Friday, May 02, 2014

Real value in Christian Education

What is Christian Education and why is it important? From much study and experience it seems that the real difference is the focus on character, the heart of the person, not just the brain or the thought processes. Character formation is integral to learning because a person of character is one that is prepared for life and finds real purpose in both learning and in serving others. As we prepare for life we need to see the big picture of what life is and how we fit in. We know that we have been created by God to be 'image bearers' (Genesis 1:26-27), this means we reflect the character of God; but sometimes we are able to reflect it more clearly than at other times. Rick Warren says:
God wants you to develop the kind of character described in the beatitudes of Jesus (Matthew 5:1-12), the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), Paul’s great chapter on love (1 Corinthians 13), and Peter’s list of the characteristics of an effective and productive life (2 Peter 1:5-8).
But how can I develop this kind of character which is a real reflection of who God is and who He wants me to be? This is the essence of the Christian life and what God is constantly working toward through my walk with Him, through my relationships, through my family, through my church, through my daily circumstances, trials and learning experiences. This is preparing for life and living out my purpose! So the calling of the Christian school is to support both the family and the church in this process of understanding and applying Truth from a God-centered perspective!
Now, why doesn't public education develop this character in our children? First of all, this character is not the stated goal of public education. Character is simply outside the scope of an academic approach to life where people "learn to earn", although there are schools that attempt to address character without a biblical foundation. But more importantly, there are several conflicting issues in modern society which directly impact the public education environment: a disparity between religious belief and popular belief, a secular vs. sacred concept of life, relativistic morality, and the false assumption that some people have more value than others. These concepts can be summarized in the differences between a God-centered worldview and a self-centered worldview.
In the self-centered worldview, I am my own purpose. I exist as a product of the chance fusion of genes from my parents. My character is formed by my circumstances and how I react to those circumstances based on my predisposition and my attitude. My choices are determined by what I think is best for me. Doing the right thing means doing what is right for me or maybe benefiting someone else (usually someone I value). If I am religious, I may make some choices based on how God may or may not punish me as a result, but the focus is still on my own well-being.
In a God-centered worldview, I exist for God's purposes. I exist because God has planned for me to be born with certain genes in a certain place at a certain time. My character is formed because of the people that God puts in my life to teach and train me and I learn to recognize His hand in this process. Often my attitudes and actions do not reflect the character He desires, but I am learning to do this through the difficult things He brings my way. My choices are determined by what God says is best for me as I learn Truth from His Word and by His Spirit living in me. When I don't make correct choices, I need to deal with the natural consequences and trust Him to use everything for His glory.
So the Christian school, ideally, has an approach to life and learning which results in beautiful and purposeful connections in the following areas:
  1. God-centered education connects faith to life (God's law is central to all learning and to all decisions because I know He desires what is best in the long term.)
  2. God-centered education connects work to service and ministry (Work is a process of using what God has given me to bless and serve others, to care for His creation and to communicate a knowledge of Him.)
  3. God-centered education connects morality to absolutes (Right and wrong is not determined by the limited scope of what is right for me or my community but because God is Holy and God is Good.)
  4. God-centered education connects people to purpose (My life has purpose because I am part of His big plan. But, just as important, each individual around me has purpose too and our interactions need to communicate their God-given value!)
We can take a look at these connections in more detail later, because they are unique to the Christian school. But remember that we as parents and as teachers are an integral part of highlighting these connections in how we live and in how we teach. What a joy and privilege God has given us!

Monday, March 03, 2014

Called to Lead

There are many reasons to answer God's call. The first might be very clear to you if you think about the events of world history and then look around at our society today... We are the connection to the next generation of Christians! Every generation is responsible to reach the next generation with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

We know that Christianity has been a huge movement that has impacted billions with the blessings of modern society. Most of the advances in science, medicine, social work, music, education, government and many other areas of study are based on the premise that there is an absolute Truth and an order to our universe because of our Creator God. Even many of the most notable advances in these areas were made by people who understood this premise of Truth and acted out of Christian love. God has made our universe for a purpose and we have the capacity to discover the laws of nature and understand how things work - there is no randomness or purposeless activity in God's Creation. We also see that Christianity focuses on the dignity of human life, whether you are female, from another race, unborn, poor, sick, old or disabled, each person has value and potential for a meaningful and fulfilling life. Of course this has not always been practiced, but it is the reality of Biblical teaching and Jesus teaching, life and death in payment for our sin.
As Christianity spread through Europe, Europe became the center of faith and the base for spreading the Gospel to the rest of the world. America took its turn and now east Asia, even with countries dominated by Communism and religious persecution, is the center of the missionary movement. How can this be? Because the real Truth of the Gospel is a living hope and freedom that brings dignity and purpose to human life. God has shown His love to us in the giving of His Son in our place to restore an eternal relationship with those who previously rejected Him. (See Ephesians 2!)

So even though Europe had been the center of Christianity, it eventually became spiritually dead and did not teach grace or forgiveness but a social conformity to religious rules. So we see the result of that in modern society: knowledge without wisdom, good deeds without love, things without thankfulness, health without happiness, leaders without values, ethics without morality, social programs without sacrifice, relationship without commitment, even religion without Jesus!

But true Christianity does exist and it does not depend on us; it depends on the reality of God and His gift in Jesus Christ! God will use people to be a part of His plan to reach everyone but I must choose to be a part of it. I want to answer His call to live in such a way that others can understand His love and want a restored relationship with Him. We must become students of Christian leadership because there is a world we must lead to the foot of the cross of Jesus. (This comes from my post on another of my blogs:

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Kingdom of God

Let's look together at "The Kingdom of God". This is a concept explored much in Scripture but we still don't have a handle on what it means in our daily life. Jesus says, "Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you." I admit that I have been quite interested in 'all these things' but not so much in 'His righteousness' for most of my life. But this also demonstrates my ignorance of what 'all these things' are, or at least their ultimate value.

Looking at the context of Jesus' words, we see that the temporal things were important to people. The people wanted food, shelter, clothing, those things Jesus calls 'additions' or non-essentials which are provided AFTER we search for His Kingdom. How do we get there? First is a recognition of the value of His Kingdom over the value of temporal things. The righteousness of God is infinitely more valuable than what we think we need every day, a good meal, a comfortable bed or even safety! What we can't comprehend is the eternal nature of the Kingdom of God. It does not consist of food, money or even power. It is a relationship based first on God's eternal, everlasting, profound love for us and then on our response to that love (a reciprocation, a reflection of God's love). This may be the essence of God's Kingdom.

The Kingdom is not defined by rules or standards, it is defined by a relationship. This goes completely against the normal flow and understanding in our society. Jesus puts it most clearly in the form of parables. In the parable of the workers in the field, the owner hires workers at different hours of the day. Each worker contributes different levels of effort and time but they are all paid the same. So the twist here is a new set of values: all of them agreed to work, all of them came to work, all of them completed the work they were contracted to do, all of them had a relationship with the owner of the field, so they all receive the same wage, a relationship to the owner of the field and a new understanding of how to live. The generous monetary payment is just extra, an addition to what is really necessary.

So what does it mean for me to be a member of the Kingdom of God? Certainly it requires no social status, no position of power or responsibility, no amount of wealth. It is not even following a set of rules or being a member of a group of people or a religious organization. So what is it? Jesus says, "If my kingdom were of this world...". So is there any overlap between the eternal and spiritual nature of God's Kingdom and our earthly existence? It appears that the connection exists in the direction our life takes. This brings us back to "seek ye first", a value that consumes my heart and mind and that carries over into every other area of my existence. I must desire God's Kingdom to the extent that it impacts my choice of a wife, my choice in entertainment, my choice of education and work, my choice of words, even my choice of thoughts. This seems like an impossible task, which in our fallen state it is! But the journey toward God's Kingdom begins at the cross of Jesus.

Literature teaches that conflict exists in 4 areas: against God, against self, against nature and against others. But the key to resolution is addressing our conflict with God first, then we are in a position to truly resolve each of the others. If we don't settle the conflict with God, we will never be able to resolve the other areas of conflict in our lives. So this search for the Kingdom of God is the beginning point of our search for global peace, our search for the end of class warfare, our search for resolution in marital conflict, even the search for self-worth and personal significance.

Which road leads to significance and value? In a careful study of history and humanity, it seems to be the road leading to the cross of Jesus Christ. The cross is the center of human history, the focus of the eternal time-continuum and the point of decision in every individual life. This is the great "crossroads" of life, taking the path toward God's Kingdom or away from God's Kingdom. I must come to a place of surrender, recognizing that my life has little significance in the scope of eternity unless I surrender my will, my hopes, my loves, my values to the purposes of the eternal God, the Creator and Sustainer of both the spiritual and the physical universe. I lose everything of true value in turning away from the cross of Jesus or I recognize the only thing of real value in surrender to Christ and the Kingdom of God at the cross.