  Parents and the church have to undo this secular indoctrination over and over again.

There are tangible results to this reality that have been validated in the “Cardus Education Survey,” which is the largest study ever done in this subject area.  According to the summary results, 50% of high school graduates who attend church regularly, but are enrolled in public school, will keep their faith.  While on the other hand, 92.5% of high school graduates who attend church regularly, but are enrolled in a Protestant Christian school from Kindergarten through 12th grade, keep their faith.  Wow!

The president of the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI), Brian Simmons, discusses the invaluable importance of Christian Schools in his book, Worth It: The 15,000-Hour Decision.  He highlights three institutions given to us by which to disciple and to educate students: the family, the church, and the school.  If one pictures each as a leg in a three-legged stool, then if one is missing the result is a wobbly chair.  Or, a wobbly Christian teenager.

I hope pastors take this to heart.  If a pastor has the ability to start a Christian school, then one should prayerfully consider it.  If a pastor already has a school, then prayerfully consider how to expand it.  The most effective way to disciple students completely is for parents, the church AND school to all be working together to produce the next generation of Christian leaders who will impact the world.  Christian parents and leaders alike must learn history and understand that we are raising children in a secular environment that is hostile to their faith in a way that America did not experience prior to the 20th century.

Church is not enough.  In order for our kids to be developed into all that God created them to be: families must be strong, churches must be strong, AND Christian schools must be strong.  I encourage parents to bring their kids to church on Sundays, teach them right from wrong at home, and enroll them in a Christian school.  This gives them the best chance to raise successful and God-fearing children.  I believe there is a bright future ahead for Christian schools and let’s hope that more and more students will receive the opportunity to be part of it.

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Let’s Raise Our Boys to Become Men

Boys are different than girls.  Wow, what an insight!  Not really.  This is clear to anyone with a little common sense.  Boys seek adventure, battle, and a beauty to rescue.  They prefer video games like “Halo” and “Call of Duty: Black Ops” (and so do I, for that matter!)  They like danger and risk.  God created them that way.  It is a challenge for parents and teachers alike to teach boys to be disciplined, to sit still and to follow directions, without breaking them of their masculinity.  Our world desperately needs boys to grow into strong, powerful, and Godly men.  Yet, too often boys are told that in order to be “good” they must act like girls.

In his book, Wild at Heart, John Eldredge notes that there is a spiritual battle that began long ago in the heavenly realms, and it continues today.  He states, “God has an enemy and so do we.  Man is not born into a sitcom or a soap opera; he is born into a world at war.  This is not Home Improvement; it’s Saving Private Ryan.  There will be many, many battles to fight on many different battlefields.”  When the natural aggression of boys is perverted, men can bully and intimidate, become abusive husbands or genocidal dictators who rule over people with an iron fist.  Or, when boys have their masculine nature suffocated, they can become spineless wimps, afraid to lead, and who feel like they have to make excuses for being male.

The Old Testament hero David exemplified a fine balance between the strength and sensitivity all boys should seek.  He killed a lion with his bare hands when it attacked his sheep (1 Sam. 17:35).  As a teenager, he stood up to Goliath as King Saul cowered in fear in his tent (1 Sam. 17:1-51).  He led armies into battle once he became king (2 Sam. 5:17-25).  He was strong and powerful and protected his family and his nation.  Yet, he was sensitive to the Spirit of God, which is expressed in the beauty of his songs and prayers to God recorded in the Psalms.  For example, David wrote, “Though you probe my heart and examine me at night, though you test me, you will find nothing; I have resolved that my mouth will not sin” (Ps. 17:3).  The balance David found between his authority over a nation and humility before God Almighty are traits each man ought to strive for and parents should instill in their own boys.

Wise parents do not train their boys to become girls, but to become men.  No one said it would be easy!




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School Choice: The Most Important Civil Rights Issue of Our Day?

Parents should have the freedom to choose where their kids attend school.  Unfortunately, the education system in America is under the control of teachers’ unions and government officials.  Unions and politicians assert that they know what is best for your children.  And they claim they could do a better job if they just had more of your money.  Yet, teachers’ unions reject the common-sense and budget-balancing ideas of being able to fire poorly performing teachers without drawn-out legal battles, 401(k) retirement plans rather than bloated and unsustainable pensions, constructing less-expensive school buildings and many, many more.  As a private school administrator, I would love to comb through a government school district budget and figure out why they need so much money!  The government’s claim to need more money for education contradicts the existence of thousands of private schools in America who educate students far better for far less.

What is the answer?  Competition!  But teachers’ unions, in fact, unions of any kind, hate that word and what it stands for.  It means people succeed and keep their jobs based on merit, hard work, and positive results, and not simply because someone pays dues to a union to protect their own turf.

If our goal as Americans is to offer the finest education system in the world we must provide a competitive environment that forces schools to provide a better-quality education and to do so more efficiently.  And top it off by offering parents the choice of where to apply the tax money that they earned.  Parents are smart.  If schools are thrust into competition, then the market will determine which schools succeed and which ones fail.

Finally, it is the poorest Americans who do not have the opportunity to enroll their kids in better schools.  Families in many of America’s urban centers, are held hostage by a government-operated education system that dictates no school choice as the best solution.  It’s almost a bizarre contradiction.  Liberals who shout from the rooftops that they are most concerned about the plight of the poor are the exact same people who reject school choice, who reject charter schools, and who reject voucher initiatives.  Yet, the citizenry in the urban centers of America continue to vote these same people into office!  Should not poor families be granted the right of freedom in education for their children?

One of the leading voices for charter schools and school vouchers is Star Parker who rightly asserts that freedom in education is the civil rights issue of our day.  You can link to one of her insightful articles here: http://www.urbancure.org/article.asp?id=3268&tag=Education.

The school choice movement is gaining momentum in America today.  Please do all you can to support school leaders, politicians, and others in the effort to create a better future for the children of our country.  Let’s place the destiny of our children back where it belongs; into the hands of parents.

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Stop Telling Your Kids They Can Be Anything They Want

What kind of horrible, dream-killer would say something like this to a child?  Please allow me to explain.  As a boy, I had the same dream as many American boys.  I wanted to be a professional basketball player.  The Sonics won the championship when I was in 2nd grade and Jack Sikma was my favorite player.  This really started my interest in basketball.  Even though I had some success as a basketball player growing up, I never had the size, strength and speed required to play in the NBA.  No amount of my parents telling me I was wonderful was going to change that.  When God created me He gave me other gifts and abilities that aligned perfectly with his will for my life.

Sports is an easy arena in which to face reality because of the tangible results.  There are game scores, teams chosen, and lots of measurable statistics of athletic ability.  The inches on one’s vertical leap, bench press weight and reps, and 40-yard time are indisputable facts.  It’s more complicated in everyday life to figure out what one is good at and…where one isn’t gifted.

I believe it creates a lot of stress and pressure on a child, teenager or even an adult when they feel it is up to them alone to determine the course of their life.  God doesn’t expect us to bear this burden alone.  He created us and has a wonderful plan for each of our lives (Jeremiah 29:11).  As parents we need to help our children discover and develop those God-given gifts.

Please don’t teach your kids they can be anything they want for this won’t lead to true happiness in this life.  Instead teach them to discover what God has created them to be.  This will keep their eyes on their relationship with God instead of comparing themselves with those around them.  When people measure themselves against others, they will never measure up.  But when they seek to meet God’s will in their lives, they can rest in the assurance that God’s gifts are sufficient.

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