Thursday, July 29, 2010

Tips for Teacher Trouble: How to Handle Trouble with your Child's Teacher

The following article was first published in Tri-State Family Magazine (Distributed by The Herald-Dispatch, Huntington, WV). Copyright © 2007  by Dennis E. Bills.
As the summer comes to a close, many parents find themselves thinking back over the past school year and ahead to the next. Parents who have had significant conflict with their child’s teacher may wonder what they could have done differently. 

From time to time, every parent will disagree with teachers over grading decisions, methods of instruction, points of discipline, or in-class comments. When you disagree with a teacher, what is the most effective way to communicate your concerns to him or her? The saying “You catch more flies with honey” comes to mind immediately, but an age-old adage for dealing with interpersonal conflict is perhaps more meaningful: Treat others as we want to be treated. When dealing with teachers, this means stepping into their shoes to anticipate their perspectives. To help us as parents do just that, here are a few suggestions:

Remember that teachers are not perfect.  

Think of those times when we as parents have not known how to deal with our own children.  In those moments, we do the best we can.  Unfortunately, we still mess up from time to time.  Teachers are no different and hope for the same grace from us that we want from others.  They have the difficult task of uniting children from a variety of families, backgrounds, and philosophies into one classroom.  Every child, family, and situation is different. Teachers cannot be expected to always get it right, and they hope for patience and understanding when they don’t.  

Consider whether the issue is really worth bringing up.  

How big is the problem? Is it possible to let it pass without bringing it up?  Perhaps it is simply a personality issue or a simple mistake that is unlikely to happen again.  If it helps, write it down.  If you notice a trend, then approach the teacher with the problem.  Often, when some time has passed, we have a better perspective on whether or not a problem is really significant.  If it is, then by all means, talk to the teacher.  Sometimes, however, we find that we do not really need to after all.   

Try to avoid discussing your complaint with other parents.   

All of us know how discouraging it can be to discover that someone is talking behind our backs.  We should keep in mind that talking can cause other parents to think less of teachers who are very willing to address complaints.  

Ithe same vein, always talk to the teacher first.  

Give the teacher every opportunity to fix the problem before bringing it to the administration or discussing it with others.  Teachers do not want parents to be mad at them are often eager to fix problems.  As we step into their shoes, we should realize that few things are more discouraging than someone going over our heads to complain about us.   Wouldn’t we prefer the chance to fix a problem first? 

Support your teacher whenever possible, especially in front of your child.   

There are important lessons for children to learn about respect for authority that are sometimes more important than whether the teacher always handles every situation correctly.  If you need to talk to the teacher, be sure to do so privately.  Be careful not to tear down a teacher in front of a child.  A child’s attitude toward teachers can be strongly influenced by his or her parents.  Off-hand remarks can be a heavy burden for a child who must sit in that classroom every day. 

Establish a positive, encouraging relationship with the teacher.  

Send notes of encouragement, share uplifting stories, convey your child’s positive opinions.  Teachers hear far more negative than positive comments.  Encouraging words can lay a foundation for great communication in the months ahead.  
Finally, if a teacher has exhibited a pattern of unresponsiveness to your input, you may find it necessary to talk to the administration.   Most of the time, however, you should find teachers very responsive to your suggestions. They are eager to have parental feedback that will help them understand your child better.   Parents who treat teachers as they would want to be treated can have great teacher relationships even when problems arise.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Axioms for Christian School Administrators

Some lessons I learned that kept me from discouragement, insanity, and quitting during my decade as a school administrator.  Ironically, I did eventually quit--to become a pastor.  Which reminds me--these principles have crossover applications for pastors as well. 
  1. You cannot make everyone happy, including teachers, parents, board-members and students.   In fact, in the normal course of operation, you are quite likely to make someone mad.  
  2. Happy parents will seldom tell you they are happy.  Unhappy parents will not shut up about it. 
  3. Unhappy parents talk to other parents. 
  4. At any given time, some rather significant portion of the constituency will be unhappy with something about the school.   
  5. Every year some families will leave because they do not like something about you, the rules, students, teachers, curriculum, or the school in general.   
  6. Once a family decides to withdraw, their case for leaving grows exponentially. 
  7. Administrators do not have a toggle switch to turn off bad behavior or attitudes in others.  Do not get frustrated that you cannot simply throw a switch and make it go away. 
  8. Administrators are trying to accomplish the nearly impossible task of coordinating the interrelationships of hundreds of sinful people (including themselves) who all have different beliefs about education, discipline, child-rearing, right-and-wrong, etc.   You cannot expect it to be smooth.  
  9. Administrators are not responsible for the sinful natures of the students.   They bring their depravity with them. 
  10. The people most responsible for students’ habitual displays of depravity are the students themselves and their parents. 
  11. Mere rules and regulations will not prevent the depravity of students from asserting itself. 
  12. Students, especially girls, will bicker with and complain about one another.  There is little you can do about it. 
  13. Relationships can be difficult in Christian Schools because the pool of relationships is smaller, and students cannot simply go find another group of friends. Public schools, being larger, have a natural advantage in this area.  
  14. Schools have a natural ebb and flow of enrollment from year to year both in particular grades and across the school. 
  15. Once every few years, Christian schools inevitably cycle through difficult times, hardship, and crisis.  
  16. Large numbers of Christian school students tend to transfer elsewhere between 8th grade and 9th grades. 
  17. Most Christian schools struggle to keep students in high school.  Students naturally lust for the apparent vim and vitality of student life in public schools and exert tremendous pressure on parents to let them transfer. 
  18. Most schools have problems, but be patient, and eventually they may transfer elsewhere. 

Monday, July 26, 2010

A Christian Philosophy of Education

A Christian philosophy of education can benefit all Christian families, because all Christian families must educate their children. By some means, they must provide their children with information and abilities that will prepare them for life in the world. Christians should ask themselves, “Does God have anything to say that bears upon the subject of education? Does God say anything that should influence my decisions as I educate my children?” The answers to these questions will help us begin the task of developing a Christian philosophy of education.

What is a Philosophy of Education?

A philosophy of education is a set of first principles that forms the ground for all that we do in education. These first principles seek to answer a variety of questions such as “why and within what parameters will we educate?” They provide the impetus that drives teachers, administrators, parents, and students, giving meaning to their roles and responsibilities. These first principles state what educators believe is foundational, what they can infer from those foundations, and what they cannot compromise. They provide direction and keep educators aiming toward certain goals that, when achieved, will allow all involved to say, “We have been successful.”

Biblical Authority

A Christian philosophy of education necessarily starts with the Bible. After all, we are Christians asking the question, “What is a Christian philosophy of education?” We accept the Bible as authoritative because we are Christians. If we want to know what God’s opinion is about something in this world, we go to the Bible by default, and we accept what it says. So the foundational principle in our Christian philosophy of education is that the Bible is authoritative for Christians. This naturally leads to a question that directs the development of our philosophy of education: “Does the Bible have anything to say about education?”

Biblical Worldview

At the least, the Bible teaches us that education should include a biblical worldview. A worldview, in simple terms, is a way of viewing reality. For instance, some people view reality as if God did not exist, and this belief influences how they interpret the world and everything in it. On the other hand, a biblical worldview presupposes the existence of God and the truth of Scripture. It accepts what the Bible says about reality and integrates the Bible’s teaching into every area of life, including work, entertainment, social experiences, family relationships, and education. In education, young and impressionable learners are intentionally indoctrinated and ingrained with information and skills that will affect everything they do for the rest of their lives. Cornelius Van Til defines education as “implication into God’s interpretation,” which is just a fancy, philosophical way of saying that education is teaching students to see the world as God sees it (Johnson, 44). It is, above all else, providing young minds with a biblical worldview--namely, that this is God’s world and we should see it as he sees it.
History is the record of God’s involvement in time. Science is the study of the composition and patterns of the universe, created and held together by God Himself. In the realm of language and literature, the gifts of communication and creative expression are among the most precious bestowed by our Creator. In the field of mathematics, the orderliness and logic of our minds depends in every way upon the absoluteness and orderliness of the Creator. Since this is God’s world, the facts of history are the work of his providence, the facts of science are his creation, and the facts of language are his gift. Van Til said, “There are not because there cannot be other facts than God-interpreted facts” (Warfield, 22). In order for education to possess truth and integrity, it must lead us to interpret academic facts according to God’s point of view. Education must presuppose a biblical worldview.
Cornelius Van Til in his Essays on Christian Education reminds us that non-Christians do not acknowledge this worldview:

“He too may be an artist, a scientist, or anything else that is open to him at his time of life. He does not believe that the creation lies under the curse of God. He does not believe that Christ, the anointed of God, has lifted the curse from off the ground on which he stands. He does not think of himself as made in the image of God. Every fact of the universe with which he deals does, as a matter of fact, belong to God, but he assumes that it belongs to no one. The last thing he will think of is to do all things to the glory of God” (4.)

The first chapter of Romans explains the effects of misinterpreting the testimony of God’s creation. The creation manifests God’s eternal power and divine nature, so that human beings are without excuse. Unfortunately, they did not glorify God or give thanks to him. Their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. They claimed to be wise but became fools. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served created things instead of the Creator. The result was moral reprobation and condemnation. This is a scary thought for Christians who must educate their children in school systems that do not acknowledge a biblical worldview.

Covenant Theology and Parental Responsibility

In addition to biblical authority and worldview, a Christian educational philosophy should consider the role of covenant theology. Covenant theology recognizes that God’s covenant with human beings is an organizing theme of the Scriptures.
Today, through Christ, covenant families are descendants of Abraham, having been engrafted into the covenant. This covenant continues for them today. He has promised to be our God, and the God of our children, and our children’s children unto a thousand generations. However, there are conditions to this covenant, namely the commands to love God and our neighbors. In Exodus 20:5, God ties the commandments and the covenant together, asserting that his covenant blessings upon succeeding generations require obedience to these commandments. Deuteronomy 6:4 explains how these covenant blessings were to be perpetuated.

“These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them upon your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down, and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and gates.”

In picturesque language, God says that there is no sphere of life that should escape the teaching that the Lord is our God. This teaching should be constant and pervasive. It should be so ingrained in our hearts and minds that we should be obsessed with love for God. Moreover, the covenant responsibility for passing on this godly obsession rests uniquely and necessarily with parents.
All this begs an application: In the course of our children’s education, are we as parents ensuring that they are constantly and pervasively taught to love God and man? Parents are the means God has chosen to perpetuate his gracious covenant unto a thousand generations of those who love him. They are to teach them day and night, when sitting at home, when taking a walk or going for a drive, when putting children to bed and getting them up in the morning. Parents are to keep love for God constantly before their eyes.

Covenant Community

The children of Christian parents belong in God’s covenant by default. They already have access to many of the blessings of God’s covenant, because God is their God. This place in God’s covenant installs children into the covenant community we call the Church. It is, so to speak, the support group for all those who are partakers, through Christ, of the covenant promises. God is our God, our children’s, and our church community’s. We are all in this together.
This principle of covenant community gives vision and mission to church educational programs for youth. Parents who have baptized their children take a vow in the presence of this community to teach them the doctrines of our holy religion and to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. In many churches, the congregation also vows to assist parents in the Christian nurture of their children. In so doing, the congregation affirms that parents are not alone in their vows before God. Though responsibilities of the covenant may seem overwhelming at times, we have the body of Christ to strengthen us, provide support and guidance, build us up in our faith, remind us of a biblical worldview, and help us keep covenant with God. The church does this by continually reminding parents of their responsibilities, by bringing those who privately, publicly and home school their children together into one body, by providing fellowship and encouragement, and by providing youth programs in which children meet other covenant children, learn of God, and participate in godly activities. The value of belonging to this community is profound.
For some churches, the covenant community also provides a biblical foundation for forays into Christian school education. Louis Berkhof drew that connection:

"Advocates of Christian education have always maintained that the Christian school is an outgrowth of the covenant idea and is absolutely necessary in order to enable the child to appreciate his covenant privileges and to understand the solemn significance of his baptism in the name of the triune God. They are convinced that the Christian school, as well as infant baptism, finds its main support in the doctrine of the covenant" (Johnson, 65)

Historically, many Christian schools started as a reaction to the decline of spirituality and morality in our public schools (among some other far less "noble" reactions). However, such a reaction falls short of the biblical ideal. Churches should not start Christian schools because they do not like public schools, or because, if all else is equal, they believe that children should be in a protected environment. Churches that start Christian schools should do so because they have vowed to help Christian parents fulfill their covenantal and parental responsibility to teach their children a biblical worldview.
Biblical authority provides the foundation for a Christian philosophy of education. A biblical worldview implies the scope of education. Covenant theology suggests that parents are the guardians of a biblical worldview for their children. Since this is God’s world, and education is an inherently religious task, parents are to pass God’s view of the world on to their children. The covenant community is responsible to assist parents with this task. All this gives poignant meaning to passages such as Ephesians 6:2, in which parents are told to bring up their children in the training and instruction of the Lord, and to Ps. 78:1-2:

“O my people hear my teaching; listen to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter hidden things, things from of old – what we have heard and known, what our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from our children, we will tell to the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done. He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which he commanded our forefathers to teach their children, so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commandments.”


  • Johnson, Dennis E., Ed. Foundations of Christian Education: Addresses to Christian Teachers.Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1990.
  • Van Til, Cornelius. Essays on Christian Education. Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1971.
  • Warfield, Benjamin B. The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible. Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1948.

Truth in a Cup

An Illustration Designed to Awaken Awareness of Epistemological Uncertainty
You and I are sitting at a restaurant table. As a Christian, I am faced with the task of demonstrating to you the truth of my religion. Perhaps you need to be persuaded because you do not believe that we can know which religion is correct. Or perhaps you believe in a different religion. At the least, you certainly reject the idea that Christianity is the only true religion. And even more, you are offended that Christians so audaciously claim that they alone have the truth.
Let’s put Truth in a cup. Pretend that the empty cup on the table beside us contains the essence of reality— unadulterated Truth. Whatever Truth may be is in that cup. Now we seal the cup, so that neither of us can see it, and we begin to guess the answer to the question "What is Truth?" Our task, then, is to guess what is in that cup.
Here is how we will go about it: We will each explain what we believe to be the Truth. We will take those beliefs about Truth and will each place them in our own separate cups. When we finish filling our cups with our beliefs, we will open the Truth Cup to see which, if either, matches the Truth.
So we fill our cups. My beliefs are traditional Christian beliefs, and I place them in my cup. Perhaps your beliefs are somewhat agnostic, but you do believe that it is everyone’s responsibility to be moral and treat others with respect. Or maybe you don’t. Regardless, your beliefs, whatever they may be, go into your cup.
Before opening the Truth cup and making our comparison to see who is correct, there are several important things to note about the nature of what is in our cups:
1. We cannot change what is in the Truth cup. The truth is not influenced by what we believe. We can grunt and moan and believe with all the faith we can muster and not alter religious reality one iota. That indeed is assumed in the very definition of reality. Reality is what is, and is not merely what we think it is or what we want it to be. So what we have placed in our cups cannot in any way change what is in the Truth cup.
2. It is impossible for both of us to be right. How do I know that? Because when I compare what is in my cup with what is in your cup, I see that my cup contains the belief that Christianity is the only true religion and that all others are false religions. Your cup on the other hand contains a belief that says that I am wrong and have no right to be so close-minded. So we see from the start, without even opening the Truth cup, that both of them cannot be correct. They are both mutually exclusive.
3. Both of us could be wrong. Of course, it is possible that neither of our cups matches what is in the Truth cup. In that case, we should both commit to changing what we believe to match the truth when it is revealed to us. Only a fool would hold onto old beliefs that he or she knows don’t match what is in the truth cup.
4. One of us might be correct, and the other wrong. Once again, only a fool would hold onto old beliefs that he or she knows don’t match what is in the truth cup. The loser must either ignore the Truth or accept it by bringing his or her beliefs into alignment with the Truth.
It is possible that you do not agree with these four assertions. If that is the case, the we will place your disagreement in your cup, and I will place these beliefs in mine. We will then compare them to the Truth in the cup beside us.
Now at this point, we should both come back to the reality of the situation and acknowledge a very real problem with our method. After all, we are just pretending. We are sitting at a table in a restaurant and are staring into some cups imagining that we have life’s ultimate answers mixed up in our soda. Finding out who is correct is not so simple as taking the lid off the cup on the table beside us. In reality, the only way we can know the Truth is if somehow it is revealed to us. Revelation is essential. Our choice is to either have it revealed, or live our lives with no confidence whatsoever that we possess the Truth.
The next question for both of us is, "To whom or what will we go for this revelation?" That’s a hard question, isn't it? It must be someone or something that demonstrably, certainly, and absolutely knows what is in the Truth cup and is capable of and willing to reveal it. Either that, or we are left to play the Truth Cup game with that person or thing as well and ultimately must move on to a greater source. Or perhaps we are left to just make stuff up and then place our faith in it as if we knew it were true.
To whom or what will you go to for this revelation? Does this source demonstrably, certainly, and absolutely know what is in the Truth cup? Is this source capable of revealing it? Is this source willing to reveal it? Do you know that you can you trust your source? Or are you placing your faith in made-up stuff? You may not believe that I should trust my source. However, on what grounds do you assert the certainty of your knowledge?

Monday, July 12, 2010

We are Finally Number One: A Different Take on Robert Byrd’s Legacy

Senator Robert Byrd, the longest-serving senator in United States history, passed away on June 28, 2010. As a West Virginian, I greatly appreciate the love and respect that he had for our State. But I question whether he has really accomplished what so many have been celebrating upon his passing.

In our local Sunday paper, the public statements of prominent citizens all repeated the same themes: Robert Byrd loved, studied, supported, and protected the constitutional role of the United States Senate, and Robert Byrd loved West Virginia with all his heart. He wrote a multi-volume history of the Senate and always carried a copy of the constitution in his coat pocket. Across the State, at least thirty roads, bridges, buildings, and programs bear his name, representing billions of federal dollars that he has funneled into our State. His affection for and dedication to Senate and the State of West Virginia cannot be questioned.

And yet, at the same time, a constant barrage of statistics throughout his tenure have told us that West Virginia still leads dozens of bad lists and is at the bottom of dozens of good lists, to our great and constant embarrassment. According to Bryan Bolduc of the Wall Street Journal (“Robert Byrd’s Highways to Nowhere,” July 10, 2010), West Virginia ranks 48th in both median household and per capita income. Over fifty percent of the state’s economy “relies on spending by local, state and federal government—the highest level of any state,” and “West Virginia ranked dead last among the 50 states in the Fraser Institute's Index of Economic Freedom of North America. All statistics aside, West Virginia has a national reputation of being one of the most poverty stricken and economically backward states in the nation.

Of course, Robert Byrd is not the cause of all these problems. The causes are complex and stretch back through nearly 150 years of statehood. However, in spite of the fact that we have had the longest serving senator in U.S. history, elected again and again by the people of West Virginia, we still have not risen above the bottom in dozens of social, educational, health, and economic categories during his tenure.

Some will argue that since Robert Byrd was a federal senator, he was not responsible for improving conditions on the State and local level. And yet, these are the same people that celebrate the billions of dollars of federally funded projects that they claim are his legacy. Regardless of what Byrd has done for this state, the question remains-- has his federally funded legacy in any way mitigated our endemic problems? Some might say that had Robert Byrd not been our senator for the last 50 years West Virginia might be worse off than what it is. I simply respond that it is harder to get worse off than the bottom.

So, while Robert Byrd is not responsible for our State’s problems, he appears to have done little to alleviate them. Yet, we have elected him again and again and again. And for what? For his constant flag-waving in the name of West Virginia? For his having authored a multi-volume history of the Senate? For his genteel, old-school statesmanship? I doubt the average West Virginian has been motivated to put him back in office for any of these most nationally recognized characteristics. No. West Virginians repeatedly re-elected him for two reasons—1) because he funneled billions of federal funds into dozens of pork projects throughout the state, leading to the perception that he has accomplished something lasting on our behalf, and 2) because he has a reputation for using his political heft to help West Virginians in bad situations. For instance, one person who was repeatedly refused black lung benefits asked for Robert Byrd’s help. Those benefits came through almost immediately with apologies. Every West Virginian knows someone who knows someone who received similar aid from Senator Byrd. And West Virginians have loved him for it, enough to vote him into office for over 50 years.

Of course, Robert Byrd is to be commended for these noble interventions. One cannot help but respect his political clout and willingness to help individuals who needed help. Frankly, however, these anecdotes simply serve to remind us that, though he was a federal senator, Robert Byrd did indeed have great power on the State and local level, and West Virginia remains at the bottom of good lists and at the top of bad ones nonetheless.

What then are we to make of West Virginia’s loyalty to this politician who has not significantly changed our State for the better in spite of 50 years of power? What exactly have we been celebrating upon his passing? Perhaps it is mainly that, finally, we West Virginians have something to be proud of, trivial though it may be. We can now claim to have had the longest serving senator in the history of the United States of America. That was us. No one else. We did it, over and over and over again. We’re number one.


Friday, July 9, 2010

Rethinking Living Sacrifices: "Obedience to God's Law" as the Pattern of This World

We are taking a break from our series in the book of Hebrews, namely because it is heady stuff, and I believe that it needs to be doled out in increments that are digestible. So during that break, I have preached on giving for two Sundays, from texts in 2 Corinthians 8 and 9. This has caused me to consider life in the church and has drawn me to another way that we are involved in worshiping God--the use of our gifts in worship.

As a pastor, I am keenly aware that Paul's criticism of the Corinthians and Romans for thinking of themselves too highly in the church because of their gifts describes a problem that is alive and well in today's church. I could give many illustrations, but they would spotlight situations and individuals that I have no business calling out publicly at this point in my ministry (why is it not my business right now? Because wisdom tells me it is not. I am in this for the long haul, D.V., and wisdom tells me that some things must be doled out in increments, or else one's ability to dole out anything at all will be cut off before it can be doled out effectively.). But even if I did not know specific examples, common knowledge proves my point. We all know that not all are treated equally in the church, because some act as if others have less to contribute than themselves. Or perhaps some believe others should be contributing something they are not, and when they are not, some think ill of them.

So looking at passages regarding the use of spiritual gifts in the church takes me to Romans 12, where we read,

"I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will."
The passage continues on to encourage unity in the church vis-a-vis the use of and mutual respect for others spiritual gifts. Paul very much mirrors his comments in Corinthians--Value other's spiritual gifts and love one another. But the introduction to these thoughts in the verse above provides me with a context that I was never taught in my Fundamentalist education. I was taught that the offering of bodies makes this a very material command, i.e., it has to do with the proper interaction of Christians in a material world. Our bodies are not to be tainted by the material world around us. Instead, they are to be holy and pleasing to God. In Fundamentalist terms, this means separating ourselves physically from anything "worldly" that could contaminate us. The Fundamentalist takes support for this from the next sentence--Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world.

Dozens of sermons in my Fundamentalist heritage made applications like--Separate yourself from worldly music. Do not go to places that the world values, like the movie theater or a bar. Do not wear clothes that the world wears. Avoid fads that are common in the culture around you. These defined for me, when I was growing up, what it meant to be a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, unconformed to the world.

Yet today, I see something in these words far simpler and more radical than I was ever taught. Holiness is not a material property, because the locus of evil is within the hearts of humans and devils. Holiness does not exist apart from the opportunity to love or the failure to love. Holiness is primarily defined by our obedience to God's laws, which we know to be, at their core, nothing more nor less than loving God and loving our neighbors. If we love as we ought to love, we will be holy. Holiness is relational. This love is the radical difference from the world that God expects. It is so radical, that even the most gloriously separated and "righteous" among us can live what they believe to be incredibly spiritual lives and still fail miserably at the command to be holy. We tend to be blind to what it means to love people, and instead satisfy ourselves with traditions and commandments that separate us from the material "worldliness."

Christ gave an example of the radicalness of Christian love in the Sermon on the Mount. One of his statements was the following:

"You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect."
Here Christ tells us what is the pattern of this world. It is to love only those who love you. Radical Christianity loves those who do not love you. It loves those who hate you. Yet, I have heard many Christians champion their ungodly treatment of those who are their enemies. They rejoice when enemies fall. They mock them. They look for opportunities to contribute to their demise. They are proud of their "Stand up for myself because I am just that kind of person" mentality.

This of course, is only one example. There are many others that Christ gives. It is interesting that his descriptions of the pattern of the world in the Sermon on the Mount mostly concern self-righteous people who abuse the Law of God. Christ expects a radical difference from the world--And Christians, even in their legalistic adherence to God's law, can be the best example of exactly what it means to pattern themselves after this world. In doing so, they entirely miss the point of being a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God.

Monday, July 5, 2010

West Virginians Have Been Told it is Raining

The Great State of West Virginia remains at or near the top of nearly every bad list and at the bottom of every good list of social, economic, educational, and health statistics. For example--

  1. Third highest tax burden per citizen in the nation.
  2. Third last in median household income and fourth last in personal income per capita.
  3. Fifth from the top in percentage of people who live below the poverty level.
  4. Fourth highest high school dropout rate.
  5. Dead last in percentage of college degrees; third last in graduate degrees.
  6. Fourth in the percentage of mobile homes.
  7. Highest rate of children who live with their grandparents.
  8. Diabetes rate leads the nation, along with high blood pressure rate, cholesterol rate, and loss of natural teeth.
  9. Fourth lowest birth rate.
  10. Fifth highest cancer death rate.
  11. Highest obesity rate.
  12. Highest percentage of smokers and users of smokeless tobacco.
  13. First in percentage of people living with a disability.

And yet, West Virginians have overwhelmingly re-elected the same ideology to political office for decades on the national and state level. Speaking of lists, is there one for the greatest percentage of people who have been repeatedly bamboozled, and are happy about it? What do we get for our blind allegiance? Do we really prefer the crumbs of federally-funded bridges, roads, buildings, and programs over real and radical improvement to the state of the State? Honestly, I don't care who they are or what party they are from, can we get someone--anyone--who can do something--anything--to actually make a difference within, oh let's say 50 years or so? Fifty years should be enough time to make a difference. Right?

Whoops! Maybe not.


See also:

Saturday, July 3, 2010

No Weapons Allowed

So, I went to Magic Mart (our local poor mans' Walmart) the other day and noticed a sign displayed prominently at the entrance. It said, "Absolutely No Firearms Permitted on this Property."

I assume that this was aimed at law-abiding citizens with legally acquired guns and concealed carry permits, such as myself. It certainly wasn't aimed at thieves and murderers, was it?

After all, if they saw such a sign, they would stop in their tracks and say to themselves, "Aw shucks! And I wanted to rob this store at gunpoint. I guess I will have to do it with a stick or something. Gimme a second while I go put my gun back in my car."

I think a more effective sign should read, "Absolutely No Thieves or Murderers Permitted on this Property." That of course would prevent them from entering the store with their murdering or thieving intent while at the same time allowing law-abiding citizens to retain their constitutional rights.

No wait. I am sorry. That is just stupid. Murderers and thieves will do what they want regardless of what signs are out front. It is only law-abiding citizens, who have no intent to murder to rob, who will begrudgingly comply with Magic Mart's silly prohibition. So then, does Magic Mart's sign accomplish anything whatsoever of value?

Friday, July 2, 2010

Essays Published

Two of my essays concerning baptism have been recently e-published in Reformed Perspectives Magazine, an online publication of Third Millennium Ministries.

Why Presbyterians Only Baptize Once

Why Presbyterians do not Believe that Baptism Regenerates Souls or Remits Sins