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October 2018 Highlights

Katie Greer: Technology Training

Katie Greer: Technology Training

PCA was blessed to have Katie Greer share with our students, staff and families several weeks ago as she shared how to make the time spent on technology as safe and productive as possible. Katie has been sharing her valuable insights and understanding across the country for the past seven years, and we are thankful that she was able to educate our community as well.

Below are some highlights from what Katie shared with our PCA community followed by some resources and additional links to helpful websites and books if you want to continue to learn more about how to make technology safe and productive in your family.

First, Katie shared that students today spend an incredible amount of time in front of screens – including personal smart phones, school and/or personal computers/iPads/tablets, as well as TVs for entertainment and gaming purposes. Studies show that students spend an average of 44.5 hours/week in front of screens. Another study Katie mentioned showed that students who spent four hours/day on their computers doing “school work” averaged only 41 minutes of actual “school work” – the rest was spent on social media, entertainment sites, etc.

Katie shared some amazing stories of how social media has been used to promote social causes raising millions of dollars to help people in need and connect people from across the globe. However, Katie did want parents and students alike to know that federal law prohibits students from having social media accounts until the age of 13. She said that while you can teach a student how to use social media, you can’t give them the maturity to be successful. Katie also shared the importance of using the privacy settings on all social media – you wouldn’t let a stranger just stroll through your life, why let them do it online?

Katie shared difficult statistics relating to technology and addiction – 50% of teens feel addicted to their mobile devices and 78% of teens check their phones hourly. Katie shared the importance of establishing boundaries around technology use so that students have “free time” to allow their minds to rest and be creative. According to Katie it is important to establish the rules of your house early and to be consistent with the application.

Katie also went through the pros and cons of various popular apps with the students – from Snapchat to Instagram, or Facebook and Twitter for the older crowd! She gave real life examples of people not using these social media apps well and the enormous price they paid for their misuse. She also talked about sexting – what she referred to as a “cute” word the culture has given to what is actually the sharing of child porn – which is the taking or sharing of any picture of a minor that is sexually explicit (short definition). Katie said that 50% of teens aged 13-17 have either created and sent or received one of these images and that most kids admit to passing along those images to others without the sender’s permission or knowledge. Katie also shared about the dangers of cyberbullying and online solicitation and told the students about real life situations to warn them how real this threat can be.

Finally, Katie shared with students about the importance of being safe if they are going to play online games like Fortnite and how playing against people that they don’t know can lead to unintended negative consequences.

Katie gave parents several guidelines to help them navigate the technology waters. Here is a quick summary of what she shared:

1. Ask questions of your children, don’t be shy about knowing what they are doing and with whom they are spending time.

2. Be clear about expectations and be consistent with enforcement. Technology is a privilege, not a right.

3. Students should not have their devices (smart phone, computer, iPad, etc.) in their rooms at night.

4. Utilize mandatory shut off times and places to get back your family time. Example: no technology at the dinner table.

5. Spot-check your children’s technology to make sure they are being safe and productive (which is different than snooping).

6. Check up on the friends and followers that your children have in their social media. Be aware.

7. Team up with other parents, ask for help and share what you know about other children with their parents!

Katie also suggested that parents utilize the parental controls already on the various devices that your children use – these are a great first line of defense, can be extremely helpful and are free! Katie isn’t a fan of other tools that parents can use to monitor activity or filter content because many of these tools collect data on your children and sell that information to outside sources; however, since Katie’s children are currently 5- and 7-years old, some of the tools that our family uses may not be suitable for younger children. For instance, we use an app called Life360 that tells us where our children’s phone is (and most likely where they are since they are NEVER without their phone) – and we have found that app to be extremely valuable from a parenting perspective. We also use Covenant Eyes as a filtering and monitoring tool and while it is true that this tool isn’t 100% safe or effective, it has served our family well and we find it well worth the cost at this time.

Additional Resources:

  • Where do I find helpful information about technology?

Katie Greer is a nationally-recognized expert on technology and her website has dozens of helpful articles, videos and a blog to keep you informed as a parent.

http://www.klgreer.com/

ConnectSafely.org is a nonprofit organization dedicated to educating users of technology about safety, privacy and security. Their website has research-based safety tips, parents’ guidebooks, advice, news and commentary on all aspects of tech use and policy.

https://www.connectsafely.org/

Covenant Eyes is a fantastic monitoring and filtering tool for parents to help protect their family. Their website also has resources and helpful information for parents.

https://www.covenanteyes.com/

Common Sense is a leading independent nonprofit organization dedicated to helping kids thrive in a world of media and technology. They empower parents, teachers, and policymakers to help them harness the power of media and technology as a positive force in all kids’ lives.

https://www.commonsensemedia.org/

Focus on the Family remains one of the nation’s top family organizations and they have collected and written numerous helpful articles about family safety with technology.

https://www.focusonthefamily.com/parenting/family-safety

  • What if I want to read and learn more about technology and how it affects my family?

Book Recommendations:

Screens and Teens by Kathy Koch, PhD.
Growing Up Social by Gary Chapman and Arlene Pellicane
The Digital Invasion by Dr. Archibald Hart
12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You by Tony Reinke
iGen by Jean M. Twenge
Screenwise by Devorah Heitner
Parent's Guide to Understanding Social Media by Mark Oestreicher and Adam McLane

BWi 2018

BWi Training on Gender and Sexuality Issues

Honestly, something new appears in the headlines almost every day relating to the issues of gender and sexuality in our culture today. Just the other day a high school in Texas announced that they would not have the traditional king and queen for Homecoming because that binary distinction of male and female would be discriminatory and unfair. In an effort to be more “inclusive,” so many normative things in our culture are being challenged and our kids, for the most part, are struggling with their desire to not come across as “anti” and “haters” to those who oppose Biblical norms.

So, what’s a young person to do in a world where men can use a woman’s bathroom or compete on a female athletic team?

Author Ryan T. Anderson from The Heritage Foundation asked these same questions and was shocked at what he learned in the research for this book When Harry Became Sally. In an effort to inform and equip our students on these difficult issues, this year’s Biblical Worldview Institute (BWi) will tackle the tough issues of gender and sexuality from a Biblical perspective. Most PCA parents are aware that the yearly BWi conference is one of the highlights of our worldview training for students, families and faculty – and this year may be one of our best. The typical line-up of incredible speakers has been made even better with afternoon breakout sessions to allow students to choose two sessions of their interest then learn in a smaller group setting and actually ask questions of the speakers.

Thursday morning, November 8, will include two panel discussions. The first panel discussion will feature Ryan T. Anderson along with Walt Heyer, Ricky Chelette and Hope Harris talking about how the Gospel can bring hope and healing to a broken world. The second session will examine when faith and freedom collide and feature Ryan T. Anderson along with First Liberty’s Chelsey Youman and Alliance Defending Freedom attorney Jeremy Tedesco and several ADF clients including Kelvin Cochran, Jack Phillips and Carl and Angel Larsen. Both panel discussions will be moderated by Dr. Matthew Hall from Boyce College.

Friday, November 9, will once again feature ADF attorney Jeremy Tedesco sharing about the collision of faith and freedom as he shares the stories of three of ADF’s clients who have faced legal threats and charges for practicing their faith in the public square. Author and conference speaker Joe Dallas along with pureHope’s Noel Bouche will share about the devastating effects of pornography in our culture today followed by the personal testimony of incredible transformation of Walt Heyer – a man who believed the lie of gender dysphoria and transitioned to a woman only to find salvation in Jesus Christ and then returned to being a man. The morning will end with student-favorite Ben Schettler and his presentation titled The Culture, You, and the Gospel.

Parents, your students have an incredible opportunity to listen and learn from several of our nation’s leading experts and faithful followers of Christ as they discuss some difficult, but important issues. But this doesn’t mean that students are not going to have additional questions when they get home. If you want to be equipped for those meaningful conversations, please make every effort to attend the BWi sessions yourself! Also, Middle School parents, you will receive an additional email that discusses the option of opting out from either Thursday or Friday or both days if you believe the content will be too difficult or mature for your student. Please make sure you read that email and watch the video for further explanation. If you do plan to attend all or part of the BWi conference, there is a small registration fee. Check out the BWi registration link on the PCA website under the PCA Life section. If you have any specific questions about the speakers, you can email me, Dan Panetti, at dpanetti@prestonwoodchristian.org

BWi Thursday, November 8

8:45-9:20 Session 1 – What’s happening to gender and sexuality?
Ryan Anderson

9:30-10:20 Panel Discussion I – Believing the Gospel for Healing and Change
Ryan Anderson Ricky Chelette
Hope Harris Walt Heyer
Dr. Matthew Hall - moderator

10:40-11:25 Panel Discussion II – When Faith and Freedom Collide
Ryan Anderson Jeremy Tedesco
Chelsey Youman Dr. Matthew Hall - moderator

BWi Friday, November 9

8:45-9:30 Does the Constitution Constrain Liberty?
Jeremy Tedesco with ADF clients Cochran, Phillips, Larsen

9:30-10:10 Justice, Dignity and the Problem of Porn
Joe Dallas and Noel Bouche
Aszia Pearson

10:20-10:45 Finding True Freedom
Walt Heyer

10:45-11:25 The Culture, You, and the Gospel
Ben Schettler

Kingdom Education Ministries

KEM – Kingdom Education Ministries

If you’ve been around PCA for any length of time, you’ve heard Dr. Larry Taylor refer to Kingdom Education – the idea that the church, the family and the school can work in concert to provide a biblically-solid education for students equipping them for future obstacles and opportunities. Well, you may not know that the phrase “Kingdom Education” comes from Dr. Glen Schultz and it is the heart and desire of Dr. Schultz to make sure that your family knows what “Kingdom Education” is and how that concept impacts your family. Dr. Schultz has recently taken much of his teaching and training on Kingdom Education and made it available as an online resource on his website www.kingdomeducationministries.com. He is willing to offer this resource to PCA parents at a discount, but this is a limited time offer until the end of October. Check out the website and use our school code PCAT18 for the discount.

October 2017 Highlights

13 Reasons Why Not

13 Reasons Why Not

Recently Netflix released a series targeted to teens that deals with the issue of suicide. Now, you’re first reaction may be negative…or it may be positive…and I think both responses require a second look.

First, the positive response. Many are saying that this new series, based on the 2007 book by Jay Asher, is helping bring a difficult subject out into the light of conversation and examination – and that is definitely a positive. Regardless of which statistics you’re reading, the rise of anxiety, depression and suicide, especially among young adults, is staggering and currently on a steady upward trajectory. Consider, just for a minute, the following statistics:

  1. Untreated depression is the number one risk for suicide among youth. Suicide is the third leading cause of death in 15 to 24 year olds and the fourth leading cause of death in 10 to 14 year olds.
  2. The NIMH estimates that in the United States, 16 million adults had at least one major depressive episode in 2012. That’s 6.9 percent of the population. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 350 million people worldwide suffer from depression. It is a leading cause of disability.
  3. Data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health highlights the problem among young adults. From 2008 to 2010, more than 8 percent of young adults between the ages of 18 and 22 reported a major depressive episode in the previous year.
  4. 11% is the percentage of adolescents who have a depressive disorder by the age of 18.
  5. 30% is the number of college students who reported feeling depressed, which disrupted their ability to function in school.

If the program is not only raising awareness, but resulting in either people getting help or others being more aware, sensitive, and willing to engage with those who suffer from anxiety or depression, that would have to be seen as a positive. However, the negative response is also compelling. The show is much more than just a suicide awareness/prevention commercial – and, some will argue, 13 Reasons Why actually makes suicide look more appealing to teens. From what I could gather without watching the program myself, the main character commits what others refer to as a “revenge suicide” – meaning that her death is supposed to be the revenge that she gets on a series of people who made her life miserable.

A couple of thoughts are important to consider. First, does the series “glamorize” suicide in a way that those who might contemplate the act could be moved closer in their decision-making process? Second, does the actual depiction of the suicide help or hurt this concept – apparently the suicide act itself, while awful because a young girl dies by her own hand, is depicted in a very “tame” or peaceful manner.

In addition to the concept of suicide, which would appear to be enough for consideration, the program also introduces a number of other topics/issues that may not be welcome viewing in your household. Without going into greater detail, suffice it to say that suicide isn’t the only material that is objectionable in the program.

So, whether you think 13 Reasons Why is objectionable, suitable or even serving an important function, I strongly recommend that you make sure that you’re familiar with the content before allowing your children to watch and digest the imagery and ideas in this program – and, yes, the show recently announced that it will be back for a second season – so pay attention.

Resources:

For additional information about 13 Reasons Why and the issue of depression, check out the following articles, books, resources:


Parent Book Discussions

Parent Book Discussions

I would like to have some parent book discussions for the 2017-18 school year and these are the three books that I’m proposing – love to hear your thoughts and/or recommendations for any additional books or if these three sound interesting and informative to you as a parent. The idea would be to purchase the book, read it and then gather together for a group discussion for about an hour which I would lead. You wouldn’t have to have read the book – you could just come and listen and engage – but the more who read it beforehand, the better the conversation. I would look to offer these parent book discussions twice for each book – once in the morning (say at 8:15-9:15 am) and once around the lunch hour (11:45-12:45) where you can bringyour own lunch and enjoy food, fellowship and some stimulating dialogue. I would like to offer these book discussions at the Plano campus as well as the North campus depending on interest levels.

I’ve selected (but am not tied down to) these three books because I believe they are important and informative to the conversation of raising godly children in this current culture. Please email me your thoughts, interest, suggestions, etc. at dpanetti@prestonwoodchristian.org regarding your interest in the book discussion idea.Thank you!

The Tech-Wise Family: Everyday Steps for Putting Technology in Its Proper Place

by Andy Crouch

(Book description from Amazon.com)

Making conscientious choices about technology in our families is more than just using internet filters and determining screen time limits for our children. It's about developing wisdom, character, and courage in the way we use digital media rather than accepting technology's promises of ease, instant gratification, and the world's knowledge at our fingertips. And it's definitely not just about the kids.

Drawing on in-depth original research from the Barna Group, Andy Crouch shows readers that the choices we make about technology have consequences we may never have considered. He takes readers beyond the typical questions of what, where, and when and instead challenges them to answer provocative questions like, Who do we want to be as a family? and How does our use of a particular technology move us closer or farther away from that goal? Anyone who has felt their family relationships suffer or their time slip away amid technology's distractions will find in this book a path forward to reclaiming their real life in a world of devices.

Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family

by Paul David Tripp

(Book description from Amazon.com)

Winner of the ECPA Book of the Year Award for Christian Living

What is your calling as a parent?

In the midst of folding laundry, coordinating carpool schedules, and breaking up fights, many parents get lost. Feeling pressure to do everything “right” and raise up “good” children, it’s easy to lose sight of our ultimate purpose as parents in the quest for practical tips and guaranteed formulas.

In this life-giving book, Paul Tripp offers parents much more than a to-do list. Instead, he presents us with a big-picture view of God’s plan for us as parents. Outlining fourteen foundational principles centered on the gospel, he shows that we need more than the latest parenting strategy or list of techniques. Rather, we need the rescuing grace of God—grace that has the power to shape how we view everything we do as parents.

Freed from the burden of trying to manufacture life-change in our children’s hearts, we can embrace a grand perspective of parenting overflowing with vision, purpose, and joy.

Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life...And Maybe the World

by William H. McRaven

(Book description from Amazon.com)

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

BASED ON THE INCREDIBLE GRADUATION SPEECH WITH OVER 10 MILLION VIEWS ON YOUTUBE

If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.

On May 17, 2014, Admiral William H. McRaven addressed the graduating class of the University of Texas at Austin on their Commencement day. Taking inspiration from the university's slogan, "What starts here changes the world," he shared the ten principles he learned during Navy Seal training that helped him overcome challenges not only in his training and long Naval career, but also throughout his life; and he explained how anyone can use these basic lessons to change themselves-and the world-for the better.

Admiral McRaven's original speech went viral with over 10 million views. Building on the core tenets laid out in his speech, McRaven now recounts tales from his own life and from those of people he encountered during his military service who dealt with hardship and made tough decisions with determination, compassion, honor, and courage. Told with great humility and optimism, this timeless book provides simple wisdom, practical advice, and words of encouragement that will inspire readers to achieve more, even in life's darkest moments.


BWi 2017

BWi 2017

It’s not too early to be thinking about our upcoming Biblical Worldview Institute on Nov. 9-10, 2017 – I’m thinking about it already! There are two reasons I’m thinking about BWi right now – let me share them with you.

First, I’m thinking about BWi because the videos from the 2016 BWi conference are online and ready for you to watch! You’ve probably heard from your students all about the incredible lineup of speakers we had this past November – from Trip Lee (his video is not included due to a contractual agreement) and DA Horton (his Racial Conciliation presentation was incredible!) to Dr. Michael Strauss (I think you get your doctoral degree for listening to his presentation). The entire BWi session titled TRUTH: Fact, Fiction or Fantasy is available on the PCA website under the PCA Life/Biblical Worldview Institute tab – check them out.

www.prestonwoodchristian.org/bwivideos

Secondly, I’m thinking about BWi because we’ve already booked several speakers for the November 9-10 event. Our theme for this year’s BWi is ENGAGE and we have several outstanding speakers such as John Stonestreet, president of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, and Brett Kunkle, student impact director at Stand to Reason.

But here’s my number one reason to include a brief update and commercial for BWi – to invite YOU to attend! Yes, this is a student conference, but the speakers and topics are relevant for every-aged audience and we would love for you to attend not only to hear the speakers yourself, but also so that you can dialogue with your students at home following the event. While we will have our 7th-12th grade students listening to the speakers, the conference is open to all parents (and grandparents) with students of any age – from PreK to alumni! Also, if you have a friend who has children not at PCA, invite them along, too – one of the best advertisements for our school and we really, really want to get this valuable information out into the Christian community!

Please, mark these dates on your calendar now – Thursday, November 9th and Friday, November 10th from 8am-noon each day and carve out those mornings to come and listen to our Biblical Worldview Institute – you’ll be very glad you did!

The Cure for ADHD?

The Cure for ADHD?

At least that’s what you’ve heard, right? It’s the “fidget spinner” and according to every student that has one, it’s the cure for ADD – it helps the student focus – an intense focus that turns wandering, aimless minds into laser-sharp tools. All because a small device is spinning rapidly between one’s thumb and finger. Why didn’t they have this when I was in school – I could have gone to Harvard!

Well, as you probably guessed, the fidget spinner is probably more like this generation’s snake oil – there might be some truth to the claims, but this little spinner isn’t making Einsteins out of every student that has one. There may also be some “unspoken” dangers – and more than just the annoyance of that little humming sound it makes.Check out these two articles on the fidget spinner – the one from The Atlantic may be a little more philosophical than practical, but it’s still a good read on the subject.

5 Reasons to Ban Fidget Spinners from Every Classroom in America

The Fidget Spinner Explains the World: The latest cultural trend is a perfect fossil of human life in the immediate present. Ian Bogost, The Atlantic, May 12, 2017


Spring Forward on School Choice!

Spring Forward on School Choice!

Another year, another legislative session in Texas…and, yet again, no progress made here in Texas on making private education more affordable for the average citizen! Texas is far behind other states in providing financial incentives for businesses and other opportunities which can make a private education more accessible for those seeking an alternative to the state’s public education system.

But the battle isn’t just down in Austin between legislators. Governor Abbott has called a special session and school choice is one of the items on the agenda – so pay attention this summer to the continued debate.

One of the things that you need to understand is that there are those within the Christian community who do not support private education and are unwilling to make this option more affordable to others. Dr. Larry Taylor, Head of School here at Prestonwood Christian Academy, is leading the charge here in the state to educate others on not only the value and importance of a Christian education, but also the latest opportunities for financing options that lawmakers should be considering.

During this past legislative session, a series of articles were published in the Baptist Standard airing both sides of the issue. An article written by Marv Knox, editor at the Baptist Standard, puts forth the idea that school choice violates the Christian mandate to care for “the least” (as he puts it) in our society.Dr. Taylor counters this thought with a compelling and reasoned response to Mr. Knox and you should take the time to read both opinions offered.

Article by Marv Knox:

https://www.baptiststandard.com/opinion/editorial/...

Response by Dr. Taylor:

https://www.baptiststandard.com/opinion/other/2005...

Where Do You Get Info?

Where do you get valuable information?

In my position as Worldview Director for PCA, I am constantly examining the culture, looking for ideas/issues that will be facing our students in the days ahead. There are a variety of sources that I use to attempt to keep up with the culture – but I constantly feel behind, out-of-touch, overwhelmed and I need your help.

First, I’d love to know where you get your information – what’s your “go-to” source for relevant information?

Second, I’ve love to know what issues you’d like to know more about – issues, conversations, concepts where you need help thinking through, discussing, wrestling with from a biblical perspective, so that you can engage in meaningful and intentional dialogue at home with your family. I’m thinking about issues like the “bathroom bill” and transgender issues, the legalization of marijuana, anxiety and depression, racial conflict, pornography, technology, the worldwide refugee crisis, or the spread of radical Islam – are these topics that you’re having conversations about in your home, topics where you’re looking for good information and resources? If there are other issues, what are they?

Finally, I’ve love to hear from you – email me at dpanetti@prestonwoodchristian.org and share with me those resources as well as those issues you’d like to hear and know more about so that you can engage in training your students on those subjects.

December 2016 Highlights

BWi 2016 - TRUTH

If you’ve been paying attention to our culture recently, you’d have to agree that truth has a different definition than when we were kids (which is like ages ago!) Today truth means whatever you want it to mean. The buzz words you need to know are as follows:

  1. Truth is now deemed to be relative. Your truth is as valid as my truth since each truth is based on one’s own personal experience or feelings.

  2. We live in what is called a postmodern society. This means that truth no longer has to be verified or proven or factual like in the scientific “modern” times. What does this mean for our children? It means that they will live in a culture where people can define their own reality. We see this already in terms of sexuality and gender, and it’s beginning to influence our concept of race as well. This concept has been codified in our laws by our nation’s highest court. Think about the statement written by Justice Kennedy in the Planned Parenthood vs. Casey decision: At the heart of liberty is the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life. According to Kennedy and many others, the essence of freedom means that you can literally define your own reality. You make your own rules. You are the captain of your own destiny. You are the master of your fate. Our Biblical Worldview Institute (BWi) conference this year was coordinated to counter this relative idea of truth. Students will have the opportunity to listen to several of this nation’s leading thinkers and writers from a Biblical worldview perspective and will walk away, hopefully, equipped to stand boldly for the Truth of God’s Word. Students from several other Christian schools will join our PCA students for these two days of intensive worldview training – and you are invited to come and listen as well! Mark off the dates of Thursday, Nov. 10 and Friday, Nov. 11 from 8 a.m.--noon each day. Below is a list of speakers and topics by day:

    Thursday, Nov. 10
  • Dr. Frank Turek – How Do We Know What is True?
  • Dr. Michael Strauss – Do Science and the Bible Conflict?
  • Dr. Jeremiah Johnson – Speaking Truth in an Age of Intolerance
  • D.A. Horton – Ethnic Conciliation

    Friday, Nov. 11
  • Dr. Greg Thornbury – Speaking Truth at a Cost
  • Jerry Rassamni – The Truth about Islam
  • Scott Klusendorf – Truth and Lies about Life
  • Trip Lee – Speaking Truth in an Age of Entertainment

Election 2016

Heard enough about the Presidential election? Well, after TODAY, some of the talk will be over – but the effects of this election are just beginning! If you haven’t voted yet, or are thinking about sitting this election cycle out, I’d love to share a few things that I don’t often hear from others. I think they are worthy of consideration:

  1. The office of the President is NOT the only position on the ballot you have an opportunity to vote for today. I hear that some people are thinking about “sitting this election out” and that concerns me for all the incredible people who are “down ballot” and will miss out on these votes. These are very important races as well, and you need to voice your thoughts and opinions through your ballot on these elections.

  2. Party IS important. No, it’s not the sole factor when I vote, but I’ve been involved in politics long enough to know what the role of the political party in our system today is very important. Party affiliation will significantly influence the leadership of both houses of Congress and play a major role in committee assignments for members. Many votes in the House and the Senate are done along party lines and the party of the president greatly influences his or her ability to work with a Congress controlled by the party system. So while many people continue to tell you to vote your principles (with which I agree), be a wise voter and understand the impact of party politics in today’s environment as well.

  3. The Supreme Court. Ok, I’m sure you’ve heard about this issue several times before, but it’s so critical in this particular election not only because the next President’s first order of business will be to replace the late Justice Scalia, but also since there is a great likelihood that one or two more justices will be retiring in the very near future. Two justices (Ginsburg and Kennedy) are in their 80s and Breyer is 78 years old.

  4. We live in modern-day Babylon. I think this is very important to understand. I hear many people who are disillusioned with the two candidates at the top of the ballot and feel that they can’t vote for either. To that concept I would simply remind them that they have an opportunity to vote for “their candidate” in the primary cycle and if other like-minded people had come out and voted for their candidate, maybe we would have different choices today! I would also say that the choice today is no different than any other election – pick the candidate who you feel would do the better job of the two. Not the perfect candidate. God told His children in Jeremiah 29:7 to “seek the welfare of the city…and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” The two candidates for President and the two parties they represent have two very different visions for this country and will work to implement two very different plans. Study those plans and agendas and examine which one has the better concept for your community. Then select that one at the ballot box. Your vote is not a blanket endorsement of the person or their lifestyle and personal choices. It is a political selection. If one of these individuals were to marry your child, there would be a different set of questions you would ask and a different standard by which you would judge them. They are running for a political office and they will stand before their ultimate judge one day and face the music for the decisions they made. As will we. Today, Nov. 8, 2016, is Election Day. If you have the right to vote, I hope and pray you’ll exercise that right and vote responsibility!

Purity

As many of you already know, Dr. Taylor selected the theme of “purity” for this year, and it has been an incredible opportunity for our school to dive into what Biblical purity means and how important purity is for the Christian journey. To assist families in this endeavor, Prestonwood has connected with one of the leading filtering and monitoring software companies in the country, Covenant Eyes, which is offering a special rate for Prestonwood families. My entire family is now using Covenant Eyes, and we love having the accountability that this tool affords. There are a few things you need to know when using this accountability tool. One is that if you are using the iPhone, Covenant Eyes can’t monitor where you go if you are using an app, like Twitter or Instagram. We have had to delete these apps on our phones, but you can still access those sites by going to them via the Internet, which Covenant Eyes can monitor

PCA parents may also be interested in the many great E-Books Covenant Eyes has on their site at http://www.covenanteyes.com/e-books/. Some of the titles of these E-Books are: "Parenting in the Internet Generation," "Protecting Your Family Online," "When Your Child is Looking at Porn," and "A Parent’s Guide to Cyberbullying."

Now, something else that you need to take into consideration is how much “screen time” you’re allowing for your son or daughter. A new report from the American Academy of Pediatrics has revised their recommendation and LOWERED that time for children. The AAP has recommended that children under 2-years-old completely avoid screen time and the two hours of screen time a day for 2- to 5-year-olds has been cut in half! While the AAP doesn’t recommend limits for older children, they do encourage parents to limit screen time before kids go to bed and they strongly encourage parents to make sure their children are getting enough exercise. I would said that it would be wise for all parents, regardless of the age of your children, to monitor not only the places where your children visit online, but also the amount of time they spend online and on any “screen.”

And, finally, speaking of screen time, have you heard of and used VidAngel yet? VidAngel is a very unique concept that was really born in response to the efforts of Congress to provide greater control for families over the concept of the movies they watch. While Congress doesn’t want to filter content (that would be censorship), they did create the Family Movie Act and according to VidAngel’s website, this is what the Act requires for you to control the content coming into your home:

  1. The movie is an authorized copy
  2. Watched in the privacy of the home, and…
  3. No permanent filtered copy is created

The reality is that you actually purchase a movie from VidAngel for around $20, which gives you the rights to alter that movie – just like fast-forwarding material you don’t wish to see. There are certain parameters and criteria that you can instruct VidAngel what level of profanity, nudity, etc. is appropriate for your home. Then the technology does the rest! The movie will play normally, but those areas of concern are simply eliminated from the movie. Then, when you’re finished watching the movie, you sell the movie back to VidAngel, usually for around $18 – which means that in the end, you’ve only spent a dollar or two to “purchase/rent” the movie. You’ve got to see it to believe it – pretty great. Check out their website. If your family has other incredible tools to help you monitor, filter and manage technology for your home that you’ve found to be effective and easy, email those ideas and suggestions to me, and I’ll include them in my parent training opportunities. My email is dpanetti@prestonwoodchristian.org. Thanks!

Racial Reconciliation Conversation

Earlier this year we had an incredible opportunity to dive into some very meaningful and powerful conversations with our students about the issues related to racial unrest in our country. I’m sure it was a topic of conversation for many of our families with students in 7th-12th grade as we spent three intense weeks in chapel watching, listening, discussing and learning. For those who were not a part of this conversation, I want to share one of the most powerful tools that we shared with our students. This is a sermon from Dr. Tony Evans, pastor at Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship titled A Biblical Response on Race. Dr. Evans preached this message on July 17, 2016, the Sunday following the shootings of the Dallas police officers. I would highly recommend you watch this video, and listen as Dr. Evans addresses racial issues from a biblical perspective.

February 2016 Highlights

The Stakes Just Went Up - Primary Election Season

With the loss of arguably the greatest Supreme Court justice (in my humble opinion), the stakes for this election just went up a notch or two. Not that this election wasn’t important before – it was! But depending on what the Senate does with an attempt to appoint Justice Scalia’s replacement, the next president could possibly look at appointing one, two or even three members to the highest bench in the land. President Obama has already appointed two members to the current SCOTUS (Supreme Court of the United States) – and if he is able to appoint a replacement for Scalia, that would be his third. Justice Sonia Sotomayor and Justice Elena Kagan are both Obama appointees – and are both the youngest members of the court. Here’s a breakdown of the justices on the SCOTUS and their respective ages:

Chief Justice John Roberts – age 61
Justice Anthony Kennedy – age 79
Justice Clarence Thomas – age 67
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg – age 82
Justice Stephen G. Breyer – age 77
Justice Anthony Alito, Jr. – age 65
Justice Sonia Sotomayor – age 61
Justice Elena Kagan – age 55

Now just because a couple of the members of the Court are in their 70s and 80s, this doesn’t mean that they have to retire – these are lifetime appointments. The oldest person to serve on the Court was Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. who was 90 years old when he stepped down. John Paul Stevens was two months shy of turning 90 when he left the Court in 2010. But with the death of Scalia, the next president is likely to start their presidency with a SCOTUS appointment – that’s HUGE! Make sure you take that into consideration as you think about your selection for the POTUS (President of the United States).

Which brings us to the Primary Election season – it’s HERE! Early voting has already begun in Texas. Our primary election date is March 1 and early voting runs from February 16 through February 26. The POTUS isn’t the only office on the ballot either – a third of the U.S. Senate is up for election as is every member of the House of Representatives. And on the state level, there are Railroad Commissioners, Texas Supreme Court and Court of Criminal Appeals positions up for election and Texas Senate and House members as well. In Texas we have the privilege of election our judges, too, so on our ballot will be several races for the various district courts in the different counties – and these are important races. Wondering whom to vote for? Let me suggest our good friends at Texas Values and their FREE Voters Guide as a starting point.

Check out www.FreeVotersGuide.com and make your selections before you head to the polls.

You Are Not Alone – BWi Takeaways

Every year I am amazed not only at the quality of speakers who share with our students during our annual Biblical Worldview Institute, but also at the depth of insight that is shared and what our students take away from this event. In reflecting on what was shared, here are my top three takeaways from BWi 2015:

  1. You are not alone.
  2. You are the average of your five closest friends.
  3. We had better be preparing for the cultural clash of Christianity and Islam.

You are not alone.

I loved not only listening to the incredible story of courage and sacrifice told by Kris Paronto, but I also enjoyed listening to the comments from students and faculty alike on how this one man touched their hearts in a unique way. It wasn’t that Kris was the most eloquent or gifted speaker. The essence of what Kris shared for many was his loyalty and courage in the face of potential harm or even death. Paronto and others at the CIA Annex in Benghazi were ready and willing to give their lives to protect the lives of other Americans on foreign soil. It’s not just that Kris and his men were trained to do so; it’s that they understand how important this calling is and are willing to accept this challenge despite the cost to themselves and their loved ones.

I heard several comments from people about the stark contrast that Kris painted from the virtual reality of war that most of our young men experience in their epic video game battles from Call of Duty or something similar. Young men are seemingly fascinated by war games spending millions of dollars on video games to simulate combat – Kris Paronto and his men didn’t simulate war, they lived it. In my mind, this was a great reminder that the spiritual war we are fighting as Christians is real and the costs are high. Life is the game, just without the reset button when you die.

But most importantly, in my mind, was the parallel between the protection that Kris and his men offered to American diplomats and the protection that God offers to us, His children. I thought of the incredible verse found in 2 Chronicles 16:9 which reads:

For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him…

Consider that statement for a minute. God is LOOKING to show Himself strong – and all that He needs is someone who needs Him! I picture God as a spotter in the gym of life, looking to assist those who are attempting too much on their own – a gentle spot, a helpful lift at the right moment and you can achieve more than you ever thought possible. The only problem is that most people in the gym of life are lifting weights that aren’t heavy enough – we aren’t doing anything that we need help from God!

I often go back to the chastisement found in Isaiah 58 where God asks the stinging question, “You call that a fast.” In other words, the “sacrifice” of the religious was insignificant and outright silly in the face of the incredible opposition that people really faced. God wants us to “loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed free and to break every yoke…to share [our] bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into [our] house, when [we] see the naked, to cover him and not to hide [ourselves] from [our] own flesh” (Isaiah 58:6-7).

I think part of the problem is that we live our lives unaware that we are living in a hostile situation. Let me say that again…we live our lives unaware that we are living in a HOSTILE situation. We are behind enemy lines. In reading Paronto’s book 13 Hours, much of the problem faced in Benghazi was a direct result that those in positions of leadership didn’t take the reality of a growing hostility seriously enough in time. Think about that – Libya is always a hotbed of hostility to America – how could anyone underestimate the threat to American lives there? Easily. We get complacent, comfortable, careless…and by the time we realize we are in a fight for our lives, it’s often too late.

The great Christian apologist Francis Schaeffer saw the epic battle for the souls and the hearts and minds of humanity and he called Christians to be aware and engaged – but few paid attention to his plea. Listen to these words from Schaeffer:

Sadly we must say that very few Christians have understood the battle that we are in. Very few have taken a strong and courageous stand against the world spirit of this age as it destroys our culture and the Christian ethos that once shaped our country. But the scriptures make clear that we as Bible-believing Christians are locked in a battle of cosmic proportions. It is a life and death struggle over the minds and souls of men for all eternity, but it is equally a life and death struggle over life on this earth…”

You are an average of your five closest friends.

I believe this was a statement made by Dr. Michael Lindsay, president of Gordon College. I love this concept, and I think I’ll be saying this line often to students! Think about this idea – you are the average of your five closest friends. For many of our students, this should cause them to stop and think. First, who are my friends? What does that word friends even really mean? I think of the incredible statement by George Washington which basically says that most of the people we call friends would be better listed as acquaintances.

Be courteous to all, but intimate with few, and let those few be well tried before you give them your confidence. True friendship is a plant of slow growth, and must undergo and withstand the shocks of adversity before it is entitled to the appellation. -George Washington

Ulysses S. Grant and Shakespeare share Washington’s assessment on friendship.

The friend in my adversity I shall always cherish most. I can better trust those who helped to relieve the gloom of my dark hours than those who are so ready to enjoy with me the sunshine of my prosperity. -Ulysses S. Grant

A friend should bear his friend's infirmities. -William Shakespeare

In addition to understanding the definition of true friendship, there are many others who have made comments about how few good friends you will probably have in life. I found this quote from Sarah Ockler, author of Fixing Delilah, and while Ockler may not be a believer, the essence of her statement is shared by many:

In your entire life, you can probably count your true friends on one hand. Maybe even on one finger. Those are the friends you need to cherish, and I wouldn't trade one of them for a hundred of the other kind. I'd rather be completely alone than with a bunch of people who aren't real. People who are just passing time.

Which brings us back to Dr. Lindsay’s statement. If we are the average of our five closest friends, but true friends are hard to come by and so rare, what do we do? This is where I go back to the incredible concept put forth in Hebrews 12 – the “cloud of witnesses.”

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us…

Personally, I don’t believe we run the race of life with only those who are alive today – I think we run with those who have run before us…and we run with those who will follow. I know in my life I’ve learned more from the writings of C.S. Lewis, the life and example of William Wilberforce, the boldness of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and the vision of Francis Schaeffer than almost anyone of my own generation. I consider these men to be in my cloud of witnesses and I believe that they have influenced me, shaped me, helped me see and engage the world around me differently than before. Add to that list the men and women of the Bible – my life verse comes from the Book of Jeremiah. The incredible wisdom found in Proverbs, the challenge of Paul in Ephesians, the example of Daniel living out his faith in Babylon, David standing boldly before the giant Goliath, the lesson from the life of Samson, the humility of Gideon, the hardships of Joseph – bottle all those individuals up and you have some incredible lessons of life that can and should be learned by all believers.

Now go back to Dr. Lindsay’s statement and reconsider those individuals who have touched and shaped your life, your path, your passions, your thoughts the most – and recalculate your average!

We had better be preparing for the cultural clash of Christianity and Islam.

From speaking to the students, the speaker who had the greatest impact was clearly Johnnie Moore. It was incredible to watch as hundreds of students stood up and walked forward to answer the call to engage this world for Christ as Johnnie challenged them to be the hands of feet of Christ to this lost and dying world and to stand boldly with our brothers and sisters in Christ across the globe who are suffering persecution today for the cause of Christ.

While Johnnie’s message was about the persecuted church worldwide, my mind immediately went to the cultural clash here in the U.S. between Christianity and Islam. Whether we are talking about the Syrian refugees, most of whom are Muslim, and if they should be allowed into this country or we are learning that Yale University has announced that a major gift has been accepted to establish the Abdallah S. Kamel Islamic Law Center at the Yale Law School, the cultural clash is imminent here in the U.S. Are we ready for this?

If you missed our annual Biblical Worldview Institute this year, mark the dates on your calendar and make sure you attend next year’s – Thursday and Friday, November 10-11, 2016. It will be awesome – and I’ll be looking forward to hearing what you learned following the conference.

Closing Private Schools?

For several years, I’ve been saying that I truly believe the government will make a significant effort to close private schools. This effort won’t be framed as a negative, but rather as a positive for everyone – not the closing of private schools, but equal opportunity for all students!

Recently it was reported that President Obama made comments along this line while visiting Northern Ireland. While I understand the political and religious tension in Northern Ireland is dramatically different than here in the U.S., I can see parallels in the argument put forth by the President. Here is what the President is reported to have said:

“There are still wounds [in Northern Ireland] that haven’t healed, and communities where tensions and mistrust hangs in the air.” A little later he added: “If towns remain divided – if Catholics have their schools and buildings, and Protestants have theirs – if we can’t see ourselves in one another, if fear or resentment are allowed to harden, that encourages division. It discourages cooperation.”

Brian Burch, president of the group Catholic Vote, responded to these comments:

“Catholic education is not the source of ‘division’ in Northern Ireland, nor are they a source of division anywhere in the world. Catholic schools educate children without regard for race, class, sex, origin, or even religious faith. The work of Catholic education is a response to the Gospel call to serve, not divide.”

While I agree that the “response to the Gospel call is to serve, not to divide,” the reality is that more and more people in the world are seeing religion in general and Christianity in particular as divisive or worse! Following the massacre in San Bernardino, several prominent leaders took to social media to express their concern for the victims of the shooting and stated that they were praying for the victims and their families. The headline from the NY Daily News read:

God Isn’t Fixing This

As latest batch of innocent Americans are left lying in pools of blood, cowards who could truly end gun scourge continue to hide behind meaningless platitudes

Did you catch that? Prayers offered to God, the Creator of the Universe, the King of Kings, the One who sent His only Son as a sacrifice for the sins of the world – are “meaningless platitudes.” At first glance, this should be no surprise. Jesus warned his disciples in John chapters 15 and 16 that the world hated him first and would hate them as well – “Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God.” Jesus was warning his disciples that they are going to encounter a world turned upside down from reality – there will be a day when good is called evil, and evil good. There will be a day when training students in the truth will be seen as exclusive, unfair, divisive. That day isn’t far off.

Are You Getting Enough Rest?

The answer is obviously “no,” but let me explain the question first. I just finished reading It’s Not What You Think by Jefferson Bethke, a book that examines some of the common Christian concepts and puts them in a new light to help you better understand them. Chapter five of this book is about the Sabbath. Bethke writes:

The word Sabbath literally means “to cease.” When’s the last time you ceased? Unfortunately, many of us can’t answer that question because we don’t know.

He goes on to challenge Christians with the concept that we don’t rest because we aren’t tired. What? Bethke obviously doesn’t know YOU! You are running around from place to place, activity to activity, event to event, meeting to meeting – he can’t possibly understand how truly TIRED YOU ARE! Yet, Bethke is talking about a different kind of rest altogether. Consider this statement:

Sabbath is when heaven and earth meet in time—in a moment. Especially in our Western work-addicted society, we need to set aside time that resists the addiction to work, technology, and consumerism. Time isn’t sacred to us. It’s a commodity, and we all treat it as such. We are slaves to time in Western society.

Stop and think about why God would institute the concept of a day of rest anyway. God doesn’t need rest. We do. And think about the days of creation and when Adam was created (Day Six) and when the day of rest was placed (Day Seven)…in other words, Bethke points out that the FIRST thing that God wanted Adam to do was to rest. Rest isn’t what we do at the end of our week; it’s the preparation for our week. We are energized and recharged because of our rest – and work flows FROM the rest that we gain through Christ and HIS WORK.

The challenge that Bethke is putting forth for Christians is to consider what we are doing to make us tired. Are we resting first so that we can stop and see what work the Lord has for us to do – or are we running around doing all sorts of meaningless (spiritually speaking, Kingdom-minded) activities and then falling down dead-tired at the end of the day?

Think about this – what activities are you engaged in today that are resonating in the heavenly places – are you growing closer to the Lord through His Word, are you offering up praises and prayers to your Heavenly Father, are you sharing the Good News about the redemptive work of Jesus on the cross, are you investing your talents expecting a return on that investment that will be pleasing to the Lord, are you binding up the wounds of those whom others have stepped over to get someplace, are you deliberately going to Samaria for that divine appointment with someone in need of a divine word, are you talking with your children about the Word of God as you walk, lie down, and when you rise?

The bottom line is this – are you tired because you’ve served yourself today or because you’ve served the King of Kings and Lord of Lords? If the answer happens to be that you’re tired because of all of your activities – while that’s not bad – there really is more that you can do. Trust that the Lord will multiply your time and energy as you invest in His Kingdom and watch what the Lord can accomplish through you – remember, this is the God that multiplied a few loaves and fishes to feed the hungry masses!

One of the best ways to rest and invest at the same time is to read something that challenges and equips you in your walk with the Lord. Here are a few excellent recommendations for your reading/resting/equipping time:

It’s Not What You Think by Jefferson Bethke

Through the Eyes of a Lion by Levi Lusko

Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper

In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day by Mark Batterson

Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster

God's Not Dead 2

You just can’t make this stuff up. On April Fool’s Day (April 1), the second installment of God’s Not Dead will be released. Get it? “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God’” (Psalm 14:1). God’s Not Dead 2 hits audiences with a message ripped straight from the headlines and dozens of recent court cases where Christians have been attacked for their faith. In the movie, a public school teacher talks about Jesus in her classroom and is sued for subjecting her students to religious content in violation of the separation of church and state concept. The movie does a great job tackling this issue and explaining the Constitutional issues at hand, plus it’s pretty entertaining along with being educational. It's definitely a movie that you’ll want your family to see and talk about after.

If you want to learn more about the challenge to religion in the courtroom, check out the incredible resources offered by our friends at First Liberty, formerly known as Liberty Institute. The organization, headed by our friend Kelly Shackelford, changed their name to First Liberty because the protection of religious liberty is the “first” liberty mentioned in the First Amendment to the Constitution and it is, arguably, the most important liberty that we possess. You can find out tons of incredible information at their new website at https://firstliberty.org/


Importance of Individuals with "Special Needs"

This year, thanks to the incredible leadership of PCA mom Kathryn Young, Prestonwood Baptist Church was able to join several hundred other churches across the country in hosting one of the greatest events imaginable – a prom night for special needs individuals. This event is due to the efforts of Tim Tebow and his foundation to address a very real need in the special needs community – the need to feel special, not just be labeled as special. This event comes on the heels of another amazing event sponsored by Prestonwood Christian Academy – the “special friends” basketball game. For the past two years, PCA has hosted a basketball game with some special needs students playing with some PCA students and the game has been a huge success.

Why the emphasis on those with special needs? As our culture continues in moral decline, efforts continue to exist to eliminate those who are seen as “undesirable” by a progressive society which defines importance based on what a person does. Each year Dr. Larry Taylor trains the incoming students for our Student Leadership Institute(SLi) and as part of that training he shares with them a statement from a college professor – this is the quote that Dr. Taylor shows our students:

“Killing a disabled person is not morally equivalent to killing a person.”
-Peter Singer, Ph.D., Professor of Bioethics, Princeton University

Following Dr. Taylor’s presentation, I generally go back to that slide and ask the students how they would respond to the statement from Dr. Singer. How would you respond?

Scott Klusendorf, founder and president of Life Training Institute (LTI) and a confirmed speaker for our annual Biblical Worldview Institute(BWi) in November 2016, writes that Dr. Singer is putting forth a doctrine known as functionalism, the belief that what defines a person is what they can and cannot do. In other words, our culture has effectively reduced human beings into human “doings.” Our society values what a person does, not who they are. This utilitarian concept of humanity runs counter to a biblical worldview which values all human life solely because we are all created in the image of God – we are imago Dei: image bearers of God.

Obviously, this shift in worldview results in dramatic changes in our culture – in the way that we treat one another, in the manner in which we protect one another, in our civility, hospitality, manners, and even our laws. Currently, euthanasia or physician aid in dying (PAD) is legal in four states and may be expanding to others.

Just over two hundred years ago, William Wilberforce saw his beloved England and arrived at the same conclusion – that England had lost its “first love” of Christ which resulted in its horrendous treatment of humanity, specifically as it related to the issue of slavery. Wilberforce wrote a remarkable book commonly referred to as A Practical View of Christianity where instead of addressing the issue of slavery directly, he addressed the spiritual condition of the people of England. One thing that Wilberforce noticed was that children growing up in England referred to themselves as Christians, but yet they did not know much about the doctrines of God’s Word. He addressed this issue with this statement:

They [parents] would blush, on their child’s coming out into the world, to think him defective in any branch of that knowledge, or of those accomplishments which belong to his station in life, and accordingly these are cultivated with becoming assiduity. But he is left to collect his religion as he may; the study of Christianity has formed no part of his education, and his attachment to it (where any attachment exists at all) is, too often, not the preference of sober reason, but merely the result of early prejudice and groundless prepossession.

In other words, parents were making sure that their children knew about the things in life that would help them be successful in business, athletics, or other areas of importance, but were not putting the same, if any, effort into the spiritual development of their children. Children were growing up with some tangential understanding of the Christian faith, but it was not central to who they were, how they thought about the world around them and how they acted toward others. The key, according to Wilberforce, was that young people were growing up not being rooted and built up in the Word of God. He wrote this scathing comment:

The truth is, their opinions on these subjects [subjects like slavery] are not formed from the perusal of the word of God. The Bible lies on the shelf unopened.

As a result of the life and work of William Wilberforce, England was literally transformed. The bill to abolish slavery introduced year after year for over 30 years was finally passed just a few days before Wilberforce passed away. We can learn so much from the example of William Wilberforce – the battle we are fighting, while having a practical political component, is really a spiritual battle. We must, as parents, ground our children in the Word of God – nurture a Biblical worldview so that they not only see the world through the lens of Scripture, they see themselves and others through that lens as well. When we see individuals with “special needs” as our brothers and sisters in Christ, not for what they can’t do, but for all the joy and opportunities they bring to remind us that we aren’t human “doings” we are human beings!


November 2015 Highlights

BWi THIS WEEK: God vs. Government!

What happens when Christians are mandated by government fiat to either take actions contrary to their belief system or are prohibited from doing or saying something that is integral to their religious practice? I know that’s a mouth-full and a very deep concept, but you don’t have to imagine this anymore. It’s a reality today…here in the U.S.! This reality is what our annual Biblical Worldview Institute student conference will address on Thursday morning, Nov. 12 and Friday morning, Nov. 13. This is not just for our 7th-12th grade students! As a parent, you should make every effort to attend as well!

Here’s what you need to know:

Thursday morning, November 12
Location: Worship Center, Prestonwood Baptist Church
Doors Open: 8:00 a.m., speakers begin at 8:30 a.m.

Speakers/Times:
8:30-9:00 a.m. Dr. Jim Denison, “God as the Ultimate Authority”
9:00-10:00 a.m. Panel Discussion: “God vs. Government: Who Do We Follow?”

  • Christopher Corbett, Vice President for Strategic Communications at Liberty Institute
  • Carly Gammill, American Center for Law and Justice
  • Dr. Michael Lindsay, President of Gordon College
  • Scott Turner, Texas State Representative

10:15-11:00 a.m. Kris Paronto, member of CIA Annex security team in Benghazi, Libya

11:00-11:45 a.m. Lily Isaacs, daughter of Polish-Jewish Holocaust survivors

Friday morning, November 13
8:30-9:00 a.m. Dr. Greg Thornbury, President of The King’s College (NYC)
9:00-10:00 a.m. Phil Cooke, “The Power of Influence in Today’s Digital Age”
10:00-10:30 a.m. Johnnie Moore, “ISIS and the Persecuted Church”
10:40-11:20 a.m. AXIS event, “We Are What We Love”

Again, you are welcome to attend any or all of these outstanding sessions and are welcome to invite friends, family, co-workers, etc. to attend. You can either register to attend at Prestonwoodchristian.org/bwiconference or simply show up – walk-ins are welcome. There is a small fee ($7) to help cover costs associated with this event.

Supreme Court Justice: Christians Should RESIGN!

When the famous French statesman and historian Alexis de Tocqueville visited America, he marveled at the differences he saw following the successful revolution in this country compared to the failed revolution of his own beloved France. He published his findings and thoughts in 1835 in a work entitled Democracy in America. Much of his assessment of the situation he found in this country related to the religious institutions and moral fiber of this nation. He wrote the following:

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.

Much has changed in the 180 years that followed de Tocqueville’s assessment of the important role that religion, and specifically Christianity, plays in the role of this great nation. Justice Anthony Kennedy, author of the controversial Obergefell decision legalizing same-sex marriage on June 26, 2015, sees the role of religion in this country a little differently than de Tocqueville did. Speaking to a group of law students at Harvard recently, Justice Kennedy was addressing the “difficult moral questions” that many Christians now face in this country because of his decision in Obergefell. Faced with the legal mandate that same-sex unions are to be given equal treatment, many Christian businessmen and women are confronted with a choice – to follow the law of the land or to follow their own conscience informed by their religious views and values. According to Justice Kennedy, the choice is obvious, at least for elected officials like Kim Davis. Davis, an elected county clerk of Rowan Country, Kentucky, chose not to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. She didn’t want her name on those marriage certificates and refused to follow the law of the land set forth by Justice Kennedy and four other unelected judges. Justice Kennedy’s recommendation to Kim Davis and anyone else who would refuse to follow the law: resign.

“The rule of law is that, as a public official in performing your legal duties, you are bound to enforce the law,” is what Justice Kennedy told those law students. He added that “great respect, it seems to me, has to be given to people who resign rather than do something they view as morally wrong.” As an example, Justice Kennedy referenced three German judges who resigned rather than follow the dictates of the Nazi government. Did you follow his logic there? When the government tells you to do something that is contrary to your moral beliefs and values, you can either follow the mandate of the government (violate your own conscience) or resign.

Several questions come to mind from this statement.

  1. Is Justice Kennedy saying that the mandate of THIS government from the Obergefell decision is akin to the mandates of the Nazi regime in Germany? It would seem that history has demonstrated clearly that even though Hitler came to power legally, his reign of terror resulted in an abusive and therefore illegitimate government. The real heroes of Germany where not those who resigned or followed the law of the land, but those who rebelled and refused to participate in the atrocities of the Nazi regime. Is there any worse example that Justice Kennedy could have used than Nazi Germany?
  2. Wasn’t THIS country founded on the principle of rebellion against abusive and wrong government mandates? Our famed Declaration of Independence is a list of grievances that patriots had against the abusive government mandates of the King of England. Instead of resigning their positions of power and influence, patriots used those positions to not only bring pressure on the King to change, but as a course of last resort, these same patriots led a revolution against that abusive government.
  3. Hasn’t THIS country learned that just because the Supreme Court says something, that doesn’t make it right? Remember the Dred Scott decision in 1857 in which the Supreme Court declared that African-Americans, whether slave or free, could not be American citizens and therefore had no standing to sue in American courts! What about the infamous Plessy v. Ferguson decision in 1896 where the Supreme Court mandated racial segregation in public facilities under the “separate but equal” doctrine? This ridiculous decision wasn’t overturned until the Supreme Court reversed itself in the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision.

The reality is that Christians shouldn’t resign from their positions of power and influence in this country, but should utilize those positions to right the wrong that has been forced upon this nation by unelected government officials! Just because the Supreme Court is the final arbiter in our governmental process, does that make their decisions right? As Abraham Lincoln reminded the country in his famous Gettysburg Address, the American people are not subject to our government, rather our government should be subject to the will of the American people. We have a “government of the people, by the people, for the people.” As citizens of this great nation, Christians have a moral obligation to stand against the abuse of power from its government officials.

Founder James Madison, hailed as the “father of the Constitution,” knew that government abuses were real and must be addressed as the framework for this new nation was set. He wrote in The Federalist #51 the following sentiment:

If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions.

Notice the obligation that Madison requires for the legitimacy of government – “[a] dependence on the people.” Instead of asking those who disagree to leave or resign their positions as Justice Kennedy is suggesting, James Madison would say that government should listen to the concerns of her citizens when they disagree. If the government seeks to silence the voice of opposition, the result could be the proverbial fox watching the hen house – government run amuck.

What, then, can Christians do as citizens of this country to help?

  1. Be an informed voter. Electing good representatives to positions of power and influence is an important role of the electorate.
  2. Don’t resign or refuse to participate in the process. So many people are disappointed and disillusioned by the direction of our government that one voice in the wilderness seems to be insignificant. Let me remind you of the warning of Edmund Burke, who said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” One vote and one voice can make a difference if that vote is used well and that voice is speaking truth.
  3. Raise a generation of engaged young people who have a passion to know and stand for truth…regardless of the cost!

Wise Words from Lady Gaga?!

Much has been made recently of the statements by pop singer Lady Gaga. Most probably don’t know that Lady Gaga’s real name is Stefani Germanotta and apparently Stefani has had somewhat of a revolution in her life. In a recent speech she gave at Yale University, Stefani made this comment:

I feel sad when I'm overworked and I just become a money-making machine and passion and creativity take a backseat. That makes me unhappy. So what did I do? I started to say no. I'm not doing that. I don't want to do that. . . . And slowly but surely, I remembered who I am.

Dr. James Denison, in his outstanding commentary called The Denison Forum on Truth and Culture compared the comment of Stefani Germanotta to the statement by billionaire investor Warren Buffet who said, “The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.” Denison went on to write about how Christians need to evaluate their decisions in life, based on the agenda that God has for them. Denison asks Christians to reflect on God’s purpose and plan for their lives and consider their plans in light of God’s call to “seek first the kingdom of heaven.”

Think about the statement from Lady Gaga – she is admitting that she got distracted by the things of this world that didn’t fit into the ultimate plan for her life. It reminds me of the warning that is given in John 10:10 just before the verse that says Jesus came to that we can “have life and have it abundantly.” What can cause us to miss this “abundant life?” Well, the plan of the Enemy is “to steal and kill and destroy.” If that’s the end goal, what’s the strategy of our Enemy? Simple: distraction!

C.S. Lewis in his incredible work The Screwtape Letters, tries to peek behind the curtain of the Enemy by sharing what a conversation may look like from one demon to another as they carry out the work to counter what God is doing. Lewis writes that our Enemy is busy at work distracting mankind from what Ephesians 2:10 calls our “good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Consider this exchange from Screwtape, the older demon, to his young apprentice Wormwood (remember that the “Enemy” in this exchange between demons is actually God):

You can make him do nothing at all for long periods. You can keep him up late at night, not roistering, but staring at a dead fire in a cold room. All the healthy and outgoing activities which we want him to avoid can be inhibited and nothing given in return, so that at last he may say, as one of my own patients said on his arrival down here, “I now see that I spent most of my life in doing neither what I ought nor what I liked.” The Christians describe the Enemy as one “without whom Nothing is strong.” And Nothing is very strong: strong enough to steal away a man’s best years not in sweet sins but in a dreary flickering of the mind over it knows not what and knows not why, in the gratification of curiosities so feeble that the man is only half aware of them, in drumming of fingers and kicking of heels, in whistling tunes that he does not like, or in the long, dim labyrinth of reveries that have not even lust or ambition to give them a relish, but which, once chance association has started them, the creature is too weak and fuddled to shake off.

You will say that these are very small sins; and doubtless, like all young tempters, you are anxious to be able to report spectacular wickedness. But do remember, the only thing that matters is the extent to which you separate the man from the Enemy. It does not matter how small the sins are provided that their cumulative effect is to edge the man away from the Light and out into the Nothing. Murder is no better than cards if cards can do the trick. Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one—the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts,

The “safest road to Hell is the gradual one” – how profound! This reminds me of another of Lewis’ great works: The Abolition of Man. In this book, Lewis writes about the importance of education to wake and shake young people out of the distraction of ease and comfort into the understanding of the great and significant spiritual realm and war that is waging for the souls of men! Lewis writes this:

For every one pupil who needs to be guarded from a weak excess of sensibility there are three who need to be awakened from the slumber of cold vulgarity. The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles but to irrigate deserts.

If I could write my perfect job description, it would include that phrase: “to irrigate deserts.” The great philosopher Socrates shared this idea with Lewis about the role of the educator. Socrates wrote, “Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.” Whether it’s called “irrigating deserts” or starting fires in the minds of students, the concept is the same. Our job at Prestonwood Christian Academy goes beyond teaching students to excel in the classroom or on the athletic court, but to excel in life, to make a difference in this world for the cause of Christ, to live a life that is “worthy of our calling” (Ephesians 4:1). I’m reminded of the incredible speech given by Theodore Roosevelt called “Citizenship in a Republic,” probably best known for a short excerpt that has been labeled The Man in the Arena:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

What can you do to raise students who are engaged in “a worthy cause?” Check out the following resources that are outstanding reads for you and for your students:

  • Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper
  • Serious Times: Making Your Life Matter in an Urgent Day by James Emery White
  • In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day: How to Survive and Thrive When Opportunity Roars by Mark Batterson
  • Through the Eyes of a Lion: Facing Impossible Pain, Finding Incredible Power by Levi Lusko
  • Do Hard Things: A Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectations by Alex and Brett Harris
  • Kisses from Katie: A Story of Relentless Love and Redemption by Katie Davis

September 2015 Highlights

Upcoming Wednesday Evening Class – Sept. 23

I am going to be conducting a class on Wednesday evening, Sept. 23 from 6:30-8:00 p.m. at Prestonwood Baptist Church in Room W206 titled “Raising Your Student in a Same-Sex Culture.” The class will cover a brief history leading up to the SCOTUS decision in the Obergefell case that legalized same-sex marriage this summer as well as giving highlights from the legal and cultural landscape of what this means for all freedom-loving Americans, especially those whose religious views and values run counter to same-sex marriage. The one-night class is open to all, free of charge, but understand that the nature of the topic isn’t suitable for younger children, so please use discretion.

I’ll also be offering a five-week course called "Raising Counter-Cultural Students" on Wednesday evenings from Oct. 21 through Nov. 18 in Room A109. We will discuss some of the challenges and opportunities facing this generation of students as we prepare and equip them for what God has in store for their lives! Again, students from probably 6th or 7th grade and above are welcome to join us in this at your discretion. The topics for the five weeks will be:

  1. Respect for Authority
  2. Work Ethic
  3. Sexuality/Gender
  4. Technology
  5. Misc. and Q&A

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Lessons from Miss America

I’ve had the privilege of working with pageant contestants preparing them for the strenuous and nerve-racking “questions-from-the-judges” section of a pageant. Pageant contestants have to be prepared for questions from the proverbial left field as anything and everything is fair game. The running joke is that contestants in the past could simply respond by saying that they wanted something like “world peace” or “clean water for everyone” and then smile and be done with that portion of the evening. Now, I wouldn’t normally comment on the Miss America pageant, but something struck me from this past contest – it wasn’t the questions – they were amazing questions – consider preparing yourself to answer a question on any one of the following topics:

  • The Treasury wants to put the face of a woman on the $10 bill, beside Alexander Hamilton. Which woman should get that honor, and you tell me why.
  • According to a poll released this week, Donald Trump is leading Republican candidates by thirty-two percent of the vote. Why do you think he's leading by such an overwhelming margin?
  • Some legislators are threatening to shut down the government over federal contributions to Planned Parenthood, even though no federal funds can be used for abortions. Should Planned Parenthood funding be cut off?
  • New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was suspended for his part in the so-called Deflategate scandal, then reinstated by the courts. Legalities aside, did Tom Brady cheat?
  • America loves our 2nd Amendment, but gun violence continues to be a tragic problem. Do you support a ban on military-style assault weapons?
  • Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis was jailed for defying the Supreme Court's order to issue same-sex marriage licenses. She claims the order violates her religious freedom. Does it?
  • The Black Lives Matter movement grew as a reaction to unarmed African Americans being killed by police. Now there are voices raised who call it a hate group and think it should be called 'All Lives Matter.' What do you think?

Great questions – wouldn’t you agree? But wouldn’t you also agree that each one of these questions deserves some significant thought and dialog – that’s what struck me about this. Contestants are given 20 seconds to respond to these questions. 20 seconds. That’s enough time to state an opinion and maybe a brief reason to support that opinion, but it doesn’t allow the person to really digest the issue, ponder the concept and then respond with a thoughtful and reasoned answer. These questions are exactly the type of issues that our students in our Student Leadership Institute (SLi) program are given each year to help develop their critical thinking skills – a skill according to many reports that has diminished significantly. But what do we expect when we give a person 20 seconds to listen, think and respond – it’s ridiculous. The only things that a person can really respond with are sound bites and bumper sticker comments that fail to scratch the surface of profound and meaningful dialog. Two of the responses from two contestants clearly demonstrates my frustration.

First, Miss Alabama Meg McGuffin was asked the question about Donald Trump leading the Republican primary candidates. Her response was interesting – she called Donald Trump an “entertainer” and said that Trump is saying “what’s on a lot of people’s minds.” Entertainers don’t say what’s on people’s minds unless what’s on people’s minds is entertainment. Does that make sense? Author and cultural critic Neal Postman wrote about this concept in his amazing work entitled Amusing Ourselves to Death. Postman was tremendously critical of the effects of television which dumb down the mind. In his explanation of his book, Postman compared two landmark works that both reached a similar conclusion – that civilization was headed in the direction of a controlling state – but the path was quite different for each writer. Consider Postman’s assessment of the situation in light of what we know today:

What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy. As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny "failed to take into account man's almost infinite appetite for distractions." In 1984, Orwell added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we fear will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we desire will ruin us.

This book is about the possibility that Huxley, not Orwell, was right.”

I agree with Postman – Huxley was right. What we desire has ruined us. Which leads me to the other question and response that caught my attention. Miss Colorado Kelley Johnson was asked the question about which woman would be a plausible candidate to place on the $10 bill. Now that’s a pretty profound question – and what a great place to ask – a pageant of young women looking to make their mark on the world. So what great woman of history did Miss Colorado propose? One. Not a great woman of history, not even a woman from history. But rather an entertainer – Ellen DeGeneres. Ellen, you see, is a champion for the great cause of “tolerance and equality for all” – which is the platform of Miss Colorado. How fitting on so many levels.

How would you have answered those questions? How about your children – what would they say? Why don’t you ask them – and give them more than 20 seconds to think about their responses to these meaningful topics that require great thought and consideration. I am thankful that my children attend a school that is training them to think critically and Christianly about these and other significant and meaningful issues – and challenges them to speak intelligently on topics of concern. From our Student Leadership Institute to our Lion’s Scholar Program, from the Great Books program to the Capstone project for seniors, from our Speech and Debate program to the Mock Trial program, from the Stand Up and Be Heard program to our annual Biblical Worldview Institute conference – I could go on and on about how Prestonwood Christian Academy is unwilling to allow this next generation to amuse itself to death!

Seriously, You HAVE to See This!

I’ll be honest: I’m a crier. Not a “town-crier” that heralds the news at the top of his lungs – those days are past. Simply put, I cry rather easily. I say it’s because I’m Italian and that we’re an emotional people – not sure if that’s true or not – but the reality is that if it’s an emotional movie or song (just play Les Mis and watch the waterfall), you can bet that I’ll either be fighting back the tears or wiping them from my eyes. Which brings me to a movie that I first saw a few months ago and recently saw again with our Bible Fellowship class. War Room. Have you seen it yet?

If you have, you get it. You probably cried, too. If you haven’t seen it, you need to…and quickly. This is an amazing movie – not only because it is a profoundly spiritual movie that dives deep into God’s Word and the power of prayer, but also because it deals head on with the complications, frustrations, realities and emotions of life. War Room doesn’t pull any punches. But at the same time that it deals straight up with some profound issues, it also has enough levity and humor to make the overall experience enjoyable. Simply put: it’s not preachy…but it’ll preach!

We Castrate the Gelding

If you’re reading this, you’re probably a C. S. Lewis fan and picked up on the reference in the title to one of the most profound works by Lewis titled The Abolition of Man. In this small booklet, Lewis examines the cultural crisis and gives his commentary on why the world is heading in the wrong direction. I think the key to this book is that Lewis tells us that we shouldn’t be shocked by what we see in the news. The debauchery, the senseless violence, the hedonism – we should expect all of it and more because it is the natural expression of a people who are unable to rule their own passions and desires.

I was reminded of this incredible book recently when I saw the video and headlines of two high school athletes from San Antonio who ran full speed into a referee on purpose to retaliate for some of their teammates who had earlier been kicked out of the game. Two young men with absolutely no regard for authority, no regard for the safety of another human being, no regard for a defenseless person. As you read those words, can you see how we got here? Pretty obvious, isn’t it?

These young men have grown up in a culture where disregard for authority, disregard for human life and disregard for the most defenseless among us is on display and celebrated every day. Gone are the heroes of yesterday who stood up for the weak and defenseless, who cried “women and children first” into the lifeboats even at their own peril. Our country is turning its back on the God who takes great pride in defending the defenseless, in rescuing the weak and needy (see Psalm 82). So what should we expect from our youth who have been weaned on disrespect and encouraged to pursue their passions regardless of the cost to others? Lewis would tell us that we are producing “men without chests” and that we “castrate…the geldings.” The irony, according to Lewis, is that we still expect things to be different – for men to be virtuous, but we take great efforts not to teach virtue. We simply cannot have it both ways. We cannot “castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.” If we are to have peace and prosperity in our society but individuals lack self-control, then we must expect the restraint to come from another source – and not cry when the rod of the state comes across our backs. When we run from God’s laws, we can’t expect the protection of God’s rules. It simply doesn’t work that way. The direction our nation is heading will result in more and more of these senseless acts of violence, more and more disregard for authority and human life. It should be no surprise then that California is looking to be the fifth state to have physician-assisted suicide – and more will follow.

For Lewis the solution was to return to producing “men with chests” – those who are able to rule over their minds and their passions with self-control from something higher than themselves – call it the Tao, call it morality, call it the Word of God. As Christians we have an incredible opportunity in this crazed culture to provide stability, peace and harmony – first in our own homes and then to be seeded into others by the work of the Holy Spirit as the old becomes new, the flesh becomes spirit, the dead is brought to life.

May 2015 Highlights

Is Bruce Jenner Really a Woman?

Bruce Jenner thinks he is a woman. Many watched ABC News reporter Diane Sawyer interview Jenner as he revealed to the world what many have speculated (and ridiculed him) about for years. That interview was to be his last as a man – when Bruce Jenner reemerges, it will be as a woman. But the question must be asked: Is Bruce Jenner really a woman?

The answer is simply no. Now, there are many who would disagree with me and even take offense that I would make such a statement. First of all, the argument would go, Bruce Jenner has the right to define his own existence, to express himself as he sees fit, to be who he really is. That was the line of reasoning that Bruce used – this is simply who he is. The fact that he’s been fighting against this reality, hiding it from others for years, doesn’t dismiss the reality that he is not a woman trapped in a man’s body – he’s simply a woman (according to Jenner).

Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy said it best in the 1992 Casey decision that upheld a woman’s right to an abortion when he wrote this:

These matters, involving the most intimate and personal choices a person may make in a lifetime, choices central to personal dignity and autonomy, are central to the liberty protected by the Fourteenth Amendment. At the heart of liberty is the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.

Did you catch that? At the heart of liberty, at the core of what it means to be free, to be fully human is the right to “define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.” If that’s true, think about the ramifications. First, why would we even need a Supreme Court to make any determinations or decisions – I define my own reality, not the court, or the Congress, or the law, or anyone else. I say with Henley: “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.”

In reality, Jenner has not replaced the courts or Congress as the ultimate authority in his life, he has replaced God as the Author and Creator of life. In Genesis, God revealed that He was the Grand Designer of life and in His words He said that He created “man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:27). But God goes on to tell us why He created us male and female. In verses 23-24 of Genesis chapter 2 it says:

Then the man said, “This is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”

Can you see how God’s design for gender and sexuality is grounded in the concept of marriage and family in these verses? Man – husband. Woman – wife. Man and woman together – parents. Family.

But something happened and it has happened in other civilizations before ours. The family has not been protected; the family has not done its job of passing along a legacy of faith from one generation to the next; the family has not secured gender and sexuality and protected these gifts for the proper use and function; the family has failed. And what happens to a society when the family fails? Consider the warning of President Lyndon B. Johnson who said:

The family is the cornerstone of our society. More than any other force it shapes the attitude, the hopes, the ambitions, and the values of the child. And when the family collapses it is the children that are usually damaged. When it happens on a massive scale the community itself is crippled. So, unless we work to strengthen the family, to create conditions under which most parents will stay together, all the rest – schools, playgrounds, and public assistance, and private concern – will never be enough.

The family is the cornerstone, and like Christ, has been rejected by our culture. Well known Genevan philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau once wrote: “In the beginning, God created man in his own image. Man, being the gentleman, returned the favor.” We have created gods in our own image. n essence, Bruce Jenner is his own god. By his life, statements and actions, he has rejected the Creator God and replaced Him with his own definition of reality. Where God said male, Bruce Jenner says female.

Psalm 118:8 says, “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in men.” I am going to follow that wisdom and trust that what God has said is right. My hope and prayer is that others, like Bruce Jenner, would learn to do the same.

Hollywood Turned Christian?

I’m not sure I’ve ever seen such an incredible offering of outstanding Christian movies than is currently available or coming soon. Christian movies featuring the first special needs actor in a leading role. Christian movies about the power of prayer and the power of the cross. Christian movies about the faith of our fathers. Christian movies about standing up for truth on a college campus. Christian movies about the erosion of our religious liberties. Christian movies about purity and chivalry. Christian movies about one of the first African American football players in the State of Alabama. And Christian movies about the life of Solomon!

For the movies I’ve already seen, here’s a list of recommendations:

War Room

Going on record now – best Christian movie I’ve seen so far! Now, I loved Do You Believe (see below) and thoughtThe Song and Where Hope Grows (both below) were incredible, but War Room is simply awesome. Priscilla Shirer (the daughter of Dr. Tony Evans) leads a great cast, but it’s not the acting that will win you over – it’s the story! The story is about the power of prayer and it deals specifically with a family situation that is crumbling right before your eyes. But it’s not over – not when God gets involved and changes the lives from the inside out. Thrilled to see comedian Michael, Jr. who was at our BWi in November have a great role in this movie as well. You probably won’t be surprised to learn that this movie is the fifth from the Kendrick Brothers – the guys who gave us Flywheel, Facing the Giants, Fireproof and Courageous! If you only watch one of the movies listed, pick this one! Comes to theaters August 28.

God’s Not Dead and Do You Believe

God’s Not Dead came out last year and is the story of a young college freshman who stands toe-to-toe with an atheist professor. Great movie, especially for teens before they go off to college! The same creators released Do You Believe this year – an outstanding movie about the lives of twelve different people who are dramatically impacted by the cross of Jesus Christ. Powerful and poignant. This film doesn’t hold any punches and deals with the struggles of life head on.

The Song

I still can’t believe that this movie did such an amazing job of featuring the life of Solomon in today’s culture. You have to pay attention to all the details – the one-liners about his dad being good at throwing rocks, the fact that Jedidiah (God’s name for Solomon) built the “temple,” and that his dad, David King (get it) was a musician! Great message about the devastating effects of adultery along with the power of forgiveness and redemption.

Where Hope Grows

Amazing story about the impact that one life can have. The movie stars David DeSanctis who has Down syndrome and will bring you to tears on more than one occasion! Powerful story about purity and second chances. Rated PG-13 for some mature themes not appropriate for younger audiences. Where Hope Grows opens in theaters May 15.

One Generation Away

A powerful documentary demonstrating the erosion of religious liberty in America. If you haven’t seen this one, check it out and show the whole family!

For the movies I’m hoping to see soon:

Woodlawn

A movie about a Birmingham high school football team swept up in a spiritual revival and the racial barriers that some were brave enough to face and break down.

Old Fashioned

This is a touching story about purity and chivalry – hasn’t hit too many theaters yet, but keep your eye out for it when it comes to video.

Could You Defend Marriage Before the Supreme Court?

Just last week the Supreme Court heard arguments for and against the expansion of marriage to include same-sex relationships. Think about what you would say to the Supreme Court justices to defend traditional marriage.

Would you use Bible verses and talk about how God has designed marriage to be a relationship between one man and one woman? While this is true, the Court may have a problem with arguments grounded in one particular religious belief since they wouldn’t want to establish one particular religious belief over another in violation of the First Amendment to the Constitution. You wouldn’t want another religious perspective on marriage to be forced upon you here in the U.S. Are there additional arguments that can be made not solely grounded in religious language?

You could argue that marriage between one man and one woman is traditional – that’s the way it’s always been not only here in the U.S., but in most major cultures across the globe and across the centuries. While this may be true also, does this mean that the Court is beholden to the way things have been done in the past?

And what about the arguments from those wishing to expand marriage to include same-sex relationships – are you ready to counter those before the Supreme Court? Some would say that since marriage is such a positive and foundational building block for society, expanding marriage to include more families is clearly a positive for everyone! Others might argue that not allowing same-sex relationships to have the stamp of approval from the state creates what amounts to a second-class citizen and is discriminatory and unfair. Or there is the argument that marriage isn’t really anything special since nearly half of all marriages end in divorce – so why couldn’t same-sex couples who are in love and wanting to have a family at least enjoy the same status and tax benefits as heterosexual couples?

This summer I am going to be teaching a course that deals with this and other significant and profound cultural issues with the goal being that our students will be able to speak intelligently and persuasively defending what they believe. The course was originally slated to be in June, but has been moved to July 7-9 (Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday) from 9:00 a.m. to noon. If you are interested in having your student attend this course, please check out my Worldviews in Conflict course offered during our Summers at Prestonwood.

Worldview Lessons from Mayweather vs. Pacquiao

For most, Mayweather/Pacquiao was a boxing match – some were calling it the “Fight of the Century.” Undefeated Mayweather, 47-0, was facing fan-favorite Manny Pacquiao – the “Fighter of the Decade” for the 2000s and currently ranked number three on the Ring pound-for-pound list according to Wikipedia. After waiting for five years to make this fight happen, both fighters were rewarded handsomely for twelve rounds of boxing – splitting an estimated $300 million.

So, just a normal, over-priced boxing match – what’s the big deal? Most people didn’t even think it was a very good fight. Boxer Mike Tyson wasn’t impressed. He tweeted after the fight:

We waited five years for that... #underwhelmed #MayPac

Regardless of whether you watched the fight or not, were impressed by the boxing or not, or even knew the fight happened, there were some monumental things that happened because or during the fight that really are worth your time and attention.

First, let’s turn to Revelation chapter 11 and there we read in verse nine that in the end times God will raise up “two witnesses” who will speak for the Lord, but when they have finished their testimony, they will be struck down by the beast from the bottomless pit and “their dead bodies will lie in the street” for three and a half days. During this time, “some from the peoples and tribes and languages and nations will gaze at their dead bodies.” Think about this for a moment. Two men will lie dead in the streets and people from all over the globe will be able to see them lying there. How?

Well, I used to think that the invention of the television answered that question, but I learned about something even more powerful than that and witnessed it in use during the Mayweather vs. Pacquiao fight. Live video streaming. One of a number of live broadcast apps are available, I have one called Periscope. Periscople is the Twitter-owned live video streaming app which enables people to see what someone else sees live – from anywhere in the world! For instance, just imagine that in some country, there was a room full of people watching the pay-per-view Mayweather vs. Pacquiao fight – but if one of those people simply pointed their phones at their TV screen and logged on to Periscope, they could broadcast the fight live across the globe! I only know this because I was thinking how incredible it would be if possible – so I checked my Periscope the night of the fight and there were literally dozens of people broadcasting the fight live while thousands of people were watching it live on Periscope! And there are other live streaming apps like Meerkat, which allows you to post live video streams on Facebook.

Someday, very soon, it will be possible for nearly everyone in the world to be able to see an event live with just their phones and the Internet – can you imagine?!

Another lesson from the fight is how messed up our priorities are today. I was thinking about the words of Jesus in Luke chapter 12 where He said this:

"Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."

Some quick research on the Internet brought some humbling statistics to light – consider the following:

  • Nearly one half of the world’s population — more than three billion people — live on less than $2.50 a day. More than 1.3 billion live in extreme poverty — less than $1.25 a day.
  • 2.1 billion children worldwide are living in poverty. According to UNICEF, 22,000 children die each day due to poverty.
  • 805 million people worldwide do not have enough food to eat.
  • More than 750 million people lack adequate access to clean drinking water. Diarrhea caused by inadequate drinking water, sanitation, and hand hygiene kills an estimated 842,000 people every year globally, or approximately 2,300 people per day.

Each boxer took home nearly $100 million. That’s money that people paid to see this fight…money that could have been spent on someone or something else. When we complain about our messed up world, I am often reminded that the world we live in today is a reflection of what we value – and we value entertainment and pleasure far too much. Consider the following statistics on what we, as Americans, spend:

  • According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statics, the average annual expenditures were $50,486. Spending on entertainment was $2,827 or 5.6% of all annual spending.
  • According to another source, although $2,504 was the overall average Americans spent on entertainment, averages vary according to a different income brackets. According to the 2010 Consumer Expenditure Survey from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, consumers who earned less than $50,000 spent less than $2,000 on entertainment. Americans who earned $100,000 or more spent an average of $5,500 on different types of entertainment, and those with annual incomes of more than $150,000 averaged $7,032.

Remember the words of Jesus – “where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Great reminder to put our treasure in kingdom endeavors, so that our hearts will follow.

#FollowMe @PCADADS

With an amazing 21 tweets under my belt, I am not going to make any outlandish promises about my social media prowess. To the contrary, I am going to state from the beginning that I am a Twitter neophyte, but want to utilize this powerful media in a more productive manner to connect with you! So follow me @PCADADS and I will try to give you helpful information about worldview, parenting and spiritual issues. Let me know what things you find useful or what you would like more of and I will attempt to meet those needs. I would also like to utilize this social medium to ask questions and hear back from you as well – so be ready to respond or retweet or whatever that’s called. I consider it a blessing to be doing life with other Christian parents who are looking to raise their kids to be warriors for Christ and if Twitter helps keep us connected and engaged, let’s use it!

February 2015 Highlights

Lessons from Fifty Shades of Grey

First, let me begin with the disclaimer – I have not and have no plans to either read the book or watch the movie Fifty Shades of Grey. If you are wondering if you should be watching this movie, please check out the wonderful wisdom supplied by a concert of voices that should give you great pause and concern. Dr. Jim Denison wrote about the movie in his weekly commentary and Mona Corwin, PCA parent, addressed a number of issues in her blog.

Wait, what lessons can one learn if you haven’t read the book or watched the film? Plenty. The main lesson that I’ve taken away from the popularity of this book and film and all the controversy surrounding it is that most people don’t see the irony presented by this message. Simply put, the irony is that bondage (the underlying theme of the story) is the key to freedom. Think about that statement for a minute: bondage is the key to freedom. Fifty Shades of Grey is putting forth the claim that you haven’t truly lived life to the fullest until you’ve experienced the sexual “freedom” of bondage.

This false freedom is the same message that Satan used in the Garden – God’s best for you isn’t enough. God must be holding something back, something better – because it’s off-limits, it must be something pretty special and wonderful. Why trust God’s plan and design for things – God just wants to take the joy and fun out of life. That is the same old song and dance from the Garden repackaged for today’s audience. But while the message may be old, people are still buying it!

There have been numerous Christians throughout the ages that have seen that message and called out a warning to all who would hear. At the turn of the 20th Century, that man was J. Gresham Machen. Some may remember Machen as that great Princeton Theological Seminary New Testament professor who ended up leaving Princeton to start a more conservative seminary called Westminster Theological Seminary. From one of his short essays called The Gospel in the Modern World, consider this profound statement from Machen:

The real indictment against the modern world is that by the modern world human liberty is being destroyed.

Machen got it. The message from the Enemy and the world is that there is something better than God’s plan, but the reality is that this false message leads to death and destruction. The modern world tells us that sexual liberty is our freedom, when just the opposite is true. The sexual “liberty” of the modern world – having sex without the restraint of marriage – results in sexual bondage, pain and heartache. The sexual “liberty” of the modern world – abortion – has resulted in over 57 million innocent and unborn children being killed in what should be the safest place in the world, the United States of America, and the loss of those individuals is having an adverse effect on our culture today!

Another person who saw the message of the world for the lie that it is was C.S. Lewis. Lewis talked a lot about the perversion of sexuality in this epic work Mere Christianity. Lewis would say that the message of Fifty Shades of Grey should remind us all that there is, indeed, a normal sexual life that God has created for good – and that this perversion of it should be expected since that’s all Satan does – twists the goodness of God into a “spoiled goodness.” Consider this from Mere Christianity:

Goodness is, so to speak, itself: badness is only spoiled goodness. And there must be something good first before it can be spoiled. We called sadism a sexual perversion; but you must first have the idea of a normal sexuality before you can talk of its being perverted; and you can see which is the perversion, because you can explain the perverted from the normal, and cannot explain the normal from the perverted.

Lewis got it. I have another quote from Lewis that says, “Our passions are not too strong, they are too weak. We are far too easily pleased.” I’m reminded of that statement with Fifty Shades of Grey – Satan would love for us to settle for lust and not work hard for true love. Satan would love for us to settle for the physical passion and not work hard for the spiritual and emotional connection as well.

Then there was Francis Schaeffer – one of my favorites. He, too, understood the false messages of this world and how damaging they are.

The world spirit of our age rolls on and on claiming to be autonomous and crushing all that we cherish it its path. Sixty years ago could we have imagined that unborn children would be killed by the millions here in our own country? Or that we would have no freedom of speech when it comes to speaking of God and biblical truth in our public schools? Or that every form of sexual perversion would be promoted by the entertainment media? Or that marriage, raising children, and family life would be objects of attack?

Schaeffer got it. And he was intensely determined that others would get it, too. He continued his thought process with this statement:

Sadly we must say that very few Christians have understood the battle that we are in. Very few have taken a strong and courageous stand against the world spirit of this age as it destroys our culture and the Christian ethos that once shaped our country. But the scriptures make clear that we as Bible-believing Christians are locked in a battle of cosmic proportions. It is a life and death struggle over the minds and souls of men for all eternity, but it is equally a life and death struggle over life on this earth…”

Schaeffer would say that Fifty Shades of Grey is much more than a book and movie that Christians should avoid. Schaeffer would say that Fifty Shades of Grey is part of a much larger battle that far too many Christians do not see and are, sadly, not engaged in. Sure, not seeing this movie is step one. But what about all those around us who are taken captive by the “vain and hollow philosophies of this world”? We must do battle not only for ourselves, but for others as well – that is the example that Christ gave us! Think about the words of Jesus recorded in the Gospel of John:

I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

Sadly, many of those reading Fifty Shades of Grey and watching this movie are slaves to sin. The solution is more than getting them not to read a book or watch a movie – the solution is found only in the freedom that comes through the blood of Christ shed for the remission of our sins! And as Christians, we should not only be ambassadors of this life-giving message, but we should also be models of what this life transformation looks like. We should walk in the light as He is in the light and not in the darkness from which we came.

I pray that we get it and that we give this understanding to our children as well.

Irrelevant: That’s a Strong Word!

Many of you have probably heard the name Rob Bell. Bell hit the scene as a pastor of one of the fastest growing churches in America as he founded and led Mars Hill Bible Church in Grandville, MI. In 2005, Bell published his first book titled Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith. From there he went on to produce the popular NOOMA® spiritual short films and was eventually named in 2011 as one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World according to TIME magazine. Since that time, Bell has stepped down from the leadership of his church, moved to California, published a book titled Love Wins claiming that there is no hell, and joined forces with Oprah Winfrey hosting his own show on her network and sitting down to chat with her on Winfrey’s “Super Soul Sunday” where he talked about the nature of love and the future of the church.

Bell is making headlines again for his recent comments that a church which doesn’t support same-sex marriage is “irrelevant.” He has stated that the church’s acceptance of same-sex marriage is “inevitable,” and gives as his reason because loneliness “is not good for the world.” This line of reasoning is exactly what Matthew Vines puts forth in his book God and the Gay Christian. Vines espouses that the Genesis creation story demonstrates that God created man to be in a relationship with someone “similar” to himself – “it is not good for man to be alone” (Gen. 2:18). In this recent interview with Oprah, Bell went on to address the opposition to same-sex marriage from those within the church. “I think culture is already there and the church will continue to be even more irrelevant when it quotes letters from 2,000 years ago as their best defense.”

Public opinion polls demonstrate that the majority of Americans agree with Bell and Vines. Support for same-sex marriage has remained above 50% consistently in polls since 2010 and the most recent polls show that nearly 80% of Americans age 18-29 support same-sex marriage! This June, the Supreme Court is expected to finally settle the legal dispute over same-sex marriage. While many states have passed bans on same-sex marriage, recently Florida became the 36th state, in addition to the District of Columbia, to allow same-sex marriage. Many legal experts anticipate the Supreme Court’s decision in June to legalize same-sex marriage for the entire country.

With public opinion polls and the law of the land moving in one direction, what should the role of the church and Christians be in this day and time? Some feel strongly that if the church refuses to embrace homosexuals and same-sex marriage that it would be repeating the mistake made during the Civil Rights Movement, when many mainstream churches fought desegregation and found themselves on the wrong side of history. Others feel like the issues of homosexuality and same-sex marriage aren’t central to the Gospel message of forgiveness and redemption and should simply be ignored for the greater good of “saving souls.”

Listening to the likes of Rob Bell and others proclaim that the church must kowtow to the culture reminds me of the importance of being in a Bible-believing and Bible-proclaiming church. Remember the charge that Paul gave Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:2-5:

Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.

Seriously, did Paul write that over 2000 years ago – sounds like wisdom for us today! The role of the church is not to be relevant to the culture. The role of the church is to proclaim the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ! Notice that Paul tells Timothy to “endure hardship” – meaning that this isn’t always going to be easy and popular.

Of course we pray that we can be faithful and relevant to our times. Think of Daniel in Babylon. God gave Daniel incredible opportunities to minister to the highest officials of the land – but not because Daniel told them what they wanted to hear. Daniel told King Nebuchadnezzar the truth about his dreams – in fact, listen to these words from Daniel to the ruler of Babylon:

Therefore, O king, be pleased to accept my advice: Renounce your sins by doing what is right, and your wickedness by being kind to the oppressed. It may be that then your prosperity will continue.

Daniel had a fantastic balance of grace and truth. Remember that Nebuchadnezzar wasn’t sinning against Daniel – he was sinning against God. Daniel is simply a messenger. Are we prepared to deliver a similar message of truth and grace? This past November, PCA hosted our annual Biblical Worldview Institute featuring several of the nation’s leading voices on the issue of homosexuality, same-sex marriage and the Bible. Check out these videos posted on the PCA website to be challenged to think Biblically and speak persuasively on this issue.

This summer I am offering a course for students to learn to think critically and Christianly about cultural issues such as homosexuality, same-sex marriage and other relevant topics. The course will be June 23-25 from 1-4 pm and is offered through Summers at Prestonwood. This would be a great opportunity for your students to engage in the hard work of thinking about these very important issues – hope to see many of them this summer! Let’s follow the example of David, who refused to sit on the sidelines with the rest of Israel’s warriors while the godless giant Goliath mocked his God – David stepped out in faith – let’s encourage and equip our students to do the same!

Your Spiritual Journey

At the beginning of this month, Prestonwood Baptist Churches and dozens of other churches in the area invaded thousands of homes in the area for their annual Freedom/Discipleship Now weekends! Thousands of students were swept up in the worship and the Word, and hundreds of students surrendered their lives to Christ! But then the weekend ends, and the students are back into their normal environment and routine – how does a “new creature in Christ” return to “normal”?

The Campus Ministry Team saw an opportunity to help students continue their growth in Christ and offered a five week mini-discipleship class on Tuesday mornings at 7 am. For the first Tuesday morning session, 32 students came and sat as they were told that the first step toward growing in Christ is taking an honest look at where you are currently. Students were given a document to help them on their journey – a way to do a quick self-assessment so they can determine the hurdles and opportunities for their spiritual journey.

PCA wants to encourage all students in their spiritual journey. For those new or young in their faith walk, a list of valuable resources is included on our website on the Campus Ministry under the “New Christian” tab. Also check out the Resources page in the Campus Ministry section of the website for additional resources to assist you in your spiritual journey.

November 2014 Highlights

Calling All Parents!

We all want our children to be “rooted and built up” in Christ – to find their identity as new creatures and children of God. Not so easy when they are constantly bombarded with messages and images from the world that tell them their worth is found in how they look, what they wear, how they can perform or where they go to college. This year’s Biblical Worldview Institute (BWi) is focused on helping students find their IDENTITY in Christ! Not only do we have a great line-up of speakers and topics, but we have some additional resources on our Campus Ministry Team webpage that will help you engage your son or daughter in meaningful and intentional dialogue on these important topics.

First, listed below are the speakers for BWi on Thursday, November 20, and Friday, November 21. All sessions (except for the Middle School session on Thursday morning) will be in the main worship center at Prestonwood Baptist Church. Doors open at 8:00 a.m., speakers begin at 8:30 a.m.

Thursday, November 20

  • Rob Wilton, pastor of the Vintage Church in New Orleans
  • Sean McDowell, professor at Biola University and co-author with John Stonestreet of Same-sex Marriage: A Thoughtful Approach to God’s Design for Marriage
  • John Stonestreet, author and cultural commentator with The Colson Center and Summit Ministries
  • 7th and 8th grade students will listen to Pastor Wilton and then have a special session in the Choir Rehearsal Room with Pastor Dono Pelham from Life Changing Faith Church in Frisco and Margaret Kay Tucker

Friday, November 21

  • Dr. Joe McIlhaney, medical director for the Medical Institute for Sexual Health and author of the profound book titled Hooked: How Casual Sex is Affection Our Children (Middle School students will have a time of review and reflection and will join the other students following Dr. McIlhaney’s presentation)
  • Jonathan Evans, chaplain for the Dallas Cowboys and co-author of Kingdom Man with his father Dr. Tony Evans
  • Austen Williams, current Mrs. North America will help our students understand that their true value is not found in their outward appearance
  • Michael, Jr., tremendously funny comedian

Parents are invited to attend any or all sessions. Check out the PCA website to register for the conference.

Now, for those additional resources. PCA Parent Pages are resources that are filled with valuable information to help you, as a parent, engage in meaningful and intentional dialogue with your students. The PCA Parent Pages can be found on the Campus Ministry resources page on the PCA website. In addition to the two new topics, there are PCA Parent Pages on the issues of technology and pornography as well. Hopefully you will find these resources helpful – and feel free to pass them along to other parents even if their children do not attend PCA.

  • PCA Parent Pages: How Do I Talk to my Teens about Same-sex Marriage?
  • PCA Parent Pages: How Do I Talk to my Teens about Sex and Dating?

Mockingjay as a Springboard to Conversation

At midnight on Friday, November 21, the third installment in the movie series The Hunger Games makes its way to the box office – and millions of teens and tweens will crowd the theaters over the next few weeks to watch. Of course, the initial thought from a parenting perspective is “do I let my children watch the movie?” Best way to answer that question is to know what’s actually in the movie. Plugged In movie review is a fantastic place to begin your inquiry. Written from a biblical worldview perspective, these movie reviews are very helpful as you consider content and intent of the movie messages. Plugged In also has reviews of videos, music, TV and games as well.

October 2014 Highlights

November Election

Tuesday, November 4, is Election Day – early voting has already begun! On the ballot in Texas are important races including the following hotly contested statewide offices:

Governor
Rick Perry assumed the role of Governor of Texas in December 2000 – that’s nearly 14 years ago! Running for Governor in this election is Democrat Wendy Davis, a former Texas State Senator, known for her eleven-hour-long filibuster to block Senate Bill 5, a bill that included very strong restrictions on abortion procedures. The bill was ultimately passed in a special session, but this effort by Davis sprang her to national attention and to the lead in the race for Governor from the Democratic ticket. On the Republican side is Greg Abbott, the 50th Attorney General of Texas and only the second Republican to fill that office since Reconstruction. Before serving in that office, Abbott was a justice on the Texas Supreme Court, appointed by then-Governor George W. Bush. He is best known for his efforts to protect the display of the Ten Commandments on the Capitol grounds.

Lieutenant Governor
Two Texas State Senators square off for the position previously held by David Dewhurst. Dan Patrick, who defeated Dewhurst in the Republican primary, faces Democrat Leticia Van de Putte. The Lt. Governor is one of the most powerful positions in the Texas government since this position essentially controls the Texas Senate.

Attorney General
To replace gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott, two attorneys face off on the ballot. Sam Houston (not that one!) is the Democratic candidate and an attorney practicing law for 26 years in Houston, TX. Ken Paxton is the Republican candidate and has served most recently as a Texas State Senator and before that as a Texas State Representative. Paxton also practices law in McKinney, TX.

Of course, dozens of other elections are on the ballot as well – current U.S. Senator John Cornyn is up for reelection and has a number of opponents, including long-time member of the U.S. House, Sam Johnson. There are literally hundreds of places you can go to find out more information on the candidates – one place that I found valuable was a website called www.IVoterGuide.com – you can select your own preference in terms of liberal or conservative, and it shows you how the various candidates compare to your own preference. This website and information is coordinated by Heritage Alliance and is entirely free to the user. Also, there is an exciting new documentary out promoted by former US Senator and Presidential candidate Rick Santorum called One Generation Away – it shows the attack on religious freedoms across the country and encourages people to be informed and involved!

Check out their website to learn more about this important film: http://onegenerationawaymovie.com/

Biblical Worldview Institute — November 20-21

Where do our kids find their identity today? For some identity is found in the things that they possess. For others, identity may be wrapped up in how they look. Others may find their identity in something the world has told them about themselves, or how they feel about certain things. The Bible tells Christians to find their identity IN Christ. Paul uses this concept in 2 Corinthians 5:17 when he writes, “Therefore, if anyone is IN CHRIST, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” That’s good news! But when Christians try to find their identity in the things of the old, there is a great deal of confusion and turmoil.

Our theme for the Biblical Worldview Institute for 2014 is IDENTITY, and our desire is for our students to be challenged in the way that they view themselves. On Thursday, November 20 several incredible speakers will help challenge our students in their thinking on the issue of homosexuality and same-sex marriage. Where does this gender confusion come from, how can we as Christians understand God’s design and plan for mankind in terms of sexuality and relationships, and how should we as Christians speak to others who are confused and struggling with these issues? Pastor Rob Wilton from Vintage Church in New Orleans will kick off the session on Thursday morning with a Biblical message to our students about finding their identity in Christ. Our good friends Ricky Chelette, Sean McDowell and John Stonestreet will then tackle the complexities of homosexuality and same-sex marriage from several different aspects which will be followed by a panel discussion that will be open to questions from the audience.

On Friday, November 21, Mrs. America 2014 Austen Williams will speak about finding your identity in Christ and not in the fleeting image of beauty! Jonathan Evans, the son of Dr. Tony Evans and chaplain for the Dallas Cowboys, will speak about the challenge for our boys to find their true masculine identity in this crazy culture today. And Michael Jr., one of the funniest comedians today, will end our student time on Friday with humor and a challenge for our students.

More Frightening than Ebola?

Recently, much of the talk about town was regarding the Ebola situation and, as important as this health concern was and is, there is another headline coming out of a major city in Texas that sends an even larger chill down your spine. If you haven’t heard, the City of Houston has been making waves recently with a very strange “bathroom ordinance” dubbed HERO (for the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance) which would allow men to use women’s bathrooms (etc.) and vice versa – an effort lead by openly homosexual Mayor Annise Parker. If HERO is passed and enforced, public accommodations could not discriminate against any person on the basis of that individual’s “sex, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, familial status, marital status, military status, religion, disability, sexual orientation, genetic information, gender identity or pregnancy.”

Concerning? Yes. More frightening than Ebola? No. But wait, there’s more. After the City of Houston passed the HERO measure, the citizens rose up with to challenge with a massive petition drive to get the ordinance passed on the ballot. The city’s efforts to invalidate the petitions failed and so the mayor took a very bold step – she has demanded that Houston pastors turn over their sermons, speeches and other communications regarding homosexuality or gender identity to see if these pastors misused their pulpits for political purposes. Here is the tweet of Mayor Annise Parker about this situation:

Here are a couple of MAJOR lessons we need to take away from this situation.

  1. The persecution is coming. Yes, even here in the United States of America – the tide is slowly (or quickly, depending on how long you’ve been paying attention) turning away from the Judeo-Christian roots of our Founders. The pillars of tolerance, equality and freedom undergird this new generation – and they are deathly afraid of doing or saying anything that might offend someone (unless that someone is a Christian). Religious liberty now means freedom from religion, not freedom to practice your religion. Already Christian groups on college campuses are feeling the heat – they are being shut down for not allowing non-Christians into positions of leadership – being intolerant toward others! The City of San Antonio wanted to ban Christians from holding public office. The City of Houston is threatening to silence pastors from speaking the truth about homosexuality. Sure, these initiatives may be held off for another season, but this is the growing trend and unless something changes dramatically, it will prevail.
  2. As the tide changes, we have an opportunity to demonstrate the love of Christ to others. Unfortunately, many Christians will act out of emotion, not love for the lost. Already headlines are coming in about pastors “launching an offensive strike – flooding Houston lesbian Mayor’s office with Bibles and sermons.” When the world punches, we punch back – take that! I’m all for defending our religious freedoms, but we must also think about how we would want to be treated and seek to treat others in the same manner. Mayor Parker is not the enemy.

    Years ago, I was helping a pastor and his congregation prepare for a city council hearing for an adult bookstore that had filed for a permit. They were livid about this and wanted to do everything they could to keep that establishment from coming to their community. I shared their concern. But my advice to them was to conduct themselves in a manner pleasing to Christ. The owner of the establishment wasn’t their enemy – he just wanted to make some money. They needed to speak truth to the council and help them understand that what this man was bringing was not in the best interest of the community. They didn’t need to attack the owner. The next morning the pastor called and asked me if I could guess what happened. I was anxious to hear his report. He told me about the hearing, about how well he and his congregation spoke and also about how they conversed with the owner of the establishment and showed him respect. Well, what happened was that the Spirit of God moved that night. When the hearing was over, the owner of the establishment withdrew his application for a permit and then tracked down the pastor in the parking lot to find out what was so different about them – why did they treat him so well? The pastor had an opportunity to share the good news with him about the saving work of Jesus and the owner of that business repented and surrendered his life to Christ!

    Proverbs 19:2 says “It is not good to have zeal without knowledge, nor to be hasty and miss the way.” I take that to mean that we must be thoughtful in our approach to the world and how we should act. Let’s not simply “react” to the world’s approach; let’s thoughtfully and prayerfully respond with a great balance of truth and love. Maybe there are opportunities for things even greater than we imagined!

Fantastic Movie – "The Song"

You know the story of Solomon – the son of King David, the wisest man in history, the man who built the famed Temple and wrote several books of the Bible. Of course you know his story – but what if you could retell that story today? That’s the ambition of writer and director Richard Ramsey – tell the age old story of Solomon with a modern twist – and man, does he do it well!

Ramsey sets Alan Powell in the lead role as Jedediah King – did you know that God’s name for Solomon was Jedediah? See 2 Samuel 12:25. Powell is well known as a member of the Christian band Anthem Lights – so he fits well into the role of Jed King, a musician/singer and son of the famous musician David King (get it?).

The movie is fantastic for several reasons. First, the message of the movie is tremendously powerful – it shows the destruction that sin and shame bring, but also demonstrates the power of forgiveness and redemption. Secondly the movie weaves in plenty of Scriptural truths. Jedediah builds a “temple.” His wife is the daughter of a man who owns a vineyard. His dad is pretty good at “throwing rocks.” The Song is a fantastic production – great message, good acting, good music, entertaining, meaningful, powerful.

For more information about The Song, check out the review on PluggedIn here: http://www.pluggedin.com/movies/intheaters/song-2014.aspx

May 2014 Highlights

O2 Experience

Loud music, solid teaching. Teens, pre-teens, young adults. Life, death, sex and romance. Sound interesting? The O2 Experience is coming to Dallas on Friday night, May 16, hosted by Prestonwood Baptist Church. From their website, here is a description of the O2 Experience:

"Like our bodies need oxygen, our souls need God. In a world consumed by sexual smog the O2 Experience is a breath of fresh air. This is an opportunity for young people to hear the life-changing message of the gospel and understand God's plan for their sex lives.

This is a hard-hitting and fast moving event that includes music from the dynamic O2 band and special guests, but the cornerstone of the night is a presentation of the Gospel. Levi Lusko brings a culturally relevant and clear message, providing an opportunity for people to make a decision to accept Jesus Christ.

The O2 Experience shows that God's plan for our lives includes our sex lives, too. It exposes the polluted approach to dating and sex that dominates our culture and sheds light on God's call to live on a higher level. It covers real life questions like, 'Is it realistic to wait until you're married to have sex?' or 'How far is too far?' and 'Is there hope even if I’ve already messed up?'"

The event is a product of Fresh Life Church in Montana under the leadership of Levi Lusko. Those attending Prestonwood this past Sunday, May 11, had the incredible privilege of hearing Pastor Lusko not only open up the Word and share a message, but also open up his heart and share a portion of his journey and struggle. Pastor Lusko’s message titled “Turn Off the Dark” is part of the Unchained series at Prestonwood and is worthy of your time to download and watch or listen to – you can find it here.

The O2 Experience is recommended for 6th grade students and up. This event promises to be an incredible opportunity – invite friends, family, neighbors, teammates, etc. – they will be blessed by this incredible evening of worship and truth from God’s Word. To learn more, visit http://o2experience.com/events/dallas/

Standing Up, Standing Out

Parenting presents many dilemmas. One interesting predicament for parents is whether you raise your children to stand out or fit in. Think about it – especially during middle school there is probably nothing worse from a student’s perspective than being different, standing out, being noticed. Standing out means being visible – but it also means that people can take shots at you; you’re a target, easy prey! But, on the flip side of that coin, if you encourage your children to “fit in,” to run with the crowd, to “get along,” you run the risk of having children that get lost in the crowd and can’t stand against the godless stream of our culture.

I remember watching the movie Spanglish a few years ago where this theme is central to the parenting conflict of Adam Sandler and his wife in the movie, Tea Leoni. As they are raising their daughter, Tea Leoni’s greatest desire is for their daughter to fit in with the crowd, to be popular, well-liked, one of the “in” crowd. Sandler’s character has a different idea. In one line from the movie, Sandler says this:

"So between odd and the same...you gotta root for odd, don't you?"

What a great line – if you have to choose between your children fitting in and being “the same” as everyone else or standing out and being labeled as “odd,” Sandler communicates that he’d rather his daughter be comfortable in her own skin, comfortable with who she is and not have to morph herself into what the crowd looks like.

I was thinking about this concept when I heard the news about the Benham brothers. You’ve probably heard about these two young men: David and Jason Benham. Recently their story gained national attention when HGTV decided to drop a new program that would have featured the Benham brothers and their real estate and remodeling efforts. The reason for pulling the plug on the Benhams? The Benham brothers are saying the wrong things; they have taken a bold and very public stand for their beliefs. The brothers have spoken out against abortion and same-sex marriage – the ultimate kiss of death in our “tolerant” culture that will tolerate any views as long as they are not against abortion or same-sex marriage!

In response to their show getting pulled, the Benham brothers issued the following statement:

The first and last thought on our minds as we begin and end each day is; have we shined Christ’s light today? Our faith is the fundamental calling in our lives, and the centerpiece of who we are. As Christians we are called to love our fellow man. Anyone who suggests that we hate homosexuals or people of other faiths is either misinformed or lying.

Over the last decade, we’ve sold thousands of homes with the guiding principle of producing value and breathing life into each family that has crossed our path, and we do not, nor will we ever discriminate against people who do not share our views.

We were saddened to hear HGTV’s decision. With all of the grotesque things that can be seen and heard on television today you would think there would be room for two twin brothers who are faithful to our families, committed to biblical principles, and dedicated professionals. If our faith costs us a television show then so be it.

Love that entire statement, but especially their last line. If our faith costs us…then so be it. Sound familiar? Luke chapter 9 – Jesus warns his disciples that there is a “cost” to following Him. Daniel in the lion’s den…Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego? Hebrews Chapter 11 – the famous “Hall of Faith” marked by those who were willing to sacrifice all for their God. The stoning of Stephen. Foxes’ Book of Martyrs. Tyndale, Hus, Bonhoeffer. Central to the Christian faith is the idea of sacrifice – beginning with the sacrificial atonement of Jesus Christ on the cross and carried forth boldly by generations of disciples who shared in His afflictions. Should we be surprised that today these sacrifices are still required and essential to the Gospel?

Parents, what is our ultimate goal for our children – to stand out or fit in? There are benefits and consequences for each decision. If you choose to raise your children to stand up and stand out, you have to equip them with the spiritual armor to withstand the fiery darts of the enemy. They have to be prepared not only for opposition, but ridicule and hostility toward their faith as well.

You might be asking: "How do you raise young men and women to stand out and not fit in?" – and that would be an excellent question. Let me suggest a few resources toward that bent:

Two excellent books by Douglas Bond – Stand Fast in the Way of Truth and Hold Fast in a Broken World – both are outstanding reads for fathers and sons.First, Do Hard Things: A Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectations by the Harris twins (what’s up with twins standing out?) – great book for your kids to read to encourage them to stand up and make a difference and for parents to read to learn how Gregg Harris made life difficult for his boys so they would appreciate and pursue the proverbial road less traveled.

Either book by author Jen Hatmaker: Interrupted: An Adventure in Relearning the Essentials of Faith or 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess (be careful of the life transformation that might happen).

Girls Uncovered: New Research on What America's Sexual Culture Does to Young Women – a powerful follow up book to Dr. McIlhaney’s outstanding book titled Hooked: New Science on How Casual Sex is Affecting Our Children – both very important reads to equip our children (especially our girls) with valuable information about sexuality.

Finally, a book that is definitely in my personal Top 10 Reads – Thoughts for Young Men by J.C. Ryle – little harder to read and digest, but well worth the time and effort.

Don’t forget to check out our Recommended Reading Lists for Young Men and Young Ladies available on our Resource Page. You will also discover valuable resources like our PCA Parent Pages on talking with your students about pornography and technology as well as resource recommendations for various life events and situations facing your family.

Emily's (Unfinished) Abortion Story

Recently a young woman named Emily Letts found out that she was pregnant. Emily, who works as an abortion counselor convincing other young women that it is okay to have an abortion, decided not only to have an abortion herself, but to record that abortion procedure and release the video on YouTube. One million views later, Emily’s story and cultural impact are far from over.

Emily’s choice to share this intimate and profound decision and procedure with the rest of the world has drawn criticism from both pro-life advocates and pro-choice proponents alike. But it has also garnered her encouragement and support from those who see her as a modern-day Rosa Parks – standing up by taking the conversation to the streets. In her own words, Letts says that she made and released the video for other women – to give them a voice and to demonstrate that they are not alone:

"My goal was to reach at least one woman, to make her breathe easier and to let her know that she is not alone. My video is not about me. It's about using my story as a jumping off point for conversation. Women do not need to be shamed into silence."

Forgive me if I’m missing something – with abortion legalized 41 years ago, more than 50 million unborn children have been terminated in their mother’s womb. Since when did women seeking an abortion not have a voice in this matter? The only voices you don’t hear are the unborn children – along with the fathers of these children as well as women who have chosen to have abortions and regret their decision – we never hear from these individuals!

I am reminded of a powerful book edited by PCA grandparent Barbara Horak titled Real Abortion Stories: The Hurting and The Healing. Mrs. Horak does an incredible job of sharing the real life testimonies of women who regretted their decision to terminate their pregnancies and end the lives of their unborn children. These are the stories that women need to hear – not the “made for YouTube version of abortion” by Emily Letts. Her “real” story is yet to be fully written – while the abortion procedure may only be a few minutes, the consequences of that decision last much longer.

What's Happening in Hollywood

Over the past couple of months, I had the choice to see several movies that dealt with Biblical/religious themes, which I found to be a little unusual. Generally speaking, I’ve become accustomed to ignoring most movies coming out of Hollywood. Blood, gore, unnecessary violence (remember Saw I-VIII), rampant sexuality (no suggestions necessary) and just plain old stupid plot lines are the norm, in my opinion. Yes, there are some gems that come along (#Frozen) and some pretty good movies a few times a year, but to have four movies that deal with Biblical themes and concepts seems to me to be pretty amazing.

The four movies I am referring to are Son of God, Noah, God’s Not Dead and Heaven is for Real. Now, you may be wondering if my mentioning all four of these movies in the same breath implies that I consider all four of these movies to be 1) Christian movies, 2) “good” movies (meaning well done) and 3) movies worth watching. The last category is there because there are some movies that are not “good” but are worth watching – I just watched one the other evening called The Ultimate Life (worth watching, but not very well done).

I’ve really enjoyed the ongoing “debate” in the Christian community about whether each of these movies is worth watching – good arguments are put forth on each side. The arguments for Noah are the most interesting. Several people posted comments supportive of this movie along the lines of this: at least people are being introduced to a Biblical story and they may actually go to the REAL Bible to find out the REAL story. Probably a little optimistic, but a valid argument none the less. There are a number of really good arguments not to see Heaven Is For Real along this line of reasoning: if I want to really know what heaven’s like, I just need to read the Bible.

Without getting bogged down in the various opinions regarding each movie, I just marvel that these four movies are actually at the cinema – at one point, I think three of the four were showing at the same time! That’s just amazing! Another surprise to me was that none of these four movies were the product of Sherwood Films – the movie production force out of Sherwood Baptist Church with incredible movies such as Facing the Giants, Fireproof and Courageous. Each of these four movies was produced and distributed by different groups in Hollywood – some Christian, some not. And the money that each of these films brought in was surprisingly not in line with how much was spent or the level of talent and resources. Consider the following:

Movie

Distributed by

Budget

Revenue

Son of God

20th Century Fox

$22 million

$67.7 million

Heaven is for Real

Sony Pictures Entertainment

$12 million

$77.4 million

Noah

Paramount Pictures

$125 million

$339 million

God’s Not Dead

Pure Flix Entertainment

$2 million

$58 million

If you just look at the bottom line – that return on investment, while the “major” motion picture with the huge star power (Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Emma Watson and Anthony Hopkins) more than doubled what they spent, Son of God more than tripled their expenses and the “smaller Christian” films returned six times what Heaven is for Real cost to make and 29 times what God’s Not Dead cost to make – that’s impressive!

Personally, I love that there are so many movies coming out that deal with religious and Biblical themes and concepts – I love that God is part of the conversation – and I love that as Christians we can disagree as to the best path to take regarding each film! We can choose to support the movie or not support it – and we have that choice! No longer are “religious films” only shown in churches on Sunday evenings. These are real movies shown on the big screen all across the country!

So, join the conversation, and encourage others to share their thoughts and opinions about these and other movies and books that deal with religious and Biblical themes. Point people back to Scripture as the authority and invite them to church to hear more about this Noah character or to find out if heaven really is for real! Be gracious in your disagreement and tempered in your conversations – there really are valid reasons for and in opposition to these and other movies – we are clearly in the area of “nonessentials of the faith” when dealing with entertainment options! Don’t forget to check out PluggedIn Online to review movies before you see them – just because a movie has a religious or Biblical theme, doesn’t mean it’s appropriate for everyone in your family.

Oh, and there are more movies on the horizon. Focus on the Family recently released a special one-night-only film titled Irreplaceable – a powerful documentary about the importance and role of the family. Nicolas Cage will be staring in the “remake” of the Left Behind movie and Christian Bale will take on the role of Moses in the film Exodus: Gods and Kings, set to be released by the end of this year. Finally, there are rumors about a movie currently under way about the great Christian author and pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer – I sure hope that movie is worth our time to watch!

March 2014 Highlights

World Impact Day

Thursday, March 6 was the annual World Impact Day at Prestonwood Christian Academy. The emphasis was on the persecuted church with special attention given to the imprisonment of Pastor Saeed Abedini. Pastor Saeed’s sister Zizi Abedini shared a brief testimony of her brother’s faithfulness to the Lord in a country closed to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

A former Muslim, Pastor Saeed, converted to Christianity in 2000. After meeting and marrying Naghmeh, an American citizen, in 2002, Pastor Saeed and Naghmeh became very involved in the house church movement in Iran in the early 2000s at a time when it was still tolerated by the Iranian government. Under Pastor Saeed’s leadership, nearly 100 house churches with more than 2,000 members were established in Iran. When Mahmoud Ahmedinejad was elected in 2005, the Iranian government cracked down on the house church movement and Pastor Saeed and his wife moved back to the US. In 2008, Abedini became an ordained minister in the U.S. and was granted American citizenship in 2010.

Then on July 28, 2012, Pastor Saeed returned to Iran to finalize plans regarding an orphanage he was building and was arrested by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard charged with subverting the government. At first Pastor Saeed was placed under house arrest, but he has recently received an eight year prison sentence which he is serving in Evin Prison in Tehran, Iran. U.S. President Barack Obama asked for prayers for Pastor Saeed at the 2014 National Prayer Breakfast bringing international attention to the plight of Pastor Saeed.

When talking with your children about Pastor Saeed and the persecuted church, consider the following “talking points” that will hopefully help you in those important conversations.

  • Paul encouraged Timothy to “enduring suffering” and warned “all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy) – as brothers and sisters in Christ, we can pray for Pastor Saeed and his family to remain faithful during this time of tribulation and ask for God to comfort them and provide for their needs.
  • To learn more about Pastor Saeed watch this YouTube video
  • According to The Pew Research Center, over 75% of the world's population live in areas with severe religious restrictions. Many of these people are Christians. Also, according to the United States Department of State, Christians in more than 60 countries face persecution from their governments or surrounding neighbors simply because of their belief in the person of Jesus Christ.
  • It is estimated that between 100,000 – 150,000 Christians worldwide are killed for their faith each year.
  • To learn more about the persecuted church, visit the websites of OpenDoorsUSA, The Voice of the Martyrs, and the Persecution Project Foundation.

Mitty on Modesty

Every once in a while there is a line in a book or movie that just leaps from the pages or off the screen and screams at you to pay attention. I recently watched the movie The Secret Life of Walter Mitty – a movie adapted from a short story by James Thurber, that first appeared in The New Yorker in 1939. The story is about a man who daydreams heroic episodes during his otherwise mundane existence. In the Ben Stiller adapted screenplay, Walter Mitty ends up not just daydreaming heroic experiences, but actually living them out in real life. At one point in the movie, Walter Mitty is high in the mountains of Afghanistan where he sought out and found the famed photographer Sean O’Connell (played by Sean Penn). O’Connell is tucked away in this isolated wilderness looking for the illusive snow leopard and when he sees this beautiful creature, he says, “Beautiful things don’t ask for attention.”

When I heard that, I immediately thought about the concept of modesty in our culture today. As more and more people buy into the concept that “skin is in” and desire to show as much as possible, the idea that “beautiful things don’t ask for attention” needs to be on billboards from coast to coast. But the issue isn’t coverage anymore – the latest trend for women is to wear yoga pants everywhere except yoga class. Some schools have taken steps to ban students from wearing yoga pants (read article).

A few years ago, there was a pendulum swing in the opposite direction. “Modest is Hottest” became a popular tag line for religious groups seeking to promote modesty among young girls – there is even a clothing line and website started by Christian singer Jaime Jamgochian called “Modest is Hottest.” But some Christian women think that this tag line is not only ineffective, but harmful for women – because it keeps the focus on the outward appearance and not on the inner person. Sharon Hodde Miller wrote an article How ‘Modest Is Hottest’ Is Hurting Christian Woman for Christianity Today where she explains why this concept isn’t positive or affirming for Christian women:

This particular approach to modesty is effective because it is rooted in shame, and shame is a powerful motivator. That's the first red flag. Additionally concerning about this approach is that it perpetuates the objectification of women in a pietistic form. It treats women's bodies not as glorious reflections of the image of God, but as sources of temptation that must be hidden. It is the other side of the same objectifying coin: one side exploits the female body, while the other side seems to be ashamed of it. Both sides reduce the female body to a sexual object.

Apparently Mitty on Modesty is the way to go…beautiful things don’t ask for attention. If you dress modestly, you don’t need to draw attention to the fact. Your outward appearance should be a reflection of your inner beauty. And, yes, ladies – that’s what real men really want.

The Messiness of Engaging our Culture for Christ

There is a great debate raging in our nation and Christians are lining up on both sides throwing hypothetical barbs at one another, using Scripture to verify their position and vilify the other side. At the center of this debate are a number of varied situations that have at their common core Christian businessmen and woman who refused service for essentially homosexual weddings – a photographer, a florist and a baker. Each has been taken to court in an effort to force them to provide their services for something that each has said is against their conscience or belief system. The baker and the photographer lost; the case of the florist has yet to be decided.

First, let me encourage you to take the time to learn more about these cases – there will be more…probably dozens more and sooner rather than later. Read about these cases before reading about the opinions of others. Remember that these are Christians engaged in a business – just like you and me – and they are facing hefty fines and even jail time for refusing to provide their services for something they find objectionable and contrary to their religion.

New Mexico photographer Elaine HugueninColorado baker Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Denver, Colorado

Washington florist Barronelle Stutzman, owner of Arlene's Flowers

The next step is to take the issues at hand and divide them into the legal and the cultural arguments. What should the law be and how should it be applied is an entirely different question than what should a Christian do in any given circumstance. There are times for what we call civil disobedience – but the first question that is being asked in these cases is about the law itself. As Christians Scripture tells us that God has instituted government for a purpose – and Romans chapter 13 does a great job describing what government’s role is and what a Christian’s response should be. Of course the problem arises when a Christian believes firmly that what they are doing is right and good, but they are still facing condemnation from those in authority. These situations fall into that category.

As an attorney, I have a high value for the law and I understand how important good laws can be to the governance of a good society. I have been involved in the process of drafting laws and electing good people to enact and defend those laws. The laws being used to prosecute these Christian businessmen are not good laws. These laws look to force people to perform actions contrary to their belief system or face severe financial penalties or even jail time. But the debate isn’t only about the quality of these laws – it’s also about how Christians should respond.

If the law is unjust, it seems simple how Christians should respond – fight against that injustice, what other option could there be? Along that line of thinking, several different state legislatures (most notably Kansas and Arizona) took the initiative to counter these situations with laws explicitly stating that people should have the freedom to practice their religion even if that means they are discriminating against a particular group of people. Neither of these state legislative initiatives was able to muster enough support to become law – but more states are trying to pass similar legislation, and this issue is far from over (read more about this battle here).

In response to these state legislative initiatives, several articles have been written asking very good questions about the appropriate response from Christians to these legal and cultural issues and opportunities. One of the most profound articles came from Kirsten Powers in USA Today where she compared these state legislative bills to the infamous Jim Crow laws of the South mandating racial segregation. Powers quotes from “Evangelical pastor Andy Stanley” who told Powers that “he finds it ‘offensive that Christians would leverage faith to support the Kansas law. Serving people we don’t see eye to eye with is the essence of Christianity. Jesus died for a world with which he didn’t see eye to eye. If a bakery doesn’t want to sell its products to a gay couple, it’s their business. Literally. But leave Jesus out of it.’”

Al Mohler, President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, disagrees and said so in an article on his blog titled Caesar, Coercion, and the Christian Conscience: A Dangerous Confusion. Much of Mohler’s argument for these state laws protecting religious freedom seem to boil down to one primary point – participation in the unholy matrimony of a same-sex wedding is considered by some Christians to be a tacit (or even explicit) approval of that lifestyle and practice. Whether taking pictures, arranging flowers or baking a cake, Christians should have the right to refuse to offer their services to those whose actions are contrary to Biblical principles.

If you read the arguments closely, neither is saying that people should be forced to do something against their will – at least that’s not at the heart of either position. What is at the core is the question about what it means to participate in something that is clearly a sin. Mohler’s position is that participation is tantamount to celebration:

Well, my wife and I recently celebrated the wedding of our daughter. We not only celebrated it, we paid for it. And I can assure you that we were expecting our florist and cake baker and photographer to celebrate it as well.

Powers believes that Christians can participate without endorsing:

It's probably news to most married people that their florist and caterer were celebrating their wedding union. Most people think they just hired a vendor to provide a service. It's not clear why some Christian vendors are so confused about their role here.

While the articles going back and forth on this point are heated, I think both points are valid and deserve discussion. What may be perceived as an “endorsement” to one person or in one situation may not in another. One point that I don’t believe has been aired fully to this point is the idea that the church has an incredible opportunity here – an opportunity to connect with people at a pivotal time in their lives when they may be open to wisdom, instruction and guidance.

I can remember the raging debate over the issue of abortion when I was young. All of the attention was given to legal arguments, and the issues facing teenage moms was ignored by the church. Today many churches have learned that lighting a candle is better than cursing the darkness – our church, Prestonwood Baptist Church, was one of the first in the country to have a fully functioning crisis pregnancy center. Not only has this facility ministered to those facing difficult decisions about life, but it has also been instrumental in helping to shape laws that further protect the unborn and provide valuable information to expecting mothers.

Go back further than that, and the church was, for the most part caught on the sidelines during the civil rights movement. Many churches were concerned with the legalities of “equality” yet few found themselves on the frontlines protesting injustice or ministering to those facing discrimination. I’ve read about the legal battles over communities and businesses being “forced” to accept black students in their schools or black patrons in their businesses. While the situations are not perfectly parallel, I think there are many things to be learned as the church engages culture – that truth and love must both be present and available.

Should Christians be forced, against their will by the state to participate in a same-sex wedding ceremony – no. Should Christians, if they see an opportunity, actively seek opportunities to minister to individuals even if others may see that participation as a tacit endorsement – well, that’s the million dollar question. At this time, most of the traditionally conservative Christians are saying “no” – that Jesus wouldn’t have baked the proverbial cake for the homosexual wedding…and neither will they! Stan Guthrie just wrote that very same line for BreakPoint Commentaries: Would Jesus Bake a Cake for a ‘Same-Sex’ Wedding? Not Likely.

Unfortunately, I am caught in the middle on this one and have spent weeks reading the various articles and arguments and still can’t seem to nail down my opinion on what Christians should do on this one. Here are my biggest issues yet unresolved:

  1. The idea that participation is endorsement. I see the argument and the rationale, but just can’t connect all the dots. I am reminded of a recent incident involving the Bart Millard, the lead singer for MercyMe, who tweeted what appeared to be a rather benign comment about Ellen Degeneres, the host for the annual Academy Awards – Millard tweeted: “Let me just say @theellenshow is hilarious. She was on Leno the night we played. Super nice!” This blog post from Millard is his response to the overwhelming negative response he got mostly from the religious community about his apparent “endorsement” of Ellen – an openly lesbian female. In some sense, it seems like the only “appropriate Christian response” to anything gay must be outright condemnation. Many associate the story of Jesus cleaning out the temple of the money changers found in Matthew 21. When I read that story, I see the problem with the religious community itself.
  2. Perception is reality. While I understand the legal issues, I also am aware that how the world perceives us as representatives of the Good News is tremendously important. I am often reminded of this statement attributed to Gandhi: "I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ." I think back to the stories I’ve read about how so many churches and Christians found against the civil rights movement – for decades – fighting for their rights to legally not serve blacks, not allow blacks to go to their schools, not hire blacks in their businesses. The church missed that one big time! And while the issues of race and sexual orientation are vastly different to me, I am learning that many in the world see these issues as very similar. They see the oppression and injustice, and it doesn’t matter if the reason is skin color or sexual preference. Perception is reality – and Christians better learn that how we present Christ to the lost and dying world is very important! We are His ambassadors.
  3. What about those Christian businessmen and women who want to “run to the sound of the battle”? Seriously, what about those Christian bakers, florists and photographers who want to participate (not endorse) and do life with those who don’t know Christ – minister to them, serve them, share the love of Christ…and maybe bake a cake along the way?! I think there’s a difference between being a Christian who runs a business and running a Christian business. Take the recent example of Dan Cathy from Chick-fil-A and nationally recognized LGBT leader Shane Windmeyer. Windmeyer came out of the proverbial closet as a friend of…get this…a Christian! Windmeyer was afraid of the backlash that he was going to get for publicly supporting Cathy – isn’t that ironic. Read his incredible statement in Dan and Me: My Coming Out as a Friend of Dan Cathy and Chick-fil-A. Maybe we can all learn a lesson from the example of Dan Cathy.


Engaging our confused culture for the cause of Christ is going to be a little messy – and I think we seriously need to give grace to those men and women who are seeking to love the Lord and their neighbor as themselves. And who is your neighbor? Maybe the lessons of Luke 10 and the Parable of the Good Samaritan can help us see our way clearly. Scripture says that the Samaritan traveler had compassion for this Jewish man in trouble and that he stopped to help. I wonder how much heat this Samaritan took for stopping to help the despised Jew! Good thing Twitter wasn’t around then! Oh, and don’t forget – that the Samaritan only came along after two of the religious community had passed by already! Do we want the government to force Christians to serve others? No. The Romans did that to the Jews and remember the words of Jesus to them found in Matthew 5:41? “And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.” The love of Christ compels us to serve, to love, to walk with integrity and compassion – and in this fallen world, it’s going to be a little messy as we try to honor Christ in all we say and do! Let’s pray for one another, as brothers and sisters in Christ, as salt and light in a dark and dying world!

What's in a Name?

Taking that famous line from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet to heart, the essence of a person is more than just a name, but yet a person’s name is part of their identity – even when that name is a nickname. Take, for instance, basketball superstar Kevin Durant. Most know Durant for his incredible scoring prowess and by his initials – KD. Other nicknames have come and gone along the way – “Durantula,” “Velvet Hoop,” “Iceberg Slim,” and my favorite “Slim Reaper” (he is one skinny dude who is deadly from behind the arc).

A recent article revealed that Durant wants to be called by a different name – still the same person and player, but with a moniker that more aptly fits whom he sees himself to be – “The Servant.” Durant acknowledges that giving himself a nickname is a little unusual, but when you see the tattoo on his back, you might agree that he’s pretty serious about this whole “servant” thing. Along with a picture of an angel holding a basketball and the trademark “3” fingers to signal making a three-point basket, there is a depiction of Jesus along with the verse James 1:2-4 which reads:

Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.

While the self-given nickname may not last, the impression that Durant is having on and off the court is receiving significant attention. Many argue that Durant is currently leading all other NBA players in the coveted MVP award – ironic that a player that sees his role as serving others should be one of the league’s leaders in scoring. According to the most recent stats on ESPN, Durant is leading all other NBA players in points per game with 31.6.

Durant’s nickname reminds me of one of Zig Ziglar’s famous sayings: “You can have everything in life you want if you will just help other people get what they want.” Zig knew that to be true because he based his worldview on Biblical principles – especially one found in Matthew 20:26, which
Dr. Taylor reminds students of all the time.

But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.s of all the time.

This verse and attitude are the foundation of PCA’s Student Leadership Institute program as well as the fifth pillar of the Portrait of a PCA Graduate:

To have a “big picture perspective” of the world and to demonstrate the love and attitude of Christ Jesus to all people. This attitude would be characterized by selflessness, humility and servant-hood (Phil. 2:2-11) and a lifestyle of obedience to seeking first the kingdom of God (Mat. 6:33).

What makes Kevin Durant distinctive and unique is not his freakish ability to shoot from anywhere on the court, but his devotion to serving others when the world tells him that he should be served. Hopefully, our students are engrained with this same servant-leadership mentality during their tenure here at PCA. Servant-leaders truly are the most valuable members of every team and organization – not only because they are so rare, but also because they make everyone better around them. You’ll often hear Dr. Taylor say, “A rising tide lifts all boats.” Keep rising KD/The Servant!

Divergent

On March 21, 2014, the highly anticipated Divergent hit the big screen, and your teen will probably want to go see the movie and read the book (if they haven’t already). As a parent, let’s consider together the various factors you deliberate when making these important decisions about what your children read and watch.

First, the movie is rated PG-13, which immediately should tell you that some of the themes of this movie are not for younger children. Yes, this is another dystopian future with a violent government that seeks to eliminate individuality. And, yes, this is another dystopian future with a romantic relationship. Those should make you pause as a parent when considering what is and isn’t appropriate. Even the author, Veronica Roth, considered these issues when writing the books. From one interview, Roth said this about portraying an intimate relationship in her novel:

"I was concerned about not alienating my very young readers. I remember reading books at that age and stopping because I wasn't comfortable. I'm not trying to talk down to them. It's definitely a scene of great intimacy. That's what was important. I didn't want to have smut on the page. I don't want to titillate."

In that same interview, Roth also spoke about the issues of emotional damage and repair – one of her characters suffers abuse at the hands of his father. The same article notes that Roth writes about the concept of healing and restoration from a very personal perspective as a Christian:

"It's a part of my personal life. The books have posed some challenges to me personally. Just struggling with the pressure, and how to conceive of yourself after you become successful very quickly. In that sense, my religious beliefs have been a great help."

So, while there is some level of intimacy in the book and movie, Roth worked hard to keep the physical relationship at the PG-13 level.

Another aspect that you’ll want to consider is that Divergent is the first of three novels – Insurgent and Allegiant round out the trilogy. Several reviews of these other works note that the violence and physical intimacy increase – and if you allow your children to read the first, you’ll most likely allow them to read (and see the movies when they come out) the later ones, as well. This same concern was evident in the Twilight and Hunger Games series.

Of course, just like with these other two uber-popular series, there are some valuable teaching points to be made. The main character in Divergent is labeled as such because she doesn’t fit into a cookie-cutter society that seeks to isolate and amplify specific traits in people. While dividing people into distinct “factions” may mirror a person’s talents or giftings, it also castrates the wholeness of a person as a moral character. Roth addresses this concept as her characters wrestle with the connection between selflessness and bravery, or intelligence and honesty.

As always, make sure you check out the movie reviews at PluggedIn – and for anything questionable, I highly recommend that you read the book and/or watch the movie first before allowing your children to read and/or watch.

January 2014 Highlights

Grammylon: The Wedding of the Grammys and Babylon

Take a little advice from Mandisa, a former Grammy winner…it may be best to avoid the Grammy Awards in the future. Mandisa posted on her Facebook page that she was not in attendance at the awards ceremony, even though she ended up winning a couple Grammys, and the reason she did not attend was because of her faith in Christ. Grammy-nominated singer Natalie Grant and her husband did attend the Grammys, but ended up leaving early. This is what Natalie Grant tweeted about her decision:

"We left the Grammy's early. I’ve many thoughts about the show tonight, most of which are probably better left inside my head. But I’ll say this: I’ve never been more honored to sing about Jesus and for Jesus. And I’ve never been more sure of the path I’ve chosen." -Natalie Grant

In the Gospel of John, Jesus spends a great deal of time talking to His disciples about the conflict of living in this fallen world as a Christian. In John 15:18, 19 Jesus says, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” And later in John 17:15-19, Jesus prays, “I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.”

Since those words were spoken, followers of Jesus have tried to figure out how to live “in the world but not of it.” Over time, the pendulum has swung from asceticism to immersion. Some Christians choose to avoid getting tangled by the things of this world – no TV or movies, only read Christian books, kids educated at home or in a Christian school, etc. Other Christians choose to walk where Jesus walked, ministering to the “untouchables” of our day – guys like Mike Foster and Craig Gross who started the XXX Church, a Christian ministry to those struggling with pornography or trapped in the porn business.

Scripture provides the Christian with a battle plan to avoid being taken “captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends of human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ” (Col. 2:8). First Scripture instructs the Christian to recognize that the battle is in the realm of ideas – not the physical world. Ephesians 6:12 tells us “we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” In addition to putting on our spiritual armor, Paul instructs followers of Christ to “present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual act of worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:1, 2).

As Christians, it is wise that we avoid sin in our own walk. This doesn’t mean that we won’t encounter sin in our fallen world, but there is a difference between encountering sin and embracing sin. Paul warns Timothy that in the last days, followers of Christ will suffer persecution writing “all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12). The life of Daniel is a fantastic study to see how a godly man lived and walked in a godless culture. Resolving not to defile himself, Daniel established boundaries for his own personal life and was willing to suffer the consequences for his choices. Yet at the same time, Daniel prospered in this godless culture. The prophet Jeremiah wrote to encourage his brothers and sisters living in exile in Babylon and gave them these instructions from God: “Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare” (Jeremiah 29:4-9).

For those who know my story, this is one of the reasons that brought me to Prestonwood Christian Academy years ago. I mistakenly believed that all Christian schools were fortresses that protected children from the culture, but were not training students to engage the culture for Christ. After meeting Dr. Larry Taylor and hearing his heart and seeing his strategy to train students to make a difference in the world, I was sold on PCA. I truly believe that PCA strikes a great balance between that concept of being “in the world, but not of it.” Programs like our Student Leadership Institute, the Biblical Worldview Institute, and the Lions Scholar Program prepare students to stand strong in a godless culture while Minimester mission trips and Service Project days help give students a Christ-centered and others-centered perspective.

Re-enrollment is here once again. My hope and prayer is that your son and daughter are here to get equipped to make a difference in the world. If the Grammy Awards are an accurate reflection of our current culture, we have much work to do and no time to waste! I am reminded of the great statement by Isaac Ambrose who wrote:

"Soldiers of Christ, be aware that you are highly advanced in God's creation, that you occupy an important station, which you have an arduous work allotted to you, and you have neither time nor talent to throw away. For you are enlisted under the banner of Christ; you have entered the armies of the Most High, have taken an oath of allegiance to the King of Zion, and bound yourselves by an oath to fight the good fight of faith against sin, Satan, the world, and the flesh."

This past Sunday, January 26, 2014, Prestonwood Baptist Church’s Pastor Jack Graham preached an incredible message as part of The Seven Churches of Revelation series. Pastor Graham shared about the message to the church in Thyatira and their tolerance of the spirit of Jezebel and the practice of sexual immorality. You can watch this message online or order a DVD copy from the church – a timely reminder of the dangers of tolerance in our culture today.

The Meaning of Pro-Life

Pro-life – what a strange term. I can understand why those who support a woman’s right to choose an abortion don’t want to be categorized by the antithesis of pro-life – what would that be…anti-life? But if you really think about it, what do these political slogans really mean when it boils down to real life?

For instance, when a person says they are pro-life, does that mean that they value all life – from natural conception to natural death? What about complications? Have you heard about the situation the Munoz family is facing in Fort Worth? A young woman named Marlise Munoz suffered a pulmonary embolism leaving her brain dead. The complicated part of this is that Mrs. Munoz was 14 weeks pregnant at the time – and with today’s technology coupled with a new law in Texas, Mrs. Munoz was being kept alive while her baby continued to develop. Even though Marlise and her husband Erick had discussed their own personal desires of what to do in similar circumstances, the law found in Section 166.049 of the Texas Health and Safety Code states that “a person may not withdraw or withhold life-sustaining treatment under this chapter from a pregnant person.” The law even overrides any advanced directive a patient may have signed to the contrary.

Do you understand how amazing that provision in our law really is? That provision not only runs counter to the seemingly absolute right of a woman to make all decisions regarding her pregnancy set forth 41 years ago in the infamous Roe v. Wade, but the law also clearly recognizes that another person is involved in a pregnancy – and that person is the unborn child. This law protects the rights of the unborn child even against the wishes of its parents.

While the circumstances surrounding this story are indeed tragic, the reality of this situation broadens the concept of what it means to be pro-life. All life has value; from natural conception to natural death, even if that life is unplanned, unwanted or an inconvenience, life is life.

I believe that being pro-life means even more. ABC News posted an incredibly powerful video as part of their “What Would You Do?” series. This video explores the concept of what people would do when faced with a grocery clerk who had Down syndrome. The results probably won’t shock you…but watching may leave a pit in your stomach.

Here’s the connection – if you’re pro-life, I think you have to value all life all the time – from natural conception to natural death – and that includes valuing the lives of others, regardless of their value to society (or to you). To value life, in this sense, means to appreciate and protect the value of others, to see the value that others have – or, in other words, to see and treat people as Christ would!

There is a profound quote attributed to Mahatma Gandhi where he apparently says, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” The efforts of those who are pro-life need to be not only directed at protecting the life of the unborn, but also to ministering to the needs of our neighbors. Think Parable of the Good Samaritan. Abortion is not just a law that protects a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy; it is the devaluation of the essence of life in a society. When life is truly valued – all life, from the womb to the tomb – then changes in the law will reflect the changes in the hearts and attitudes of the masses.

Pro-life means not only protecting life, but also promoting life…all life.

UPDATE: On Friday, January 24, 2014 a State District Judge ordered the hospital to officially declare Marlise Munoz dead and withdraw life support. The judge said "the new Texas law did not apply to this case because, Mrs. Munoz is deceased.” The hospital indicated that it will not appeal this decision.

Kershaw: An Example for Us All?

If you follow baseball, the name Clayton Kershaw is no stranger. The kid from Highland Park just hit the proverbial jackpot signing a seven-year deal with the LA Dodgers worth an estimated $215 million. By the way, Kershaw is only 25 years old.

Stories of athletes getting rich aren’t unusual. What’s so special about this one? Kershaw is. Yes, Kershaw is a special pitcher. With two NL Cy Young Awards already, Kershaw was 16-9 for the NL West champion Dodgers last year leading the league with 232 strikeouts. His ERA was ridiculous – a paltry 1.83 – best in the majors since 2000. But as much as Kershaw is impressive on the field, it is his attitude and position on his new contract that are even more remarkable.

Kershaw's Challenge:

"We exist to encourage people to use whatever God-given passion, purpose or talent they have been given to make a difference and give back to others in need."

First, when interviewed about the new deal, Kershaw said that talking about money is “a little bit uncomfortable for me.” Kershaw went on to add that he and his wife Ellen “understand the effects we can have on a lot of people with this money. We realize to whom much is given much is expected and that’s what we’re doing to try and do.” Kershaw’s reference to the challenge found in Luke 12:48 may have been missed by many, but his actions are obvious to all.

And his desire to help others with his money isn’t just talk, it’s a reality. Clayton and his wife Ellen have developed a strong bond with the orphans in Zambia and have already built a house called The Arise Home to help children orphaned by HIV/AIDS break free from this vicious cycle. Kershaw also developed what he called Kershaw’s Challenge – “a Christ-centered, others-focused organization” that challenges others with this concept: “the better you do, the more you give, making whatever you do about something more.” That would be incredible!

One of the books that Dr. Taylor constantly references is called A Life Well Spent: The Eternal Rewards of Investing Yourself and Your Money in Your Family by Russ Crosson. While the book is out of print today, the life principles shared by Crosson are timeless…and maybe especially timely for us today. Crosson warns, “If our children have everything they want, how can they learn to be dependent on God? As a matter of fact, ease may blind them to their need for God.” Crosson had a great recommendation for people – take your family on a mission trip! Crosson writes, “They [your kids] need to be exposed to the big world God has created, the different people He has created, and the different situations in which these people live. That exposure should expand their horizons and give them a greater appreciation of what they have and take their focus off money, things, and materialism.”

Going to Zambia has obviously had its impact on Clayton Kershaw. When hearing the news about his outrageous new contract, Kershaw decided he needed to celebrate the deal. According to an article on Kershaw, this is what he did to celebrate: “I had a few of my buddies over here. We played some ping pong and grilled some burgers.” Somewhere along the way, Kershaw got it…and now that he has it, he wants to give as much of it away as he can! May Clayton Kershaw be an example for us all!rip! Crosson writes, “They [your kids] need to be exposed to the big world God has created, the different people He has created, and the different situations in which these people live. That exposure should expand their horizons and give them a greater appreciation of what they have and take their focus off money, things, and materialism.”This concept struck a chord especially after watching a recent video on Upworthy.com about the misperceptions and reality of wealth distribution in America today. The video is interesting, but what really caught my attention is that 1% of Americans control 40% of the wealth in this country. Imagine if everyone in that top 1% lived by the same code as Clayton Kershaw – “the better you do, the more you give, making whatever you do about something more.” That would be incredible!

Cultural Engagement 101

I have always been interested in politics. I went to law school because one day I would like to run for office. That passion started at a very young age. One day, in particular, I remember sitting and watching a news program, and there was a debate on the issue of abortion. I remember that on the pro-life side was a man, a pastor I believe, and representing the pro-choice side was a woman. As the debate progressed, the man became increasingly agitated, his face turned a dark red and his voice became very loud and aggressive. He was hostile and belligerent. The woman, on the other hand, appeared calm and collective. That image has stuck with me over the years and I believe I learned a valuable lesson that day. Even if you are right and speak the truth, remember that perception is reality in this media-driven culture.

Later in my life I ran across the wisdom found in Proverbs 19:2 which says, “It is not good to have zeal without knowledge.” In my decade of cultural engagement working for several non-profit organizations, I tried to put into practice these concepts. I worked hard to understand an issue before sharing my opinion on it with others and I tried to listen and understand the perspectives of others who disagreed with my position. I also watched as many brothers and sisters in Christ spoke passionately about topics without a deep understanding of the issues and, most often, without caring to listen to what others had to say.

A recent social media posting reminded me of this concept – how important it is for Christians to speak well and to be well informed. We don’t want those who disagree with us to not consider the truth of our position because of how poorly we deliver it! This Upworthy.com video is of a State Representative from Ohio named Jim Buchy. He is pro-life. In fact, he wants the state to ban all abortions. But Rachael Maddow [video clip is from her show] wasn’t able to listen and reflect on his reasoning to protect the unborn because she is going to focus on this one careless remark – a response to a question that, apparently, he had “never thought of before.”

I’m reminded of the challenge that Paul gave to his “son in the faith” Timothy to “be ready in season and out of season” because “the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.” And again in 1 Peter we are challenged to “always be prepared to make a defense.” Does this mean that we will never misspeak? No. Our challenge is not to speak perfectly, but to speak carefully and thoughtfully.

While we can’t anticipate every question, we can be as thoughtful in our approach and response as possible. As we venture into the cultural conflict, we should think how others perceive the world, we should seek to listen to their perspective, not just so that our arguments will win the debate, but because by listening and considering the views of others we demonstrate that we value them. And we should do the hard work necessary of developing our minds for the glory of God. James Emery White in his book Serious Times: Making Your Life Matter in an Urgent Day writes, “This is what a Christian mind is about: the difference between the shallow pools of information and the deep waters of wisdom.”

In addition to reading good books, you can develop your mind on critical cultural issues by signing up to receive the profound cultural commentaries of James Emery White and his Church and Culture emails or Jim Denison’s Daily Cultural Commentary from the Denison Forum on Truth and Culture. You can also prepare your children for cultural engagement by sending your son or daughter to the intensive worldview training sessions at the Summit or Student Leadership University – both excellent programs.

I love the my children are surrounded by Godly influences every single day. I am grateful they continuously pour truth into students lives.PCA parent

My favorite thing about PCA is the integration of biblical principles into all aspects of learning and the high level of academic excellence that is taught and expected.PCA parent