Archive for category Faith

God All-Annoying

by Curt Martin, HCA Secondary Bible Teacher

“I know that God has wronged me and has drawn His net around me. He has blocked my way to deprive me of justice…If only I could go to His dwelling place, I would state my case before Him.” – Job

“Why, oh God, have you rejected me? You have completely engulfed me; darkness is now my only friend.” – The Psalmist

“If there is a God, He must be the devil.” – Albert Camus, philosopher

During my seminary years, my professors invited me to spend seemingly endless hours pouring over the many attributes of God, as if He were a frog in anatomy class. God’s omniscience, omnipotence, wrath, holiness, event His aseity (yeah, that’s a real thing). But it was only the proverbial school of hard knocks that introduced me to the one never-discussed attribute of deity: omni-vexing. I’ll say it plainly: sometimes God’s ways just bug me. So, in Job-ian fashion, allow me to give voice to my frustrations.

Consider:

  • God’s penchant for theological ambiguity.

For about as long as Christians have been around, they have been debating the relationship between divine sovereignty and human free will. You know, a couple of paragraphs sandwiched in the Levitical reg’s could have saved us all some grief here, Lord!

Or how about this cryptic little nugget from Matthew’s resurrection account: “The tombs also were open and many bodies of saints who had died were raised. And they came out of their tombs and entered the city.” What…? What just happened here? Did these people go get jobs and resume their lives? WE don’t know because scripture doesn’t elaborate. (There actually is fascinating theology behind this event, but it requires diligent research to understand and I prefer to be spoon-fed my doctrine.)

  • The patience of God.

“Patience is a virtue,” we are told and so it is…but not always. God, in my experience, is far too casual about a good many things. Like when I’m enduring suffering. And yes, it’s character-building and all, but frankly, I don’t care about that just then. I want it to stop, dang it! I want it over with yesterday. I’ve tried to explain this to Him rationally many times, but am always met with the same unbending stubbornness on His part. He gets all caught up on the whole character thing, and doesn’t give proper weight to my comfort! It’s galling, really.

He’s also far too patient with certain people. Many within my range of acquaintance could do with a good smiting, by my lights. I’ve offered to provide Him with a list. And yet, in case after irksome case, they go their merry, unsmitten ways. Don’t get me wrong, I’m forever grateful for His patience with my many failings and would be lost without His amazing grace toward me. But that’s different.

If you really put your mind to it, I’m confident you could add to my list, but I think my case is made. The verdict: God is indeed an annoying fellow and nowhere near as tidy and domesticated as our theological packages make out. I discussed this with a friend and she actually hinted that perhaps the deficiencies might be mine and not His. I must need some new friends. That one is kind of annoying.

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Slammin’ Famine 2016

by Sarah Case

“Revive”, Heritage Christian Academy’s theme this year, from the book of Romans.  When the Holy Spirit is working in us, a revival happens and we respond by serving God and becoming part of His plan to build His kingdom.  Revive is defined by Webster’s dictionary as to return to life; to recover life or strength; to live anew.

Feed My Starving Children (FMSC), a nonprofit christian organization committed to feeding God’s children hungry in both body and spirit.  I first learned about FMSC from a youth at our church who had packed meals previously for FMSC.  She convinced me that it was a fun event and impactful for learning to serve others.  During our first food pack for FMSC in the summer of 2014, I was amazed at the outpouring of love and excitement that went into packing each bag of rice, soy, vegetables and vitamins.  I remember after we packed the meals, they gathered our group together to pray over the box we packed.  Then they shared with us that these children often eat dirt biscuits which is a combination of dirt and rocks.  Parents feed these to their children because it fills their stomachs and helps them sleep.  This was impactful knowing that the food we packed was going straight from our hands into the hands of orphanages in over 70 countries to help starving children.  I cannot think of a better way to revive our own spirit and the spirit of those in need than to work together packing meals for children in need.  When we work together to accomplish an unselfish goal, the Holy Spirit moves in us, reviving us as well.

The second annual FMSC Slammin’ Famine packing event is scheduled for February 26th. Heritage Christian Academy’s kindergarten through 12th grade students will join NOCO Slammin’ Famine on February 26th from 12 to 2 p.m. to pack meals for the second straight year.  The Slammin’ Famine organization packs meals for “Feed My Starving Children” (FMSC) who in turn distribute meals throughout the world to those in need. The students will be packing meals consisting of rice, soy, vitamins and dehydrated vegetables.  These food packets are called MannaPack and refers to the spiritual food that was provided to the Israelites while they were wandering in the desert.

Students at Heritage reflected about the packing event and their remarks showed true of their hearts.

“I feel deeply enriched by Slammin’ Famine every time I attend because it gives me an insight into lives very different from my own and brings our school together in service.  This year will be especially fulfilling personally because our school theme of Anazao (revival) has been leading me to be more compassionate and caring towards others.” — Hannah

“I’m excited by the opportunity to serve with Slammin’ Famine.  It will allow me to reach out in a way I wouldn’t be able to otherwise.” — Jakob

“Serving God by serving others leaves my soul richly supplied.  It’s a great reminder that God provides, even by using the small things I do.” — Brooklyn

“Slammin’ Famine provides our school with an opportunity to unite and serve.  It has brought us closer together and opened our eyes to the reality of some peoples sufferings.  It is always enlightening to see pictures of those in need so it is a privilege to be able to actually serve the people we see pictures of.  This year, I have learned that to have true revival, we must first be broken.  To hear stories of people in these third world countries both informs us of their brokenness and breaks our hearts.  Slammin’ Famine is a great opportunity to start a spark for a revival in our hearts and in the hearts of those we are serving.” — Ashley

“It was fun last year and I look forward to doing it again this year.  It gives me a feeling of self-worth to be able to help an organization that helps those in need.” — Branden

“We get to have fun and hang out with friends while serving.  The event makes serving enjoyable!  By helping others, we can help revive them physically and spiritually.  By serving others it will help us get revived and closer to God.” — Tiffany

“Slammin’ Famine is a fun and engaging way for our student body to interact, but also to help those in need.  We as a body have the opportunity to interact with all grades and grow closer as a unit.  More importantly, we get to further God’s kingdom by reaching out to those in need.  I think that serving people sparks something inside our school and gets us closer to a revival.” — Luke

“Slammin’ Famine is an exhilarating and fulfilling event where the student body gets to interact and unite with one another.  All the while, we get to help others in need.  This event assists our revival by opening our eyes to the struggles that exist in the world, and allows us to realize how fortunate we are.  Through Slammin’ Famine, the student body grows closer because there is no better way to begin friendships than having a mutual goal of helping others.” — Emily

Preschool through 12th grade joined together to raise money for FMSC with “Penny Wars.”  The classes competed, each trying to raise money through pennies and add negative points to other classes with dollars and silver coins.  The “Penny Wars” lasted seven days and raised a total of $822.48.  Truly amazing!  It was inspiring to see an event pushed out by our high school student council and carried all the way through tiny hands in preschool.  All ages working together toward the common goal of feeding God’s children hungry in both body and spirit.  A true revival in the life of our students and well as those receiving the MannaPacks.

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Cleaning Closets

by Elizabeth Wright, ESL Teacher

“Every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” ~John  15:2

“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” ~1 Corinthians 13:12

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I stepped into my teaching office one Monday morning and nearly suffocated in a rack of billowy sleeves. I navigated around it, stepping over scattered props, and slumped my bags down on my desk.

“Hi,” came a muffled greeting from another rack. Stephanie, our drama director, curled herself around the costumes. “Sorry about the mess. I did make sure they didn’t leave anything on your desk.”

“Thanks.”

It wasn’t totally unexpected. Due to a lack of office space, I had taken up residence in the drama closet when I started teaching last year. It’s generally a hassle-free arrangement (plus I get window!), but twice a year, during production week, I’m forced to relax my organizational standards to include wigs and hairspray on top of my grading stack. Our students had finished their (excellent) performance of “The Music Man” the previous Saturday.

Not unexpected, but still stressful. Though there was a path to my desk Monday morning, the path disappeared frequently, occasionally just at the moment I needed to rush in and grab books for my next class. I reminded myself that I was glad Stephanie was sorting, stuffing, shelving. Someday soon it would be clean, even if I didn’t know when that day was.

Hearing a vacuum around noon that Wednesday, I avoided the office altogether, opting to plan whatever subjects I’d taken from the room earlier.

God’s pruning is also messy. When God decides to pry my heart away from money, friends, reputation, the process feels like using training wheels after a bike race.

Wednesday afternoon, I opened my office door and breathed a relaxing sigh. Stephanie had left shelves stacked neatly with labeled boxes, two costume racks along the side wall, and a thoroughly-vacuumed carpet. The office was cleaner than it had been since last fall. My heart swelled with gratitude and I silently kicked myself for having been frustrated.

Someday, I’ll have a perfectly organized, cleaned, radiant life. But until then, I’ll live in this God-ordained mess, because that’s his plan, and it’s worth it.

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Heritage Alum Says Following God is “Worth It”

by Joleen Steffen, Secondary Math Teacher

Recently, I had an email interview with a Heritage alumnus (Class of 1984) who is a friend of ours, and attended Heritage with my husband.  His post-high school education included a bachelor of arts in portraiture and business and a Master of Arts in World Christianity at Denver Seminary.  He and his wife then pursued full-time missions work in central Asia, Wales and are now in Thailand.  To protect himself and those he works with from being targeted, we will refer to him using his initials, “VN” and we have purposely not named the organization he works with.  

(JS) What is your calling/ministry? Where are the places you have ministered, and where are you currently ministering?

(VN) It is funny. You can use a lot of words to describe calling and ministry; but honestly, if you were to reduce what God has asked us to do down to it’s most simple form, it would be discipleship. Jesus said, “make disciples of all nations” and that is what we are all about. Now, because of the talents, gifts and passions God has placed in us, we work with musicians and other creative people so that they might be transformed by the power of God and begin to worship in a way that is distinctive of who they are in their own culture.

For us practically, following the call to make disciples meant living as a family thirteen years in one of the “-stans” of Central Asia where God began a move to follow “Isa” (Jesus) the Messiah among Muslim musicians. We lived among them, learned their language, studied their culture and music, taught them about the Bible, and then helped them as they began to grow as a church. Also, because translated Western songs were giving the impression that Christianity was Western, we challenged them to write and express their own worship to God in their own language and culture, and then opened a recording studio to record and distribute that worship.

After passing that ministry to the locals God asked us to follow his leading to Wales for five years where discipleship looked a bit different. Locally, the musicians God brought to us were Celtic folk musicians. And while we didn’t need to learn a different language to communicate, culturally and ideologically there was not the openness to God we saw in Central Asia. But in Wales God opened up another new avenue, the discipling and mentoring of younger missionaries who are starting ministries just as God had allowed us to do in Central Asia. Using Skype and transportation God opened up opportunities in the Far East, the Pacific Islands, the Middle East and Europe.

Now, we are continuing the discipleship of those young field workers, but God moved us to Thailand. Here, once again, we are also involved in learning a new language, culture, and religion (Buddhism) and waiting to see how God might open up doors to disciple worshippers within the creative community here.

(JS) Tell about your family.  What differences do they see in their view of the world versus those teens who were raised in the U.S.?

(VN) My wife and I have three children. A son and daughter who are both studying at a college in the US, and a fifteen year old daughter who is sophomore in high school at an international school in our city. Probably one of the biggest differences living in multiple countries  has developed in their world view is an openness and willingness to learn from other cultures as well as an awareness that every culture has both good and bad components…even our American culture.

(JS) What are some of the most important highlights you remember from your time at Heritage?  Academic, social, spiritual, or otherwise?

My children were looking (and laughing) through some of my old yearbooks when my youngest daughter exclaimed, “Were you some kind of jock?? You look like Troy Bolton in High School Musical!!”

I confess, I really did enjoy the excitement, challenge and fun of being involved in sports—especially basketball. But to this day the relationships I had with certain teachers and other students have been the lasting gifts. In fact, God used Mr. Schottleutner (my Bible teacher and later the school administrator) as a model for discipleship I still emulate as he invited some students to meet with him to read the Bible and pray before school one day a week. God used those mornings to change my spiritual life and direction.

(JS)  Right now, what message do Christian teens need to hear from someone who has ministered around the world?

No question…first of all, the stuff written in the Bible…It is all true! God is alive. He is still saving and transforming people. He is still setting people free. He is still doing miracles. He is still inviting individuals to drop their nets, to follow Him, and to find His purposes for their life.

I am not saying everyone should be a pastor or a missionary. What I am saying is that however awesome way God made you, that is how he can use you…wherever you are. But, we have to seek him and obediently follow him.

It is worth it.

(JS) And their parents?  How would you encourage and/or challenge them?  

None of us are perfect, I know this too well. But it seems what our kids need these days is normal, daily models of how to live lives of passionate follower-ship to Christ. We don’t need to be perfect to do that. We just need to be humble and willing to live lives of faith before and with our families.

Oh, and pray for God’s grace A LOT!  

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As the British Say, “Happy Christmas!”

by Stephanie Wickham, Drama Teacher

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” proclaims the ornament sitting above my fireplace. I love Christmas! Everything about this holiday makes me warm up inside! I guess it could just be the Carmel Brule latte from Starbucks I have in my hand, but I know there is more to it than that.

I’m sure you have read the blog posts or seen the dozens of Christmas movies that remind us the season is more than just giving presents. They tell us that it’s also a time of celebration and love. Some go a little deeper and take you back to the night in Bethlehem when Jesus Christ was born in a manger.  I welcome these reminders of the true meaning of Christmas and wish we would take their lessons to heart more often than we do.

My question today, however, is this: What do you really want this year? I’m not talking about the iPhone 6s or any other trendy item that will be marketed as one of the most desired gifts this Christmas season. I’m asking, when it comes down to it, what do you most care about receiving this year?

I believe it’s the memories we make, weather good or bad, that we will look back on each year. I don’t remember many gifts I received when I was younger, but I do remember sitting between my parents, listening to my dad read an Advent devotional and staring at the tree, its lights the only glow coming from the house.

I think many of us would agree that we desire a Christmas where there is laughter, joy, friendship, and family. We want to feel like we belong, that we are surrounded by people who care and celebrate simply being there with us. I find it interesting that we are so aware of this basic human need to belong on this particular holiday. I think that we are always searching for belonging, but because of the celebrations and family gatherings, we become more sensitive towards how we feel when we suddenly find ourselves surrounded by the people we believe should be fulfilling this need.

There may be many other things affecting your Christmas spirit this year; the loss of a child or parent, divorce papers, financial setbacks, or any of the other difficulties we face as humans in a messed up world. Yet when we are facing these issues, we still want to be comforted and loved by friends and family no matter how much we may deny it. We all lose the magic of Christmas as we grow. It turns into another day with garland and lights. How do we find the magic we believed in as children?

Dream with me: You wake up early on December 25th. The rest of your family has not yet woken up, but you glance out the window to see that there is snow falling gently to the ground. You get up to take a closer look at the world of white, noting that the rising sun is just catching the snow so it glitters. Thank you for snow, Lord—an amazing picture of how you cover the ugly things with a purifying beauty.  You shuffle downstairs in your pajamas to make a pot of coffee. While you wait, you turn on the tree lights and open your Bible, remembering God’s gift to the world. Then you pour your first cup of coffee, thinking about the day ahead. When your family wakes up, you will all enjoy watching each other discover the gifts under the tree. Your thoughts move on to the meal you will share with your family and friends. It will take some work, but it will also be worth it when everyone is enjoying the meal together. Your thoughts are broken as you hear another door open in the house. Here comes the family! This is my version of a perfect Christmas morning, though yours may look different.

I want to leave you with one last thought: we all have a vision of a happy Christmas. The memories are much dearer to us than anything we receive. Our desires to be loved and provide love are the deepest gifts we hope to exchange with each other. Jesus provided a picture of that love as He became a baby who would one day cleanse the world of death. He accepts you as you are; all He asks is that you come to Him and belong to Him. That baby in the manger really did come, and He really was God. When you choose to fill your life with Him, you find a joy beyond comparison no matter where you are this Christmas season. I promise that He will be the renewed Christmas spirit you are searching for. Now that is what I call a Happy Christmas!

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C is for…

by Christine Humphrey, Science Teacher

Ask my husband or my son, and they will both tell you I am a big murder mystery fan; have been since my early teen years. Two weeks ago, we went to the Denver Museum of Nature & Science on a Sunday afternoon, and I couldn’t believe my good fortune- they had an exhibit on “The Power of Poison”. Well, I certainly had to drag them both through that, and yes I did buy a book on The Poisons of Agatha Christie: A is for Arsenic by Kathryn Harkup. Although I am only up to Hemlock, it has been a fascinating read.

So, why am I talking about poisons when this is a blog for a Christian school? My mind sometimes makes strange connections, and as I sat pondering the series our pastor has been doing at church “Conduct becoming a Christian” the connection between my conduct and the mode of operation of several of the poisons I read about struck me.

C is for Cyanide.  According to Harkup, the way that Cyanide kills is by its interaction with a specific enzyme, namely cytochrome c oxidase. This “enzyme is the final step in the cascade of the reactions of respiration. An atom of iron lies at the active site of cytochrome c oxidase, and it is here that an oxygen molecule normally binds…cyanide readily takes the place of oxygen” (p.79) binding irreversibly to the iron and stopping the chemical reactions short. (Note: if you are a biology student reading this- remember why we need Oxygen??? Yes- to pull those electrons through the ETC and ultimately enable the production of ATP- the energy currency molecule of the cell). No ATP, no energy for reactions and you won’t live very long!

C is for conduct. Since September, our Pastor has been speaking on the topic of Conduct becoming a believer. He defined conduct this way “Conduct is our life, our living behavior. But more than that, it speaks to our passions and our internal spirit.” (Craig, Sept. 13). Throughout his sermons he focused on different areas of our conduct: my speech (Eph 4:29 “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouth but only such as is good for building up”; my interactions with others in terms of caring for others (I Timothy 5), particularly those of the “household of faith” as we are the living example that many non-believers will see; and my treatment of others when there are disagreements:  where sin is involved (go in private 1st– in other words, don’t gossip, deal with disagreements in a Biblical fashion); and disagreements where no sin is not involved: “why not rather be wronged…” (I Cor. 7:6b).

C is for Christian. He closed his last message on the topic with a reflection on the passage in Matthew 18 with the parable of the man who had been forgiven much, who then turned around and would not forgive a small debt that was “owed him”.  He prefaced this passage with the statement: “Not everything is worth dying for!” Christ used this story as an analogy for the great debt we each have been forgiven, and His command that followed was that we are to forgive others.  This has been a convicting series for me in many regards. As I have sat in church on different Sundays, the Holy Spirit brought to mind times where my conduct was not becoming a Christian: To my family, to my church family, and to others. This morning, I thought about how, with my conduct, I have the ability to help bring life to others or to cause decay (i.e. poison others).

May my Conduct not be like Cyanide. So, that brings me back to poisons.  Although I enjoy reading murder mysteries and have found the book by Harkup fascinating, I am praying that my conduct does not act like these poisons I have been reading about, directly or indirectly. My words and actions can directly rob someone of the energy that they need to live (like the poison Cyanide does), or they can indirectly poison others.  As a parent, I am often taken aback when I see behavior in my child that I don’t like only to realize that I modeled that same behavior for him.  God’s Word reminds me that through the Holy Spirit’s enabling, I can choose that which will be life giving to others, over that which will not.  I may not always see the direct result of my conduct- good or bad, but there is One who does see, the same One who came to give Life to me.

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Solar System Reflection

by Lori Merkley, 3rd Grade Teacher

The third grade just finished their unit on the Solar System. Every year I struggle with how to help the students grasp the immensity of the universe in relationship to the earth.  Let’s face it, I struggle teaching them that concept because I struggle with visualizing the scope of the universe too.  I would imagine we all do, don’t we?

This year I tried something different.  I asked the students to think of the universe as our school building and our classroom as the Milky Way Galaxy and then I compared those two things to the earth. I told them to think of the earth as the size of a grain of sand and they were living on that grain of sand.   Finally, in order for them to see how large God is and how small we are I told them to imagine God holding the entire school building (the universe) in just one of His hands.  This blew all of our minds away, and yet I felt like I was still missing something.

God in His immense understanding knew this, and this weekend He showed me what I missed.  He gently whispered in my ear that I was looking at it all wrong.  He told me to look up at the stars and asked me what I saw.  I said I saw a ‘bunch of tiny bright lights’.  Then he reminded me that each one of those ‘tiny bright lights’ was a sun in its own galaxy.  Some had planets much like the Milky Way and some did not.  The point was that all I could see was the sun, because the planets were too far away and too ‘tiny’ for my eyes to perceive them.

It dawned on me that if I were in different galaxy elsewhere in the universe looking back toward earth; that is what the Milky Way would look like to me.  From far away it is so small that all I would see is the light coming from our sun.   This made me feel so small and insignificant!  Who was I?  The gigantic universe pales in comparison to God.  Smaller yet in significance is our very own solar system, and even smaller still on one of the smallest planets in that system dwells all of mankind.   As I sat humbled by the fact that I am nothing in comparison with a universe of such immensity and grandeur, God whispered one more time in my ear.  He said, “Indeed you are nothing and cannot match up against all that I have created.  And yet, you are more splendid in my eyes than all the galaxies combined.  Though you are smaller than a grain of sand in comparison, I see you as clear as day.  In fact I have counted every hair on your head and saved every tear you have shed.  I know when you awake and when you lie down.  I know your thoughts before you even know them yourself. And though you are far from me, I am always by your side.”

Stunned by this realization, I chastised myself for ever believing the lie that God does not care or know about any of my problems.  You see, in trying to teach my students about the power of God when he created our immense universe, I forgot to teach them about the immense love of God that it displays.  He didn’t just create the universe to show off His power and grandeur, but to show the depth of His love for his ultimate creation-mankind.  This weekend that immense God took the time to show me, a grain of sand, that though He is so far beyond my scope of understanding, I am not beyond His.

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