Friday, January 29, 2016

Lead Us Not …

My friend and our brother at Keller, Louis Stein, presented this devotional message recently. I asked him if I could share it with you.
James 1: 2-4, 12
A minister parked his car in a no-parking zone. He was short on time and couldn’t find a space with a parking meter. So, he put a note under the windshield wiper that read: “I have circled the block a 100 times. If I don’t park here, I will miss my appointment. FORGIVE US OUR TRESPASSES.”
When he returned, he found a citation from a police officer along with this note. “I’ve circled this block for 10 years. If I don’t give you a ticket, I’ll lose my job. LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION.”
James 1:2-3 says: “2Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, 3knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.”
Temptation is one of our trials. We will experience trials. We all will be tempted. Adam and Eve were tempted in the garden, Eve by the serpent and Adam by Eve; temptation has been with us from the very beginning. Jesus was tempted in the Wilderness. Jesus resisted the temptation, Adam and Eve did not. What was the difference?
I believe attitude was the difference. Jesus did not face temptation with defeatism, but as an opportunity to turn to the scriptures for strength and understanding. Temptation is not sin, but succumbing to temptation is the start of sinning. Rather, temptation is testing and should be viewed as a chance to strengthen our faith. It has been said that “Temptation is to the Christian what a football game is to the trained athlete – an opportunity to prove their ability to win.” When you resist temptation, as James 1:3 says, you show your endurance. And then, the endurance can lead to the desired outcome:     James 1:4 “And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

When you are tested by temptation and resist, you gain endurance, for we know that we will be tested again. You gain maturity and grow stronger in your faith (“…so that you may be perfect and complete”), You gain independence as your endurance and faith increase (“…lacking in nothing”). You are responsible for your temptation, regardless of where it comes from. And when you have successfully resisted the temptations of this life, at the right time in God’s plan, you will receive from Jesus your just reward.   James 1: 12  “Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.”

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Public School, Required Reading, and Christian Parenting

This post is written by my colleague and friend, Spencer Ross. I am grateful and glad to share it.
          Should I send my kids to public or private school? In this twisted world, should I just home school my kiddos? Every Christian family must honestly consider each option and choose the best route for them. A majority of Christians opt to utilize the public school option.  This comes with a price (other than paying your taxes). Our schools do not teach and view the world through the lens of Christianity. For many different reasons, public education is immersed in secularism.
          At the end of summer, I often ask students if they are ready for the new school year. Most of them are hesitant to say “yes” because they have not finished their dreaded required summer reading. Most school districts have similar recommend reading lists that teachers will use for their student’s required reading.
          Recently, one parent at the church where I labor noticed the content of one of the books his daughter was reading. The book was Anthem by Ayn Rand. The messages in the book were very disturbing to this Christian father.  Anthem promotes human autonomy, freedom from any higher authority than oneself, and the view that the author herself is “god.” This book denies the need to serve others unselfishly and calls the reader instead to live a self-centered, self-serving life. It presents a philosophy or belief system regarding deity, humanity, self, others, and the meaning of life. In that sense it is a religious book. Atheism, as well as theism, is a faith system or worldview.
          How should a Christian parent respond? How should a Christian parent respond to anything that the education system promotes that is opposed to Christ? Let me offer just three general suggestions that parents can specifically apply to their unique situations.

(1) Create An Environment of Open Discussion
          Our teenage students are going through this fast paced age of reasoning and enlightenment stage of life. They want to understand why they have been taught to believe and act in a certain way. They are curious to what opposing views advocate. My prayer as a parent is to create an environment where my children feel comfortable to ask questions and challenge fundamental beliefs without the fear of quick retaliation. I want to use opportunities like homework about humanism as an occasion to emphasis why the Christian worldview is superior.
          Jesus did not have scheduled Bible study sessions. In Scripture, he would use everyday life as classrooms to communicate spiritual truths. As a parent I can use the awkward experiences of inappropriate behavior we are exposed to on television, movies, and music as teachable moments to discuss the Christian worldview.
          God has blessed us with a mind and wisdom, and we should embrace education and learning. Paul was a well-versed student of secular studies as evidenced by his quotations in his speech on Mars Hill.

(2) Be a Concerned Parent
          My position on the whole public, private, or home school debate is that we must be concerned parents. I feel compelled as a Christian parent to come across as a “nosy” father. As we grow up we can reflect on our childhood and conclude that our parents seemed to care about us by how much they invested in my school, extracurricular activities, and faith. There seems to be a correlation between uninvolved parenting and sinful activity with teenagers.
          Ken Ham’s book Already Gone documents research about how our teens are losing their faith before they even leave the home of their parents. In the study, students did not believe in the literal Genesis account and the complete inspiration of Scripture. It is strongly recommend that concerned parents emphasis apologetics in their home. Apologetics is the study of reasoned arguments in justification of Christianity.
          Teens deep down would admit that they are appreciate to have concerned parents because it is a demonstration that they truly care about their physical, social, educational, and spiritual well-being.

(3) Take Appropriate Action
          We represent Christ with our words and actions. 1 Peter 3:21 “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” It is perfectly justifiable to be angry about literature that is contrary to God’s word. However, we must be “angry and sin not” (Ephesians 4:26).  Remember our attitudes when we address these situations.
          We should not be hesitant to express our concerns to teachers, school boards, and other parents. You never know what kind of reaction you may get just for bringing something up. Many people never firmly and kindly express their complaints. Most school districts have policies in place to request the removal of books. Many parents can offer suggestions. For example, Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis would be a comparable reading to serve as a counter study to Anthem. This would create more balance and diversity.
           Ask the Lord for wisdom how you as a Christian ought to react to anything in the public school system that bothers your conscious and challenges your core beliefs. “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him” (James 1:5).