The annual theme at WCA this year is serving others and is based on Christ’s teaching found in Mark 10:43-45. While it is human nature to define greatness as being “King of the hill”, Christ’s lesson and life remind us that in order to be great in God’s Kingdom, one must become the servant of all. This theme is integrated into lessons and programs, and students and faculty alike are recognized regularly for their example of serving others to the glory of Christ.
The recent passing of Rev. Billy Graham provides another opportunity to reflect on this principle of Kingdom Living. Rev. Graham is characterized as one who believed in Jesus Christ, sought to live his life in obedience to God’s Word, and proclaimed to all nations the Good News that Jesus Christ is the Savior. Many tributes and articles about Billy’s life and testimony have been posted recently by those who have been impacted by his faithful ministry and servant’s heart. A few years ago, a group of musicians collaborated to create a song to honor Rev. Graham. May you be encouraged by this moving tribute to become great in God’s Kingdom by faithfully serving others. Thank you, Billy Graham!
Have you ever heard a good fish story? You know, “You should have seen the one that got away!” Typically, the fish story stretches details to mask the true story that is not quite as impressive. Mention the story of Jonah and the Whale and most people will talk about Jonah’s disobedience and how God worked it out so he would obey and go to Nineveh. This seems like an amazing fish story! However, closer examination reveals that in this fish tale the real story is an even more unbelievable fish story about God’s abundant grace.
The first point to remember about Jonah and the Whale is that there are really four stories: the back story, Jonah’s story, Nineveh’s story, and God’s story. The back story provides some context that helps the reader gain a better understanding of Jonah’s reaction to God’s directive. 2 Kings 14 reveals that Jonah was a successful prophet in Israel. While the maxim "a prophet has no honor in his own country" seemed to hold true for most of the Old Testament prophets, this was apparently not the case with Jonah. Verse 25 says that Jonah prophesied that Israel would increase its boundaries, and it happened just as he said under the reign of King Jeroboam II. Jonah may have enjoyed Rock Star status! In addition, to the East of Israel the nation of Assyria was in decline after many years of terrorizing neighboring countries including Israel. The Assyrians were known as brutal warriors who did unthinkable acts to the people they defeated. For example, they would flay the conquered nobles and lay them over the mounds of dead corpses.
So, when God tells Jonah to go to Nineveh, the capital of Assyria, his personal experience and understanding of God’s promises do not jive with the latest directive. In an effort to demonstrate his pro-Israel commitment, Jonah is willing to go to the opposite ends of the earth (possibly modern day Spain) so he doesn’t have to offer God’s message of salvation to Nineveh (modern day Iraq). However, God uses severe storms and a 3-day stay in the belly of a fish to prompt Jonah’s repentance. Eventually, Jonah obeys, travels to Nineveh, and preaches God’s warning of destruction. When the Ninevites respond with repentance, Jonah becomes angry at God for saving such ungodly heathens. In fact, he tells God to kill him! That’s Jonah’s story and he’s sticking to it…except for the plant. Jonah did feel bad for the plant that died!
And Nineveh…what about Nineveh. They are minding their own business, happy with their banal, hedonistic, ungodly lives. Then a stranger appears preaching a message of hate and unkindness. The natural response would be to ignore him, seek out the authorities, or run him out of town. Based on the reputation of the Assyrians, it seems they could have had some real “fun” with Jonah. But on the contrary, the simple proclamation, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!”, provokes repentance in the inhabitants of Nineveh and over 120,000 people are saved! The king even makes a proclamation to worship God. An argument can be made that this great revival is THE Story. As God expresses to Jonah in chapter 4:3, He saved 120,000 people “who cannot discern between their right hand and their left—and much livestock?” What an amazing story!
But wait…there’s still God’s story. His is a story of abundant grace in every situation. God shows grace to a disobedient Jonah and sends a fish to rescue him. Then God shows grace to an obedient Jonah and gives him a second chance to go preach God’s message in Nineveh with great success. By sending Jonah with a warning, God shows grace to a disobedient Nineveh even though they were content in their gross sin and not seeking after God. Then, God shows grace to an obedient Nineveh who repents as He relents from destroying the city. Finally, God again shows grace to a disobedient Jonah who is angry and sulking because God was gracious. He provides a plant and an explanation to Jonah. In every situation, God’s abundant grace was present and sufficient! That’s an amazing story!
There are a few lessons to be learned from these stories:
1. God’s grace is abundant and not dependent on our actions/attitudes. The Apostle Paul commended the Macedonians for giving generously out of their great poverty as he wrote in 2 Corinthians 9:8-9, “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written: ‘He has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.'” In the context of being a cheerful giver we are encouraged to look for God’s grace in the good and bad days – He is sovereign.
2. Sometimes our success causes us to lose perspective. The repeated cycles of obedience and disobedience by the Israelites recorded in the Bool of Judges illustrate this principle. When God blessed and life was “successful”, the Israelites would forget God and follow after false gods. He would use a time of bondage and oppression to focus their attention and reliance back to Him. Likewise, the disciples became enamored with the thoughts of success in Christ’s Kingdom that they often argued about who would sit in the seats of prominence. The last of these debates took place at the Last Supper in Luke 22 as Christ was instituting the Lord’s Supper, identifying His betrayer, and making final preparations for His death by crucifixion. Too often our success prevents us from hearing and believing God’s clear message.
3. Our “faithfulness” can become an obstacle for genuine faith. This principle held true for Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5. In their attempt to be “faithful” like other believers in the church, they were willing to lie. Likewise, Paul calls out the “Super Apostles” in 2 Corinthians 11 because they seem to seek glory for themselves and enjoy popularity by polluting the message of the Gospel. We must be careful live by faith and not just focus on being faithful.
4. “The Struggle” is often the best Teacher. Again, the history lesson recorded in Judges demonstrates that God used captivity to arouse repentance and faith in the Israelites. James 1:2-4 also teaches that the testing of our faith produces patience. Whether or not we pray for patience, our loving Heavenly Father will use trials and tribulations to grow our faith.
5. Genuine faith is simple…even childlike. Just as Jonah’s message was simple and the repentance of the Ninevites seemed anti-climactic, genuine faith does not require jumping through hoops or great acts to appease God. The story of Elijah and the Prophets of Baal are a good illustration of this truth. Romans 10:17 says that “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” That’s what happened in Nineveh. That’s what happened when Christ told the disciples to cast out their nets after a night of unsuccessful fishing. That’s what happens when God saves a soul. We are called to walk by faith, not by sight. (2Cor. 5:7)
May we hear God’s message, believe, repent, and receive God’s abundant grace. And then we will tell others our unbelievable fish story!
In celebration of the 500th anniversary of the day Martin Luther nailed the 95 Theses on the door of the Wittenberg Church, the staff and students have been learning a little bit about many of the Reformers God used to proclaim the Good News that Jesus is the only Savior of all men and the “righteous will live by faith” alone! Luther and the Reformers went through many struggles and challenges: excommuni-cation, exile, opposition, treachery, deception, strangulation, burning, illness, the Plague, etc. These were not easy, copacetic times, and the average Reformer only lived 50-60 years as they defended God’s truth of salvation against scholars, theologians, church leaders and monarchs. God used all kinds of people, peaceful/aggressive, men/women, young/old, from multiple countries, to “reform” the teachings of the church. The Reformers understood that God’s work of salvation is not just about “asking Jesus into our heart” or being a “good” person or doing good works. It is about God redeeming His people and His creation. Many difficult battles have been and will be fought for God’s Truth.
Isaiah’s song in chapter 25 helps us see the paradox in which we seem to live…a loving God who is saving people and a just God who is rooting out evil. It is a chiastic poem that presents the form of law-grace-law or judgment-promise-judgment. This chapter is the OT origin of many of Jesus' statements (John 5:28), Paul’s teachings (1 Cor. 15:54), John’s use of OT imagery in Revelation, and Luke’s presentation of God’s redemptive plan recorded in Acts. Both aspects are an important part of God’s salvation as He swallows up death forever.
God’s Salvation is Wonderful - The Prophet begins by proclaiming God’s character. “O Lord, You are my God. I will exalt You, I will praise you.” Isaiah knows God in a very personal way and appeals to Him as a friend, Savior, and Sovereign. God does not sit in Heaven and react to events in a haphazard fashion. No, He is working out His plans which He established long ago before the foundation of the world. God’s work of salvation is a “wonderful thing” that is based in God’s “faithfulness and truth.”
God’s Salvation is displayed through His Power – While it is a challenge for our post-modern minds to accept the reality, the Prophet reminds the reader that God’s work of salvation involves dual action: 1) the destruction of the Ruthless (You have made a city a ruin) and 2) provision and protection of the Poor (You have been a strength to the poor). This truth is prevalent throughout Scripture as God’s power and presence as He saves His people are both positive and negative. Noah’s flood, the Exodus, and the Crucifixion serve as prime examples of how God’s salvation is displayed through His power.
God’s Salvation is a Feast for all Nations – Next, the Prophet paints a picture of a great feast that includes people from all nations, much like the vision Peter had in Acts 10. “The LORD of hosts will make for all people, a feast of choice pieces.” It is an abundant feast that includes all the best foods and drinks. God doesn’t hold anything back! Not only is there abundance, but it is also voracious. There are no leftovers! “He will swallow up death forever.” Once again, God’s dual action is set in motion as He saves His people by removing the sting of sin, death! What a marvelous statement! The original status of Eden is restored. Sinful, rebellious humans can be redeemed permanently! Death reigned from Adam to Christ (cf. Rom. 5:12-21), but with Jesus' resurrection, death has been defeated. This act of grace and mercy provides healing, as well. “The Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces.” The division and separation that is between man and God as well as the segregation that exists in society will be removed and all relationships will be restored in Christ. As Paul states in his letter to the Galatian churches, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” This healing and reconciliation provides satisfaction and fulfillment. “We will be glad and rejoice in His salvation.” God’s salvation brings the restoration of joy and gladness to His people and His creation.
God’s Salvation is Selective: A Warning – Once again the Prophet reminds the reader of God’s dual action in salvation. “He will bring down their pride.” Even as God is abundantly pouring out His salvation to all nations, He is also trampling out those who stand against His truth. This is the imagery of the banquet table “in the presence of my enemies” from Psalm 23. This truth is the message from the beginning and throughout history…do it God’s way or suffer the consequences. And, God’s people must not only enjoy the benefits of salvation, but they must also provide a warning to the Proud who continue to fight against God’s plan of redemption. Because of God’s wonderful plan of salvation through the redemptive work of Jesus Christ, those who are saved have a Great Commission to “go therefore and make disciples of all the nations”. God’s people want to tell others about God’s wonderful plan of salvation.
So as we remember the faithful labor of those who have come before us and look forward to a season of Thanksgiving, may we have hearts of joy and gratitude for God’s wonderful work of salvation as we feast together with family, friends, and neighbors. It is a great opportunity to share our story of God’s salvation and how He has swallowed up death forever.
In Joseph Heller's 1961 novel, Catch-22, a paradox is presented as the trap that confined members of the US Air Force. In logical terms the 'catch' was that, by applying for exemption from highly dangerous bombing missions on the grounds of insanity, the applicant proved himself to be sane (after all, that's what any sane person would do). If anyone applied to fly, they would be considered insane. Either way; sane or insane, they were sent on the missions. As one of the main characters, Yossarian, questions the situation, the following dialogue takes place:
"You mean there's a catch?"
"Sure there's a catch," Doc Daneeka replied. "Catch-22. Anyone who wants to get out of combat duty isn't really crazy."…"That's some catch, that Catch-22," [Yossarian] observed.
"It's the best there is," Doc Daneeka agreed.
Sometimes we find ourselves in situations with “no way out!” We feel trapped! Have you ever uttered these despairing words…'damned if you do and damned if you don't', 'the vicious circle', 'heads I win, tails you lose', ‘between a rock and a hard place’. While it is actually a misapplication of the original phrase, that is a Catch-22!
Christians don’t need to despair and feel trapped. Throughout history God has demonstrated His “sense of timing” as He swoops in to rescue His people from impending destruction using the most unusual means. In one such instance, the account of the Red Sea Crossing recorded in Ex.14 provides hope for those times that seem hopeless. While Doc Daneeka intended his statement to be one of resignation, with God a “Catch-22” can really be the best there is!
Time after time God had performed on behalf of His people. Finally, Pharaoh relented and God led them straight out of slavery, away from the cruel hand of the Egyptians. He set them free. Free from oppression. Free from captivity. Free from bondage. However, God didn’t lead them on the road that made most sense.
Exodus 13 states that although the path was shorter right through the Philistine country, God said, “If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” So God led them around the desert road over towards the Red Sea. Hot, dry, barren wasteland. As questions loomed, doubt and fear set in, and the Israelites felt trapped. The great Red Sea was to the east and Pharaoh’s mighty army was advancing from the west. They were in a Catch-22…move forward and drown, or stay put and be massacred!
It was at this point in the story that God revealed the tertium quid…the third option. The Israelites had fallen prey to the illogical “false dilemma” by forgetting the eternal lessons that God had already demonstrated in their rescue from slavery. No matter the circumstances, God’s people must live by faith and trust God’s Sovereignty, consider God’s perspective, and enjoy God’s glory.
Trust God’s Sovereignty: God is in control and knows what He’s doing. God spoke directly and clearly to Moses, and He also “led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea...” It appeared that they were moving from safety as they left path of sure escape to camp in a trap. The narrative states that this was God’s strategy to entice Pharaoh to pursue the Israelites. Pharaoh was frustrated at being out done by God; He had them for sure this time! In His sovereignty God is able to turn the hearts of kings. Exodus 14:4 says, “And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will pursue them. But I will gain glory for myself through Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord.”
Commenting on this passage, John Calvin said, “God, by closing up all the ways by which the Israelites might have escaped, now opens a course for His wonderful power, and by bringing them for one moment to despair, provided for the safety of His Church through a long period of time. This final act, then, marvelously illustrated the grace of God, so that the people, however ungrateful and disaffected they might be, should still acknowledge God as their deliverer.”
What’s going “wrong” in your life? As you comprehend God’s sovereignty, you will begin to see His plan. Trust His leading.
Consider God’s Perspective: As the Israelites looked around them, they clearly saw the obstacles – the Red Sea and the Egyptians. Far too often we act in the same manner and focus on the problem rather than trust God. And while the Israelites resorted to a form of “prayer” (“Why are you crying out to me? v. 15), God reminded them it was time to act! As the monastic motto reminds us, ora et labora…pray and work. Prayer is vital, but sometimes God says, “it’s time to get moving!” God works powerfully on our behalf, but He demands our obedience. It is important to remember that it’s not about us, it’s about God.
Does your life seem confusing and in upheaval? Great…God has you right where you need to be so that you will trust Him. Be still, and ask God to help you see the situation from His perspective. It’s quite a view!
Enjoy God’s Glory: God will stand between His people and the enemy. We never fight alone. It doesn’t mean we won't ever face the battle, but we can know that He is surely with us in the midst of it. Daniel and his friends are among the numerous historic events that should instantly come to mind to illustrate this truth. Our God is a God of miracles. This same God who divided the Red Sea so the Israelites crossed on dry ground, and covered up the enemy in the depths of that same sea, bringing salvation to His people—this is the same God who works on our behalf today. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever so that all people will fear Him…either in reverent respect or arrogant unbelief.
Paul reminded the Philippians that at the name of Jesus, every knee will bow and ever tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. (Phil 2) Eventually everyone will believe in Christ; but only those who fear by faith in God’s promises will enjoy His blessing. God’s plans will seem ridiculous and trivial when compared to man’s deceitful schemes. God’s approach to resolution is contrary to man’s approach because the natural man is in rebellion against God. (Gen. 1; Rom. 1) When people are able to stop glorifying themselves through the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit, then they are able to able to bask in the glory of God and enjoy what was previously seen as foolish and disgusting.
Do you enjoy God? Is there joy in your life that is not simply based on your current circumstances? Be still, know that He is God; glorify Him and you will enjoy Him forever!
Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 continues: “Yossarian strode away, cursing Catch-22 vehemently even though he knew there was no such thing. Catch-22 did not exist, he was positive of that, but it made no difference. What did matter was that everyone thought it existed, and that was much worse, for there was no object or text to ridicule or refute, to accuse, criticize, attack, amend, hate, revile, spit at, rip to shreds, trample upon, or burn up.”
Likewise there is no “bad situation” for believers! It’s a lie created by the Father of Lies!
Oh, there are tough situations! We may be facing our own Red Sea moment this week. We may have an uncertain job situation, a BIG decision, troubled relationships, upended plans, or an unsettling financial situation. We are in a Catch-22 and don’t know what to do! Every turn seems to offer a bad option. But there is always a way of escape. God’s plans for our lives will never be thwarted by the enemy’s attacks. Though it may seem like he’s winning at times, he does not have full control. God is still in control and much greater: trust God’s sovereignty, consider God’s perspective, enjoy God’s glory.
Embrace your Catch-22…it truly is the best there is!
Another summer has passed, and another school year begins. So go the seasons of life! Sometimes we may get caught up in the busyness of the seasons as we shop all the end of season sales, change out our wardrobes, keep up with home maintenance, and worry that time flies by too quickly. Even the beloved philosopher, Yogi Berra, was determined not to succumb to the tempting school supply sales; he quipped, “I'm not going to buy my kids an encyclopedia. Let them walk to school like I did!” All kidding aside, Scripture tells us that seasons are a reminder of God’s power, faithfulness, redemption, and sovereignty. In the beginning God set the sun, moon and stars in place to keep track of time as evidence that there was a beginning that was established by a Creator. As time went on, seasons became a time to celebrate and acknowledge God’s provision and mercy. Daniel points us to God’s supremacy when he states that God “changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings; He gives wisdom to the wise And knowledge to those who have understanding.” These reflections are intended to guide our affections toward God to give us courage and strength to press on. And, we are to take time to pass this knowledge on to our children. The shema’ in Deuteronomy 6:4-9 commands God’s people to diligently retell the stories of God’s work throughout history. This “education” is the means God uses to aid parents to bring up their children “in the training and admonition of the Lord.” In doing so we embrace the thoughts of G.K. Chesterton when he remarked, “Education is simply the soul of a society as it passes from one generation to another.” Take note that this is the purpose of a classical, Christian education at Washtenaw Christian Academy…to prepare and equip servant-leaders who positively impact a world in need of Christ. Servant leadership is our theme this year, and we will be exploring this theme in our chapel times as we understand how Christ’s example and God’s work makes this truth a reality in our lives. Welcome back to an exciting year of learning at WCA where the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom!
I found myself standing in front of an interesting picture hanging on the wall. It was very colorful, consisting of many small star and half-moon designs in bright primary colors as well as some grays, pinks, and turquoise that seemed to be placed randomly throughout the picture. Some of the shapes were clearly defined while others seemed to be stretched or blurred. As I studied the picture more intently I felt my eyes beginning to move as if I was becoming cross-eyed, and my vision began to get blurry. Suddenly, within the picture I was viewing, there appeared a 3-D shadow of the planet Saturn! The colorful images had actually been purposely placed to generate a picture within a picture. I had just experienced the Magic Eye, a series of books published by N.E. Thing Enterprises. The books feature autostereograms, which allow some people to see 3D images by focusing on 2D patterns. The viewer must diverge their eyes in order to see a hidden three-dimensional image within the pattern. You can experience the Magic Eye for yourself at this link!
The Magic Eye serves as a helpful microcosm for the life a believer/Christian. We live in a colorful, diverse universe created by an omnipotent, gracious, merciful God; and we, more often than not, miss the real “picture” because we easily become distracted by the many ubiquitous events, activities, and concerns that regularly inundate us. It is only as we have Restored Sight through Eyes of Faith that we will be able to diverge our ordinary eyes and to clearly see the whole picture around us. It is then that we discover God’s Magic Eye – the Eye of Faith!
The story recorded in 2 Kings 6 is one of many examples in Scripture that illustrates this truth. In this story, the King of Syria plotted to attack Israel. God revealed the plan to Elisha who shared it with the King of Israel. In a proactive strategy, the King of Israel sent a reconnaissance team to guard the area where the King of Syria planned to camp. The King of Syria was enraged when he heard that the King of Israel knew of his elaborate, top secret plan. (verse 8 records that the Syrians would camp “in such and such a place!”) Suspecting a spy in the Syrian camp, the Syrian King ordered an investigation, only to discover it was Elisha who was the culprit that shared the plan with the King of Israel. In response to this news the King of Syria sent “horses and chariots and a great army [to Dothan], and they came by night and surrounded the city.” So, when Elisha’s servant went out for his morning walk, he was surprised to see the Syrian army and reacted in FEAR! He didn’t know what to do. He didn’t know where to go. He didn’t know who to call!
In this short narrative, we learn that:
- Feelings/Emotions are connected to the “First Sight” of an experience
- Faith provides a different Perspective
- Our actual vision/eyesight can be Restored in Christ.
Before we are too harsh on Elisha’s servant, we must remember that it is natural to have a reaction to a first sighting. Fear is commonly experienced when faced with the unexpected. This reaction is the “fun” of pranks. There are even videos of cats that jump out of fright when faced with an unexpected cucumber! In addition, we often talk about “love at first sight”, as well. The gamut of responses may include unbelief, distrust, dissatisfaction, complaining, surprise, rejection, etc. The Apostle Paul reminds us in Romans 1 that even though God has clearly revealed Himself to man in Creation, man’s natural response is to “suppress the truth in unrighteousness” and develop a different plan. As John Calvin stated in his commentary, “though the structure of the world, and the most beautiful arrangement of the elements, ought to have induced man to glorify God, yet no one discharged his proper duty: it hence appears that all were guilty of sacrilege, and of wicked and abominable ingratitude.” Natural Man has feelings and emotions toward the things that are seen; and they are limited and obscured.
Elisha’s response to his servant’s reaction demonstrates that the Eye of Faith provides a different perspective. “Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Elisha and his servant had the same view. It was the same morning, the same city, the same HUGE army surrounding the city…nothing changed! However, Elisha was in tune with God; he saw things differently by faith. This lesson is repeated time and again throughout Scripture in stories such as Cain and Abel, David and Goliath, the Spies in Canaan, Daniel’s friends and the fiery furnace. Two groups of individuals saw exactly the same thing, but the Eye of Faith saw something different. As Matthew Henry stated in his commentary, “Faith always has been the mark of God’s servants…[it} is a firm persuasion and expectation, that God will perform all he has promised to us in Christ. This persuasion gives the soul to enjoy those things now; it gives them a subsistence or reality in the soul, by the first-fruits and foretastes of them. Faith proves to the mind, the reality of things that cannot be seen by the bodily eye.”
Genuine faith provides a different perspective of the current view because old eyes regain new sight when restored by Christ! “Elisha prayed, ‘Open his eyes, LORD, so that he may see.’ Then the LORD opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.” The servant was able to see clearly once his eyes were healed. The prophet Isaiah proclaims that this restoration is the ministry of Christ, “to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness.” (Is. 42:7) Christ restored sight to His people throughout the Old Testament, He gave sight to the blind during His earthly ministry, and He continues to open the eyes of His people today. Again Calvin offers helpful insight: “…till Christ shine upon them as their Redeemer; that is, that they are most wretched, empty, and destitute of all blessings, and surrounded and overwhelmed by innumerable distresses, till they are delivered by Christ.” Just as Christ really healed blind Bartimaeus, He actually heals the eyes of all believers.
This truth should initiate some self-reflection. What is my response to what I see? Do I see the ordinary or true reality? Has my sight been restored? By God’s effectual saving grace through His Spirit, may we:
- Move beyond our initial limiting emotions and feelings to what we see; doubt, fear, unbelief, ingratitude, envy, rejection, etc. are simply natural reactions by the Natural Man.
- Gain a Different Perspective by Faith as we obey God by believing Christ’s Word and work.
- Enjoy our new vision through eyes that have been restored by Christ.
May we discover God’s Magic Eye…the Eye of Faith!
Christ is Risen…He is Risen Indeed! These words, known as the Paschal Greeting, have been uttered as an Easter custom by Christians throughout the ages. In fact, if we lived in Eastern Europe, we would also exchange the Triple Kiss on alternating cheeks! Based on Luke 24:34, this greeting is used to affirm the profound truth that the early disciples found so encouraging: He who was once dead is now alive…really…it’s true!
And while this statement is a worthwhile tradition, we, as believers, have another powerful way to affirm that truth…our daily life in Christ, indeed! As we live in obedience to God’s Word by the power of the Holy Spirit, we demonstrate that Christ’s death and resurrection are real! And, according to the Apostle Paul, the way this works out in the life of believers is for them to be found…Dead and Alive!
Paul lays out an argument in Romans chapter 6 that explains the reality of Christ’s death and resurrection. However, in order to accurately comprehend Paul’s case, an understanding of his line of reasoning established in the first five chapters is foundational. In summary, Paul states in chapters 1-2 that God is righteous, man subverts the truth and God’s wrath is poured out on disobedience. At the end of chapter two, Paul points out that the Jews had subverted God’s truth by maintaining an outward show without an inward reality. With God it’s always been a matter of the heart.
Paul follows this initial point with a series of rhetorical questions and answers in Rom 3-5 to that God is faithful, He judges unrighteousness because all have sinned, and Christ has been provided as the propitiation to assuage God’ s wrath. Abraham is paraded as an example that justification is through faith alone, and God is the God of all, Jews and Gentiles. Because God demonstrated His love in that Christ died for His enemies, mankind can be reconciled to God and at peace with Him. Since sin and death reigned from the time of Adam, the offense against God was great as demonstrated through the law; however, God’s mercy and grace provided through Christ’s sacrifice were even more abundant...really...it's true!
Paul’s query that begins chapter 6 reflects the “logical” thought process of the human mind. “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?” (v. 1) It seems logical that if sin brings grace and grace is good, more sin will result in more grace. Paul emphatically rebuts this claim; even though it appears logical, the perspective is unreasonable as it is contrary to the nature of grace. Grace is not directly proportional to sin; rather it is more effective than sin.
It is akin to the need for medical insurance. A person would be considered a little bit crazy if they insisted on continually getting sick in order to enjoy the benefits that the insurance coverage provides. The insurance is sufficient to cover the medical expense, but it is not intended to encourage illness! Likewise, grace abundantly covers the transgression of sin, but it does not promote the continuation of sin. Instead, grace brings about the death of sin! And as Paul then asks, “How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?”(v. 2)
To solidify his argument, Paul winsomely gives the benefit of the doubt that there may have been a misunderstanding and proceeds to show the implication of baptism in light of Christ’s death and resurrection. “As many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death.” (v. 3) While baptism serves as a sign and testimony of Christ’s work on our behalf, it also acts as a catalyst to join us with Christ in these acts. A chemical reaction may result in a solution or a compound. While a solution is a mixture of two components (i.e. water + salt = salt water), a compound reaction changes the nature of the parts joined together (i.e. hydrogen + oxygen = water/H2O). Believers are not just with Christ and in His presence, but they are in Christ. Their nature has changed. “Just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” (v. 4) In baptism the power of sin is dead and new life is produced. As John Calvin states in his commentary on this passage, “The death of Christ is efficacious to destroy and demolish the depravity of our flesh, and his resurrection, to effect the renovation of a better nature, and that by baptism we are admitted into a participation of this grace. Through baptism, the believer is inexplicably linked to Christ in the likeness of both His death and resurrection...really...it's true!
The debt has been paid so sin and death no longer have any control or leverage. “For he who has died has been freed from sin.” (v. 7) Once a mortgage or car loan is paid in full, it seems silly for the previous debtor to keep making payments. In fact, many debtors celebrate with a mortgage burning or by cutting up credit cards. And, they would refuse to give any additional funds if the banker demanded additional payments by claiming the debt had been paid in full! Paul reminds his readers at the end of this chapter that “the wages of sin is death.” (v. 23) The death of Christ pays off the debt. In his commentary Matthew Henry says, “Come and see the victories of the cross. Christ’s wounds are thy healings, His agonies thy repose, His conflicts thy conquests, His groans thy songs, His pains thine ease, His shame thy glory, His death thy life, His sufferings thy salvation.”
Believers have been crucified and resurrected with Christ, and they enjoy the same benefits that Christ has over sin. “Knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him.” (v. 9) Since sin and death have no power over Christ, they have no power over believers. When an employee changes companies, the old boss no longer tells him what to do. The old employer has no control over the schedule, paycheck or benefits. Likewise, a freed prisoner does not keep reporting to the warden. In the Vesperal Liturgy of Holy Saturday contains this lament by Hades:
“Today Hades cries out groaning:
I should not have accepted the Man born of Mary.
He came and destroyed my power.
He shattered the gates of brass.
As God, He raised the souls I had held captive.
Glory to Thy cross and resurrection, O Lord!”
Paul then shows that this truth has implications for the daily life of a believer. The answer to the initial question is answered again, two-fold – stop sinning and start living a new life in Christ! “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body…but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead.” (vs. 12-13) Believers are called to follow Christ’s example in His resurrection and live as Christ lives because “…sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.” (v. 14) This reality is the benefit of grace that abounds! ...really...it's true!
In his monumental work, Les Miserables, Victor Hugo shares the life of Jean Valjean. Early in the story, Jean is released from prison after a 19-yearsentence. As he is making his way to report for parole, he is befriended by bishop who feeds and provides shelter for him. In desperate need of money for his journey, Valjean again follows his thieving tendencies, steals the silverware and continues on his journey, knocking out the bishop in the process. The authorities return with Jean the next day, looking for the bishop to press charges. Much to the surprise of the authorities, and Jean Valjean, the bishop says he gave the silverware as a gift. And, the bishop also expresses astonishment that Valjean did not take the silver candlesticks as well! In the end, the bishop gives Jean the candlesticks and does not press any charges! As he forgives Jean and sends him freely on his way, the bishop remarks, ”Jean Valjean, my brother, you no longer belong to evil, but to good. It is your soul that I buy from you; I withdraw it from black thoughts and the spirit of perdition, and I give it to God." The rest of the story is about Jean Valjean living a life of kindness and service for others…a story of true redemption!
Christ’s words to Martha as she expressed concern about her brother’s death are fitting for this truth. “Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25) Do you believe this?
Christ is Risen…He is Risen indeed! And He will return again…may we be found Dead and Alive!
During my early morning workout I had the opportunity to watch the Australian Open tennis tournament. Now, I’m not a huge tennis fan, but I do know how to keep score…and there are at least 3 basic grips of how to hold the racket: eastern, western, continental grips. Beyond that, it was something to watch on TV! Anyway, as I watched the matches, the various participants began to attract my attention…especially the ball persons. They all seemed to be teenagers and the thing that intrigued me most was how they behaved. They all dressed alike, stood still for prolonged periods of time, never spoke, chased balls, handled sweaty towels, and responded immediately and respectfully to players and officials. Now, I’ve been in education for over 25 years, have served as a youth pastor, have raised six teens, and spent 8 years as a teenager myself; and I’ve often heard that it is unreasonable to expect any of those characteristics from 12-19 year olds because they are…well, teenagers! Yet, right before my very eyes it was happening! And, their role models, the players, were not doing a very good job of modeling any of that behavior. They, of course, were busy playing the game, focused on their winning strategy, expected immediate service from the ball persons (without asking, acknowledging, or even thanking them!), they each wore their individualized outfit, regularly uttered questionable expletives, and often argued with the officials! “Aha!” I mused to myself, “there’s the proverbial ‘teenager’!”
Now…it is not my goal to disparage teenagers or tennis players…rather it is to consider perceptions and expectations. A little research reveals that these qualities are the expected norm for these roles in the tennis world. The players are the CELEBRITIES, and the entire tournament is centered on making a BIG deal about them. They are to be served, wined, dined, accommodated, appeased, glorified, etc. The ball persons are just part of what makes this goal possible. As the Wikipedia definition summarizes, “Though non-essential, [ball person] activities help to speed up play by reducing the amount of inactive time.” That view seems rather demeaning! And, they are told they must behave in the aforementioned manner, they must go through rigorous training, their shorts may not be worn baggy/low…but they may keep their uniform as payment for their service! With all of these “unreasonable” demands, over 700 teenagers tryout for the opportunity to SERVE as a ball person…and only 250 are selected! Why? They consider it an honor to SERVE as a ball person.
So, while this is not a well-documented, scientific study on human behavior, I think we may all agree that perception and expectations have a lot to do with attitude and action. People are willing to do most anything when motivated by what they value; in other words, people do what they believe. And, I would like to argue that this principle is foundational to Christian living. It is a matter of belief…of faith. Just as in the Tennis World, I believe a proper perspective about our designated roles will enable us to live more consistently with the teaching of God’s Word and avoid the traps of the Enemy that often surface through cultural perceptions and expectations. The question that needs to be answered is: Am I a Celebrity or Servant in the Kingdom of God? Christ’s profound teaching recorded in Matt. 20:25-28 provides a simple, but seemingly difficult, solution to this dilemma.
1. Man’s view of Greatness is on display in Life (v. 25) Being “Great” is part of life. It is how the world system operates and is used by God to His glory. However, Romans 1 reminds us that man takes God’s design and perverts it for his own glory. Often the pursuit of “Greatness” becomes a power play or an ido Ezekiel 28 and Isaiah 14 remind us that Lucifer was beautiful and great but chose pride and self-exaltation instead of God’s crowning glory. Secondly, “Greatness” is a good thing. God created Adam and Eve and they were given dominion in the Garden of Eden. Likewise, Abraham was a great, wealthy man, Noah built a great big ark, the Temple was a great and glorious building while Joseph, Moses, Daniel, and Esther all held positions of greatness. Finally, “Greatness” can be used for good and evil. However, the world’s view of “Greatness” is to lord it over others though self-promotion.
2. God’s expectation of Greatness is different in His Kingdom (vs. 26-27) Greatness as defined by God is to be a servant/slave; the Mark 9 version includes “of all”. This view is contrary to human view because it is contrary for the Father of Lies who seeks self-exaltation. Being a servant/slave is viewed as demeaning and not honorable. However, it is of highest value in the Kingdom of God. Are we motivated by man-centered ideals of size, strength, power, and wealth like Pharaoh, Tall Towers, Strong cities, Goliath, and King Saul? Do safety, success, security, long-life, good health, and a life of ease top our list of priorities? These goals may be viewed as earthly success, but without a servant’s heart like Christ they lead to eternal failure. Faith is the gauge of success in God’s Kingdom, not results. As Hebrews 11 reminds us, the people of God press on whether they are in the penthouse or in prison. Are we willing to walk like Christ?
3. Authentic Greatness is demonstrated by Christ (v. 28) Christ’s teaching that He came to serve is clear. This truth can also be seen in:
- Christ’s perspective (Heb 12:2) - looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
- Christ’s mindset (Phil.2:5-7) - Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.
- Christ’s example: Through His Humiliation (humble beginnings, Insignificant ministry, serving others, and horrific death) and Exaltation (resurrection, ascension, adornment, adoration) God’s principles for kingdom living are modeled by Christ.
We love to cheer about “Victory in Jesus” and claim that conquest for ourselves…and well we should. We are encouraged to do so. Because of Christ we are victors, children of God and co-heirs with Christ. But in the same manner, we are commanded to follow in all of His footsteps. Too often Christians try to pursue the celebrity status and avoid the servanthood. We love the large crowds, miracles, promises, and perceived success; yet, we bemoan the trials, struggles and apparent failures. We should expect to experience everything that Christ did because the world hates Christ! Christ is the only Celebrity in the Kingdom…He is the King! Everyone else is His servants called to make a BIG deal about Him. And, it is an honor to do so! He alone has the power and authority to overcome sin and death. His name alone has the power to change lives. The name of Christ should provoke us to be better, bolder, and believe. It’s not “I can do all things”, but it is “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!” It is only as we are humbled and live by faith in obedience to God’s Word as exemplified by Christ that we will become great in the Kingdom of God. Believe that there is no greater privilege, prize or position anywhere. Be a Christ-like servant of all!
Edward the Emu is a children’s story about an emu in the zoo that was unhappy to be… an emu. As he listened to the visitors talk about the other animals, Edward thought his life would be better if he could be a different animal. First he swam with the seals and enjoyed his new life, until a visitor mentioned that the lions were really the best animals in the zoo. So, the next day Edward hopped over to the lion’s den and roared along with the best of them. As Edward basked in the sunshine with the lion pride, a visitor remarked that the snakes were really the highlight of the zoo! The next day as Edward was slithering and hissing with the snakes, another visitor exclaimed that of all the animals in the zoo, the emu was the most delightful to watch. Excited by this bit of news, Edward returned to his habitat only to discover another emu had been brought in to replace him. After checking out the new emu, Edward realized some wonderful news…the name of the new emu was Edwina! And they lived happily ever after…as emus!
Christians often act like Edward. They become discontent with their life or situation and try different things, expecting others to excuse their actions/behaviors even though they are contrary to God’s Word. These “trendy life choices” are frequently defended in conversations that talk about “gray areas” and are posited as piety vs. liberty, tradition vs. relevance, principle vs. preference, or law vs. grace. While these are valid conversations to have, it must be understood that changing a view on something does not necessarily change the nature of the situation; nor does lack of understanding about the nature of something reduce the effects. For example, a child’s lack of understanding that heat scorches does not prevent him from getting burned when he touches a stove. Ouch!
The Apostle John provides some wonderful insights about the life of a believer in his first epistle. In fact, he gives a “test” that checks for true belief. In chapter 2 verse 3 John states, “Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments.” As the children’s Sunday School song so aptly reminds us (sing along), “O-B-E-D-I-E-N-C-E…Obedience is the very best way to show that you believe.” But, how often are we tempted, and we acquiesce, to disobey God’s Word…and then we offer excuses to explain it away! In this short passage, verses 3-6, John reminds the reader about the very nature of God’s saving grace, and provides a way to test for true belief. I like to call it the Duck Test! You know…if it looks, quacks, walks like a duck, it must be a DUCK! When this test is applied to the life of someone who claims to be a Christian, it confirms or exposes the true reality.
The first test is to look like a duck. John says the claim to know God will lead to obedience. This truth was clearly taught by Christ (John 14), lived out by the Apostles (Acts 5), and understood by unbelievers. The religious leader, Gamaliel, counselled his fellow Jews that if the Apostles were obeying God, there would be nothing that could stop it. John introduced this topic by stating that the life of a Christian is predicated upon God’s grace and Christ’s sacrifice (vs. 1-2). As the great reformer John Calvin declared in his commentary on this passage, “The knowledge of God, derived from the gospel, is not ineffectual …obedience proceeds from it.” In other words, the regenerating power of God’s saving faith produces obedience in the life of the believer! A duck looks like a duck!
The “Quack Test” can be applied as a second assessment. In verses 4-5 John says that a person who claims to know God, but disobeys Him, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. Wow...that escalated quickly! Doesn’t John seem a bit harsh and unloving? Not when we consider that John had witnessed Jesus teaching in a similar manner when He addressed the Jewish leaders who claimed Christ’s teachings were demonic. (John 8) Christ clarified that those who speak lies are doing the work of the Father of Lies, Satan himself. It’s really a Quirk and not a Quack. John is reminding his readers that disobedience to God’s Word is a matter of life and death. It was disobedience by Adam and Eve that sent all mankind to damnation. (Gen 3) As St. Augustine opined, “The cost of obedience is small compared with the cost of disobedience.” Disobedience shows disregard and hate for God because it cost the life of His Son to redeem His people from the one who provokes such hate and contempt for God…the Father of Lies. Apart from God’s love for us, we cannot love Him; and our love for God is demonstrated through obedience. As James wrote in his epistle, “Faith without works is dead!” A duck quacks like a duck!
The final test is to check the duck’s walk. In verse 6 John says, “He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.” This message was also taught by Christ (Matt. 5), modeled by Christ (Phil. 2), and taught by the Apostle Paul (Romans 1). Admittedly, there is a struggle that ensues in the life of the believer. But, it is not so much WWJD as it is WWJD in me. The life of the Christian is Christ living through the believer by the Holy Spirit. This “abiding” produces the fruit of righteousness. Jesus/the Holy Spirit/God cannot not live any other way! It is the characteristic of life in Heaven (Rev. 22). Matthew Henry says in his commentary, “Observing Christ's commands, has holiness and excellency which, if universal, would make the earth resemble heaven itself.” The great benefit to God’s Spirit indwelling His people is that they have Christ living in them now! And, a duck walks like a duck!
So, we can check the genuineness of our faith today with the Duck Test. Ask the question, “Do I look, sound, and walk like Christ?” If our life is characterized by obedience to the Word of God…be encouraged, encourage others, enjoy Christ’s peace, keep the faith, continue to love God with your whole heart, proclaim Christ until He comes, and worship Him for eternity! If the test exposes a life of disobedience… believe it is true, humble yourself before God, confess your sin, seek God’s mercy, receive His grace, experience forgiveness and live out His love in obedience to His Word.
Those who know God will enjoy Christ in the way that St. Augustine recorded in his Confessions, “Late have I loved you, O beauty ever ancient, ever new. Late have I loved you. You have called to me, and have called out, and have shattered my deafness. You have blazed forth with light and have put my blindness to flight! You have sent forth fragrance, and I have drawn in my breath, and I pant after you. I have tasted you, and I hunger and thirst after you. You have touched me, and I have burned for your peace.”
There once was a King who felt greatly distressed as all his people were very lazy. Nobody was prepared to work, so he wanted to teach them a lesson. Therefore, he had a big stone placed right in the middle of the road, and he disguised himself as a beggar who sat by the road so he could observe what would happen. Many merchants passed by, looked at the stone, made a face and went round it. An officer who was driving his carriage avoided the stone and moved away. A young soldier came riding a horse; he criticized the government for not removing the stone. Then along came a foreigner who was passing through that road, and he decided to move the stone. The king came out of hiding to congratulate the stranger; he called for the merchants, the official and the soldier so he could explain the lesson. The King then presented a box full of money which was buried in a hole beneath the stone, and upon it was etched that the money belonged to whoever removed the stone. After that day the kingdom became very hard-working and was never as lazy as it was before; they learned that laziness does not pay.
The account of the visit by the Magi in Scripture teaches that Christ is King of the Jews, King of the World, and King of Heaven. As a result, Paul reminds the Colossians that God “has delivered [Christians] from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.” As King Jesus looks out over His kingdom, what does He expect to see? Now that we reside in a new Kingdom, how shall we then live?
The Apostle Peter provides some guidance to answer these questions in 1 Peter 2:9-12. As he writes to “the pilgrims of the Dispersion”, the apostle will employ four arguments to remind them of how they should live. These believing Jews were disconsolate because their life, traditions and rituals had been upended by Roman persecution. Peter reminds them of the Rank, Resolve, Record and Reputation that characterize believers who live in His kingdom.
Peter states that God deems His subjects as “a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people.” These encouraging words echo the promise that God gave to the Israelites through Moses in Exodus 19 after He had rescued them from Egypt. No longer were they slaves in Egypt, they had been liberated to live as a nation. And, this promise now extends to the desegregated Gentiles who were grafted into the Kingdom of Christ. As John Calvin says in his commentary on this passage, God “brings the vassals of Satan, of sin, and of death, to the enjoyment of royal liberty. God’s people are highly favored in the Kingdom of Christ.
The special Rank that Christians enjoy in God’s Kingdom also gives them a new Resolve…to “proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” Those who have been transferred from the Kingdom of Darkness to the Kingdom of Light will spend their time praising the King for His grace and mercy. As the prophet Isaiah proclaims, “This people have I formed for myself; they shall show forth my praise.” (43:21) No longer is the primary concern with personal welfare or self-centered living; now the King will be exalted at all times by the people in His kingdom!
To appreciate the new Rank and Resolve Peter argues it is important to remember their past Record. He utilizes language from the story of Hosea to remind his readers that God is worthy of praise because He patiently extends grace, mercy, forgiveness and love. Just as Hosea forgave Gomer’s continual obstinacy and disrespect, so God overlooks the egregious disobedience of His people as He provides salvation through His Son, King Jesus. Those who have obtained mercy and are now the people of God will not behave in an ungrateful, unfaithful, promiscuous and selfish manner like Gomer. Instead, they will loudly proclaim, “Blessing and honor and glory and power be to Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever and ever!” This song will be sung eternally by those who live in the Kingdom of Christ.
With this new found perspective, Christians living in the kingdom now become concerned with their Reputation…as it reflects upon the reputation of the King. Admittedly, there is a great spiritual war that wages, and the temptation to return to the kingdom of darkness can seem overwhelming. However, obedience has always been the God-designated standard. John writes in his first epistle that the “old commandment” continues to be, “By this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments.” Victory over the internal battle is demonstrated through external disciplines. Just as no valid accusation could be found against Daniel (6:4), the accusations against Christians living in the kingdom will serve to glorify God and defend the reputation of King Jesus.
As our King looks over His kingdom, what does He see? A kingdom filled with lazy sluggards or obedient subjects? Are we putting up with distractions and obstacles or are we clearing the path for others to follow? Are we blaming others for difficulties or enjoying the abundant blessing of kingdom living? May our King rejoice that we remember our Rank, Resolve, Record, and Reputation now that we have been delivered from the power of darkness and conveyed into the kingdom of the Son.
In 1941 the BBC (British Broadcast Corporation) announced that it would produce a series of twelve radio plays retelling the life of Christ. Popular mystery writer and scholar, Dorothy Sayers, was tasked with the undertaking. As the public received word about the project, The Man Born to be King, there was an outcry by religious and non-religious communities alike. “Blasphemy” and “Religious propaganda” were heralded by unified opponents who were typically polarized in their efforts. The issue seemed so crucial that Prime Minister Churchill and the Archbishop of Canterbury received numerous requests to ban the play; even the House of Commons discussed the matter in session! Nevertheless, the play was broadcast much to the applause and encouragement of many who enjoyed the programs. Her fellow Inkling, C.S. Lewis, wrote a letter years later expressing his delight: “I’ve finished The Man Born to Be King and think it a complete success…I shed real tears (hot ones) in places.”
The first play, Kings in Judea, was broadcast just before Christmas in 1941. The story recounts the efforts of the Magi as they searched for the king who had been born according to their study of prophecies and astrology. After their visit with King Herod, the kings were led by the star to Bethlehem, and they worshipped the young child in humble surroundings. As the kings met the Christ-child and presented their gifts in adoration, they proclaimed the following titles that provide an answer to the question, “What Child Is This?” In their words Jesus is: King of the Jews, King of the World, and King of Heaven. The Magi had studied the prophecies and had derived these titles. Matthew 2 serves as a summation for this truth that permeates all of Scripture. These titles are the central idea in the teachings of God’s Word, are confirmed by tracing the genealogy of Jesus, are modeled in biblical types, and are proclaimed in the testimony of witnesses throughout eternity.
King of the Jews – The wise men proclaim this title as they seek guidance from Herod and his advisors. Furthermore, as early as Moses’ declaration in Numbers 24, Old Testament prophets and poets alike assert that Jesus would fulfill this role. Common references such as the “Star of Jacob” and the “Rod of Jesse” are used to identify the royal lineage of the long awaited king. The genealogy of Jesus recorded in the first chapter of Matthew traces this pedigree and connects Him all the way to Abraham through the kings of Israel, and especially to King David who is presented as the archetype for the anticipated monarch…a man after God’s own heart. Contemporaries of Jesus gave testimony of His royalty, either wittingly or unwittingly! Both Nathanael and Peter declared that Jesus was most assuredly the Christ, and Pilate (with the aid of the soldiers) proclaimed this truth through their attempted mockery at Christ’s trial and crucifixion. This child, Jesus, is the King of the Jews!
King of the World – In their worship of Jesus, the Magi acknowledge Him as the King of Kings. This moniker is a favorite of the psalmists as kings and nations are reminded repeatedly to honor the King of the Nations. Daniel also makes this proclamation in his visions, and the throne room scenes in John’s Revelation declare that Jesus is the “King of Kings and Lord of Lords!” Luke uses his genealogy of Jesus to trace the physical bloodline all the way back to Adam, the father of all mankind. Interestingly, Luke avoids the direct “kingly” line and circumvents King Jechoniah who had been cursed by God when He proclaimed through Jeremiah that none of his descendants would sit on the throne. However, Jesus is still connected to Adam through David, Abraham and Noah. Jesus is also from the archetypal order of Melchizedek, the priest-king to whom Abraham (Father of Israel) paid homage and offered tithe. Jesus would be more than just the King of the Jews! From the protevangelium (the First Gospel) declared to the Serpent in Genesis 3 through the songs offered by Mary, Zacharias and Simeon at the Incarnation to the hymns and feasts of the Church, saints throughout the ages rejoice over this truth when they sing, “Joy to the World the Lord has come; let Earth receive her King!” This child, Jesus, is King of the World!
King of Heaven – The Magi followed the star to locate the newborn king. All creation is under His authority, does His bidding, and declares His glory. Paul’s portrayal of Christ’s humiliation and exaltation in the Christ Hymn penned in Philippians 2 shows this truth to be God’s plan all along…”that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord….” Furthermore, the genealogy proffered by the writer of the letter to the Hebrews traces His lineage directly to God Himself. Jesus is the Son of God and “has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name” than the angels. He is the “heir of all things” and the “creator of the world.” He sits “at the right hand of the Majesty on high.” In this passage the types represented by David and Melchizedek are actualized…Jesus is the reality! As the “heavens declare [His] glory” and the angels announced His birth, so all the saints will join all of creation at the Great Throne Room scene recorded in Revelation 5 and eternally sing, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” This child, Jesus, is the King of Heaven.
As we begin a New Year and celebrate this Season of Epiphany pray that we are able to answer the question, “What Child Is This?” May we follow the example of the Magi and recognize that we are celebrating the birth of the King Jesus Christ…King of the Jews…King of the World…King of Heaven!
There is a riddle that asks, “In a bacon-n-egg breakfast, what’s the difference between the Chicken and the Pig?” Answer: the Chicken is involved, the Pig is committed!” While the Chicken provides an important part of the meal, the Pig must give his all in order for the breakfast to take place. This story is a good reminder of what God has done for us through His Son, Jesus Christ. The Advent Season reminds us of Christ’s coming to earth as an infant so that He might die to redeem us as our Savior. We dedicate ourselves to enjoy the celebration of the Christmas season with the gifts, carols, feasts and decorations. And these are all good practices; that’s the spirit of Christmas! However, it is also good to remember the great expense that was given so that we might enjoy such a blessed occasion. As Paul writes to the Philippians, “Christ Jesus…being in the form of God …made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men…He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” Christ gave up everything so we might participate in this Season of Joy!
In Joshua chapter 24, the Israelite leader, Joshua, challenged the Israelites to consider their commitment level as they prepared to settle in the Promised Land. He gave a quick history lesson to remind them of the difference between man and God. Man gets into messes, God saves him! From the time of Abraham to the time of entering the Promised Land, the Jews struggled with being fully committed to God. One incident after another they would attempt their own plan that would fail and needed to be rescued by God. Whether it was life in Egypt, wandering in the wilderness or conquering Canaan, the Israelites were constantly challenged with one besetting sin: following false gods. So, Joshua took them to task and put out a call to action. He challenged them to fear God, put away their false gods, and serve God alone. He argued that since God’s plan always prevails and He is constantly rescuing the Israelites from their failed plans, they would be better off serving Him at all times. Joshua clarifies that they have options: 1) follow the traditions of their ancestors, 2) join the current culture, or 3) follow the one, true God. He also made it clear that he and his household would follow the Lord. While the Israelites readily agreed to follow God, Joshua challenged them again to carefully consider their level of commitment.
As we celebrate this Christmas season, it is a good practice to evaluate our commitment level. Are we a chicken or a pig? Are we just participating in the season as we simply follow family traditions or get caught up in the culture around us? Or are we fully committed to celebrating the birth of our Lord and Savior…the one, true God?! He gave His all for us, what have we given to Him? May our lives reverberate the words of the Little Drummer Boy, “Our finest gifts we bring…I played my best for Him!” Have a Merry Christmas!
Living a 4-Square Life
A former headmaster with whom I worked once commented that he often felt overwhelmed by the student discipline issues he dealt with…until he talked to other administrators at the local schools! Then he realized that his case load, and particular issues, was not that distressing, and he was blessed to deal with such “mild” infractions. I would echo that is the case at WCA. We are blessed with amazing students, and the “major” accomplishments greatly outweigh the “minor” infractions. WCA would like to honor those students who exemplify the virtues and character qualities that befit a Wildcat.
American entrepreneur and philanthropist WILLIAM H. DANFORTH (1870-1956) is most famous for founding the Ralston Purina Company, but he also helped launch the American Youth Foundation in 1925 as a resource for spurring kids to becoming the best they can be. His life took a major turn as a young, sickly boy when his teacher dared him to become the healthiest boy in the class. “Billy” took up the challenge, became healthy and went on to achieve many admirable and inspirational accomplishments. From fighting in WWI to working at the YMCA to starting his own company to establishing youth leadership camps, Mr. Danforth left a legacy of helping and encouraging others. He captured his story and inspirational ideas in a little book called “I Dare You!” in which he challenges others to take on the dare of living the 4-Square Life. Mr. Danforth extoled the idea that life should be lived by pursuing excellence in four distinct areas: mental, physical, social and spiritual. As a person took on the challenge to keep these four areas in balance, they could accomplish great things. The four white squares in the red and white checkerboard logo of Purina live on as a reminder of Mr. Danforth’s dream.
These four areas align well with the biblical teaching to “love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength.” In an effort to encourage students to develop these characteristics based on our chapel studies from last school year, WCA will present Student of the Month awards to 7th-12th grade students who demonstrate excellence in the areas of Academics, Athletics, Citizenship and Christian Character. This custom will build upon the Chapel Awards that are currently presented to Grammar School students (grades K-6). Any WCA staff may submit students’ names; submissions will be reviewed and honorees selected by Mr. VanDerhoof, Mrs. Hazey and Mr. Lund. The awards will be recognized during the first Upper School chapel each month and published in the monthly newsletter. We praise God for the wonderful students at WCA and pray that He will use this tradition for His glory as students seek to glorify and enjoy Him forever.
The recent passing of my mother, Barbara, has provided an opportunity to reflect on life and life after death. The Apostle Paul reminded the Corinthians in his first letter that “now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.” (13:12) This analogy reminded me of Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave” that he recorded in The Republic. In an effort to explain the condition of those who had not been properly educated in the Theory of Forms, Plato likened them to prisoners chained in a cave, unable to turn their heads. All they could see was the cave wall in front of them. Behind the prisoners burned a large fire, and there was a parapet between the two. Puppeteers would walk back and forth on the bridge holding up images of objects (i.e. a tree), and the fire would cast a shadow of the tree on the cave wall. Plato surmised that “if they could talk to one another, don’t you think they’d suppose that the names they used applied to the things they see passing before them?” However, even if they used the term “tree”, it wasn’t actually a tree but only the shadow of an image representing a tree. The shadow is not the real tree.
On Earth, we are in a cave, as it were. And, we are chained slaves who see only shadows. During this life we cannot not fully know and understand what life will be like when we stand before God. We have received glimpses from others who met with God, (i.e. Moses, Isaiah, Paul), but our understanding will only be complete when we stand corem Deo, before the face of God. Death serves to unchain us, and we experience true reality. However, Scripture reminds us that coram Deo, living in the presence of God, should be a daily reality for a Christian. In the following verse 13 Paul stated, “And now abide these three, faith, hope and love; but the greatest of these is love.” Through a saving faith that produces good works, a confident hope that God will complete His good work in us through Christ, and an abundant love for God and others, we experience life in the Spirit and the presence of Christ. In fact, Peter admonishes us to give every effort to work this fruit in our lives so that we will “be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Pet. 1:8) On the other hand, the lack of this fruit leads to blindness and forgetting God’s gift of forgiveness.
So, we can keep looking at the shadows on the cave wall and live like blind men who are lost: self-centered, greedy, confused, anxious, worried, angry, bitter, etc. Or, we can look at a clearer picture of Truth and secure our place with God for eternity: saving faith through God’s grace, comforting hope because our resurrected Savior reigns, and adoring love for God as demonstrated by our abundant love for others. “For if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Pet. 1:10) May we enjoy living in coram Deo in this life even as my mother, and many other loved ones we know, enjoy being in His presence as they have been unchained by death.
In 480 B.C. the Spartan king, Leonidas, led an army of 7,000 men in an effort to hold off up to 2 million Persian invaders at the narrow pass of Thermopylae. After 3 days of fighting, the undersized band of soldiers was almost depleted and only 300 Greeks remained to stand against the colossal army of Xerxes the Great, King of Persia. The Greek Historian, Herodotus, records in his Histories that when a Greek scout was asked to report, he revealed his despair at seeing such a tremendous force with these words, “Their arrows will blot out the sun!” To which the Spartan soldier, Dienekes, replied, “IN UMBRA, IGITUR, PUGNABIMUS!” …which translates, “So much the better, we will fight in the shade!” This retort of courage and confidence has been adopted as the motto of the 1st Artillery Detachment of the United States Army, and it is the slogan for the WCA spirit wear this year.
As we look around and give a report on the current status of WCA, we may become distracted by the immensity of the work that awaits us and the changes that may not have followed our plan. We can be tempted to only see the Cloud of Arrows. Whether it’s a concern about enrollment numbers or the melancholy that often sets in when families and staff move on to a new season of life or the pressures of financial stresses or the need to dispel rumors in the community, these situations can appear to be an immense invading army that fabricates feelings of hopelessness and despair.
Instead, the Wildcat Nation has chosen to stand with Dienekes and proclaim, “IN UMBRA, IGITUR, PUGNABIMUS!” …So much the better, we will Fight in the Shade! And, while the retort of Diekenes may have been a last ditch effort of courage and insolence in the face of certain defeat, WCA believes it has a strategy that will spawn victory. The Wildcat Nation asserts the following plan:
Entrenched in Christian Ed – the school culture and curriculum is Christ-centered. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and Jesus is the one foundation upon which we build.
Elevate academics – we will continue the transition to classical Christian education (cCe) as the past implementation of Latin and rhetoric is now followed by the inclusion of logic class, the grammar and writing programs now include Shurley Grammar and the Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW), students in 7th-12th grades will begin to study the Great Ideas from an Omnibus approach, and the Rhetoric students will develop a Sr. Thesis.
Educate teachers – since teachers are a school’s greatest asset, WCA is committed to providing the training and resources to help our faculty develop as cCe teachers. They received outstanding insights from Andrew Kern of the Circe Institute last fall, and a team of seven Wildcats attended the Association of Classical Christian Schools (ACCS) summer conference. This fall we have the honor of welcoming Dr. Christopher Perrin who will provide extended training and insights about Schole’, teaching from rest.
Expand athletics – under the direction of our new AD, (but same old) Mr. Stephen Lund, soccer is back at the middle school and Varsity levels.
Establish the Fine Arts – all K-12 students now have the opportunity to learn enjoy Art and Music every week for the entire school year.
Embed a School Culture – in an effort to purposefully connect the events of the school year to help students develop character, instill habits, and establish traditions, a House System will be implemented in the Upper School. Also, there are numerous After School Clubs that afford students to pursue areas of interest in art, chess, science, math, music, etc.
Enhance the Facility – a cleaning service has been contracted which allows Mr. Chad Houpt to focus his attention to keep the facility in great shape. In addition, the gym floor has been resurfaced and new carpet will be installed in the hallways and cafetorium!
Now, this optimism is not grounded in our own conventional wisdom, but is established on the fact that we are blessed by God. Our theme verses for the school year are Psalm 1:1-2: Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. We are reminded that the blessing is not in the aforementioned checklist, but rather that we delight in God’s Law and meditate on it continually. All the other “stuff” (number of students, size of building, money in the bank, status in community, programs offered, etc.) are “extras”, benefits from glorifying God and enjoying Him.
So, while WCA may look different than expected today, the suave Fernando Lamas character of Billy Crystal from yesteryear would tell the Wildcat Nation, “You look MARVELOUS…SIMPLY MARVELOUS!” WCA is blessed greatly by a faithful God…let’s continue to fight in the shade!
I have always been the type of person who saves money, and who has to do serious thinking sometimes to spend money. At times in our marriage, my husband has had to talk me into spending money. I have always been a saver.
On that topic, here are a few words of advice that I have come across over the years in order to save a few bucks here and there. I hope someone can benefit from this.
· Sign up for reward programs and/or online coupons at your favorite stores (Meijer, Kroger, Walmart, Barnes & Noble, Kohls, etc.) and then stay loyal to them in order to maximize your savings.
· The state of Michigan has millions of dollars in lost or forgotten funds from dormant bank accounts, uncashed checks, forgotten safety deposit boxes, etc. Search for “unclaimed property” on the www.michigan.gov website to find the search page. You can also look for funds from other states on www.missingmoney.com. You could be a good candidate if you have moved in the past several years.
· When you return pop cans, put that money into a kitty for vacation fund, Christmas fund, college fund, car fund, mad money fund…
· Instead of buying snacks, pop or water from the vending machine at work, bring your own.
· Buy from the Nu2u resale shop. I have bought like-new and new clothing items that still have the price tags on them.
· Download free music, books and magazines (no subscription required) from your local library’s website.
· While you are at it, grab a good book or two from the library.
· Check out the TRIP discounted gift card program at WCA. Details can be found on the school website.
· Does your credit card offer a rewards program? Check out several at the following link: http://time.com/money/4037389/best-credit-cards-2015/
· Are you paying for a subscription that you don’t use any longer? Onstar? XM Sirius radio? Gym membership? AAA? Magazines? Do you still need or use it?
· Look at your monthly credit card bills – are there any recurring expenses that you can eliminate?
· Do you have items lying around the house that you don’t use any longer? Donate them to Nu2u for a tax deduction. Or sell gold jewelry that you don’t wear any longer and aren’t emotionally attached to.
· Preventative maintenance always costs you less in the long run. So get your oil changed, rotate those tires and schedule that annual doctor visit.
· Make your own cleaning supplies. I’ve recently seen this on the internet, and while I haven’t tried it, it looks really good.
My final but most important tip to meet your financial goals is to follow God’s directive in Malachi 3:10. “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. 'Test me in this,' says the Lord God Almighty, 'and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.'”
You can never out give God. I will close with a brief illustration. In 1990, our pastor gave a sermon in which he challenged the congregation to tithe. He took the challenge a bit farther and stated that if we did, and God didn’t bless us, that the church would refund our money. (At least that’s how I remember it. I don’t know if anyone actually took him up on it.) So I committed to God to faithfully tithe the 10%. Just 2 weeks later, the company I worked for laid off 40% of the workforce, but I was able to keep my job, and they gave me a 20% raise to stay. Praise God for His faithfulness!
One of the first things a mountain climber does after reaching the summit of the mountain is to plant a flag. This was also the practice of explorers and the NASA astronauts followed suit. The intent is usually either to stake a claim or to make a statement. In either case, the planting of a flag proclaims a great accomplishment. So, I’m planting a flag!
Now, I won’t argue that my flag represents the level of accomplishment of climbing a mountain, discovering a new land or space travel; however, it may be argued it was almost as risky! Not really…I am planting my flag to announce the completion of my first year at WCA!
My adventure began near the end of June 2015 when I was contacted about WCA’s need for a Head of School and was asked to consider applying for the position. I already had plans for the upcoming school year so I carefully, and prayerfully, considered the opportunity. After submitting my application/resume’ and surviving an intensive (and I mean grueling!) interview process, I officially joined the Wildcat family on August 10, 2015. That date seems so long ago, but not too distant! Suddenly, it seems, the school year ended, and we are already beginning to prepare for the next!
Well, I plant my flag to proclaim that I am grateful to be part of the WCA family and the GREAT work God continues to do among the Wildcats! He has faithfully provided for the needs of WCA for over 40 years, and we believe by faith that He will continue to faithfully sustain us.
Here are a few highlights from my first year at WCA:
- Working with a dedicated school board who are gifted with business skills and discernment, and they humbly use their God-given abilities as servant leaders who prayerfully seek to glorify God and love others.
- Joining forces with an experienced staff who are passionate about their subject, love children, and willingly receive instruction to strengthen and improve their teaching. As we met weekly to sing, pray, read God’s Word, study about good teaching habits, and discuss school business, my heart was encouraged by the love and care they have for students, parents and peers.
- Attending the High School retreat at the beginning of the school year. It was a great opportunity to connect with the students and to see how Wildcats roll!
- Presenting the Chapel Awards at each week at Elementary Chapel. I was blessed to see how the students were living out their love for God and others.
- Preaching monthly at the Secondary Chapel. It was encouraging to interact with the students on how to love God with our whole being.
- Reading stories to elementary students and watching them enjoy the stories about a hobbit and dwarves, heroes and fiends, brave warriors and dragons, and Christian virtues.
- Watching God bless the tireless efforts of a dedicated team of volunteers as they organized the Annual Auction. Our hearts were greatly encouraged as God provided abundantly through the generosity of His people.
- Participating in Grands Day/Serv-A-Thon and witnessing the Wildcats joyfully serving others.
- Honoring the Senior Class at Sr. Chapel and Graduation. The events respectfully recognized the dedication and accomplishment of the students and reverently upheld the integrity of the academic process.
- Attending the annual conference for the Association of Classical Christian Schools with a 7-member team of enthusiastic, motivated teachers who desired to learn more about classical Christian education. Our hearts and heads overflowed with encouragement and knowledge, and we are rejuvenated to continue the important task of educating students to the glory of God. We are grateful for the donors who provided this opportunity through their generous giving at the Annual Auction.
There is certainly much more that could be mentioned, but this is just a blog post. Field trips, all-school lunches, dramas, sporting events, concerts, class activities…the list goes on and on. The annual yearbook and our Facebook page have captured many more memorable moments to enjoy!
With this flag firmly planted, I am now seeking another adventure…another exploration…another mountain to climb. Bring on Year Two at WCA! Blessed to be a Wildcat…see you at the top!!
This year, Washtenaw Christian Academy has added wrestling to its portfolio of sports teams. On Saturday, March 19th, WCA sent a team of six grapplers to Mt. Pleasant to compete against athletes from twelve other Christian schools from across the State of Michigan. None of these young men had ever wrestled competitively before; in fact, a month ago, none of them had even been on a wrestling mat! They trained intensely for three short weeks, building the endurance and mastering the techniques they would need to achieve success at the Michigan Association of Christian Schools State Wrestling Tournament.
Our young wrestlers performed valiantly throughout the day with every one of them winning at least half of their matches! When the tournament reached its final round, five out of our six Wildcats were wrestling for either first/second or third/fourth place, and in the end, they earned a 1st place, a 2nd place, two 3rd places, and a 4th place finish! This is a phenomenal accomplishment for their competitive debut! It’s like climbing Pike’s Peak after just a few weeks of practice on the climbing wall at Planet Rock.
Wrestling may be a recent development at WCA, but it traces its lineage back to the dawn of recorded history. The earliest drawings and carvings depict athletes engaged in wrestling competitions. One of the original Olympic events, a wrestling match was the finale of the five event Pentathlon in which the two best athletes from the four prior events wrestled each other to determine the overall victor.
Throughout history, we find many notable figures who were accomplished wrestlers. For example, the philosopher Plato was a renowned wrestler winning many prizes as a young man. In fact, his original name, Aristocles, was changed to Plato (Broad Shoulders) because of his success as a wrestler! In the Old Testament, the patriarch Jacob physically wrestled with the Angel of the LORD in his desire to obtain a blessing from Him. George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and seven other U.S. presidents were all acknowledged as accomplished wrestlers. Additionally, many people are unaware that King Henry VIII of England once challenged King Francis I of France to a wrestling match! (He lost…)
As WCA implements classical education, the sport of wrestling is a great fit. In ancient Greece, education was focused on training the whole person. Physical excellence was just as valued as intellectual excellence. Elementary students split their time between a palaestra (wrestling school) and a “music school” where they learned reading, recitation, writing, and mathematics along with singing and playing an instrument. (The word music in Greek times had a much wider meaning than it does today.) And then, from ages 10 – 14, the youths would continue their physical training at the gymnasium where they studied wrestling, boxing, running, the long jump, and throwing the discus and javelin. Classical education aspires to the development of the whole person; character and intellect are valued just as much as vocational skill.
Known for its level of intensity, wrestling is truly a battle of wills that is often determined by who has the mental strength to compete at full speed through the end of the contest. In a match, you stand eye-to-eye with your opponent, determined to do everything in your power to take him down and turn his shoulders to the ground. In turn, he dedicates every ounce of his energy to not only stop you, but to also do the same. New wrestlers are often shocked at the level of exhaustion they experience following a mere six minute match! Picture the “unstoppable force meeting the immovable object” scenario. By the end of the contest, both competitors are physically, mentally, and emotionally spent!
Wrestling demands strength, endurance, and mental focus. If you ask my wrestlers what they should do when they get tired, they’ll respond, “Work harder!” Our young athletes are learning the valuable life lesson of personal discipline that will continue to serve them well, both off the mat and far beyond high school. They are learning to be able to ignore their self-imposed limits and discover the potential that God has in store for them.
Just as our bodies are able to endure long after our mind is ready to give up, God’s desire for His children is for us to experience abundance and victory in our spiritual lives far beyond what we could ask or think. The Apostle Paul used wrestling to illustrate the spiritual battle facing the Ephesian believers in their Christian walk.
“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace.” (Ephesians 6: 12-15)
As our wrestlers entered their first competition, they faced incredible odds and came out the victors. But they also gained a truer and fuller understanding of what it means to wrestle against “spiritual forces of evil in heavenly places.” While success in wrestling relies on physical strength and human techniques, the spiritual battle is won by determinedly employing the full armor of God, having done all to stand firm.
Dean Jeffery is a parent, board member, and wrestling coach at Washtenaw Christian Academy.
From the Heart of a Mom, Wife, Psychologist and Counselor………
By Dr. Michele White
Cultivating a Child’s Affections
PROVERBS 22:6—Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.
What images are conjured in your mind when you think of a crisp fall morning? For our family, that answer is quite easy. We think of soccer. Our fourth child, Avery, is an avid soccer player. He loves all things soccer. Our goal is to help cultivate this love, while balancing it with the right priorities.
The definition of the word “cultivate” means to try to acquire or develop. What does that look like from the worldview lens? From a worldview lens, sometimes we see overstimulation as a way to cultivate a talent or a love for a child. We see the following terms; “helicopter parent,” “tiger mom,” or “stage mom.” All of these depict a parent that has taken a love or a talent to the extreme. Instead of helping to truly cultivate something that would be positive, some parents will turn that process into a negative experience. This can cause a child to dislike being a part of an organized sport or an activity.
When I think of the word “cultivate,” I am reminded that we are called to cultivate a relationship with Christ above all other relationships. It is imperative that our children develop a relationship with Christ separate from our relationship with Him. Many times, I hear young people say that they know that they’re saved based on the fact that their parents were saved or their grandparents went to church. The truth is, they’re not saved based on those facts. Each individual, whether it’s an adult or a child, has an individual relationship with Christ that needs to be cultivated.
Allow me to share an analogy. Using analogies is one of my favorite teaching modalities. I think about how Jesus used parables to bring forth truth in a way that is digestible by all. I think of analogies in the same way.
If you think of being in a grocery store and there is a lost child running wild in the store; the child is running wild because they are fearful that they have lost their parent, so they begin to scream, “Mom! Mom! Mom!” Despite the number of children that are running around that store, a mother can hear the voice of her child no matter all other external noises. Their voice may be faint, but a mother can hone in on the intricate details and nuances of her child’s voice unlike any other. In fact, there could be a hundred other mothers that go by the name of “Mom,” but a mother knows her child's voice.
The same is exactly true with a relationship with Jesus Christ. When you make a profession of faith to become part of a parent-child relationship unlike any other, God, being your Father, hears your voice. He hears the nuances and intricacies of your voice unlike any other child; as you run aimlessly around the world He hears your unique voice. What a joy to be able to share with your child this concept of cultivating.
Much like the relationship that you teach your child within your home about cultivating a relationship with Jesus Christ, you must understand that you as a parent must cultivate a relationship with your child. Many times we err on the side of trying to put activities in place of the relationship. We think that if we take them to a thousand soccer practices or a thousand violin lessons or a million piano lessons, that this will bring joy and it will cause that child to see us as a super parent.
Out of every single gift that my parents have ever bestowed upon me as a child, the one that I remember most is the gift of time. I remember times of mowing the grass with my father. I remember times of driving to school with my mother and the conversations that we would have during my senior year of high school. Of course I remember a few of the gifts that were given to me for birthdays and Christmas, but they pale in comparison to the gift of time.
We fill our time, unfortunately, with items as opposed to relationships. I implore you to sit down with your child and cultivate a close relationship with them that is not based on activity, but is based on you understanding who they are. I don’t want to give the wrong impression, that events and items of interest to your child are not important; however, there has to be a proper balance.
We are very structured in our time with extracurricular activities. Our children understand that although soccer, basketball, gymnastics, baking, crocheting, etc. may be a priority in their life, it is not the sole priority in our family structure, or in God’s kingdom. We also implore upon our children that God will use their talents in whatever area to first and foremost bring glory to Himself. As you help to cultivate relationships for your children in these areas, you are helping to prioritize their “loves.” Children should understand that their love for God is first and no one or no activity takes that place.
In the book of Matthew, God encourages us to “Seek ye first the kingdom of God.” If we teach our children to seek God first, then God, according to His word, will order everything else in proper succession.
Having five children, they each have a different personality and each have a different bent. God has given them each a unique gift and a unique talent that will be utilized in God’s kingdom. Ultimately, God will have us give an account of how we best used our gifts and talents. We understand, with one of our children loving soccer that it is a gift and desire bestowed upon one of our sons. Soccer will be used at some point for our son to spread God’s Word. He is able to do that while on the soccer field by showing Christ-like love when there’s an injury, showing compassion for a teammate. He’s able to show Christ-like love when there are decisions that are made that he may not agree with by speaking to the referee with respect. He is able to continue to edify God by saying no to a game that may interfere with church or family activities.
Children understand that the world does not dictate and run their home, but rather, God does. Christ must be the center of everything. If Christ is truly the anchor that holds everything down, our children will be able to handle the extracurricular activities in a manner that will be pleasing to God our Father, to our family, and to the entity in which they belong.
Today, I want to encourage you to do 2 things this week with your child:
1. Sit down with your child for a parent-child date night. I would encourage you to schedule on your calendar a time every two weeks that you can spend uninterrupted time with your child. This does not have to be a time where you go out, but just a time to talk with them and cultivate your relationship.
2. It is imperative that you begin with prayer with your child and have a fervent prayer life with them to hear their heart. It is also imperative that you know what their likes and what their desires are and what their fears are. Have a conversation about school. Have a conversation about social relationships. As you begin to cultivate a relationship with your child, you will be amazed at the fruit that God allows to grow.
As we recently celebrated Dr. Seuss Day (his birthday is March 2nd) at WCA, I was reminded of Horton, the kind elephant who seeks to help others. In the book, Horton Hatches the Egg, the kindhearted pachyderm offers to sit on an egg while the momma bird, Mayzie, takes a short break. The temporary hiatus turns into a permanent relocation when the lazy, irresponsible bird settles in Palm Beach! Meanwhile, Horton devotedly stays with the egg (51 weeks!) in spite of facing many obstacles, such as being exposed to the elements, laughed at by his jungle friends, captured by hunters, forced to endure a terrible sea voyage, and finally placed in a traveling circus. Horton repeatedly reminds the reader of his motivation, "I meant what I said, and I said what I meant. An elephant's faithful, one hundred percent!" Horton is a trustworthy, faithful friend.
Likewise, God has faithfully blessed Washtenaw Christian Academy, “one hundred percent”. For 40 years Washtenaw County families have trusted WCA to provide a Christ-centered and academically challenging education. With a vision to prepare and equip servant leaders to positively impact a world in need of Christ, God has faithfully “hatched the egg” by providing the material, financial and human resources that are necessary to achieve our goal. And that bounteous blessing continues through the talented, loving staff as well as supportive, engaged parents. Selected from the parents is the leadership team that sets the vision and guides the mission…the WCA School Board. This group of humble, god-fearing parents has been gifted by God with wisdom and insights that have been gained as they relied on God’s faithful provision for their own successes in the particular vocations to which He called each of them. Their expertise extends across many facets of professional business and community service, and WCA benefits greatly by their servant leadership.
This collective group has insights in areas such as parenting, marketing, public safety, computers, financial planning, personal hobbies and medical care. With such a wealth of knowledge and expertise at our disposal, we felt a bit selfish keeping it all to ourselves. To rectify this situation, the board members have offered to share their respective knowledge through the school blog. This venue is a wonderful tool to provide helpful insights for WCA families as well as families in the surrounding Washtenaw County at large. Through this enterprise WCA will become known not only as a great school for educating children, but also a respected, reputable resource for guidance in the essential areas of life.
And this pursuit is a vital distinctive of a vibrant Christian school. It is not just a place to send children to learn, but it is a community of learners. When parents, staff, and students are engaged in learning together, they are fulfilling the Apostle Paul’s instruction in his letter to the Ephesians to “bring [their children] up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” As Stanley Hauerwas, Professor of Theological Ethics at Duke University, has said, “Saints cannot exist without a community, as they require, like all of us, nurturance by a people who, while often unfaithful, preserve the habits necessary to learn the story of God.” In a Christian learning community we share the story of God’s faithfulness, and…we learn to imitate His example. Then it might be said, and it might be meant, “A Wildcat’s faithful, one hundred percent!”