jasonbwatson

March 30, 2012

Going On…

Filed under: Biblical Worldview,Spiritual Growth — jbwatson @ 1:46 pm

During my tenure as administrator of a children’s home there was a young man there for several years. His name was Dakota, and one thing that always made me smile about Dakota was the way in which he answered whenever someone asked him how old he was. His answer would, without fail, sound like this: “I’m twelve, going on thirteen.” It wouldn’t matter if he was going to be thirteen in ten days on ten months, he was “going on” whatever age was next. The only thing that ever changed about his answers was the age he was and the age he was going on.

Anyone who has ever seen the classic film The Sound of Music will remember the famous gazebo scene in which Liesl and Rolf sing “Sixteen Going on Seventeen.” Amazing how much difference a year can make, if the lyrics of that song are to be believed! Liesl had so much she did not know, so much she needed…and Rolf, just one year older, seemed to be the answer to all of her needs.

While these illustrations may be amusing, the idea of “going on” is biblical. For Dakota, the moment he reached a birthday he was looking forward to the next one. He had achieved one goal, and wasted no time setting his focus on the next one. Not everyone verbalizes this as succinctly and frequently as Dakota did, but the principle is true for all of us. After all, I don’t think anyone sets a goal of sixteen, thirty-five, sixty (whatever, just pick an age) and, upon reaching that milestone, says, “Whew! I made it. I’m at the finish line.” With our physical age, of course, we don’t have a choice. Time marches on, and the birthdays will keep coming ’round whether we want them to or not. Not so with our spiritual walk, however.

When it comes to spiritual growth, some individuals set no goals. Others may realize a need for growth and identify a target, but upon reaching it they begin to coast. Neither of these, however, is consistent with what God asks of us. Neither, come to think of it, are they consistent with anyone who is serious about anything else in life. Professional athletes don’t set arbitrary goals and then coast once they’ve been reached. No basketball player would accomplish 100 consecutive free throws made and then decide he never needed to practice again. No golfer would get a hole-in-one and decide her training days were over. On the contrary, they would, like Dakota, simply shift what had been the goal to the achievement, and insert a new “going on.” The same holds true of artists, musicians, engineers, chefs, mechanics, carpenters, teachers… The vocation doesn’t matter; the point is that the exceptional individuals in any career path are always seeking to grow and improve.

Likewise, Scripture teaches that we should have that same mindset when it comes to our spiritual growth. Philippians 3:12 is probably the best known verse on this topic. Paul writes, “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own” (ESV). Had Paul obtained anything in his Christian walk? Of course. Far more than many others, in fact, yet he “had not obtained.” Accordingly, he would continue to “press on.”

In other passages Paul talks about this “going on” principle with the phrase “more and more.” In Philippians 1:9 Paul writes, “And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment.” In 1 Thessalonians 4:1, “Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more.” And just a few verses later, in 9-11, “Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more” (all ESV). Peter references the same idea, writing, “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18, ESV).

In each of these passages the instruction is clear…when it comes to spiritual maturity, we can never “make it.” Until we reach heaven, we must always be “going on.” What has always struck me the most in Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians is that they were already doing well. In 4:1, Paul references walking to please God, and then says “just as you are doing.” Then he says, of loving one another, “that indeed is what you are doing.” Yet Paul does not say, “Way to go! You made it!” Neither does he say, “Just keep doing what you’re doing!” Rather, he tells them–and us–to do “more and more.”

So, how is your Christian walk? Are you spending time each day in prayer? If so, that’s great. But don’t get comfortable, do more and more. Are you regularly reading the Bible? Yes? Wonderful…now do it more and more. Are you faithfully tithing? Do more and more. Are you demonstrating Christian love in everything you do and say? No, I didn’t think so. Me either. I do okay sometimes…but there is plenty of room for “more and more.” We have plenty of “going on” to do, don’t we?

March 28, 2012

Sin Makes Us Stupid

Filed under: Spiritual Growth — jbwatson @ 8:41 pm

It occurred to me this morning as I was sitting in a chapel service listening to the speaker talk about sin that sin makes us stupid. Think back to one of my former posts when I defined stupid as “refusing to use the intelligence that we have.” The Bible is full of examples of stupidity that follows very shortly after sin. In most instances, I guess, it occurs when people are confronted with their sin. So maybe it would be more accurate to say that having our sins brought to our attention makes us stupid.

Take a look with me at just a few examples…

* Cain — In Genesis 4 we find the first example of murder. Cain was reprimanded by God for not bringing an offering that was pleasing to Him. In anger and jealousy, Cain killed his brother, Abel. Not too long thereafter God Himself spoke to Cain and asked him where Abel was. Cain’s response? “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” A contemporary paraphrase reflective of Cain’s attitude might be, “How should I know?” How stupid is that? Not only does Cain know full well that Abel is dead, but he was talking to GOD! Once in a while we might get away with an answer like Cain’s when talking to another human, but God knows. God always knows.

* Aaron — Jumping forward several chapters to Exodus 32 we find Moses on the mountain talking to God. Because he had been up there longer than the Israelites thought reasonable they get testy. They asked Aaron to make them false gods to worship, and he complied. Taking the gold from each of the Israelites’ jewelry, he melted it down and formed it into a golden calf. Verse 4 says that Aaron, “fashioned it with a graving tool and made a golden calf” (ESV). What happened when Moses came down from the mountain and confronted Aaron? Aaron said the people gave him the gold, he put it into the fire, and “out came this calf” (v. 24). Aaron’s version of what happened was that this calf just formed itself out of all the melted gold and jumped out of the fire. Amazing! Amazingly stupid, is more like it….

* David — Probably one of the more famous sins in Scripture is David sleeping with Bathsheba. When he saw her bathing, he called for a servant to bring her to him. This servant reminded David that she was the wife of one of his greatest soldiers. This did not stop David; he had her brought and he slept with her anyway. Stupidity example number one. Then, when Bathsheba informed David that she was pregnant, David had Uriah sent back from the front to report on the war (at least that was the guise David used). He then got Uriah drunk, hoping he would go home to Bathsheba and sleep with her, and then Uriah–and everyone else–could assume the baby belonged to Uriah and Bathsheba. Stupidity example number two. After this proved to be unsuccessful a second time, David sent Uriah back to the battle and had him carry with him instructions that caused his own death. Stupidity example number three.

These are but three Old Testament examples. I could provide many more. You can probably think of many more. But you get the point. When we sin–when we stray off course, and miss God’s mark–we will eventually get caught. And when we do, we have a choice. Will we lie, like Cain? Will we make up ridiculous and completely unbelievable excuses like Aaron? Will we try to cover our tracks so someone else takes the blame, like David? If that fails, will we go so far as to murder someone in an effort to avoid taking responsibility? I hope not.

The much better alternative, the one that God desires when we do fall short, is to acknowledge our sins, confess them, ask forgiveness, and repent. But the choice is yours…and mine. Will we confess and repent…or will we be stupid?

March 27, 2012

The Game of Chess

Filed under: Uncategorized — jbwatson @ 4:15 pm

Lately my five year old son has been interested in learning how to play chess. I do not remember where he first saw chess being played or how he decided he wanted to learn how to play, but I have been happy to teach him. It is an exercise in patience, of course, because at five he does not necessarily understand all of the intricacies of the game, but he has come close to mastering the names of the various pieces and how they can move. Turns out, he even “taught” my wife how to play one day!

Chess is a fantastic game. It requires real concentration, attention and planning. It requires thinking ahead and planning for the future, asking questions and anticipating their answers. What will this move enable me to do next time? What am I trying to accomplish by trying to move this piece? But a good chess player must also be able to adjust his plans in response to his opponent’s moves. Before any of this is even possible, though, you have to know how to play the game! It would make no sense for me to try to teach my son about strategy without first telling him the names of the pieces and what they can and cannot do. Then he can learn how to use the pieces wisely to accomplish his goals while protecting his king. A wise chess player knows how to use each of the pieces together in order to win; it would be difficult if not impossible to win a chess game using only one piece. Chess is also very unique in that any player can always improve. It is not simply a matter of learning how to play, and that’s it. Each time the game is played, the players are confronted with different scenarios, depending on the opponent and his strategy.

In many ways, life is like chess. Life is always changing. We can never know for sure what lies ahead or what obstacles may be in our way. Even our best-laid plans may be impacted by the unexpected circumstances of life. But we can learn the basics of responsibility, honesty, courage, determination and dedication. We can learn how to respond appropriately when we come upon something unexpected. A wise chess player does not overreact or give up when his opponent makes an unexpected move that derails his plans. Likewise, a responsible adult does not overreact or give up when things do not go his way or when life just doesn’t seem fair.

A wise chess player also looks to see what the consequences of a certain move would be before he makes the move. If he just moves pieces here and there without looking to see what the moves might allow his opponent to do, he will be defeated easily. In life, we have to look to see how our actions will impact others, as well as what the consequences of our actions will be. Responsible adults think before they act.

The fact that we never know what life will send our way does not mean, of course, that we do not make plans. It means that we make plans and learn to be flexible when things do not go as planned. We pray, seek the Lord’s guidance and direction, and plan accordingly, but we adapt when things do not adhere to our plan. Furthermore, just like a good chess player would never use only one piece, we learn that it is almost impossible to make it through life “on our own,” never asking for or accepting help from others. Finally, mature adults don’t settle for mediocre, average or “okay.” All of us have room for improvement. We may know how to play the game, and we may even do it well, but there is always room for improvement.

March 22, 2012

What the Bible Really Says

Filed under: Politics/Current Events — jbwatson @ 8:53 pm
Tags: ,

If you read or listen to Christian news, you may have heard about the controversy surrounding translations of the Bible for Muslim audiences. The problem stems from the translation of the term “Son of God.” Many have suggested that this term is offensive to Muslims because it implies that God had sexual relations with Mary, and therefore it is necessary to use an alternative translation in order to effectively communicate to Muslims what the Bible really says. Specifically, Frontiers has produced a translation of the Gospel of Matthew in Turkish that uses wording that means approximately “representative of God” where Son of God should appear. Since the term “God the Father” has the same implications, that title is presented as “great protector.”

Frontiers has explained that the new wording is essential to efforts to reach Turkey, where 99.8 percent of the population is Muslim. The U.S. director of Frontiers, Bob Blincoe, has been quoted in WORLD Magazine as saying that “these are paraphrases that help a conservative Sunni Muslim audience know what the Bible really says.”

With all due respect to Mr. Blincoe and Frontiers, how can you help someone understand what the Bible really says by telling them something that it doesn’t really say? If I was attempting to explain to someone who does not speak English that I am the son of Robert, it would never occur to me to tell them that I am Robert’s representative. And cultural differences aside, the Bible itself promises that it will be offensive. The very message of Scripture is offensive to unbelievers. But I see several glaring problems with this new version of Matthew.

First, it violates Scripture. Revelation 22:18-19 makes it clear that it is dangerous to mess the Word of God, either by adding to it or taking away from it. Proverbs 30 makes it clear that every word of God is pure. 2 Timothy 3:16 states that “all Scripture” is given by God, and is “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (ESV). Furthermore, John 1:1 says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (ESV). It was not the representative of God that became flesh; rather, it was God Himself in the person of God the Son, Jesus Christ.

Second, one of the strongest testimonies to the authority of Scripture is the fact that so many lives have been completely transformed by faith in Christ. From John and Peter telling the Sanhedrin that they would obey God rather than man when there is a contradiction between the two, to the disciples dying martyr’s deaths rather than deny faith in Christ, to many examples over the two thousand years since of people who have willingly endured persecution, torture and even death because of the faith in the Scripture, because of their confidence that through the birth, life, death burial and resurrection of God’s Son that they have been saved and can look forward to eternity in the presence of God.

Third, I would be the first to agree that it is important to use methods that take culture into consideration. In other words, I would not expect anyone to go plant a church in the jungles of Brazil, the deserts of Africa or the slums of India and utilize the exact same approach that is used by churches in suburban USA. Part of spreading God’s message is doing it in a way that will effectively reach the people. Paul talked about becoming all things to all people in hopes that he would reach some with the message of salvation (1 Corinthians 9:22). So methods can and should change, and should reflect the culture in which the gospel is being shared unless and until that presents a conflict with Scripture. What should not change is Scripture itself.

Is it hard for a Muslim to understand that God exists in three persons, Father, Son and Spirit? I’m sure it is. It is hard for me to understand, too. Does it boggle the mind to think that Mary could carry a human baby without ever having had sexual relations, that she could give birth to God in human form? Absolutely. I don’t know anyone who thinks that makes perfect sense and is not amazed by it at all. The point is, the gospel message is not an easy one. It is simple, yet incredibly complicated. But if the foundational aspect of the message can be changed in order to prevent giving offense, what else might be changed? If, in an effort to win the lost, it is okay to say that God’s representative was born of Mary, and that, after his baptism by John, the great protector said that he was well pleased with God’s representative, what is to stop someone from changing other offensive parts? You know, the parts about the blood, the crucifixion, the complete worthlessness of human works?

At the end of the day, you simply cannot explain what the Bible says by changing what the Bible says.

March 20, 2012

Casting Stones

Filed under: Spiritual Growth — jbwatson @ 10:11 pm
Tags: , , ,

Several years ago I attended a conference for leaders of Christian ministries and non-profit organizations in Denver, Colorado. The event included several “big names” in Christian ministry for keynote addresses, including Ted Haggard, who at the time was the president of the National Association of Evangelicals.

Not long after that conference–two months or so, if I remember correctly–I was sitting in my office in Virginia. I do not remember if I read something in print or online, but I saw that Ted Haggard had allegedly been using crystal meth and meeting a homosexual escort for services for several years. I remember feeling instantly upset. I was angry that Mr. Haggard could have, just weeks earlier, stood before an audience of hundreds of Christian leaders to speak about leadership in Christian ministry and his own activities as the pastor of a very large church in Colorado Springs and the president of NAE, all while being engaged in that kind of sin. In fact, I seem to recall walking quickly down the hall to the office of the colleague who had attended the conference with me, showing him the report, and saying something like, “Can you believe this? He stood there in front of that crowd…” Blah, blah, blah. I’m sure I said something that clearly conveyed my judgmental attitude toward Mr. Haggard. I think I was still stewing about it when I returned to my office.

At some point not very long thereafter, though, I felt strongly convicted. I don’t believe I have ever heard the audible voice of the Lord, but my heart was definitely being pricked by the Holy Spirit at that moment. I remember, in the midst of my “righteous rage,” suddenly asking myself, “Who are you to judge him…as if you have never spoken to your staff or taught your Sunday school class with sin in your own life?”

Ouch! It was one of those less-than-pleasant moments of conviction, realizing that I am not nearly as great as I think I am. I, like so many other Christians, had a tendency to rank sin. Sure, I messed up from time to time. I might lose my temper, or be less than forthright at times, or neglect my prayer and Bible reading, or think impure thoughts on occasion, but I wasn’t using drugs, and I certainly wasn’t meeting a homosexual escort! But just like that the prompting of the Holy Spirit had shattered my comfortable opinion of myself. In no uncertain terms, I sensed the Lord telling me that yes, Ted Haggard was a sinner and he had messed up big time, but the same was true of me. Yes, from a human perspective, Mr. Haggard’s sins were more egregious than mine, but God doesn’t look at things from a human perspective.

James 2:10 makes it quite clear: “…whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all” (ESV). I had stumbled in more than one point, so what excuse did I have to be judging anyone else? An evangelist friend of mine illustrates this idea quite well by using the example of a window. If I break the window, it really doesn’t matter if I broke it with a pebble or a two-by-four, whether it cracked or shattered; the bottom line is that the window is broken. God’s law is the same. Whether I refuse to correct the cashier who gives me more change that I am owed, swipe a candy bar or rob a bank, it really doesn’t matter, because I have sinned, and I have come short of God’s righteousness (Romans 3:23).

Jesus made it clear to the religious leaders of his day that it is not a good idea to demand judgment for others’ sins when we have our own sin to worry about. With the woman who was caught in adultery the crowd demanded that she be stoned. Jesus sent the crowd scattering when He said that the person without sin should cast the first stone (John 8:6-8). The same principle is found when Jesus said that I ought not focus on removing the speck in another’s eye when there is a log in my own eye (Matthew 7:3-5, Luke 6:41-42).

I am not saying that Ted Haggard’s sin should be disregarded, nor am I suggesting that he should not be held accountable for his actions. Quite frankly, I was dismayed to learn that he left the counseling and accountability group that had been working with him before they felt he should in order to start a new church. But the real point is that I have no right to assume an attitude of righteous indignation and demand justice for Ted Haggard–or anyone else. After all, based on the standard Jesus set, I have no right to cast stones.

March 15, 2012

That’s Not Sawdust

Filed under: Biblical Worldview,Politics/Current Events — jbwatson @ 2:06 pm

Yesterday I made the point that some of the things that we get worked up about in life are really not that important, and we should be careful to appropriately prioritize our time and effort accordingly. I feel it is important to also note, however, that just as we sometimes miss the wheelbarrows for the sawdust, sometimes we try to make the wheelbarrows into sawdust. In other words, there are some issues that are significant, but we find it easier to act as if they are not.

The issues that fall into this category are those issues on which the Bible is explicitly clear. On the issues that I mentioned yesterday–and many others–there are biblical principles that can and should be applied but that can at the same time leave equally sincere individuals with completely different convictions or opinions. That is fine, and I think that those issues fall within the realm of free will and Christian liberty. Those are sawdust matters that we must not fight over unnecessarily (Titus 3:9).

At the same time, there are issues on which the Bible is clear, and it is the responsibility of every believer to refuse to compromise on those issues. Because many of these issues are ones that the world finds offensive–sanctity of life, sanctity of marriage, homosexuality as a sin, only one way to salvation, for example–the world will argue that Christians who stand for the biblical position on such issues are intolerant. The world is making it increasingly difficult to take a biblical stand on such matters without facing ridicule and persecution, and I’m afraid it is only going to get worse. But when God, through His Word, is clear on an issue, there is not room for compromise. If God’s says something is wrong, it’s wrong, regardless of what the polls, the scientists, the politicians or the courts say about it.

Joel Belz addressed this very topic in his column in the most recent issue of WORLD Magazine. His column, titled “Sin is Sin,” was in response to a WORLD reader who was upset at what he sees as “gay-bashing” and “homophobia” in the pages of the magazine. Belz writes that the reader is correct about the absence of positive references within WORLD to the homosexual community, and goes on to point out that this does not make homosexuality unique because WORLD has also left out any positive references to “heterosexual adultery, to grand larceny on Wall Street, and to lying by public officials.” Belz writes, “Sin is sin; falling short of God’s glory means missing the mark. Period.”

Quite right. And a poignant reminder for us all. It may unpopular to do so, but let us not soften our stand for biblical truth. Let us never cower from calling sinful behavior exactly that–in whatever form it takes. Put differently, let us never see the wheelbarrow and pretend it is only sawdust.

March 14, 2012

Bags of Sawdust

Filed under: Spiritual Growth — jbwatson @ 8:40 pm

In preparing for a staff devotional earlier this week I was reminded of a story I had come across years ago. It seems that while Nikita Khruschev was the leader of the Soviet Union the economic situation was so bleak that workers would steal anything they could. In order to stop this, guards were posted at the exit of each plant, factory and mill to inspect the workers as they left and curtail thievery.

At one lumber mill a worker named Petrovich would push a wheelbarrow with two bags of sawdust out each evening. The guard would diligently search the bags of sawdust and find nothing. But after this went on day after day, the guard never finding anything in the bags but sawdust, he had to know what was going on.

“Petrovich,” he told the worker, “I won’t tell anyone. But I don’t understand why anyone would want so much sawdust. What are you stealing?” Petrovich smiled slyly, looked at the guard, and said, “Wheelbarrows.”

This story is a great illustration of how we can get caught up in things that really matter very little, if at all–the bags of sawdust–while completely missing the important things–the wheelbarrows.

It is humbling–and perhaps even a bit depressing–to think of how many times, and how much time, I have spent searching through bags of sawdust while ignoring the wheelbarrow. In this life there are things of eternal significance, long-lasting temporal significance, short-lived temporal significance, and utter insignificance. How much different would my life be if I focused my energies and attentions accordingly! I would have precious little time to search through the sawdust if I devoted most of my time and attention to those things of eternal significance…things like growing in my relationship with the Lord through prayer, Bible study and church involvement; things like witnessing to unbelievers and encouraging believers through my words and actions; things like cultivating and strengthening my relationships with my wife, children, family members and close friends.

The things of temporal significance–whether long lasting or short-lived–are likely not exactly the same for each of us, and that’s okay. It is also okay that we do spend time and effort on those things. After all, we are not instructed to ignore this temporal world, or refuse to enjoy it. A professor of mine in college used to joke that a Puritan was someone who lived in constant fear that someone, somewhere was having fun. You’ve probably been around some people like that, and I have too. Being a stick-in-the-mud is no sign of spirituality or righteousness. Spending time with family and friends, pursuing recreation and hobbies, going on vacation, just doing nothing or simply goofing off are all perfectly fine, when done at the right time and in appropriate quantities.

It’s the last area that really gets us into trouble–the things are are utterly insignificant. Things like whether or not it is okay for women to wear pants or men to have facial hair; things like whether it’s okay to watch a movie or listen to music that is not explicitly Christian; things like whether a praise band with electric guitars and drums should be used in church or only an upright piano. I could go on (and on and on). Please note that I am not saying no one should have convictions or opinions on these matters; I think that’s fine. But I am saying no one should draw a line in the sand on such matters and say anyone who disagrees with them is a reprobate, a heathen, or an enemy of God. The truth is, we’re all sinners…we just sin in different ways. Focusing on whether someone else has bigger or more serious sins than we do is, to paraphrase Jesus Himself, like looking for the splinter in my neighbor’s eye while ignoring the plank in my own.

I’m also not saying that institutions, organizations, groups or ministries should not have their own established standards or expectations that may address some of these areas that are, ultimately, utterly insignificant. There may be legitimate reasons for the parameters that are in place, and if I voluntarily choose to associate with the group in question or place myself under its authority, then I have a God-given responsibility to also subject myself to its parameters.

At the end of the day, though, what it comes down to is this…I’ve been letting Petrovich get away with far too many wheelbarrows while I try to figure out why he wants so much sawdust.

March 5, 2012

Not a Repair Shop

Filed under: Christian Education — jbwatson @ 8:41 pm

I have talked several times in this space about what Christian school is, as well as its purpose. Perhaps it is also important to discuss what it is not. Quite simply, the Christian school is not a repair shop. It is not the purpose or mission of the Christian school to “fix” children whose parents have not fulfilled their responsibility of parenting them, either by refusing to do so or not knowing how.

The Christian school at which I began my teaching career was located in an area with a very large population, a very high cost of living, and very poor public schools. As a result, no small number of parents enrolled their children at the school because it was a more appealing alternative to the public schools–safer environment, more stringent academic standards, etc. There were also more than a few parents who looked to the school to fix their children after their children had been expelled from public school or had become so disrespectful and unruly at home that the parents simply did not know what to do with them any longer.

Just last week this particular attitude toward Christian school was reinforced for me again when I received a phone call from a parent. Much to my surprise, one of the first things out of this parent’s mouth was this statement: “To be honest, the boy is a real pain in the a**.” He repeated this general opinion of his child several times during the rest of the conversation. He also proceeded to tell me that the boy often refuses to go to school, and wanted to know if we would make him attend classes. At one point he stated that he and his wife had threatened to send their son to our school before.

I was able to avoid having to go into too much detail about why this was not likely to be an ideal match by telling this man that it would be very unusual for us to admit a new student to our school for the fourth quarter. Had I received this phone call at the beginning of the school year, though, it would have necessitated a much lengthier discussion about the role of the Christian school and the role of the parents.

Except in those few instances when a Christian school is founded specifically for the purpose of creating a safe alternative education environment and/or serving a “reform function” for students who have needs that are not being and/or cannot be met at home, the Christian school exists to come along side parents, to partner with them in training their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. As I have discussed before, the responsibility to educating children resides with the parents. Ideally, the parents, the church and the school will work together, aligned in purpose and conviction, to raise and educate children. The three institutions together work like the three legs of a stool or the three strands of a rope, strengthening each other and reinforcing the overall effectiveness.

When a family is not part of a church, one strand or one leg is missing. In the case of the rope it can still function but it will not be as strong. In the case of the stool, it requires a very careful balancing act in order to make it work. When the family is also not fulfilling the God-given responsibility of raising the children, and instead looks to the school to fulfill this role, it simply does not work. If balanced perfectly I suppose a one-legged stool could stand, but the smallest turbulence would cause it to topple.

It is for these reasons that a Christian school simply is not appropriate for every student. If the parents of the student and the school are not in one accord then there will be a disconnect–a disconnect that students will very quickly recognize. The students will, at best, be confused by this disconnect, and at worst they will exploit it, playing one institution off the other. The Christian school cannot replace the parents of a student, nor should it ever try. This is why effective Christian schools very carefully interview parents of potential students as well as students themselves during the admissions process.

It is possible with older students for a Christian school to be the right environment for a student whose parents are not in complete agreement with the school’s statement of faith. However, for this to be effective, the student must on his or her own recognize the importance of a Christ-centered educational environment, realize that his or her parents do not hold to the same position of faith and be able to respect them as parents while simultaneously knowing they are wrong about the gospel, and be able to overcome the potential challenges that this creates. Even in this situation, though, the parents of the student must be willing to at least support the policies and standards of the school, because even the most willing and desirous student can rarely if ever overcome a parent or parents who actively oppose and undermine the school.

So make no mistake… The Christian school should never be used as a threat for a misbehaving student, because there should be nothing scary, menacing or disciplinary about attending a Christian school. Furthermore, the Christian school should never be pursued by parents solely for the purpose of fixing their child’s attitude or behavior. The purpose of the Christian school is to work with parents and churches to provide academic and spiritual instruction that will assist in the spiritual, physical, academic and emotional development of the child–not forcing a child into compliance or reform through Bible reading and rules.

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