“If a piece of meat goes rotten, it’s no use blaming the meat. That’s what happens when meat is left out on its own. The question to ask is, Where is the salt? If a house goes dark at night, it’s no use blaming the house. That’s what happens when the sun goes down. The question to ask is, Where is the light? If society becomes more corrupt and dark, it’s no use blaming society. That’s what fallen human nature does, left unchecked and unchallenged. The question to ask is, Where are the Christians?”
I love this quotation from Christopher J. H. Wright’s, The Mission of God’s People:
Good words to reflect on, I think.
Image credit: http://jasonfranklin.wordpress.com
Today is the first day of school for a lot of people. As a youth minister, I’m very aware of this because my students were (generally) bummed about it yesterday at church. As a grad student, I’m also very aware of it because today I have taken the plunge and started the process of learning Hebrew. And if I wasn’t already aware that today was Back to School Day, I would’ve figured it out quickly once I checked Facebook this morning, as my news feed was blowing up with everyone’s pictures of their kids dressed up and ready for the First Day of School.
So for a lot of folks, today is a big day, and it got me thinking about some important lessons that the First Day of School reminds us of:
(1) We need to be prayerful on behalf of our students. As a youth minister this is something that I’m very aware of, but it is hard to overemphasize how difficult it is to be a young person today and to cling to Christian values, and how much our young people need our prayers and support.
I am not trying to make a political statement or start a debate on the issue of prayer in schools or anything like that; I am simply making the observation that our society is an increasingly dark place, and this darkness is absolutely manifested in our schools. Teens (and even those who aren’t yet teens) are exposed to all sorts of things that are contrary to a Christian worldview, and resisting those things can be difficult.
But there’s good news as well: a shining light makes the biggest difference in a dark place! Pray not only that our students resist the darkness, but that they shine their lights and point others to Jesus Christ.
(2) We should be thankful for educators. On the whole, I think teachers tend to get a bad rap. Certainly some teachers are not as good, or as caring, or as dedicated as they could be, but on the whole, teachers are people who care about young people and want to do what they can to help them (come to think of it, that entire last sentence could probably be applied to youth ministers as well!).
And really, they have pretty tough jobs: they have to do a lot of work to stay current in their field, they have to deal with children with significant behavior problems (and the parents who produced them!), they get to work long hours before and after school grading papers, working on lesson plans, and going to school activities, and often they spend significant portions of their (not always great) salaries to buy additional resources for their classrooms and students.
Be thankful for educators! Encourage them, tell them you appreciate their efforts, and try to be cooperative when they need something from you (helping your child with homework, getting a paper signed, coming to a parent/teacher conference, etc.).
(3) We should realize how quickly our lives pass by. My first day of Kindergarten was 25 years ago, a quarter of a century. But seriously, I can remember it like it was just yesterday! A repeated theme I saw on Facebook today was parents who couldn’t quite believe that their kids had gotten so old so fast!
I mentioned this a couple of weeks ago, but it really is amazing how quickly time flies. The Bible says that our life is like a mist, something that is here for a short time and then vanishes. And as I see pictures on my news feed of college students who I think should still be in high school, high school students who should still be in grade school, and kindergarteners who should still be in diapers, it really hits home.
Our lives will be gone before we know it; we must make the most of the time we have!
(4) We need to never stop being students. I’m not talking about formal education here, but rather that we need to always have the attitude of being learners—we should never think of ourselves as knowing all there is to know on a given subject and always be willing to learn more.
This is one of my favorite things about the preaching minister that I work with. He is in his 50s and has decades of experience in ministry, but he is always looking to learn new things so he can stay current. He reads constantly, and is always interested in examining things that I come across in my studies. What a great example that is!
I know so much more about life, ministry, and theology than I did two, five, and ten years ago. But I am by no means I finished product, and I hope and expect to know a lot more in two, five, and ten years down the road than I do now.
One of these days, if the Lord wills, I will finish my grad school education. But that won’t be mark the end of my learning, as I plan to continue doing that until the end of my life.
What do you think? Agree or disagree? Did you think of an important Back to School Lesson that I left out?
This week I am working on finishing up research for an exegetical paper on 1 Peter which I will hopefully be able to write next week. It is somewhat important that I finish it up next week, as the following week my fall classes in Greek and Hebrew begin. Yuck.
Here are a few random articles and other items for you to consider:
(1) I enjoyed this blog post which discussed the importance of benevolence ministry in helping those in our world who are in need. As a minister, I can tell you that those whom we help through providing food or clothing will rarely go on to a life of discipleship, but the point of this article is that that doesn’t matter. Here is a takeaway thought that I think is important: “Jesus showed compassion and mercy to people who would never become disciples and so should we.”
(2) Here is a thought-provoking post called, “3 Phrases Christians Should Quit Relying On.” I strongly agree with his distaste for the first two phrases he discusses, although I take issue with the third one.
(3) Earlier in the week my wife and I celebrated our seventh wedding anniversary. Here is a post I wrote about that.
(4) This is completely random, but I am excited about some things that are happening and are in the works at the Farmington Church of Christ. If you don’t have a church family that you are a part of, come check us out!
Monday was my anniversary, so I spent the day hanging out with Caroline, and we did all sorts of fun things, including a visit to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. It was pretty neat, and one of the parts I enjoyed was an exhibit they had on George Washington which featured papers of his, letters written to him, portraits of him, etc.
One which particularly caught my eye was written by William Thornton, a man who served as the architect of the Capitol and knew Washington quite well. Apparently, the notion had developed that Washington was a very grave and somber man, and so, about 25 years after his death, Thornton wrote to give a more detailed description of what the first US President was like:
“He was occasionally grave, when other men laughed, for he had much to think of…He was a man of genius, & wrote some beautiful little pieces of poetry. But above all he was a man of piety, a real Christian, and in the language of scripture, walked humbly before God.”
–William Thornton of George Washington, August 16, 1823
That’s a tribute I would be proud of.
I go back and forth quite a bit in my thoughts on the relationship between God, government, Christians, politics, etc. I read this yesterday in a journal article and found it helpful:
“Jesus lived in a conquered province in an empire whose imperialistic ruler stood for everything that was antagonistic to the revealed faith of the Jews. Jesus was not a revolutionary but instead conformed to the laws of civil government. Nowhere did he denounce the legitimate power of the state. Jesus paid his taxes (Matthew 17.24-27). He recognized the authority of Pontius Pilate, even when Pilate unjustly delivered him over to his enemies (John 19.11). Jesus reminded him, however, that his authority was not autonomous (John 19.10-11) but that it was delegated from the One who was above. Thus, in practice and precept Jesus recognized that the government under which he lived was ordained of God.”
–David Plaster, in Grace Theological Journal 6 (Fall 1985), p. 437.
Seven years ago today, I said “I do”, and chose Caroline to be my wife.
She was beautiful, funny, intelligent, playful, serious about her faith, and a Braves fan, and I thought she would be an excellent wife.
And how she has exceeded my expectations! Consistently drawing me closer to God, Caroline cheers me on when I succeed, encourages me when I fail, and corrects me when I step out of line. We have so much fun together, and there is no one I would rather talk to or spend time with.
And if I were writing this a couple of years ago, perhaps that is all I would say. But then our sweet daughter Kinsley was born, and I got to witness my beloved wife become the World’s Greatest Mom as well. Kinsley is wonderful—she is an adorable little girl, so fun and happy, and she fills her parents’ hearts with joy.
And yet, at the same time (this probably will not surprise you), can I tell you that it is hard to raise a beautiful little girl with significant special needs? The revelation of Kinsley’s condition has significantly changed our lives, but it has also helped me to see how truly amazing the woman I married seven years ago is.
Caroline takes Kinsley to therapy eight times a week now (eight!). At therapy, she learns all she can so that she can work with Kinsley additionally when they are at home together. Also at home, she provides all the special care that Kinsley requires: patching her eyes to help her vision, adding thickener to her drinks, giving her all the anti-seizure medicine she needs, making sure she spends time in her stander. She researches Kinsley’s condition on the internet, and learns as much as she can from other mothers with special needs children.
She does all this while making sure that we pay our bills and eat food and all the little things that keep our house running smoothly. And she does it all with less help than she deserves from a husband who possesses a (wonderful) job which demands much of his time and a grad school program that does as well. She is, unquestionably, the rock of our family.
Caroline, from the bottom of my heart, I echo the words of Proverbs 31.29:
“Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.”
Our adventure together has taken some unexpected and unchosen turns, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I love you and choose you forever.
So, I turn 30 tomorrow.
Knowing for some time that this day has been coming, I have had a lot of opportunity for reflection and a variety of thoughts…
–Thoughts about our youth-obsessed culture, and how we frantically try to hold on to youth and wish that we were younger than we are.
–Thoughts about how, as a product of my culture, I also wish I was younger than I am.
–Thoughts about how quickly life passes (James 4.13-14). Can I really be this old? Was high school over a decade ago?
–Thoughts about how much (little?) I have accomplished in my life. What have I done with the time I have been given?
–Thoughts about the future, and how weary I get sojourning in this place that is not my true home (Philippians 3.20).
–Thoughts about how my body doesn’t do things as quickly or as strongly or as well as it used to, and how it seems to always hurt.
–Thoughts about being an “old youth minister”, and the challenges of relating to teens who are more than a decade younger than I am.
–Thoughts about how much I’ve learned over the last several years, and how much more I still have to learn.
–Thoughts about all the blessings which God has heaped upon me, and the curious anticipation of what He has in store for me.
“Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations.Before the mountains were brought forth,or ever you had formed the earth and the world,from everlasting to everlasting you are God.
You return man to dustand say, “Return, O children of man!”For a thousand years in your sightare but as yesterday when it is past,or as a watch in the night.
You sweep them away as with a flood;they are like a dream, like grass that is renewed in the morning:in the morning it flourishes and is renewed;in the evening it fades and withers.
For we are brought to an end by your anger;by your wrath we are dismayed.You have set our iniquities before you,our secret sins in the light of your presence.
For all our days pass away under your wrath;we bring our years to an end like a sigh.The years of our life are seventy,or even by reason of strength eighty;yet their span is but toil and trouble;they are soon gone, and we fly away.Who considers the power of your anger,and your wrath according to the fear of you?
So teach us to number our daysthat we may get a heart of wisdom.Return, O Lord! How long?Have pity on your servants!Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,and for as many years as we have seen evil.
Let your work be shown to your servants,and your glorious power to their children.Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us,and establish the work of our hands upon us;yes, establish the work of our hands!”
My prayer is that I learn to number my days, appreciating each as a gift from God, and using each to His glory.
- ▼ August (7)
- ► 2012 (103)
- ► 2011 (35)
- ► 2010 (34)
- ► 2009 (67)
- ► 2008 (100)
- ► 2007 (102)
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