Thursday, June 15, 2017

Thinking "Worldviewishly"

The term "worldviewishly" was coined by John Stonestreet and Brett Kunkle in new their book "A Practical Guide to Culture: Helping the Next Generation Navigate Today's World".  This book is a required reading assignment for all HCA staff this summer and provides some provocative challenges and practical help for teachers and parents.

In the fourth chapter, "The Information Age", the authors address the importance of a worldview, noting that "we don't look at our worldview; we look through it.  The question isn't whether we have a worldview.  The question is what worldview has us."  They note that today, like never before, we (and our students) are being bombarded with information from a variety of sources, and it is critical we join the Apostle Paul in praying:
It is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God (Phil 1:9-11)
If we (and our students) are going to effectively engage our culture, we need to be prepared to engage the ideas presented by our culture with our "baloney detectors" ( Nancy Pearcey, "Total Truth: Liberating Christianity From Its Cultural Captivity") on full power.  As Stonestreet and Kunkle note, "if we can't master ideas, ideas will master us.  If we passively absorb the information around us, some else is thinking for us."

I particularly loved the disclaimer they suggested we remember as we engage the culture around us:
"The following (song, movie, program, commercial, speech, tweet, post, image, story, book, sermon, etc.) contains ideas in the form of arguments (my editorial comment:  more accurately 'assertions'), embodied characters, narrative consequences, satirical exaggerations, and/or emotional outbursts.  These ideas will be assumed to be true, though not necessarily supported by arguments, and reflect the worldview of the actors, producers, directors, musicians, writers, or speakers.  Discretion is advised."
 So what of the practical suggestions?  How do we build up our discernment, our "baloney detectors"?  The authors suggest:
  1. Talk about worldview early and often.  Our students/children need to know that every song, movie, television program, article, speech, tweet, post, and commercial reflect values rooted in a worldview.
  2. Explain non-Christian worldviews.  When ideas are named, they are far less intimidating and powerful.  Kids need the ability to identify worldviews when the encounter them.
  3. Strongly encourage your kids to read good books.
  4. Discuss ideas whenever possible.  Opportunities to talk about worldviews are everywhere - song lyrics, news topics, commercial messages, movies, etc.  These are all venues where our culture expresses its worldview.
  5. Teach them to ask good questions.  What do you mean by that?  How do you know it is true?  What if you're wrong?  And be prepared for them to throw those questions back to you from time to time!
Heritage Christian Academy is committed to partnering with Christian parents in this critical task.  Our mission statement places "development of a Biblical worldview" in a central focus.  May God give us grace as we work together to develop "bold champions for truth" prepared to effectively engage their own culture.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The Crown of the Aged

Grandchildren are the crown of the aged ...
Proverbs 17:6

Over the years (even before I became one of the "aged") I often referred to this verse when talking with grandparents at our annual Grandparents' Day.  Why does Solomon say that grandchildren are the crown of the aged?  Why not children?  It has to be more than the joy that comes from spoiling our grandchildren (with impunity) like we never could our own children.

As I have reflected on this, I believe the answer lies here:  When a parent sees that his children are raising godly children, he knows his children have truly "made their faith their own."  He sees that Psalm 78 is taking place:
" ... that the next generation may know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments ..." (vv 6-7)
Every time I am around my grandchildren (5 with #6 on the way), I am grateful for the faithfulness of their parents in raising a godly generation.  I truly feel "crowned."  And in a similar fashion I am grateful for former students who are faithfully following God, ministering to their own generation.  We literally have graduates all over the world faithfully serving their families, their churches, and their communities with Christ's love.

Allow me to share with you some blogs from former students I follow as representatives of the alumni of HCA (and BCS and WCA before it) who are faithfully serving God in the world.

Jordan (Huston) Carlson - Class of 2006
In this post, Jordan talks about John the Baptist's testimony that his joy was found in his own personal decrease in the light of Christ's increase.  Jordan's testimony is this:

So it is for all of the people of God. Just as John the Baptist spent his life in the service of Christ, being sent ahead to prepare the way, so we are to spend our lives in joyful service to God, rejoicing as Christ takes center stage.

John Piper states it this way: “God calls us to pray and think and dream and plan and work not to be made much of, but to make much of him in every part of our lives.

Ruth Anne Burrell - Class of 2009
In her blog Ruthie, sharing how she is a fan of the BBC Sherlock Holmes mystery series, notes the following dialogue:

After Mary Watson throws herself in front of a bullet to save Sherlock, the often arrogant and flippant detective is lost—confronted by a type of sacrificial love he didn’t know existed.
“In saving my life, she conferred a value on it,” he says. “It is a currency I do not know how to spend.”
It’s not often that a line of TV dialogue catches my attention for its beauty. This one made me pause my video and skipped back to re-watch it.
In saving my life, she conferred a value on it.
It is a currency I do not know how to spend.
I mulled over the quote for a few days, trying to figure out why it struck me so, and what I came up with was this:
In saving my life, Jesus conferred a value on it. And that is a currency that I often do not know how to spend.

Kaleigh (Adkins) Stickles - Class of 2011
Together with a couple of friends from college, Kaleigh formed a ministry called BeYOUtiful in Christ.  Their mission is stated in part:  We proclaim that our identity comes from Him and Him alone.  Our desire is to teach girls to place their faith in Jesus and embrace themselves for how fearfully and wonderfully God has created them."

In this blog post, Kaleigh references the current Netflix series 13 Reasons Why which chronicles the thirteen reasons a teenager took her own life.  In response, Kaleigh lists 13 reasons why life is worth living.  She says:
I cried during most of the episodes. I didn’t necessarily cry because of the horrible things done to Hannah Baker.  I cried because I will walk the school hallways.  Not as a student, but as a teacher.  I now play a vital role in a LIFE. How many Lord?  How many young lives do I pass by, bump into, and say hello to are struggling? How many need ONE person to pour Jesus into their life?  How many do we ALL pass daily?

Join me in thanking God for the alumni of HCA and praying for their continued influence for Jesus Christ around the globe.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Do As I Do

"Your walk talks, and your talk talks ... but your walk talks louder than your talk talks."

"What you do speaks so loudly I can't hear what you say." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Several years ago (OK, many years ago) when my son was in late elementary/early JrHi, I was talking with a friend of mine at church when my son was trying to get my attention.  I was ignoring him, continuing what was surely a life-changing conversation with my friend.  Eventually, however, he got my attention, and I responded with exasperation, "Matthew, be patient!!"  My friend just smiled, turned to my son, and said, "Yeah, Matthew ... just like your dad."

I was reminded of this exchange recently when I read an article addressing how parents should teach their children to make good decisions.  The author suggested that these are really life-long "conversations" we are having with our children, prefaced with the words "Watch how I <fill in the blank>."
Our campus pastor told us he sat his tween son down to explain the birds and the bees but prefaced it with this, “We are going to begin a conversation that we will be having the rest of your life. This is not a one-time conversation. This is the start of many conversations.” Whew!

Are you able to say, “Watch how I have a healthy marriage. Watch how I keep my eyes from lust. Watch how I honor my spouse. Watch how I protect my marriage”?

What about technology? Can you say, “Watch how I unplug regularly. Watch how I rule technology and don’t let it rule me. Watch how small it is in my life”?

What areas of your life can you say “Watch how I do this”? Which ones do you not want your kids to see? Gossip? Fear? Focus on outward appearance? Work ethic?

It reminds me of what the apostle Paul told the Corinthian church, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). It’s not about being fake-perfect or play-acting what should be done. It’s not about being a Pharisee and making up your own standards and rules.
Can I really make Paul’s same statement? I have to follow Christ. Not put on a show for my kids. Follow Christ. Then, I can glance back and say, “Come on! Jump in! I’m a few steps, a few years, ahead in my walk with Jesus. Follow me as I keep my eyes on Him! Watch me!”
At HCA we talk a lot about the partnership we have with parents in the process of bringing up our children "in the discipline and admonition of the Lord."  As I reflect on that, I am struck anew with the importance of living our lives in such as way that we can humbly say "Watch how I <fill in the blank>."

"Yeah, Matthew ... Just like your dad!!"

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Charger Robotics Team Advances to State Championship Tournament

“Team Chargers” (FTC Robotics team #9808) joined 22 other teams at the Missouri FTC Western Conference Qualifier at Harrisonville High School on Saturday, February 18th, six of whom would advance to the Missouri State Championship. Team Chargers earned a spot in this Conference Qualifier by finishing second overall in the NW Conference, winning 8 of 10 matches during the conference season.

Team Chargers swept through the preliminary matches of this Conference Qualifier Tournament undefeated with a 4-0-1 record, finishing with a 3rd place ranking and earning a position as an alliance captain for the elimination round.  During alliance selection, Team Chargers accepted an invitation to join the top ranked Red Hot Techie Peppers - team #4587 and Ravonics Spitzer - team #9801(from Olathe NW HS) for the elimination matches.    Our alliance won the semifinals round, 2 matches to 1, with Team Chargers strongly contributing to both winning matches.  Team Chargers then capped the day with a win in the finals to be crowned tournament champions

In addition to being a part of the winning alliance, Team Chargers were recognized by the judges for the following awards:

Inspire Award (1st Place) - The description of this award reads: This judged award is given to the team that truly embodied the ‘challenge’ of the FTC program. The team that receives this award is a strong ambassador for FIRST programs and a role model FTC team. This team is a top contender for many other judged awards and is a gracious competitor. The Inspire Award Winner is an inspiration to other teams, acting with Gracious ProfessionalismTM both on and off the playing field. This team is able to communicate their experiences, enthusiasm and knowledge to other teams, sponsors, their community, and the Judges. Working as a unit, this team will have demonstrated success in accomplishing the task of designing and building a robot.  The judges remarks about Team Chargers: “This team’s first year did not go as planned, and they realized dealing with stress is part of moving forward.  Following a mentor presentation on getting organized, they were really charged up.  After only two seasons, they are building a heritage.”

Contact Award (1st Place)
- The description of this award reads:  Mastering robot intelligence. The Control Award celebrates a team that uses sensors and software to enhance the robot’s functionality on the field. This award is given to the team that demonstrates innovative thinking in the control system to solve game challenges such as autonomous operation, enhancing mechanical systems with intelligent control, or using sensors to achieve better results on the field. The control component should work consistently on the field. The team’s Engineering Notebook must contain details about the implementation of the software, sensors, and mechanical control. In presenting this award, the judges commented: “This team in black took control with a strong autonomous performance.  Their use of sensors was impressive.  Their planning served as a catalyst for an organized strategy consistent with the team’s heritage of taking charge.”

Motivate Award (2nd Place) - The description of this award reads: This judged award celebrates the team that exemplifies the essence of the FIRST Tech Challenge competition through team building, team spirit and exhibited enthusiasm. This team embraces the culture of FIRST and clearly demonstrates what it means to be a team. This is a team who makes a collective effort to make FIRST known throughout their school and community, and sparks others to embrace the culture of FIRST.

Prior to advancing to the West Missouri Conference Qualifier, Team Chargers competed in two “NW Missouri conference” tournaments and one “FTC qualifying” tournament, held at Blue Valley CAPS.    Among their accomplishments along the way:
  • Team Chargers finished second among all teams competing in the 8 NW Missouri conference tournaments, winning 16 out of a possible 20 points in the two meets HCA played in.  (8 out of 10 matches played)
  • The Chargers were awarded 3rd Place for the PTC “Design Award” at the Blue Valley CAPS qualifier tournament.
  • Team Chargers was chosen to be in one of four alliances for the elimination round semifinals at the Blue Valley CAPS qualifier.
  • In all of the 702 total matches played in Missouri FTC this season, Team Chargers competed in matches recording the highest scoring match score (335) and also the 5th highest match score for the entire season.
  • Team Chargers with our alliance partners had the 6th highest (205) and 8th highest (200) alliance scores for the entire Missouri FTC season.
Team Chargers (FTC team #9808) will join 47 other teams at the Missouri FTC State Championship at Missouri S&T in Rolla, Missouri on Saturday, March 4th with the opportunity to advance to the FTC SuperRegional in April.  This tournament will feature the “best of the best”, and Team Chargers will have to be at the top of its game to advance to the Super Regional multi-state tournament.  Winners from the Super Regional advance to the National Championship Tournament.


Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Make America Great Again


Regardless of your political persuasion, you cannot possibly have navigated the last two years in the US without at some point coming in contact with the phrase "Make America Great Again."  Mercifully, the election is over.   However, I think former First Lady Barbara Bush got it right when she famously said "our success as a nation... depends not on what happens inside the White House, but on what happens inside your house. ”

I can't help but be reminded of the observations of Alexis de Toqueville, a French diplomat who visited the United States early in the 19th century and published a work called Democracy in America, an effort to help the French people have a better understanding of the emerging democracy on this side of the Atlantic Ocean.  In this publication, de Toqueville identified the source of the greatness of America:
"In the United States, the sovereign authority is religious...there is no country in the world where the Christian religion retains a greater influence over the souls of men than in America, and there can be no greater proof of its utility and of its conformity to human nature than that its influence is powerfully felt over the most enlightened and free nation of the earth.  In the United States, the influence of religion is not confined to the manners, but it extends to the intelligence of the people...Christianity, therefore, reigns without obstacle, by universal consent...
I sought for the key to the greatness and genius of America in her harbors...; in her fertile fields and boundless forests; in her rich mines and vast world commerce; in her public school system and institutions of learning. I sought for it in her democratic Congress and in her matchless Constitution. Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because America is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great."
By partnering with Christian families and evangelical churches, Heritage Christian Academy seeks to do its part to "make America great again."  As a part of our mission, we desire to develop the next generation of Christian leaders with a distinctly Biblical worldview.  It is those leaders who will lead godly homes and serve in churches that faithfully proclaim the Word of God with "pulpits flaming in righteousness."

Heritage Christian Academy ... Making America Great Again!!

Alexis de Toqueville

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Find your IKIGAI

DON'T BE LIKE THIS GUY!  In an episode of Seinfeld, the infamous "show about nothing", the following exchange took place:

Kramer: You’re wasting your life.
George : I am not. What you call wasting, I call living. I’m living my life.
Kramer: OK, like what? No, tell me. Do you have a job?
George : No.
Kramer: You got money?
George : No.
Kramer: Do you have a woman?
George : No.
Kramer: Do you have any prospects?
George : No.
Kramer: You got anything on the horizon?
George : Uh, no.
Kramer: Do you have any conceivable reason for even getting up in the morning?
George : I like to get the Daily News.

A recent study in my small group Bible study posed the same same question "Why do you get up in the morning?"  Once I got past the shallow "Because my phone alarm went off" or "I like getting a pay check" responses, I realized this simple question is in many ways a profound one.  This question, often asked in job interviews, is asking about life purpose and motivation.  In a previous blog post, I argued that "passion" is really a question of what you are willing to die for; this question is asking what you are living for?

The Japanese language actually has a word for this phrase - IKIGAI.  It is really a compound word in Japanese - "living" and "worth", i.e. a life worth living.  As a mulled over this question,  I began to ask "What is my IKIGAI?  Why am I going to get up tomorrow morning?"

This train of thought led me to the book of Philippians where Paul clearly identifies his IKIGAI.  It quickly becomes clear that Paul's IKIGAI is bound up in his relationship with Christ.  Passages say that his imprisonment is for Christ (1:13), he wants to live a life worthy of the gospel of Christ (1:27), he counts all thing loss for the sake of Christ (3:7), he strives to know Christ (3:10), he is pressing toward the goal of the prize of the upward call of God in Christ (3:14).  But the clearest statement Paul makes of his IKIGAI, his reason for waking up in the morning, is found in the famous declaration in 1:21 - For to me to live is Christ!!

For Paul - by extension for every Christian - his IKIGAI was clear.  Every day is an opportunity to live our lives for the sake of Jesus Christ.  Romans 8:29 tells us we were saved to be conformed to the image of his Son. Ephesians 2:10 calls us God's masterpiece created for good works that he has ordained.  That is my IKIGAI - an opportunity to partner with God in conforming me into image of his son and serving him with those works he has ordained for me to do.

By God's grace, we hope to instill this same IKIGAI in a generation of students at HCA - students who understand their position in Christ and will become leaders in their world, living each day for the glory of Jesus Christ.

What reason do you have to get up tomorrow morning?

Friday, September 9, 2016

Balance and the Truth

"Balance is an offense to the truth."  That was the closing line of column written by a political science professor at Gettysburg College.  She was explaining her inability to provide a balanced discourse in her classroom during the current presidential campaign because, in her view, one of the candidates was so disqualified as to warrant a balanced presentation.  She concluded by saying: "My approach for the fall semester will be boldly honest: It is a disservice to students to attempt to provide balance when I know that balance is an offense to the truth."

My initial reaction to that statement was negative - a typical "tolerant" liberal expressing intolerance toward someone or some idea she doesn't agree with.  But I quickly realized that I didn't really disagree with that statement; I simply disagree with her misapplication of it.  In fact, I wholeheartedly agree that "balance is an offense to the truth."

The problem lies in an understanding of "truth."  In this case, I believe the professor was confusing a truth claim with a preference claim.  She made a strong and passionate case why she preferred one candidate over the other; she clearly views the possibility that this candidate could become President as loathsome.  But no matter how strong her opinions or how passionately she holds them, they still fall short of being a truth claim.  In fact, I would be surprised if this professor philosophically even holds to the existence of something called objective truth; in the post-modern world truth is a personal construct, something that differs from person to person.  For a post-modern, it is simply intellectually dishonest to suggest that anything is "the truth."

At HCA we strive to help our students discern the difference between truth claims and preference claims.  But to do that, you must first believe that objective truth exists.  For the Christian, that truth is found in the written Word (Jn 17:17 - "Your Word is truth.") and the Living Word (Jn 14:6 - "I am the way, the truth, and the life.")  It is in that context that I agree ... balance is an offense to the truth.  We don't present a "balanced" view of salvation; salvation is by grace through faith apart from meritorious works. (Eph 2:8-9)  And "there is no other name under heaven ... by which we must be saved."  (Acts 4:12)  It would be an offense to the truth to balance that message by saying there are multiple ways to be saved.  We don't present a "balanced" view of Scripture ... it is the inspired, inerrant, authoritative Word of God.  We don't balance that message by suggesting that there are other sources of authoritative truth.

In fact, the Five Solas of the Reformation affirm that "balance is an offense to the truth."
  • Sola Scriptura - Scripture alone
  • Sola Fide - Faith alone
  • Sola Gratia - Grace alone
  • Solus Christus - Christ alone
  • Soli Deo Gloria - To the glory of God alone
May God "guide us into all the truth" (Jn 16:13) and may we reject "balance" that is an offense to that truth.