Saturday, December 15, 2012

Christmas Update

Photo of the Wise Men and the Star, 
from Stellar House Publishing here

December 15, 2012

Dear friends,

We hope that you are well, and that you are enjoying a blessed Advent, in preparation of the celebration of Christmas.

Reflecting on this last year, and the last few months in particular, we are struck by the many wonderful new beginnings and opportunities that we’ve been blessed to be a part of. It has been a true joy to watch God work in Robbie’s Bible class, drawing many students into deeper relationship with Himself. Robbie has prayed with several students who gave their life to Christ for the first time during this school year. This kind of life-change can only come through the power of the Holy Spirit, and we have been so grateful to witness God work in this way. Our prayer is that these students would grow into maturity through discipleship, and that God would use them in powerful ways in His Kingdom, and in Haiti.

We’ve also been thankful for a couple new opportunities to teach and speak outside of our usual school context. Irene was invited to give an Advent sermon in a local Anglican Church, with the message that we are a people who are part of a story of passionate waiting.

A few weeks ago, Robbie taught a 2-day Overview of the Bible seminar at another local church. The audience was primarily made up of young Haitian men and Korean missionaries. They were so hungry for the Word and to learn more about Scripture. One of the participants greeted Irene before the seminar, and was bubbling over with excitement and exclaiming, “I can’t wait! We’re going to learn the entire Bible this weekend!” It was such a joy to give true Spiritual Bread and Water to this famished group by teaching about the Story of Scripture and God’s continued action in the world.

On a more personal level, as you may already know, Irene is pregnant! The little one is due in early summer, around June 29. Irene is happy to report that she has been feeling great so far, and that we are fortunate to have access to excellent prenatal care here in Haiti. We plan to return to Virginia for the actual birth this summer. These last couple of months have been full of delight, joy, and gratitude, as we quietly contemplate this amazing gift, and as we share and celebrate the wonderful news with friends and family. Please join us in prayers of thanksgiving, and prayers of protection from illness and any other harm for Irene and the growing baby.

This Advent and Christmas Season, may you continue to grow in love for the God who humbled himself to come into our world as a baby. May you deeply experience the presence of Jesus, Immanuel, who is God with us. May you be encouraged and strengthened in your faith as we passionately wait for the coming in fullness of the promised Kingdom of God.

Merry Christmas!


Robbie and Irene


To Support Us Financially

We have partnered with Resourcing Christian Education International (RCE) in order to raise the funds we need to continue our ministry here at Quisqueya Christian School. All donations made through RCE are tax-deductible. If you feel led to support us financially, please visit:

http://www.rce-international.org/donate/credit-card-donate-page/

Under the Fund Designation drop-down menu, choose “Missionaries,” and another drop-down menu will appear with alphabetical names of missionaries. You will find our names and account number (26902) listed. You can use this website to make one-time or recurring donations, or to set up an Electronic Funds Transfer.

Thank you again for your prayers and encouragement. We are humbled by God’s provision through the many hands of our friends and family.


Robbie & Irene Pruitt
Bible Teaching | Discipleship | Counseling

Email: irenepruitt@gmail.com, stay411@msn.com
Skype: irene.pruitt, robbie.pruitt
Haiti Cell Phones: (+509) 4782-4794; (+509) 4614-7851
Our Blogs: www.irenepruitt.com, www.robbiepruitt.blogspot.com
U.S. Mailing Address:
628 Galway Lane, Columbia, SC 29209
Sending Mail to us in Haiti: 
3170 Airmans Drive, #2029 QCS, Ft. Pierce, FL 34946

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Trinity Art Project

Trinity symbol photo from Wikia.com here.

This semester I had the opportunity to teach an amazing class called Theology in the Arts where we looked at the theology and art through the lens of art history, scripture, theology, culture, and Christian worldview.  (For more about Theology and Art, click here)

There were three texts for this Theology in the Arts class, which included Francis Schaeffer’s Art and the Bible, Philip Graham Ryken’s Art for God’s Sake, and Hans Rookmaaker’s Art Needs no Justification.

As a final project for the course, students were required to complete an art project of their choice.  The students were inspired to do some artwork of their own by two guest speakers who joined the class, photographer and videographer Michael Bixler, and Corrigan Clay, from the Apparent Project.  Through their suggestions and inspiration, the students decided on doing a painting of the Trinity symbol.  The project would be in the stylistic form of Felice Varini, an artist recommended by Corrigan Clay who uses perspective.

Below is a photo of the classes’ Trinity Art Project, based on Felice Varini’s artwork and the Trinity symbol above.
Photo of the Trinity Art Project by Robbie Pruitt

The students were also required to write an artist statement and make comments about why they enjoyed the project and/or what they got out of the project. What follows is the artists statement and their comments on the artwork.

Artist Statement

Do you ever feel like God is unjust, mean or even weak? Sometimes we attribute negative attributes to God. This often happens when we are suffering or find ourselves in a bad situation. This trouble or suffering blurs our vision and we look at God from the wrong viewpoint or perspective. The right point-of-view to look at God is through His Son, Jesus Christ. In looking up, in a humble position, we see. We may even see as God sees. This artwork is the same. All the wrong perspectives that we can view this artwork from, which distort it and make it unclear, represent the trouble and the suffering that we sometimes face. However, just like God, this work of art can be appreciated and seen if looked at from the right position. This perfect perspective represents Christ, the “way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6).”

To see more of Felice Varini’s artwork, click here.

Quotes about The Trinity Art Project

Our imaginations were unlocked to new dimensions as we admired the works of Felice Varini. We caught a glimpse into new depth, and like children watching magicians at a fair, we desperately wished to make it our own.

                   -Natasha Van Dam, High School Junior

This was an edifying experience. It was inspiring to be able to express our view of God using a different medium, words being the usual medium.
      
                   -Gael Georges, High School Junior

In a world filled with different perspectives and opinions, this piece of art can only be perceived from a singular perspective. Like horses with blinders on, we should focus on God without being distracted. The only way to focus on God is to see Him with humble eyes. 

                   -Stephanie Etienne, High School Sophomore

The artist, Felice Varini, influenced this piece of art with his unique artistic form and style of art, which focuses on perspective. You can only see the Trinity sign from the right perspective or point of view.

This work of art made us go through struggles and frustrations, but we still persevered. God looks for that same perseverance in us. We should not quit seeking Him and living in His glory.


                   -Hans Dorleans, High School Sophomore

This was an amazing experience because this is one of those pieces of art that only has one perspective. You can only comprehend when you are standing in the perfect position. 

                   -Randolph Rameau, High School Junior

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Peace: A Fruit of the Spirit

Photo of the Hebrew word for Peace, 
Shalom taken from here

This article, Peace: A Fruit of the Spirit, was first published in its entirety in Preaching.com here

“But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.” –Colossians 3:14-15

“Depart from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.” –Psalm 34:14

What is peace?  How can we have peace?  Peace is a misunderstood concept, which has often eluded our comprehension and has almost become a cliché.

In the 1960’s “peace” was everywhere.  In the late 1960’s, 1969, the single “Give Peace a Chance,” by John Lennon became an anthem of the American anti-war movement.  In “Give Peace a Chance,” Lennon pleaded, “All we are saying is give peace a chance.”  In his video performance for the song Lennon pleaded for peace and declared “You will only get it if you want it and we want it now!”  We all desire peace, but how do we get it?

The idea of peace is all over the place and is viewed as the answer to all the world’s problems.  Even in watching speeches at beauty pageants peace shows up as a major topic of discussion and solution to the world’s ails.  Here everyone seems to want world peace.  World peace is paraded and heralded as the greatest need and the highest virtue.  However, peace is more than just words or talk, is it not?

In the film Miss Congeniality, an American police comedy from the year 2000, Sandra Bullock played Gracie Hart who is an undercover FBI Agent.  While undercover in a beauty pageant, Gracie is participating in a question and answer session.  When Bullock does not mention “world peace,” the audience is silent and you can sense the awkwardness.  She then adds the words, “and world peace” to her answer and the audience erupts in applause, approval and praise.  The all important world peace had been stated, and only then was the audience satisfied.

The pursuit and the focus on peace seem to be everywhere.  In the world of NBA Basketball there is even a Lakers player who has changed his name from Ron Artest to Metta World Peace.  During one of his games, Metta World Peace elbowed another player from an opposing team, James Harden.  Late night talk show host and comedian Jimmy Kimmel, from Jimmy Kimmel Live, exclaimed, “World Peace with an elbow to the head.” and then stated that this act “ended World Peace.”  We have, indeed, reduced peace, and look what we have reduced peace to, a name or a label.

If we have a diluted understanding of peace, how do we begin to look differently at peace and begin to understand it rightly?  We can begin by defining our terms and by looking to the scriptures for clarity on what peace is and how we can have peace.  

According to the Tyndale Bible Dictionary, peace is the “Total well-being, prosperity, and security associated with God’s presence among his people.”  Peace is simply defined as the presence of God.  In the presence of God we have the promise of the fulfillment of total well being, prosperity and security of God’s redemption, which has come in His son Jesus Christ, and we have the promise of the restoration that is to come in eternity in the perfect presence of God.

The Tyndale Bible Dictionary goes on to support this idea of peace when it says, “Linked in the Old Testament with the covenant, the presence of peace was conditional, based on Israel’s obedience. In the prophetic writings, true peace is part of the end-time hope of God’s salvation. In the New Testament, this longed-for peace is understood as having come in Christ and can be experienced by the believers.”

According to the Holman treasury of key Bible words, the Hebrew word for peace, shalom, means: “’completeness,’ ‘wholeness,’ ‘well-being,’ or ‘welfare and peace.’ It is derived from a root that means ‘to be complete’ or ‘to be sound.’”  Peace is more than a feeling or something we try to achieve.  Peace is a state of being or condition.

As Paul stated in Colossians 1:19-20, God has made peace “[through Christ] to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.”  God’s peace is a person.  God’s peace is His own son Jesus Christ.

Paul also states in Colossians 3:14-15, “But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.”  In putting on the love of Christ and abiding in this love we are bonded in perfection and the peace of God can and will rule our hearts.  This is the Christian’s calling; to abide in Christ’s Love, to find His Peace through the Peace of His cross, and to worship Him with thanksgiving.  

To read the rest of this article, Peace: A Fruit of the Spirit, you can read it by visiting Preaching.com here

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Art and the Bible

Cover photo of Schaeffer's Art and the Bible from Amazon.com

A Review of Schaeffer’s Art and the Bible

Francis Schaeffer’s book Art and the Bible is a classic when it comes to developing a Biblical theology of the arts or in thinking about theology and the arts Christianly.  Almost every book about the arts or theology in the arts, from a Christian worldview that has come out since this book was first published in 1973, references Schaeffer’s Art and the Bible.  The book began as two separate essays, the first essay is Art and the Bible and the second is Some Perspectives on Art.  These separate essays were combined and published as the comprehensive and concise book Art and the Bible

In this thought provoking and essential work advocating for the arts, Schaeffer outlines a sound Biblical apologetic for the arts.  Schaeffer addresses all types of art from architecture, to statuary, bas-relief, poetry, painting, music, drama and dance, to the art of Heaven itself.  The Biblical support of art of all kinds is presented clearly by Schaeffer who walks the reader carefully and thoroughly through important supportive passages in both the Old and New Testaments. 

In the book’s foreword, by Michael Card, added in the revised 2006 edition, Card says, “this book, a primer on Biblical creativity, [seeks] to drum into us the idea that we create out of our worldview and that it is our responsibility to align that point of view with scripture before we continue on.”  Card rightly highlights one of Schaeffer’s main points that the artist should “take seriously the Lordship of Christ in every aspect of their creative lives.” 

Art in the Bible, Essay One from Art and the Bible, by Francis Schaeffer

Schaeffer begins the first essay, Art in the Bible, by looking at the question, “What is the place of art in the Christian life?”  Schaeffer explores how evangelicals have been notorious for “relegating the arts to the very fringe of life.”  He takes an honest look at the sacred/secular divide and how Christians talk about the Lordship of Christ, but often do not allow God to be Lord of all of life, including the arts.  Schaeffer says, “The Lordship of Christ over the whole of life means that there are no platonic areas in Christianity, no dichotomy or hierarchy between the body and the soul.”

Schaeffer offers up four basic concepts from the scriptures to help us along in our understanding of the place of art in the Christian life.  These for axioms are: one, God made the whole man, or person; two, in Christ the whole man is redeemed; three, Christ is the Lord of the whole man now and the Lord of the whole Christian life; and four, and lastly, in the future as Christ comes back, the body will be raised from the dead and the whole man [person] will have a whole redemption.”  Schaeffer’s desire in this framework is a holistic look at the whole person and the whole life under the Lordship of Christ.

Schaeffer makes the point that humanity has been created in the image of the creator God and that we reflect the image of the creator in our dominion and creativity.  He says, “True spirituality means the Lordship of Christ over the total [person].”  Schaeffer confidently makes the point, "If Christianity is really true, then it involves the whole [person], including [their] intellect and creativeness. Christianity is not just ‘dogmatically’ true or ‘doctrinally’ true.  Rather, it is true to what is there, true in the whole area of the whole [person] in all of life." 

Schaeffer makes the case that the Lordship of Jesus includes the arts.  He writes, "The lordship of Christ should include an interest in the arts" He continues, "A Christian should use these arts to the glory of God, not just as tracts, mind you, but as things of beauty to the praise of God.  An art work can be a doxology in itself."  Schaeffer goes on to point out the arguments against the arts, the main ones being the issue of idolatry and the creation of graven images.

There are those who believe that the scriptures speak against the arts, or at least believe that the scriptures are silent when it comes to the topic of the arts.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Schaeffer builds a case for the arts from the scriptures beginning with the command to have no graven images.   He explains this commandment as a warning against idol worship and unpacks this as its true intent and meaning.  Schaeffer says, “Only God is to be worshipped.  Thus the commandment is not against making art but against worshiping anything other than God and specifically against worshiping art.”

Schaeffer goes on to build a Biblical case for the arts from the scriptures, which happen to be full of art of all kinds.  He makes the point that scripture does not contradict itself and points to the art in the tabernacle and the temple, which God instructed to have created.  The art in the tabernacle includes “almost every form of representational art that men have ever known.” says Schaeffer.  God commanded this creativity and set the patterns in place to ensure His artistic direction (see Exodus 25, 28, and 37).  Schaeffer also explores the art presented in the temple, which God had directed and inspired (see 1 Chronicles 28; 2 Chronicles 3 and 4; and 1 Kings 6 and 7).

Schaeffer surveys the fact that art takes on many forms throughout the scriptures.  All types of art is represented within the Bible; there is practical art and architecture, there is realistic representational art, there is abstract and imaginative art, there are examples of both functional and non-functional art in the scriptures, and there are examples of both religious art and non-religious art.  In looking at “secular art,” Schaeffer says, “The factor which makes art Christian is not that it necessarily deals with religious subject matter.” 

Schaeffer looks at Jesus’ use of the brazen serpent, a work of representational art, to illustrate His own crucifixion (see Numbers 21).  He also looks at the poetry of scripture in David’s poem or song in 2 Samuel 23 and in the psalms of scripture.  Not only was David a poet, he was a musician as well.  Schaeffer says of David, “The writing of poetry, the making of a beautiful instrument, the tuning of it so that its music can be filled with beauty—David did all these things as a spiritual exercise to the praise of God.”

Schaeffer looks at music and David leading choruses in 1 Chronicles 23:5, he says,  “And art breaks forth with all its beauty, all its strength, all its communication and all its glory.”  When speaking of “creativity in praise of God,” and “music upon music, art upon art,” Schaeffer says, it is “all carried to a high order of art at God’s command.  And when you begin to understand this sort of thing, suddenly you can begin to breathe, and all the terrible pressure that has been put on us by making art something less than spiritual suddenly begins to disappear.”  

Schaeffer begins to conclude his first essay, Art and the Bible, by making the point that art does not stop in the scriptures with the end of this lifetime, but continues on.  He also asserts that there is no spiritual separation of the arts between the here and the hereafter.  He says, “Art does not stop at  the gate of heaven.  Art forms are carried right into heaven.  Is there any platonic separation here?  Not a bit.” 

At the end of the essay, Art in the Bible, Francis Schaeffer goes on to describe a mural in the art museum at Neuchatel painted by the Swiss artist Paul Robert, which illustrates the goodness and beauty of art and God’s desire for art both on earth and in heaven:

“In the background of this mural he pictured Neuchatel, the lake on which it is situated and even  the art museum which contains the mural. In the foreground near the bottom is a great dragon wounded to the death. Underneath the dragon is the vile and the ugly—the pornographic and the rebellious. Near the top Jesus is seen coming in the sky with his endless hosts. On the left side is a beautiful stairway, and on the stairway are young and beautiful men and women carrying the symbols of the various forms of art—architecture, music, and so forth. And as they are carrying them up and away from the dragon to the present to Christ, Christ is coming down to accept them.”

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Foundations of Christian School Education

Photo of Foundations of Christian School Education from Amazon.com

Foundations of Christian School Education is an excellent and essential book to develop a philosophy of Christian education, which is a crucial undertaking for every Christian educator.  This book explores a diversity of perspectives on Christian education and teaching and was written by many authors with a wide variety of experiences and viewpoints of Christian education.  Foundations of Christian School Education was edited by James Braley, Jack Layman, and Ray White and has contributions by over 16 other authors, providing a myriad of insights on Christian education.

Foundations of Christian School Education begins by exploring Biblical and philosophical foundations of Christian Education.  This first section has the same title as its subject matter, Biblical and Philosophical Foundations.  In this first section of the book there is an important introduction to philosophy by Paul Spears, Introduction to Philosophy, which sets the stage for exploring the need and the function of a Christian philosophy of education. Next, Jack Layman looks at the Early History of Educational Philosophy, which lays the groundwork for correctly thinking about education from an accurate historical perspective.  Then, Jack Layman explores Modern Educational Philosophies, which have shaped educators and education, as we know it.  From here, Kenneth O. Gangel constructs the groundwork for Biblical foundations of education in Biblical Foundations of Education.  In conclusion of the first section of the book, Richard J. Edlin navigates us through Core Beliefs and Values of a Christian Philosophy of Education.

In looking more closely at the first part of the first section, an Introduction to Philosophy, we see the foundation of a Christian school education is the truth of Jesus Christ and His Word.  The importance of this solid foundation in Christian education cannot be over emphasized.  In the beginning of Foundations of Christian School Education, this is clearly stated, “We must identify our core beliefs and values, and we must reiterate our philosophical and biblical foundations (p. 1).”  It is this Biblical foundation that sets the Christian school apart and makes Christian education different from other philosophies of education.

Paul Spears notes the importance of having and understanding a philosophy of education in chapter one, Introduction to Philosophy, when he says, “Ideas about education are grounded in foundational beliefs that construct how humans interact with reality.”  Our worldview shapes what we believe, how we live our lives and how we teach. As stated at the beginning of chapter one, “Philosophy examines what underlying commitments we make regarding our beliefs and how our views come to be understood as knowledge, the concepts that form our worldview (p. 5).”

While many Christians resist the idea of philosophy and see it as contrary to scripture, taking Colossians 2:8 out of context, it is invaluable to develop and maintain a Christian Philosophy of education.  Christianity, as Paul Spears points out in Chapter one, deals with major life topics, questions and issues surrounding and including metaphysics, logic, aesthetics, ethics, and epistemology. Biblical truth addresses these philosophical topics and they are not contrary to what we believe as Christians and what we should teach as Christian educators. As is stated at the close of chapter one, “We as educators endeavor to teach our students truth, and philosophy endeavors to equip us with the proper tools to do so (p. 15).”

The second section of Foundations of Christian School Education, Psychological Foundations, addresses human growth and development and the way this shapes the learner and forms the tactics and methodologies of the educator.  Gloria Goris Stronks begins the first section of Psychological Foundations by examining The Nature of the Learner.  Barbara Bode follows up with The Nature of Learning.  Next, W. Philip Bassett and Eddie K. Baumann look at the all-important topic of Teaching Methodologies.  Section two of the book concludes with The Teacher, by Ellen Lowrie Black, and investigates the multitude of important roles that the teacher plays in education.  These roles include spiritual leadership, Biblical role model, reflection of Christ, mentor, and academic leader.  This vital chapter concludes by stressing the importance of a commitment to learning, the characteristics of effective teachers and the very helpful section listing the common mistakes of beginning teachers.

In the chapter on Teaching Methodologies, Philip Bassett and Eddie K. Baumann look at the all-important topic of teaching methods.  In this chapter the authors stress the importance of varying teaching techniques and methods and not using “the same tool” for every “job,” but the “right tool for the right job.”  The authors say, “Like good carpenters, expert teachers possess a number of tools, are competent in their use, and select those that are best designed for the particular tasks that need to be accomplished (p. 141).”

The third section of Foundations of Christian School Education, Instructional Foundations, looks at the process of teaching through looking at teaching philosophy.  In the chapter on Instructional Philosophy, by Marti MacCullough, teaching philosophy is the focus.  Curriculum is the main topic in the chapter on Understanding Curriculum Design, by Harro Van Brummelen.  Assessments are addressed in the chapter called Christian School Assessment: Philosophy and Practice chapter, by Timothy L Heaton and Brian Coon.  Character development is the topic of focus in the chapter on Moral and Character Development, by Milton V. Uecker.  And lastly, discipline is addressed in the chapter Discipline: Philosophy and Practice, by Jerry L Haddock.

In the chapter on Moral and Character Development, by Milton V. Uecker, the important issue of morality and character, which is often neglected by other philosophies of education, is addressed with some detail.  As Christian educators, we are to make a commitment to the goal of spiritual formation in our students.  It is not enough to stop at conversion.  The Christian must be growing and developing in his or her relationship with Christ and this includes moral and character development.  As stated in this chapter, “For the Christian school, moral and character education is inseparable from spiritual formation.  The goal of Biblical instruction is always a changed learner (p. 224).”  Milton V. Uecker also makes the case that we must understand affective development, articulate affective standards, describe character, create a caring community, provide a moral community, allow opportunity for moral action, make learning meaningful, facilitate critical thinking, provide time for personal growth, and consistently evaluate character education in our schools.

The fourth and last section of Foundations of Christian School Education, Cultural and Sociological Foundations, considers education from a cultural and sociological perspective.  The first chapter in this section, Understanding Cultural Context, by Daniel J. Egeler, stresses the need to understand the cultural contexts of education.  In the next part of section four, Exceptional Students in Christian Schools, by Sharon R. Berry, the very important topic of addressing students with disabilities and special needs is discussed with solid details and suggestions for accommodations and aid.  Berry stresses our responsibility as Christian Educators to these students.  In Urban Schools: A Christian Philosophy That Impacts Culture, by Vernard T. Grant, Grant looks at urbanization, poverty, and economics, which shape and effect education in the “urban environment.”  Next, Philip M. Renicks considers international schools in International Christian Schools.  In the last part of the fourth section, James W. Braley looks at Training World Christians

In the second to the last chapter of Foundations of Christian School Education, International Christian Schools, Philip M. Renicks looks at international Christian schools and the benefits they promote through offering schooling to missionary kids abroad.  This rich history of schooling is over 150 years old and has provided missionaries the opportunity to keep their families together while in the field.  As mentioned in the chapter, “[The] vision for keeping missionaries’ children on the field cannot be over emphasized (p. 310).”  Also in this segment, Renicks talks about the international Christian school whose primary goal is serving the international community.  “The international Christian school is often found in major cities that have a large concentration of international families (p. 311).”  The chapter concludes with an emphasis on the value of faith-based education stating, “Faith-based education has become an effective tool for reaching other cultures for Christ (p. 313).”

The last chapter of Foundations of Christian School Education, Training World Christians, by James W. Braley, closes by summing up the purpose of the book and “four important foundations for Christian school education—philosophical, psychological, instructional, and cultural/sociological—all built on the foundation of Jesus Christ and God’s truth (p. 319).”  Braley asserts that most Christian schools can develop “self-centered believers” (p. 320), but the task at hand is to develop “World Christians” and not “Worldly Christians.”  “[This] is an awesome task, but the Christian school is in the position of presenting ministry in such a way that the Holy Spirit can reach into the hearts and lives of young Christians and call them to a life of service.  It is the Christian school’s spiritual mandate and challenge (p. 330).”

Foundations of Christian School Education is a great read, especially for teachers just starting out in Christian education who are developing a philosophy of Christian education.  This book comes highly recommended and is a very practical tool to work on both hard skills for teaching as well as the philosophical, psychological, instructional and cultural/sociological aspects of Christian education.

This book review has also been published on Amazon.com, Goodreads, and examiner.com. 

Bibliography

Friday, November 16, 2012

Love: A Fruit of The Spirit

Love, by Robert Indiana, photo from: http://www.buncee.com/buncee/9172

Article excerpt from: The Greatest of These is Love from Preaching.com

Poem: Robert Indiana from Poetry by Robbie Pruitt

“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” – 1 Corinthians 13:13, NIV

“But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.” –Colossians 3:14-15

The American artist Robert Indiana has created what many say is the most recognized image in American art.  The image is his work “Love,” which began as a sculpture of the letters L and O stacked atop the letters V and E.  This iconic sculpture was turned into a Christmas card and has been mass-produced in many forms from postage stamps to a Google search bar on Valentines Day.  The sculpture has shown up in many forms in cities all across America and across the world.  It has even been adapted into the Hebrew word for love “Ahava.”

While Robert Indiana did not grow up in a Christian church, the Word of God inspired his work “Love.”  In an interview, Robert Indiana described the drab Christian Science church building he grew up going to.  He explained how the church building was without aesthetic beauty and without the traditional artwork that may be expected in most other churches.  He stated that there was no stained glass, no carvings, no art on the walls, and no color.  The only thing that was close to art, however, was on the lectern where the readers would read.  Here, there were raised golden letters, which basically quoted 1 John 4:8, which says, “God is love.”

Indiana remembered looking at those raised golden letters and being inspired.  The greatest is still love according to Robert Indiana, who in another interview stated, “As far as I’m concerned love is still the most important thing.”  Robert Indiana goes on to say in this same interview that he is “painting and writing his own history.” Which is an interesting contrast to the Christian Science belief that the “spiritual reality is the only reality and all else is illusion or ‘error’ (Wikipedia).”  

Robert Indiana’s beliefs about love are contrary to the Christian teachings about love.  “In contrast to conventional Christian theology, Christian Science rejects both substitutionary atonement and the concept of Hell as a place of eternal punishment (Wikipedia).”  In contrast to this, Jesus’ teachings about love are filled with self-sacrifice and hinges on Him laying His life down for us in the atonement (see John 15 and 1 John 4).  Jesus embodied love and is love personified.  Love is a person and his name is Jesus Christ.

There is no love without sacrifice.  In John 15:12-13 Jesus says, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”  This is what Jesus does; He lays His life down for us and calls us His friends.  This is how we are to love.  Any love less than a giving and a sacrificing love falls short of God’s Love and is just cold golden letters on a lectern, or a clanging metal sculpture of what could be, or platitudes on a Christmas card or empty sentiments on a postage stamp.  

God is Love and Love lays His life down.  It is only being in relationship with this love and the author of this love that we can love.  As John goes on to say in 1 John 4:9-11, “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”

You can read the rest of this article, The Greatest of These Is Love, in Preaching.com here

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Lazarus Guest Post

Photo of Rembrandt's Raising of Lazarus from Google

Every year in our Bible classes we do an overview of the scriptures using the Chronological Bible Story Cloth, which is 42 separate pictures of Biblical accounts throughout the Old and New Testaments woven together as one tapestry. This is a quick way to survey the whole Bible and see where the individual books fit into the meta-narrative of the entire Bible as a singular story.

Each student is required to create a creative presentation of their chosen Biblical account and present it to the class. Every year there are excellent presentations that I choose to guest post and show off. Last year I posted a creative writing piece on Jacob wrestling with God, Jacob Deceiver, by Anna Rose O’Kelley. This year I have posted a poem, Fallen Angels, by Faneva Durandisse and The Staircase to Heaven, another creative writing piece, by Jayden Pettit. Today, I'm posting a homemade video on the raising of Lazarus by Jesus.  This is a very entertaining and well done piece by Laurie Brunache. Hope you enjoy.

Jesus Raises Lazarus From the Dead

"Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. “Take away the stone,” he said.

“But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”

Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”

So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said,“Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”

When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.

Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”

Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him. But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin.

“What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.”

Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, “You know nothing at all!  You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.”

He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one. So from that day on they plotted to take his life.  (John 11:1-53)

Monday, October 1, 2012

A Review of Art for God's Sake

Front Cover of Art for God's Sake from Wheaton: 

Art for God's Sake: A Call to Recover the Arts, by Philip Graham Ryken is a solid resource, which aids in nurturing a deeper understanding of the arts and assists in cultivating a Biblical worldview and theology of the arts. 

Art for God’s Sake is an unassuming, simple, and easy to read book about recovering the arts and restoring them to their right place in God’s kingdom for God’s kingdom purposes, and to God’s own Glory. Ryken summarizes his work, “This is the Christian view of art: the artist is called and gifted by God-who loves all kinds of art; who maintains high aesthetic standards for goodness, truth, and beauty; and whose glory is art’s highest goal.”

Ryken proposes that art has a redeeming purpose in God’s plan and that art deals in the currency of reality and truth.  This reality should include the hopeful aspects that the gospel narrative gives us. Ryken says, "Christian art is redemptive, and this is its highest purpose. Art is always an interpretation of reality, and the Christian should interpret reality in its total aspect, including the hope that has come into the world through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.”

Philip Graham Ryken assesses the importance and the value of art in God’s world saying, “At its best, art is able to satisfy our deep longing for beauty and communicate profound spiritual, intellectual, and emotional truth about the world that God has made for His glory.” Not only is the aesthetical value of art highlighted here, but also the spiritual, intellectual, emotional, and truth-value as well.

Ryken balances the goodness, truth, and beauty of art with the predominant dangers of art.  He says, “Art trades in images, and images easily lend themselves to idolatry.  Artists know this from their own experience.”  When we are dealing with the fallen nature of humanity and a fallen creation, the prideful struggle for adoration emerges.  The temptation is to be God.  “Art is always tempted to glory in itself, and nearly every form of art has been used to communicate values that are contrary to scripture.  Art is fallen as any other aspect of human existence,” says Ryken.

Christianity and the church are also confronted in Art for God’s Sake.  Ryken criticizes art with a good message that is done badly.  He says, “Ultimately this [kitsch-tacky] kind of art dishonors God because it is not in keeping with the truth and beauty of His character.”  While “art has tremendous power to shape culture and touch the human heart,” according to Ryken, bad art may not have this same desired outcome and does not bring God glory.

Ryken also advocates involvement in the artistic community.  Participation in the arts is essential for Christians engaging and cultivating culture.  “When Christians abandon the artistic community, we loose a significant opportunity to communicate Christ to our culture.  Furthermore, when we settle for trivial expressions of the truth in worship and art, we ourselves are diminished, as we suffer a loss of transcendence,” Ryken asserts.  He also emphasizes that the individual suffers loss of wholeness, or transcendence, when the arts are not engaged meaningfully.

The majority of the book, Art for God’s Sake, looks at these themes and God’s calling and equipping of the visual artists Bezalel and Oholiab in Exodus 31.  From this passage and these two artists, Ryken uncovers four fundamental principles for a Christian theology of the arts.

The four fundamental principles for a Christian theology of the arts are:

1. The artist’s call and gift come from God.
2. God loves all kinds of art.
3. God maintains high standards of goodness, truth, and beauty.
4. Art is for the glory of God.

In looking at Bezalel and Oholiab, the visual artists that were called by God to build the Tabernacle, Ryken says, “The calling of these artists reflects a deep truth about the character of God, namely, that He Himself is the supreme Artist.  We know this because the very first thing God does in the Bible is to produce creative works of art (see Genesis 1-2).”  The insights from these passages about the creative nature of God, and that artistic nature in humanity as His image bearers are paramount in considering the arts.

Our involvement in the arts is a creative enterprise, which engages us with our creator God.  Ryken makes this connection: “Art is an imaginative activity, and in the act of creating, we reflect the mind of our Maker.” He also affirms that God’s creativity communicates, “God’s aesthetic standards include goodness, truth, and beauty.  And these standards are not relative; they are absolute.”  Ryken goes on to say, “To be pleasing to God, art must be true as well as good.  Art is an incarnation of the truth.”  In God’s goodness and creativity, He has given us truth in the beauty of the arts—incarnational.

Ryken sees art’s original intention as being good.  Because of art’s goodness, truth, and beauty, he sees art as sacred and challenges the unrealistic divide between the sacred and the secular.  Ryken observes, “Some Christians continue to think that certain forms of art are more godly than others.  They make a sharp distinction between the sacred and the secular, not recognizing that so-called secular art is an exploration of the world God has made, and therefore has its place in deepening our understanding of God’s person and work.”  In short, art is God’s.

Ryken gives application to his presumptions about art as he concludes his book.  He begins answering these implicit questions, “How does the Christian engage in the arts?  What does a Christian artist look like?  What does Christian art look like?”  He answers, “Christian artists celebrate the essential goodness of the world that God has made, being true to what is there.”  Ryken says this about “Christian art,” “The kind of art that glorifies God is good, true, and, finally, beautiful.”

The essential motivation of Philip Graham Ryken is stated in the title of his book, “Art is for God’s sake.”  Ryken seeks to recover the arts and restore them to their intended purpose as part of God’s good kingdom.  Ryken is clear, “What we believe about art is based on what we believe about God.  Art is what it is because God is who He is.”  Art is a gift from God and God calls and equips the artist to for His own glory.  This call communicates God, as Ryken says, “Why does God call people to be artists?  Because He is an Artist, and we are made in His image.”

Art for God's Sake: A Call to Recover the Arts, by Philip Graham Ryken is an important book for us to consider as Christians.  Ryken makes the topic of the arts and the study of theology in the arts accessible to the layman.  This book is a fantastic primer to deeper study and reflection on the subject of theology in the arts and comes highly recommended. 

This review has been published in part on Amazon.com and on goodreads and has been published in full on Examiner.com

Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Staircase to Heaven, Guest Post

Photo of Jacob's ladder, by Wenceslas Hollar (1607-1677), from wikipedia.com

Every year in our Bible classes we do an overview of the scriptures using the Chronological Bible Story Cloth, which is 42 separate pictures of Biblical accounts throughout the Old and New Testaments woven together as one tapestry. This is a quick way to survey the whole Bible and see where the individual books fit into the metanarrative of the entire Bible as a singular story.

Each student is required to create a creative presentation of their chosen Biblical account and present it to the class. Every year there are excellent presentations that I choose to guest post and show off. Last year I posted a creative writing piece on Jacob wrestling with God, Jacob Deceiver, by Anna Rose O’Kelley. This year I have posted a poem, Fallen Angels, by Faneva Durandisse. Today I am posting The Staircase to Heaven, another creative writing piece, by Jayden Pettit.

The Staircase to Heaven
Guest post by Jayden Pettit
Jacob’s Ladder: Genesis 28:10-22


I, Jacob, son of Isaac and Rebekah have left Beersheba and am continuing on my journey to Haran. After walking many hours with a sore back and dirty, blistered feet to show for it, I have decided to bring my steady traveling to a halt. The thought of rest and a good meal spurs my movement as I quickly untangle the few things I possess at the moment and speedily lift my belongings off of my donkey’s back. I arrange them in such a way as to keep them safe from the elements and close to me as I sleep. I quickly start a fire with some of the dry brushwood that I have collected around the great fig tree under which I am resting.

The figs looked delicious but after eagerly biting into one I realized they were not quite ready for a human mouth to enjoy. I sit down and eat the meal of dried meat and thin tasty bread that I have brought from my father’s camp. I joyfully eat the last of my meal and dispose of the ashes that have provided warmth and comfort. At last I stretch and yawn with contentment and lay down to rest. After lying here several minutes, I agreed with myself that something is missing.

I sat up and rubbed my aching neck. I needed something to lay my head on so I can ease my neck from its painful cramping. I look around and spy a decent sized rock that’s flat enough not to cause any unnecessary discomfort. Finally comfortable, I close my quivering eyelids and drift into a pleasant sleep.

I was up in an instant, shielding my eyes from the sudden glare that filled the night sky. Panicking, I cover my face with my arms and fall to my knees. The glare subsides but I wait a few moments before cautiously peeking out from between my fingers. What I saw took my breath away. Standing in front of me was an Angel.

A beautiful face with a brilliant complexion that was almost impossible to look at. My eyes followed it as it nimbly shimmied up a ladder with colors so vibrant that nothing on earth can compare to its splendor. The beautiful ladder seemed to rest on the ground and following it up with my eyes until my head is resting on my shoulders, I perceived it to lead all the way up to the Heavens. At the top (of which I’m guessing is the top), I see the glory of God in all of His spender. Still on my knees, I bow my head to the ground, unable to speak out of fearful reverence to the Holy God.

I hear a deep and powerful voice that seems to vibrate within me. It says, “I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham, and the God of Isaac. I will give your descendants the land on which you are lying. Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All the peoples of earth will be blessed through you and by your offspring. I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”

I awoke on my back, my head on the rock, of which I had used as a pillow. I sat up and rubbed my eyes trying to take in all the Lord had spoken to me. I got up and stretched, starring curiously at the flat rock. I picked it up and put it on its side against the tree as a pillar. I then poured oil on top of it and named it Bethel, saying if God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear so that I return safely to my father’ house, then the Lord will be my God.

And this stone I have set up as a pillar will be God’s house and of all that God gives to me, I will give God a tenth. I pack up my belongings and start on my journey again knowing the Lord will be with me wherever I go. With Him on my side, it is impossible to fail. The pillar that I set up will forever be a reminder that God is with me and will forever be with my descendants.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Knowledge of the Holy Review and Guest Post

Cover photo of Knowledge of the Holy from Amazon.com

The following is an excerpt from a guest post I did on A.W. Tozer’s Knowledge of the Holy on my friend Abram Kielsmeier-Jones’ blog Words on the Word.  Abram and I have had the opportunity and blessing to serve in ministry together.  I think the world of him and his ministry.  Abram has written Sustainable Youth Ministry: The Study Guide for Mark Devries' Sustainable Youth Ministry, which I had the privilege of reviewing for Youth Worker here.  You can read more of Abram's work on his blog Words on the Word and can learn more about Abram K-J here.

Knowledge of the Holy: The Most Important of All Knowledge

Nothing is more important than a right understanding of God, or “thinking rightly about God.”  In Knowledge of the Holy, A.W. Tozer states, “The Church has surrendered her once lofty concept of God and has substituted for it one so low, so ignoble, as to be utterly unworthy of thinking, worshipping men.”  Tozer is addressing idol worship that many fall into by thinking wrongly about God.

It is into this reality that Tozer speaks in his book, Knowledge of the Holy, which is an excellent study of the attributes of God.  Tozer describes in detail the importance of thinking rightly about God.  Going so far as asserting, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”  When it comes to our thinking about God, everything is at stake.  We must think deeply and accurately about God if we are to know Him and worship Him rightly and truthfully.

An attribute study is a great way to come to know God more deeply and is a great way to explore the richness of the scriptures in a more non-linear approach.  The book Knowledge of the Holy, by A.W. Tozer, covers some essential thoughts and attributes of God, as well as doctrines, that every Christian should think about.  As Tozer rightly points out, “The study of the attributes of God, far from being dull and heavy, may for the enlightened Christian be a sweet and absorbing spiritual exercise. To the soul that is athirst for God, nothing could be more delightful.”  As we seek God and seek to have our thirsts for Him quenched, this book, in addition to scripture, prayer, and community, is a great place to start.

A thorough reading of Knowledge of the Holy highlights so many truths about God.  We are plunged into the depths of God’s character and nature and are left in a state of awe and worship in the presence of an awesome God.  While we will spend a lifetime and an eternity seeking to know God completely and to worship Him rightly, we can know God and worship Him now.  To quote Tozer one last time, “To our questions God has provided answers; not all the answers, certainly, but enough to satisfy our intellects and ravish our hearts. These answers He has provided in nature, in the Scriptures, and in the person of His Son.”  How marvelous it is to wonder at His greatness and to think rightly about our God!

This review is published on Words on The Word, Amazon.com, goodreads, CBD, and on Examiner.com.


Saturday, September 22, 2012

A Review of Where Faith and Culture Meet

Cover of Where Faith and Culture Meet from Amazon.com

Where Faith and Culture Meet is a good video resource to foster communication and discussion about faith and culture. This video resource is also a very good companion to Andy Crouch's Culture Making.

I have used this video series in my Theology in the Arts class and it was well received. However this series is a bit slow at times and is very philosophical and "heady." A small group setting seems to be the appropriate context for this series in fostering discussion. The video series does not stand-alone very well without the discussion component and without reading the book Culture Making, on which the series is based.

This series does not capture the entirety the book Culture Making very well either. The best advice would be to read the book before watching the series and before using it in a small group or class.

Here is a bit more information about Andy Crouch's book Culture Making:

Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling is a great book for studying how to be cultivators and influencers of culture. God has called us to be creative and to influence culture and we should, indeed, be attuned to this calling. Andy Crouch gets us back to our call in this well-done and extremely helpful book.

Andy Crouch addresses culture making in his book Culture Making, as well as on his web site, when he says: "It is not enough to condemn culture. Nor is it sufficient merely to critique culture or to copy culture. Most of the time, we just consume culture."

We are to be leaders of culture, not just consumers of culture. We are to be pioneers of culture who will determine the future of our world. To quote again from Andy Crouch, from Culture Making, "The only way to change culture is to create culture." If we are to change the world, we must be creators and cultivators of the cultures around us by the power of God at work in us.

Crouch says, "The essence of childhood is innocence. The essence of youth is awareness. The essence of adulthood is responsibility." We have responsibilities to the culture around us as Christians and should be seeking to be influencers and cultivators of culture.

Andy Crouch asserts in his book: "Something exciting is happening at the intersection of Christianity and culture. Christians are becoming dissatisfied with the postures they adopted toward culture in the twentieth century: condemning it, critiquing it, copying it, or just consuming it. More and more, we want to be people who cultivate: people who tend and keep what is good. And we want to be people who create: adding new cultural goods that move the horizons of the possible in places as wide as the world and as small as a home."

This is what Paul asked the Colossian church to do in Colossians 3:23-24, "Whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ." Paul also talked about resisting conformity to this world, and shaping culture, in Romans 12:1-2.

We are called to join in with God in His work, and cultivate our culture. We are not to conform to this world, but be transformed by God, and become transformation agents of God in the world.

As leaders, as believers, our calling is a high calling. We are called not to mimic or imitate the world around us; we are called to shape it. We are called to create culture and not merely fall into it, or be shaped by it. We can lead, or we can follow. We can shape, or be shaped. The choice is ours.

This is what Paul was telling Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:12. Paul said, "Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, and in purity." These were the elder Paul's words to younger Timothy and they are equally as relevant to all of us today. Paul was telling Timothy to lead, pioneer the way, shape the culture of the church and the world, to serve and to influence, recognizing that it is not about him, and thereby shape the world for Christ.

We are good to remember Colossians 3:17, "Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him."

As Crouch asserts in his book, Culture Making, we are to be culture makers and cultivators to the glory of God.

This book review was adapted from my blog, My Two Mites, and is from my review posted on goodreads. This review is also published on CBD and Examiner.com.