Tuesday, August 12, 2014

make the most of every opportunity

On Monday, August 11, many people noted (on Facebook, Twitter, etc)the death of Robin Williams; a few of my friends noted the deaths of over 500 refugees at the hand of ISIS; and one colleague noted the death of a friend. At the very least, the first instance reminds us that depression is real and devastating; the second is another example of the horrific terrorism in the Middle East; and the third reminds us that death is personal. It is for this reason that we Christians must always remember the calling for which we were redeemed: "Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful, and [pray that doors will be open for the message of the Gospel],.. Be wise in how you act toward outsiders; MAKE THE MOST OF EVERY OPPORTUNITY. Let your conversations always be full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone." Colossians 4

On teaching

"Not many of you should become teachers because you know that those who teach will be judged more strictly... Who is wise among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom." James 3.

For all my Biblical-scholar friends or those who simply understand the importance of NOT taking Scripture passages out of context: I know this verse refers to teachers of the Word, to people called to preach and teach from Scripture, but I think it is a good reminder for teachers in general as well. Tomorrow I head back to work for my 5th year at KCHS and I am so thankful to work with such incredible colleagues. Over the past nine years of teaching, I've learned that kids REALLY pay attention to what teachers DO -- they pay attention to what we say, especially when it's not relevant to the lesson. Students want to know what we believe and they want to know why we believe it. Our lessons about Christ will be far more valuable and believable when we act out our faith in Him.

Friday, August 02, 2013

Can Scientists believe in the Resurrection

This is a really well-done presentation by Biblical scholar NT Wright; it's a little over an hour long, and I find it very engaging.  Extremely worth watching at least once.


Monday, July 15, 2013

The Gospel transforms

The Gospel should TRANSFORM
- the way we relate to one another in the home
- the way we relate to people in the workplace
- the way we talk to people
- the way we talk to people about GOD.

... Those were the four main points from the sermon at my church yesterday.  Let me revamp those a little:

The gospel should transform
- the way I relate to my family
- the way I relate to my students and coworkers
- the way I talk to people
- the way I talk to people about God.

... Well, does it?  ever? sometimes? most of the time? all the time?

Colossians 3: 16-17 says: "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him."

Chapter 4, verse 5-6 says "Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of your time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person."

In these few verses, there is a call toward community -- a community in which fellow believers help each other to answer the call to be more like Christ, a community in which we are being transformed by the renewing of our minds.  There is also a call to reach outside of our community, to people who don't know Jesus, so that they might hear the gospel.

My prayer is that I would LOOK for ways to speak about Jesus to my students and co-workers more often, to be purposeful in those conversations when they happen, and to be gracious in all conversations so that Jesus can shine through.  In every workplace, school, etc. there are people that need to be loved and who need grace.  Am I overlooking the students who try to 'blend into the walls' or do I seek them out. This is something I know I need to work on.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Image of the Invisible

I'm thinking of using something like this as a poster in my classroom next year... love the lyrics to this song; here they are:

We're more than carbon and chemicals
We are the image of the invisible
Free will is ours and we can't let go
We are the image of the invisible
We can't allow this, the quiet cull
We are the image of the invisible
So we sing out this, our canticle
We are the image of the invisible

We all were lost now we are found
No one can stop us or slow us down
We are the named and we are known
We know that we'll never walk alone

We're more than static and dial tone
We are the image of the invisible
We're emblematic of the unknown
We are the image of the invisible
So raise the banner, bend back your bows
We are the image of the invisible
Remove the cancer, take back your souls
We are the image of the invisible


Though all the world may hate us, we are named
The shadow overtake us, we are known

We're more than carbon and chemicals
Free will is ours and we can't let go
We are the image of the invisible
We're more than carbon and chemicals
We are the image of the invisible
Free will is ours and we can't let go
We are the image of the invisible
We can't allow this, the quiet cull
We are the image of the invisible
So we sing out this, our canticle
We are the image of the invisible

[Chorus x2]

Raise up the banner, bend back your bows
Remove the cancer, take back your souls
"Image of the Invisible," Thrice. 2005.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Pulling it all together

Over the past five months, I have met with a group of ladies on the first Monday evening of each month to read and discuss II Timothy.  I'm less familiar with II Timothy than with some of the other New Testament epistles, so this study was something I really hoped to get a lot out of-- didn't really go in with a set "goal" other than learning and fellowship, but with expectations that the Lord would provide opportunities for growth-- ended up being a very rewarding study, indeed. Here's a synopsis of key ideas I picked out from the book and a few remarks about what I learned and why it matters.

In chapter 1 of this epistle, Paul says "fan into flame the gift of God" (v. 6) and "join with me in suffering for the gospel," (v. 8) and finally "What you have heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you with the help of the Holy Spirit" (v. 13-14).

In chapter 2, Paul continues: "be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus." (v 1) "Endure hardship with us" (v. 3). He gives the charge: "God's word is not chained. Therefore endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory... If we died with him, we will also live with him. If we endure, we will also reign with him. If we disown him, he will also disown us. If we are faithless, he will remain faithful because he cannot disown himself. Keep reminding (the brethren) of these things... Present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth" (v. 10-15). "Those who oppose him, he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance that leads to knowledge of the truth" (v. 25-26).

In chapter 3, Paul warns Timothy: "Have nothing to do with [people who are disobedient]" (v. 2-5), but instead "continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work" (v. 14-17).

Finally, in chapter 4, Paul declares: "Preach the Word, be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke, and encourage-- with great patience and careful instruction... Keep your head in all situations, endure hardships, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry" (v. 2-5)

Now, if you read this epistle, it is likely that what jumps out at you is not exactly what jumped out at me, but the above is the summary that makes the most sense to me.  Here is what I gained from reading II Timothy and from the fellowship and insight of the other ladies in the group:
  • Following Jesus faithfully includes suffering-- suffering in general, and suffering specifically for the sake of the gospel.
  • We are entrusted with spreading the gospel through our conduct and through the proclamation of the Good News.
  • We are called to be actively faithful to Jesus, to the Truth, in response to God's faithfulness to us.
  • The Scriptures give us knowledge and understanding of the Truth and instruction in how to live godly lives
  • With the help of the Holy Spirit, armed with the Truth of the Word, we are to always be prepared to do whatever it takes to spread the gospel and to give an answer for the hope that we have, no matter what the cost.
Phhheewww... glad I am sitting down as a write this.  That last point, especially, if I let it sink into my brain, is a high, high calling.  What a task!  I mean, really, if I read what I just wrote (and written rather quickly, actually... like in, maybe, 5 minutes), there's no way that I can absorb the challenge of what I just typed onto the page nearly as quickly or as easily as I composed it.

So ... how does this affect my daily life, my routine, my patterns, my choices, etc?  Not that this is by any means exhaustive, but here's a start:

  • I often wonder: if I do not feel like I am 'suffering for the sake of the gospel,' am I doing something wrong?  I've wondered this for a few years now.  Still pondering it, don't have an answer; I'll table this one for the time being, because here's where my heart and life are being shaped in a specific way...
  • I work in a place where talking about Jesus ought to be very easy.  Do I take full advantage of this chance when I interact with colleagues and/or with students? Since beginning the study of II Timothy, I have put much more thought and consideration into the Scriptures I choose to read to the students at the beginning of each class period since beginning this study.  Praying with my students became increasingly dearer the closer we got to the end of the year; I began to think really carefully about what I said when I prayed with them.  And the Lord was faithful to me and to my students through that time.  He gave me multiple, specific opportunities to share the gospel with my classes.  At times, kids asked some really intense questions about life, about faith, about being a Christian (in some cases, questions they admitted had been on their mind all year long).  As I answered these questions, however imperfectly, it seemed as if all 25 kids were riveted to my answer -- way more tuned in than they usually were to chemistry.  What a blessing and a burden all at the same time! 
This post has become very long.  Maybe I'll post more on this topic later on.... 

Friday, May 24, 2013

What is wisdom?

As we wrap up yet another school year, I find myself once again looking for the right parting words for my students.  I chose to leave with them the following admonishment from James...

Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.
But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.
(James 3:13-18)

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Galatians 5:22 – 24 says: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.”
The word ‘fruit’ used in this passage is a singular noun, not plural, which suggests that a person who lives through grace with the help of the Holy Spirit possesses all of these qualities.  In other words, as we strive to be like Christ, these attributes – love, joy, peace, forbearance, etc – should be part of our daily pattern as we strive for holiness.  Every day, all day long, we are faced with situations to which we can either react in a way that is governed by Christ or in a way that is governed by our flesh.  Many things evoke a passionate response—anger, love, or fear, to name a few—so the question then becomes: how do we wield our passions? Are they channeled through grace so that we grow in faith and so that our reaction to passion is good? Or do our passions give way to selfishness so that our reaction to the circumstances that brought about our passion is a sinful one?
Daily, we must die to ourselves—put our own desires and selfishness aside – in order to become more like Christ.  It is only by trusting in Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit that we can put aside the flesh.  Humans have only two choices as to how to live their lives: they either serve God or they serve themselves. In his Letter to the Romans (chapter 1), St. Paul points out that God has revealed himself to mankind: “his eternal power and divine nature have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made so that men are without excuse.”  In the third chapter of his Letter to the Romans, St. Paul tells us that the righteousness of God is revealed to us through the Law and the Prophets and that his righteousness is a gift bestowed upon those who believe in Jesus Christ. We are justified freely and redeemed by the blood that Jesus shed on the Cross.  Justification is a gift of our faith, not earned by any merit of our own “so that no man can boast.”
If we cannot earn our salvation—if it is truly a gift, based not on our own good deeds but on the love and grace of God—then why work so hard to achieve Holiness?  I Peter 1:15 says: “Just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy because I (Christ) am holy’.” Why? We obey the Father because we love him – obedience is the highest form of worship we can offer.

                                                “For I desire mercy, not sacrifice
                                                and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.”

                                                                                                                                -- Hosea 6: 8