Sunday, December 29, 2013

Spiritual Formation Planning and Goals

Photo from HeidiPowell.net

This S.M.A.R.T. Goals Worksheet can help us think through and plan spiritual formation and discipleship goals for ourselves as we reflect on the following questions:
  • As you reflect on the last year, what growth have you seen in yourself concerning spiritual formation and discipleship?
  • As the New Year approaches, what goals do you have concerning your own spiritual formation and discipleship?

Research has shown that writing out our goals will help them come to fruition, rather than just having goals without writing them down. 
The New Year is upon us and this is a great time to set goals, to plan out and to schedule disciplines, as well as our time, in such a way that we will grow as disciples of Jesus Christ. 
Planning is important. As the old saying goes, "If you fail to plan, you plan to fail." Our spiritual formation is imperative and we should have a plan.
While planning and doing our part is essential, we recognize "The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps (Proverbs 16:9)" and "Neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow (1 Corinthians 3:7)."

Happy New Year and may we grow in Him!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

A Review of One Year to Better Preaching

One Year to Better Preaching, cover photo from Kregel.com

One Year to Better Preaching is an excellent book for pastors and communicators who want to improve their preaching, communication skills, and teaching. The book provides the reader with fifty-two experiential exercises designed to hone the craft of preaching and communicating the gospel effectively.

As communicators and teachers of the gospel, we must take our calling and craft seriously and seek to improve and do our jobs with excellence. Continued professional development is essential. This book offers fifty-two helpful exercises, one for every week of the year, to help develop the necessary skills needed to execute an effective sermon or teaching time.

Communicating and preaching is an art, but is also a skill that can be developed. One Year to Better Preaching provides an assortment of engaging, diverse and creative exercises, tools, suggestions and resources for the following eight categorizations of preaching: Prayer and Preaching, Bible Interpretation, Understanding Listeners, Sermon Construction, Illustrations and Applications, Word Crafting, The Preaching Event, and Sermon Evaluation.

The versatility of the book’s use is described on the publisher’s website; “Readers can complete the exercises in the order presented, which address different categories week to week, or they can sharpen their skills in a particular category over a period of weeks by using the chart provided. They might also work through the exercises in collaboration with other preachers.” The author, Daniel Overdorf, really seeks to serve pastors with this work and caters to their need for versatility.

The author, Daniel Overdorf, who has a Doctor of Ministry in Preaching from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and over ten years of pastoral experience, is well positioned to speak with authority, clarity, accuracy and skill on the subject of homiletics, the art of preaching. He presently teaches preaching and pastoral ministries and is a member of the Evangelical Homiletical Society. He has also previously written on the subject of preaching in his book Applying the Sermon.

Kregel Publication, the book’s publisher, has the following description of Overdorf’s book, One Year to Better Preaching, on their website:

The book is designed particularly for those who preach each week—and have been, perhaps, for some time—to help them get out of the rut of the routine and infuse their preaching with new sparks of creativity, fresh approaches to sermon preparation and design, and sharpened verbal and nonverbal communication skills. Novice preachers, also, will find the exercises useful in developing their preaching abilities.

I highly recommend One Year to Better Preaching and think it is a wonderful resource that will serve any pastor, Bible teacher or communicator well and agree with the publisher that One Year to Better Preaching will leave a preacher reinvigorated and better equipped to proclaim the Word of God skillfully, passionately, and effectively.”

In exchange for this non-biased review, the reviewer received a free copy of the book, One Year to Better Preaching. This review is also published on My Two Mites, Examiner, Amazon, and Christian Book.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Sr. Trip to Seguin, October 25-27 2013


The Sr. Class of Quisqueya Christian School went on our annual hiking weekend to the Seguin Foundation in Seguin, Sud-Est, Haiti. This trip is one of the many programs we do to fulfill our mission “To prepare and equip students to transform the world for the glory of Jesus Christ.” Nineteen students and five adults hiked 10.5 miles to Fondation Seguin, we hiked 2 miles to a waterfall and then did a 3 mile return hike, which included 1.5 miles of creek hiking, on the second day. On the third day, we hiked back out another 10.5 miles for a total of 26 miles in three days with an accumulative elevation gain of over 5,500 feet. During our trip we toured the foundation, viewed a cave, swam, enjoyed a campfire and some gourmet meals and studied the entire book of Ecclesiastes in four devotionals. Highlights of the trip were growing in our relationships with God and with one another, learning about wisdom, unplugging from technology, enjoying God's creation and just being together. This was an amazing trip! (http://fondationseguin.org/)


You can read my coworker, Tara Thorn’s, blog on the trip here:

http://unspokenwordsfromhaiti.wordpress.com/2013/10/31/hiking-in-haiti-seguin/


Sunday, October 20, 2013

A Philosophy of Christian Education

Red School House, photo by Kristal Kraft ~ DenverDwellings

“Start children off on the way they should go [teach them], and even when they are old they will not turn from It.” –Proverbs 22:6

In the scriptures we see Jesus’ command for us to teach in the Great Commission. Jesus says, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age" (Matthew 28:18-20).

We also see the importance of teaching emphasized in the Old Testament. In Deuteronomy six, Moses records God saying that we should be taught the commandments of the Lord our God and that we should also be teaching these commandments to our children.

Deuteronomy 6:1-9 says the following bout teaching:

“Now this is the commandment, and these are the statutes and judgments which the Lord your God has commanded to teach you, that you may observe them in the land which you are crossing over to possess, that you may fear the Lord your God, to keep all His statutes and His commandments which I command you, you and your son and your grandson, all the days of your life, and that your days may be prolonged.” (Deuteronomy 6:1-2)

“And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 6:6-9).

Scripture also gives us some great promises surrounding teaching in the scripture. In Proverbs 22 we see that we are to “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it” (Proverbs 22:6). God’s word and His teachings will not come back void. We are promised that teaching will influence, and transform, in a way that a person who is taught God’s word will not depart from it.

While teaching is an essential command for every Christian, teaching is also listed in the Bible as a Spiritual Gift. In 1 Corinthians 12 we see the Spiritual Gifts listed and among them is teaching, “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance . . .” (1 Corinthians 12:27-28).

Romans 12:4-8 also lists teaching as a Spiritual Gift:

“For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully” (Romans 12:4-8).

Not everyone is gifted as a teacher, but we are all called to teach in the Great Commission and elsewhere in scripture. And while we are all called to make disciples of Jesus and to teach everything that He commanded, teaching should not be taken lightly. As Donavan Graham stated in Teaching Redemptively, “The Scriptures provide evidence that God holds teachers in high regard. Teachers were both gifted by God and held responsible to Him” (Teaching Redemptively, p. 119, Donovan Graham).

The book of James talks about this important responsibility of teaching and warns, “Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly” (James 3:1). Teaching should be taken seriously and is a privilege and a blessing, as well as a high calling from God.

As Christians, our lives and calling is to lead and teach others to make Christ known. We are to dedicate our lives to educating others about Christ. In the realm of Christian education, teaching the scriptures is very important, essential even, if we are to help others deepen their faith and grow in God’s word.

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, or to simply make converts. We are to make disciples of Jesus Christ. The Christian must be growing and developing in his or her relationship with Christ continuously and this includes moral and character development as well as academics.

In his chapter on Moral and Character Development in Foundations of Christian School Education Milton V. Uecker, addresses this important issue of morality and character, which is often neglected by other philosophies of education.  Uecker says, “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).” This transformation is true discipleship and is evidence of true education. This transformation is also a huge goal of Christian education.

Milton V. Uecker makes the case that we must understand effective development, articulate effective 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. It is clear here that teaching is more than a simple transfer of basic knowledge.

It is essential for all of us as Christian educators to have, and to continue to develop, a Christian worldview. Without having the solid foundation of a Biblical and Christian worldview, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to teach Biblically, or to teach Christianly. We cannot teach what we do not first possess. As teachers, we must also be learners who are growing and developing in our own faith and in the knowledge of God’s Word and His world. Teachers are also learners.

In the book Philosophy of Christian School Education there is a chapter on Modern Educational Philosophies. In this chapter the idea that the belief of the educator influences their approach to education can be found. This idea that we must think Biblically and from a Christian worldview if we are to be “Christian educators” is strongly supported here. A Biblical philosophy of life and education, as well as a Christian worldview, is essential for Christian education.

One of the primary differences in Christian education, verses the public school system, is the ability to teach the scriptures from a Christian perspective and to share the gospel openly. In public schools, if the Bible is taught at all, it is taught as one of many religious texts, of equal value and importance, and not as the unique and true Word of God. A Christian school has the advantage of teaching the Bible for what it is, the inspired Word of God Himself, without which we cannot properly understand the reality of the world we live in as it has been revealed to us by God.

In Reclaiming the Future of Christian Education, by Albert E. Greene, the truth that all education and study concerns itself with the “stuff” of God’s own creation is explored. If the student is to properly understand anything in this created order, he or she must understand God, The Creator. Greene states that the nature of truth is unified in God and that truth is a person, Jesus Christ. Greene continues, “The Christian mind denies the possibility of a distinction between secular and spiritual truth because it realizes that every created thing reveals God and thus cannot be isolated from ‘the facts.’”

Greene also says, “Knowing God in and through the creation is what is important, and students must be helped to explore the creation along the lines of their own gifts.” Greene stresses, “If we seriously intend to reawaken as a church to the biblical view of life and reality, we dare not fail to train our children, whether in Christian schools or in Christian home schools, in a transformed, biblical consciousness.” In other words, we must return to scripture and to a Biblical worldview.

In Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity, Nancy Pearcey defines what a worldview is. She defines it simply as the understanding of the entire human experience. Pearcey explores the Christian worldview, the understanding of the whole human experience, through the lens of creation, fall, redemption, and restoration. She says, “The Christian worldview alone offers a whole and integral truth.” It is through this perspective that we properly understand and live out our Christian faith in the world fulfilling the “cultural mandate.”

Pearcey then describes the living out of a Christian worldview, and the fulfilling the cultural mandate, as a “higher calling,” which entails being creative with our lives and work, including our teaching. It is in this higher calling that we help restore our full humanity and begin to live out of a truly Christian worldview. As Christians, we are called to “creative effort extended for the glory of God and for the benefit of others.” Pearcey states that we are to be “Participating in the work of God as agents of His grace.” As teachers, we are participating in the work of God as agents of His grace in the classroom.

In the first part of the first section of Foundations of Christian School Education, an Introduction to Philosophy, we also see that the foundation of a Christian school education is the truth of Jesus Christ and His Word. The importance of this solid foundation of 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” (Spears, p. 1). It is this Biblical foundation that sets the Christian school apart and makes Christian education different from other philosophies of education.

In Foundations of Christian School Education, Paul Spears also 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 (Spears, 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 of Foundations of Christian School Education, deals with major life topics, questions and issues surrounding and including metaphysics, logic, aesthetics, ethics, and epistemology. Biblical truth addresses these philosophical and important topics; they are not contrary to what we believe as Christians and what we should teach as Christian educators. These topics are our truth.

Christian schools have the unique capacity of bringing Biblical teaching and world-view into the classroom for every subject being taught. Christian Schools have a special role in teaching and equipping students and young Christians to be faithful followers of Christ in every area of life, but we must not stop there.

As educators we have the responsibility to teach all of God’s truth. As Christian educators we should be constantly recognizing that all truth is God’s truth. As Albert E. Greene says, “[All created things] are laden with meaning because they are all part of God’s way of giving Himself to us. We refuse our birthright and willfully go about as paupers if we insist on regarding ordinary things as unholy (p. 45).” All of creation and all of truth is God’s.

Scripture should be integrated carefully and thoughtfully into our teaching. When considering the Bible and curriculum, we must recognize, as Donovan Graham says, “major biblical themes form the foundation for the study of various subjects and units. Teachers [should] weave themes such as stewardship, community, environment, worship, and the purpose of life into the study of the academic subjects” (Graham, p. 220).

We do this as Christian educators because, as said before, we believe “All truth is God’s truth.” Graham goes on to say, “When we look at the materials used and the subjects studied, we [should] find that … God’s truth is not limited to what Christians think and write. Students [should] read books by authors whose ideas are not consistent with Christian thinking” (Graham, p. 223).

In her book Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity; Nancy Pearcey addresses the issue of the false dichotomy between the sacred and the secular. The divide between the sacred and the secular is a false dichotomy. This is dualism and it is a plague, according to Pearcey, which does not reflect a true Christian worldview. This would include false dichotomies concerning our mind, our thinking, and our vocations.

Pearcey seeks to recapture this idea, which our early church fathers also had, that “all truth is God’s truth” and that this truth is to be lived out in every area of our lives. She states that “total truth” captures all of life and reality. We are to be integrated and whole human beings, living in the world, while living out our faith consistently in a manner that brings glory to our God. As the Apostle Paul puts it in 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.” This is an accurate picture of a life lived by a whole, and integrated, Christian.

We must not entertain any false dichotomies in our lives or teaching. We have a responsibility as teachers to teach holistically concerning all of God’s revelation to us in His created world. We cannot and should not divide our faith from our rational minds either. We must recognize that we should integrate our faith into every area of our lives. We must think critically and love God with all of who we are in every area of our lives, including our minds.

J.P. Moreland addresses this concern of loving God with our minds in his book, Love Your God with All Your Mind. In this book, Moreland asserts that we have lost a major premise of Christianity by losing sight of our intellectual properties, which is a product of being created in the very image of God. Without exercising our intellect, and reason, we cannot fully worship God, know God, or serve Him well.

Our intellect and our reasoning reflect our being created in God’s image and is what makes our humanity unique in God’s creation. We have been given stewardship over our intellect and over creation, and we must be good stewards of what God has given. We cannot honor or glorify God apart from fully exercising our capacities for thinking and reasoning. We cannot and must not divorce our thinking from our faith and reasoning.

Moreland asserts that Christianity in our modern day is more concerned with emotions than intellect. “Our culture is in serious trouble,” says Moreland. This trouble is coming from anti-intellectualism in today’s evangelical Christianity, which asserts that faith is “blind,” and not based on reason. Most Christians have been taught from a young age not to question their faith and that our beliefs as Christians are based solely on faith and not on rational thought, or reason. This could not be further from the truth. Our faith is based on reason and we can know why we believe what we believe. There are evidences that can be explored, and we must explore them and encourage thought and reasoning in our faith.

As Christians, we must be a thinking people who honor God with our minds, our being, and our doing, as Paul commands us in Colossians 3:17, “do all to the Glory of God.” Integrating our beliefs will encompass our entire beings, including our minds, or we are practicing something less than Christianity.

Jesus Himself declares, “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher (Luke 6:40).” If Christians are to reflect the image of their maker, then we will reflect and resemble Jesus, the very Wisdom of God, and we will, as Paul puts it, “have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16).”

As Christian educators we should also be concerned with discipline, as it is a part of overall Christian discipleship and the educational process of growth and transformation. Discipline is an opportunity to teach and correct a student with grace and wisdom, and help them to come to follow Christ more closely. Discipline can be redemptive and restorative. In the classroom, the teacher is Christ’s representative. We are redemption agents, not disciplinarians. In Teaching Redemptively, Donovan Graham says this about Discipline and Classroom Management, “As teachers who represent Christ, [we] enter the students’ lives as incarnations of the truth, not to control them but to nurture, love, and discipline them in their fallenness (Graham, p. 260).

As teachers, we are participators in what God is doing to restore, or redeem, His perfect creation back to its intended state. We are participating in transforming lives for the glory of God. Donovan Graham captures this idea well in Teaching Redemptively when he says, “While we shall see that teaching redemptively means many things, the cornerstone of our understanding is that it means to teach in a fashion that reflects the character of the creative-redemptive God” (Graham, Donovan, Introduction). Education is part of God’s redemptive plan and God invites us into this great work as teachers.

The purpose and meaning of education, presented in Reclaiming the Future of Christian Education, can be seen in these comments by Albert Greene: “Christian teaching should, above all, be meaningful. This means the learning should come to be associated in the student’s mind with the knowledge of God . . . (p. 259)” Greene says, “Love and learning must go together (p. 234).” In loving God, we also love knowledge. In loving knowledge, we also find God. It is in God that we learn. It is in Him that education has meaning and purpose and learning takes place holistically.

Greene goes on to define the purpose of Christian education, “The true purpose of Christian education is to prepare young people for a complete life under the lordship of Jesus Christ.” This definition of the purpose of Christian education is as good as any. As educators, we are looking to prepare students holistically to live comprehensive lives under the complete Lordship of Jesus Christ.


Bibliography


Greene, Albert E., Reclaiming The Future of Christian Education: A Transforming Vision.  Purposeful Design Publications, Colorado Springs, CO. © 1998

Graham, Donovan (2009-01-01). Teaching Redemptively: Bringing Grace and Truth into Your Classroom (p. 119). Purposeful Design Publications. Kindle Edition.

Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.

Moreland, James Porter. Love Your God with All Your Mind: The Role of Reason in the Life of the Soul. NavPress, Colorado Springs, CO., ©1997

Pearcey, Nancy. Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from its Cultural Captivity (Study Guide Edition), Crossway Books, Wheaton Ill., © 2004, 2005.


The New King James Version. Nashville : Thomas Nelson, 1982, S. Col 3:17

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Teaching Redemptively: A Book Review

Cover photo from Amazon.com

“True Christian educating immerses students in the grace of the gospel.” -Donovan Graham

“The grace of Jesus is radical, unlike anything else we have seen or known.” -Donovan Graham

Teaching Redemptively, by Donovan Graham, beautifully addresses our need to be participators in God’s redemption and restoration of all things, as His image bearers, in the classroom. According to the book, there are “two bases that form the foundation of redemptive teaching—teaching according to biblical norms and teaching within the framework of grace” (Graham, Donovan (2009-01-01). Teaching Redemptively: Bringing Grace and Truth into Your Classroom, p. 224).

Donovan Graham suggests what we should all be striving for as teachers in the preface of his book when he says, “The mere process of creating a learning experience for others that flows from one’s deeply held beliefs is a picture of redemption at work in itself” (Graham, Donovan). In Teaching Redemptively: Bringing Grace and Truth into Your Classroom, we learn how we are participating in God’s redemptive purposes as Christian teachers who have been redeemed. As teachers, we are actively participating in God’s redemption of our students and we are participating in His redemption of the world.

Graham captures this thought best at the beginning of his book, in the acknowledgements, when he says, “If teachers are rightly to become disciple makers, their own walk with God must reveal what the redemptive grace of the gospel is all about. It is imperative that they be able to live redemptively in order to teach redemptively” (Graham, Donovan). We bring our own relationships with Christ into the classroom. This walk with Christ should express His redemptive work in all we do, especially in our teaching. Living redeemed lives that express God’s grace in the gospel will lead our students to the God who is redeeming them and who is redeeming all of creation.

Teaching Redemptively is divided into three major parts: Beginning Considerations, Biblical Beliefs that are Foundational for Redemptive Teaching, and Beliefs About the Teacher.

In Part 1, Beginning Considerations, Donovan Graham looks at four foundational considerations: 1. The Complaint: All That Claims to Be Christian May Not Be, 2. Building Something Biblical, 3. Creation-Fall-Redemption: A Framework for Building, and 4. The Grace of the Gospel and Redemptive Teaching.

In Part 2, Biblical Beliefs That are Foundational for Redemptive Teaching, Graham looks at Beliefs About Purpose through the following: 5. Biblical Norms for Educational  Purpose, 6. Secular Distortions of Purpose, and 7. Distortions in Christian Thinking About Purpose.

Then, Graham looks at Beliefs About the Learner through the following: 8. God’s Image in Individuals, 9. God’s Image in Relationship to Others, 10. The Image Marred, and 11. The Image Restored.

Next, Graham looks at Beliefs About the Teacher. Here he explores the following beliefs about the teacher: 12. An Image Bearer Who Is Also Fallen, 13. Personal Characteristics of a Redemptive Teacher, and 14. The Roles Teachers Fulfill.

Then, he looks at Beliefs About the Learning Process, looking at these beliefs: 15. Basic Ideas About Learning, 16. Motivation and Learning, 17. A Conceptual Framework for Learning, and 18. Engaging in Learning.

Finally, Graham looks at Beliefs About Subject Matter, looking at the following: 19. Perspectives on Content, and 20. Content and the World Around Us.

In Part 3, Redemptive Teaching at Work: Building on Norms and Teaching with Grace, Graham explores the following aspects of norms and grace: 21. A Different Kind of Place: Omega Christian School, 22. Curriculum Design, 23. Learning Activities, 24. Measurement, Evaluation, and Grading, 25. Classroom Behavior and Discipline, 26. The Heart of a Disciple Maker: Walking with God, and 27. Bringing It to Life—Individually and Together.

In Teaching Redemptively Donovan Graham addresses many important considerations for teaching redemptively. As Christian teachers, we must bring God’s grace and truth into our classrooms. God’s grace does not exclude His truth, nor does God’s truth exclude His grace. These two fundamentals are to be held in balance and in tension. Graham says this about grace and truth: “Some people think that if grace is true, justice and discipline must then be eliminated. Justice and mercy cannot seem to coexist. This is not so, however. Justice was accomplished at the cross. God did not overlook our sin; He emptied His full wrath toward it on Jesus. The price was paid, but by God, not us. At the cross, justice and mercy kissed” (p. 45, Graham). It is this grace, and this “kiss” between justice and mercy, that we bring to our classrooms as Christian teachers.

As educators, we are to be incarnational with our students. We are God’s image bearers who are teaching students who bear the very image of God. We are to see the reflection of God in our students and should reflect Christ to our students. Our job as teachers is to live out the incarnation with our students. Donovan Graham captures this well when he stated, “God Himself identified with His people and came to them to live in their presence. The incarnation is a marvelous lesson in how we are meant to live out the image of God in the current age” (p. 114, Graham). We are to be incarnational, in that we embody Christ in our classrooms.

Because we are interested in shaping students, the culture and the world toward restoration and redemption, we should create “assignments that expect reconciliation, renewal, deliverance, justice, and peace” (p. 118). Teachers are demonstrating, modeling and facilitating redemption in our students and in the world. As Graham points out, “God will one day redeem the material creation from its bondage to decay” (Romans 8:19–21) (Graham, p. 190). This is an awesome and powerful truth, which God invites us into as teachers who are being redeemed and who are participating in His redemption.

One of the most helpful sections of Teaching Redemptively can be found in Part 3, The Bible as a textbook. In this section, Graham looks at the importance of the scriptures as a framework for education. He emphasizes the truth that the Bible is not our textbook for our subjects, unless, of course, that subject is Bible. However, the Bible does provide an essential framework by which we understand all of God’s truths. Graham says this about Biblical truth as a framework: “The Bible lights our path so that we can understand reality. It should neither be removed from relevance to the academic endeavor nor should it be viewed as a textbook source for any part of the curriculum, except the Bible course itself. The Bible also provides us with the norms and themes necessary to enable us to explore the academic disciplines” (Graham, p. 204).

In this same section, an essential truth of Christianity and of Christian education can be found. This essential truth is that there are “No sacred/secular dichotomies” (p. 206). Graham asserts, “While much of our cultural tradition forces us to separate life into the sacred and the secular, they should not exist as such in a biblical framework. All that we do has a spiritual basis, and earthly endeavors have heavenly significance. We cannot allow any part of life or study to exist apart from its Creator” (Graham, p. 206). Part of our jobs as Christian teachers, is to ensure that our students understand this reality and that they integrate their faith into every area of their lives and integrate their lives with their faith. We must ensure that these false dichotomies are not perpetuated and our students have a Biblical understanding and worldview. We want our students to think Christianly.

It is essential that we teach, and our students know, that “all truth is God’s truth.” God has revealed Himself in all of His creation. As Graham states, “God’s revelations in His living Word (Christ), His written Word (the Bible), and His spoken Word (the creation) are all taught in such a way that students may experience them integrally. God’s revelation of Himself through all three of these sources is the foundation of study” (Graham, pp. 215-216). We must teach God’s complete revelation, both His special revelation and His general revelation. 

Scripture should be integrated carefully and thoughtfully into our teaching. When considering the Bible and curriculum, we must recognize, as Graham says, “major biblical themes form the foundation for the study of various subjects and units. The teachers [should] weave themes such as stewardship, community, environment, worship, and the purpose of life into the study of the academic subjects” (Graham, p. 220). We do this as Christian educators because, as said before, we believe “All truth is God’s truth.” Graham goes on to say, “When we look at the materials used and the subjects studied, we [should] find that … God’s truth is not limited to what Christians think and write. Students [should] read books by authors whose ideas are not consistent with Christian thinking” (Graham, p. 223).

This review is posted on my blog, My Two Mites, and is also published on Amazon.com, goodreads, CBD, and Examiner.com.


Bibliography

Graham, Donovan (2009-01-01). Teaching Redemptively: Bringing Grace and Truth into Your Classroom (p. 45). Purposeful Design Publications. Kindle Edition.

Teaching Redemptively: Bringing Grace and Truth Into Your Classroom on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Teaching-Redemptively-Bringing-Grace-Classroom/dp/1583310584/ref=pd_cp_b_3

Monday, October 7, 2013

God's Grand Vision for the Home

Cover photo of God’s Grand Vision for the Home, from Amazon.com

“Jesus, undeterred, went right ahead and gave his charge: ‘God authorized and commanded me to commission you: Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you. I’ll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age.’” –Matthew 28:18-20, The Message

In studying Christian education and discipleship, I read God’s Grand Vision for the Home, by Dr. Rob Rienow. This is a great book for spiritual formation within families and in the home.

The premise of God’s Grand Vision for the Home is that we must be teaching our children and youth about Jesus within our families and within our homes.

God's grand vision is that we know and serve Jesus and this is not something we do just at church once or twice a week, this is something we live out daily by His Grace.

Our faith in Jesus is our life. We must be studying God's word, we must be constantly teaching one another, and we must be worshiping and serving Jesus together as His family. As followers of Jesus, we should fully integrate discipleship into every facet of our lives, consistently learning, teaching, and practicing the gospel together.

Dr. Rienow states in his book that the number one purpose of the family is to make disciples of Jesus. He says, “God created your family to be a discipleship center. God made your family so that you would help each other to love Him more. You are together so that you might help each other discover Christ, grow in Him together and together make a difference in the world for Him.”

Discipleship is extremely important to God. He has crafted the communities that we are a part of, the church, the family of God, and our nuclear families, to make learners and students of His son Jesus Christ.

I highly recommend this little book for thinking critically about integrating discipleship in the family.

For more resources, check out VisionaryParenting.com.

This review is posted on my blog, My Two Mites, and is also published on Amazon.com, goodreads, CBD, and Examiner.com.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

I Am With You

I’m With You, photo by rosmary from Flickr

“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” –Isaiah 7:14

“Devise your strategy, but it will be thwarted; propose your plan, but it will not stand, for God is with us.” –Isaiah 8:10

In ninth grade Bible class the other day the students and I got into a fascinating conversation about the fiery furnace in Daniel 3.

The student did not understand why God, being all-powerful and almighty, would come down and rescue Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego from the furnace, when all He had to do was rescue them from a distance.

"He said, 'Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.'” -Daniel 3:25

Here is how the conversation went:

Student: "Sir, Why would God not just save them from the fiery furnace? He didn't have to go in there.”

Teacher: "This is our God. He not only saves us from the fiery furnace, He enters into it with us and saves us!"

The mysterious and marvelous incarnation is simply this: God is with us.

God enters into our sufferings and delivers us from them. This is what the Angel was saying when the announcement was made: “‘The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’ (which means ‘God with us’)” (Matthew 1:23). Our God is Immanuel. Our God is with us.

Tim Keller talks about the incarnation as God’s answer to suffering and he talks about this answer to suffering being the gift of Christmas: “We sometimes wonder why God doesn’t just end suffering. But we know that whatever the reason, it isn’t one of indifference or remoteness. God so hates suffering and evil that he was willing to come into it and become enmeshed in it . . . The gift of Christmas gives you a resource – a comfort and consolation – for dealing with suffering, because in it we see God’s willingness to enter this world of suffering with us and for us.”

God is with us.

Frederick Buechner says this about the incarnation: “The incarnation is ‘a kind of vast joke whereby the Creator of the ends of the earth comes among us in diapers... Until we too have taken the idea of the God-man seriously enough to be scandalized by it, we have not taken it as seriously as it demands to be taken.’”

God is with us. Are we scandalized by this reality? Are we aware of God’s presence in the fieriest of furnaces that we find ourselves in? God does not just want to rescue us from our hardships, pains and sufferings; God is with us in them. 

Monday, September 23, 2013

How to Raise a Callous Child, Guest Post

Photo from wikimedia commons

The following is a guest post by my friend Kathleen Caron. Kathleen blogs at Full of Life: Soul Food at kathleencaron.com. Kathleen lives and works in Northern Virginia with her husband and three children. She writes about food for the body and soul and sometimes she rants.

How to raise a callous child, a Guest Post
Guest post by Kathleen Caron  

How furious would you be if you found out your teenager broke into somebody’s home, invited 300 of their closest friends to a huge party, vandalized the house, and live-Tweeted drunken photos and profanity-laced descriptions of their delinquency?

Really mad, right? No doubt your child would be grounded until they were old enough to qualify for the senior citizen discount. And of course, you would promise the homeowner that your child would pay back every penny of the damage.

You’re obviously not the parents of the 300 teenagers who broke into former NFL player Brian Holloway’s farm house in Stephentown, New York, some of whom are now threatening to sue Mr. Holloway for posting their children’s names on his website helpmesave300.com.

Teenagers broke in while the Holloways were in Florida and held a drug- and booze-soaked party, inflicting an estimated $20,000 in damage on the beautiful farmhouse. They smashed windows and doors, urinated on the carpet, spray painted walls and stole family memorabilia from the home.

A three-time Pro Bowler and Super Bowl XX veteran, Mr. Holloway told ABC News, “Parents have threatened me. Your kids are in my house breaking and stealing my stuff and you are mad at me because I posted pictures that they took and posted themselves of them partying and tearing things up?”

Why would a parent defend such defenseless behavior? And how did these parents so utterly fail to instill in their children any sense of decency or honor or kindness or empathy?

How to raise a nihilistic, callous child:

  1. Let your child do whatever they want, with no consequences whatsoever.  Be sure they hold you, their parent, in utter contempt.
  2. Give them the distinct impression that you don’t give a rat’s rear end what they do.*
  3. Do not deprive your child of anything their heart desires, whether it’s Beats by Dre, a new Jeep Wrangler or the latest iPhone, because if you do, they might not like you any more.  Worst of all, they might think you’re not cool.
  4. Never talk to your child about anything profound or meaningful, so that they will grow up believing life is all about the party.
  5. Do not allow your children to inconvenience you beyond taking them to the mall and handing them 20 bucks when they ask for it.  Don’t feel that you need to trouble yourself with such boring drudgery as spending time with your kids, disciplining them or providing structure in their lives.
  6. And, of course, sue anyone who threatens to hold your delinquent child accountable for their reprehensible actions.


*helpmesave300.com

On the other hand, Mr. Holloway’s response to this teenage terrorism has been nothing less than remarkable. He set up the website helpmesave300.com in part to find out who was involved, but his bigger concern is for the future of the wayward teens.

“Hopefully we could get some help in restoring the damage,” he wrote on his site. “But first, I’d like to have a family village conversation…I want to [set] aside the very strong emotions I’m feeling and focus on the one thing that is extremely clear: the lives of these 300 students. I want them to live. I’ve seen too many young people die because of [excessive] partying, drugs and alcohol.”

Mr. Holloway held his own party, inviting all Stephentown military personnel and their families to a “Family Reunion of Champions.” He also invited the 300 miscreants who trashed his house.

“Please help! Come out and help set up, fix up, bring food, and picnic stuff, so we can honor these real HEROES. I’m here. Come now. Take a stand for your future. This is called redemption,” he posted on his site.

If my child was one of the infamous “300,” that’s one party they would definitely be attending.

Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.  Proverbs 22:6

What would you do if you found out your child had broken into someone’s home and held a wild party? Please share in the comments.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Encouragement


You Can Do It, photo by stevendepolo from Flickr

“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” –Hebrews 10:23-25

When was the last time you stopped and considered how to move someone towards love and good deeds? When was the last time you encouraged someone? What was this experience like? Was it easy to encourage? Did it come natural or was it complicated? How did it make you feel to see the other person succeed or move forward?

Often times we shy away from encouragement, because it may seem pushy or it may seem “salesperson” like. Encouragement can feel like provocation, and maybe it is. We tend to view the word provocation as a negative term. But if the subject of the provocation is toward love and good deeds, then the provocation is actually positive and is an act of love and encouragement.

The author of Hebrews uses the word spur when asking the Hebrews to consider how they may “spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” This word can come across as negative as well. Like provocation, spur is aggressive and it indicates an element of force or heavy persuasion.

The New King James version of scripture says, “Stir up love and good works.”

The Message translation of scripture says, “Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out.” It then goes on to say, “spurring each other on.”

The point is this: we should be creative in encouraging one another, provocative even. We should be persistent and we should not give up on one another. We should try and bring out the best in others through meeting with them and encouraging them, whatever the cost.

Let us “spur one another on toward love and good deeds!”