Archive for February, 2015

Pondering the Power of Words

by Dr. Darcie Palmer, Secondary Science

I love words! I am an avid student and a voracious reader. My favorite authors use intriguing terms that require me to reach for a dictionary or paint vivid pictures in my mind using beautifully rendered phrases. I adore what my 8th grade students call “big science words,” because these words, when dissected, reveal very specific meanings. Just one of these terms can require a multitude of tiny words to express its full meaning. However, my greatest affection is reserved for words which expand my relationship with God; simple words which powerfully return to my thoughts over weeks, months or even years revealing new nuances about God and my faith. The word tumbling around my mind over the last year has been “anchor.” This six-letter word now speaks to me of the stability, the strength, and the freedom that abounds from God when I choose Him as the Anchor of my life.

When I initially pondered the word anchor, stability quickly popped into my mind. I pictured my family in our aluminum fishing boat at sunset during the Canadian summer. Fishing below the nearby rapids is breathtaking and likely to supply a wonderful dinner later in the evening. Once the perfect spot to catch our bounty is found, an anchor is required to maintain our position in the water’s strong current. The anchor is carefully lowered, and a firm purchase of the lake bottom is achieved.   After the anchor rope is secured to the cleat on the boat, the whole family can relax, soak in the view, and cast into the rapids in hopes of hooking a fish. This is the stability found in the teachings we obtain regarding the Christian faith. In 2 Thessalonians 3:15, we are urged to hold fast to the teachings that we have received. Knowing what I believe about God and understanding my identity in Christ enables me to stand firm in the brisk current of our present relativistic culture. Stability is mine when I am anchored to the saving knowledge of God’s love and grace.

As I further contemplated the word anchor, strength emerged as a significant asset of an anchor. The house built by the wise man on the rock came to mind. A house not just set upon a rock, but a dwelling anchored to a firm foundation of rock. The builder would have set anchors deep into the heart of the rock and subsequently would have strongly connected the house to these structures. No storm could destroy this abode. In the Book of Matthew, Jesus compared this wise builder to the man who hears His words and puts them into practice. Digging deep into God’s Word and then living my life according to it anchors me to the Rock of my salvation. These actions provide me the necessary strength to persevere through every trial and temptation.

Freedom was my most recent and surprising revelation about the word anchor. This benefit of an anchor came into focus during Ecoweek. Last May, I was blessed to serve as a chaperone for my daughter’s 6th grade class. Ecoweek is a Colorado tradition, and HCA students are fortunate to spend this time at Camp Id-Ra-Ha-Je (short for “I’d Rather Have Jesus”). Learning about wilderness survival and trying out various forms of outdoor recreation provided many opportunities to grow in our faith. The term anchor cropped up in the rappelling class. The instructors defined an anchor as “an attachment that will not fail.” In the midst of this training, they challenged the 6th graders asking, “What are your anchors in life, and are they fail-proof?” For rappelling, anchors are metal devices drilled deep into the rock to which the safety ropes are secured. Possessing confidence in the unfailing quality of the anchors proved crucial to success in this activity. Harnessed, attached to the anchor, and standing on the edge of the cliff, each participant fought an internal battle to trust. Some children simply believed and eagerly took the first backwards step off the cliff; others experienced a tearful, tense struggle before trusting the anchor. However, once the first step of faith was taken, freedom unfolded. A foot would slip, a step would be misplaced, or fatigue would halt a climber, yet the anchor held in every situation. Soon the students were laughing and whooping as they pushed away from the cliff face in joyful bounds, reached the base, and begged for one more journey down the face of the cliff. Freedom in rappelling was discovered as we each chose to trust the anchor. In Scripture, God tells us not to be terrified or discouraged, but to be strong and courageous because He is with us wherever we go.   True freedom comes when we realize that our God is the Unfailing One; we are free to live this kingdom life with abandon since God is our Anchor who will never fail.

I am so thankful that God points me back to a word again and again until I understand how to fully put that term into practice in my life.   Jesus gave an organic example of how anchoring is critical to our lives as He taught about the vine and the branches in John 15. We, the branches, can bear no fruit unless we remain attached or anchored to Jesus, the True Vine. He secures our position, He gives us strength in every storm of life, and He grants us freedom to bear fruit. Jesus tells us that this kind of living brings the Father glory and makes our joy complete. So as I walk the halls of Heritage Christian Academy and teach students about God’s amazing creation, I pray that each young person will learn to trust in and remain attached to the Anchor that will never fail them.

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Waiting…

by Dawn Cuckler, Secondary Math Teacher

Waiting has become a lost art form in our fast-paced, immediate-gratification society. Don’t want to wait for food? Microwave it, or there is always a fast food restaurant on your way to anywhere. Don’t like standing in line? Now you have a phone to give you some form of entertainment anytime, anywhere. Need information? Google can help, in 0.12 seconds flat. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE the conveniences that technology has allowed, but at some point I have to wonder about the trade-off. I remember when we used to have conversations with other people as we waited in line; now everyone is looking at their phone. When we needed to know something, we had to go to the library or a set of encyclopedias. How many things did I accidentally learn while I searched for what I actually needed to know?

Even when I study God’s Word, it is often a quick internet search or reading someone else’s thoughts and queries. When do I stop and listen for HIS voice? How often do I ask HIM how HE wants me to use my few unscheduled minutes? Why is it such a struggle to carve out time to spend with Him, being still and really, truly knowing that He is God? In a recent chapel, Seth Silvers referenced a man who reads through the entire Bible every four months. He spoke of the mind transformation that is inevitable when you spend that much time with your Jesus. How could I possible expect my few minutes to compete with all the other noise that batters me throughout the day?

What first got me thinking about this idea of waiting was a short paragraph in Francis Chan’s book Crazy Love. It had a list of some of the individuals found in Hebrews 11: The Great Hall of Faith. Now those people knew what it meant to wait! Noah worked on that “silly” boat for 120 years! Let that sink in for a minute. Abraham waited 30 years between the time he was promised a son and the time that Isaac finally came. Joseph rotted in prison for 2 years. Moses spent 40 years in Midian, and then another 40 years wandering in the desert with the whining Israelites (and he never even got to see the Promised Land). But I guess that is faith. After all, what would faith be if we didn’t have to wait…to hope without answer, to believe without evidence?

I will most certainly not be given the challenge of waiting 120 years for something, but I have a feeling the Lord has more to say than can be said in the space I usually give Him. What treasures and strengths do I miss out on in favor of all the noise? What opportunities have been lost because each moment is so full of something? So very many meaningless “somethings.” If only I could learn to wait, even just a moment longer, to hear His voice; to push away distractions and stay my mind on Him (Isaiah 26:3). Then maybe “patience [could] have its perfect work,” and maybe I could know the peace of being “perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” (James 1:4)

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Wisdom: The Art of Being Stupid in Reverse

or, Mistaken Assumptions that Cause People to Doubt God’s Wisdom in Life

by Curt Martin, Bible Teacher

“Rabbit’s clever,” said Pooh thoughtfully.

“Yes,” said Piglet, “Rabbit’s clever.”


“And he has Brain.”


“Yes,” said Piglet, “Rabbit has Brain.”


There was a long silence.

“I suppose,” said Pooh, “that that’s why he never understands anything.” – A.A. Milne

Think of someone you consider to be wise. Got ‘em in mind? Good. Now, what made you think of that person? What qualities drew you to them? Was Einstein wise? Brainy, to be sure, but wise? (And apparently never mastered the hairbrush.)

So, how about God? Sure. Even my skeptic buddies will attest that God, if He exists, would personify wisdom. Yep, God’s a pretty sharp customer: the brightest crayon in the cosmic box.

But it’s right here where people – Christians and non-Christians alike – begin to have trouble. Suppose your neighbor’s daughter was killed in a car accident. Or he’s sunk into an unrelenting depression after losing his job eight months ago. Try telling him about the sovereign wisdom of our loving God, who is supposedly authoring this script. Is God still wise? Really? After all, if He is truly sovereign, as Scripture says, why doesn’t He do something? If He can cure the blind Bartimaeus, why not just cure blindness? The problem, I think, is in our not having a clear bead on God’s purposes in this world. We can’t perceive His wisdom without first understanding his “telos,” His endgame.

Watson: Intriguing plot here, Holmes, but are you quite certain it is not so far outside the proverbial box as to be unpalatable to the huddled masses?

Sherlock: A point well taken, old boy, it does appear to emanate from a cerebral country not entirely in touch with reality. But let’s still follow this rabbit down the hole and see where it takes us…

So, let’s suppose that God has created us as free beings. To be significantly free necessarily entails both moral freedom and responsibility. For instance, if our choice to love one another is to be meaningful, there simply must be the option of not loving. A freedom which is curtailed whenever it is in danger of being misused is really no freedom at all. I think that God must embrace, within limits, a “hands off” policy that allows us to mess up. And roughly five thousand years of human free will can result in, well, a world just like ours.

Also, people (even Christians) often think that God intends a relatively trouble free life for all. So when the whole thing caves in on them, they conclude that God’s wisdom or power has broken down, or that He’s not there at all. But God has never pledged Himself to keep a fallen world happy, or to make ungodliness (or even the godly) comfortable. God is, instead, in the business of taking each of us where we are and challenging Christlikeness. He is about soul-making. And, much as it galls me to admit it, soul-making (or remaking, really) is better accomplished in the furnace of life than in a cozy, secure bed.

I know the answers to everything, so long as you ask the right questions.

One final nugget of wisdom about wisdom. Most Christians seem to assume that as they mature spiritually they will come to better comprehend God’s overarching plan and where specifically He is taking them on this journey. I’m not buying it. Wisdom does not result in God showing us His grand roadmap for our lives; it is rather intent on creating a disposition to confess that He is Lord in each situation and let Him do the driving. And when the dust clears, this is what you will know: 1) Your trust brings about His glory, 2) All things work together for good, and 3) when the DMV renews your license they will succeed in taking the most unflattering photo you’ve ever taken.

Allow me to recruit the preacher of Ecclesiastes to bring us home:

“Seek grace to work hard at whatever you do (9:10);

Live in the present and enjoy all God’s good gifts to you (7:14, 9:7);

Your part is to use all the good sense and enterprise you’ve been given, and let God measure its ultimate worth (11:1-6).

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The Problem with Polarization

by Drew Gilliland, Spanish Teacher

As you and I well know, 21st century America has become increasingly polarized. Seemingly impassable chasms have opened between conservatives espousing Tea Party values and liberals pushing for gay marriage and what conservatives see as redistribution of wealth. American Christianity is being split along similar lines. Mainstream liberal denominations have begun to ordain gay ministers and have to an extent begun to agree with liberal scholarship’s view of the Bible as a document riddled with errors and outdated Near East cultural assumptions, while many conservative churches have further dug in their heels against a perceived erosion of “Christian values.” Christians are being caught in the gap and feel like they have to be forced to choose one side or another. What are we to do?

Christians are called to be neither conservative nor liberal, neither libertarian nor populist. This quote by the great layman theologian GK Chesterton rings as true today as it did in 1924 England: “The whole modern world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives. The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of Conservatives is to prevent mistakes from being corrected. Even when the revolutionist might himself repent of his revolution, the traditionalist is already defending it as part of his tradition.” As I have studied American culture and Christian sub-culture, this observation has shown itself to be accurate on a regular basis.

In America, conservatives have a history of trying to preserve the ruins of the past. Just watch Selma, the masterful movie by Ava DuVernay about the events surrounding the infamous “Bloody Sunday” in 1965 Alabama; it potently shows this reality. Conservatives in that era (especially in the South) clung desperately to the vestiges of slavery and discrimination, and continue to cling to it (at least psychosocially) today. Evidence: after the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (a bill championed by Northern Democrats), white Southern Democrats almost unanimously switched over to the increasingly conservative Republican Party led in 1964 by Barry Goldwater, the presidential candidate who opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Ever since then, many Republican-led states have attempted to raise requirements on voting in order to keep Democrat-leaning minorities out of the polls as much as possible – still clinging to the filthy ruins of institutionalized discrimination, racism, and white privilege, realities which have ignited a firestorm of controversy in the past 6-7 months due to the events in Ferguson, Staten Island, and Cleveland.

Similarly, liberals have a track record of rushing to fix problems in society with ill-advised plans. Obamacare is a recent example. It is an unwise policy that is riddled with unintended consequences which are harmful to Americans, despite its honorable intentions. In France, after the French Revolution, revolutionaries were so radical that they ended up harming French society by the mass murder of anyone who disagreed with them during the Reign of Terror, be they liberal or conservative (in the values of that time). Communists led by Lenin in 1918 instituted all sorts of terrible policies that put countless Russians in a state of starvation. The welfare programs of the early 1990s (which were eventually majorly reformed for the better under the watch of the Clinton administration and a Republican Congress) encouraged dependency and contributed to the very poverty they were meant to alleviate. We see repeated unwise plans on the part of liberals throughout history, well-meaning or not.

We see that both “conservatives” and “liberals” both have a tendency to either create new problems or to perpetuate old ones. This doesn’t seem to be what Christ intended. He came to make all things new (a “goal” which will finally be accomplished during his second coming, but which still can happen to extent while he’s away), not to get into vicious partisan arguments and demonize those who disagree with us.

Based off Christ’s example, Christians are called to be neither liberal nor conservative, but Christlike. Jesus railed against the conservatives of his day in the Gospels. The Pharisees burdened people with rules and regulations in order to maintain (conserve) their position of power and their place in society. They viewed Jesus as a disrupter and troublemaker who would ruin their stranglehold on Jewish social life. (Is this not similar to what conservatives on Fox News fear is happening today in America? That “Christian” culture is losing its dominance?) On the other hand, what could be called liberal moral values today are equally condemned elsewhere in the Bible.

We, as Christians, must have a bigger view of the world, and ultimately, a bigger view of God than we currently do. We tend to fear for America based on alleged threats ranging from Islam to liberalism, and we hearken back to traditional values as a safety net. The “Christianity” America possessed during the 20th century possessed many qualities of which we should not be proud. Traditional values perpetuated racism, the suppression of women (a friend of mine recently had a man at her church say that the country started going downhill when women got the right to vote), corruption, and the external trappings of religion – in other words, Christendom. Do we really want Christendom? Or do we want Christianity? Do we want a veneer of Christian culture that permeates America? Or do we want Christ himself, and his kingdom? We must choose. The people of America are not our enemy. And even if they are, what does Jesus command us concerning our enemies – those who are antagonistic toward our faith, those who attack us verbally or physically? He commands (not suggests) us to love them. To welcome them into our homes and churches and to introduce them to the Savior, Jesus. Not to condone their activities, but to love them despite their behaviors. To seek them out. To humbly get to know them. To spend time with them. To befriend them. Even more, to refuse to call them a “them” but include them in the “us” of sinful humanity that needs Jesus. We really are no better. How can we do anything less? We were previously enemies of God. “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.” “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” We are now children – let us seek to “make” new brothers and sisters rather than demonizing those who do not know Christ as “other” and dangerous, as the Jews did towards the Gentiles (see Ephesians 2). Let us “[kill] the hostility” as Christ did (again, Ephesians 2). God looked for us and died for us when we hated him – how can we not do the same?

I am convinced that God calls us to be neither liberal nor conservative, but to be Christlike. Little Christs. If God fits in our conservative box, we are likely worshipping the wrong god, one made in our own image. May the true God grant us the eyes to see, first, who he really is, and second, how to interact with a society that is becoming increasingly polarized. He is giving us an incredible opportunity to show our dichotomized society “a still more excellent way” – the way of love combined with truth.

May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you, brothers and sisters.

Epilogue

Please let me say, “Thank you!” to the Heritage Christian Academy community. Just 6-7 months ago, I would have been astounded if you had told me that I would be a teacher at this wonderful institution. Thank you so much for including me in your lives. I love Jesus and believe 100% in the inerrancy of Scripture, and I believe that these discussions are part of learning to love Christ better. I love all of you with the love of Christ and am seeking to jumpstart robust and positive dialogue – to get us to love God with all our mind, if you will. I am proud to be an American and love my country, but, like all of us, I am first and foremost a child of God and a citizen of his kingdom. These are my thoughts, borne of my own study of Scripture and the aforementioned issues, so if you have thoughts and concerns, please come speak with me personally. I am putting my views out there in an attempt to stimulate dialogue, and I want to learn. After all, is that not what a Christ-centered educational institution is intended for?

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