The following article was first published in Tri-State Family Magazine (Distributed by The Herald-Dispatch, Huntington, WV). Copyright © 2007 by Dennis E. Bills.
Thursday, July 29, 2010
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
- 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.
- Happy parents will seldom tell you they are happy. Unhappy parents will not shut up about it.
- Unhappy parents talk to other parents.
- At any given time, some rather significant portion of the constituency will be unhappy with something about the school.
- Every year some families will leave because they do not like something about you, the rules, students, teachers, curriculum, or the school in general.
- Once a family decides to withdraw, their case for leaving grows exponentially.
- 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.
- 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.
- Administrators are not responsible for the sinful natures of the students. They bring their depravity with them.
- The people most responsible for students’ habitual displays of depravity are the students themselves and their parents.
- Mere rules and regulations will not prevent the depravity of students from asserting itself.
- Students, especially girls, will bicker with and complain about one another. There is little you can do about it.
- 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.
- Schools have a natural ebb and flow of enrollment from year to year both in particular grades and across the school.
- Once every few years, Christian schools inevitably cycle through difficult times, hardship, and crisis.
- Large numbers of Christian school students tend to transfer elsewhere between 8th grade and 9th grades.
- 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.
- Most schools have problems, but be patient, and eventually they may transfer elsewhere.
Monday, July 26, 2010
“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.)
“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.”
"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)
“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.
Monday, July 12, 2010
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
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."
Monday, July 5, 2010
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--
- Third highest tax burden per citizen in the nation.
- Third last in median household income and fourth last in personal income per capita.
- Fifth from the top in percentage of people who live below the poverty level.
- Fourth highest high school dropout rate.
- Dead last in percentage of college degrees; third last in graduate degrees.
- Fourth in the percentage of mobile homes.
- Highest rate of children who live with their grandparents.
- Diabetes rate leads the nation, along with high blood pressure rate, cholesterol rate, and loss of natural teeth.
- Fourth lowest birth rate.
- Fifth highest cancer death rate.
- Highest obesity rate.
- Highest percentage of smokers and users of smokeless tobacco.
- 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.
Saturday, July 3, 2010
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."
Friday, July 2, 2010
Why Presbyterians Only Baptize Once
Why Presbyterians do not Believe that Baptism Regenerates Souls or Remits Sins