It was recently requested that I write February’s Blog. Blog??? I have never blogged before…what should I say? I got so caught up in what I thought I should say that I temporarily lost sight of what the Lord had for me to say…and then the Holy Spirit presented this heart changing experience in Preschool. It is humbling to see how the Lord uses the youngest among us to further His kingdom. Please enjoy the following encounter that transpired between Miss Ashley (our 3 / 4yo. teacher) and one of her precious preschoolers.
I was blessed beyond measure on the morning of January 25, as the Lord spoke through one of the children in my class. The little boy approached me and said, "I need to ask you a question." As I gave him my full attention, I could feel the Holy Spirit's presence and the following unfolds.
Taylor - "Miss Ashley, does everyone have a heart?"
Miss Ashley - “Yes, they do; the heart pumps the blood in our body and keeps us alive.
Taylor - "Does Jesus live in everyone's heart?"
Miss Ashley – “No, he doesn't, and that makes me very sad. Having Jesus in your heart is a choice you make, which is why here at Preschool we are always talking about God, singing songs about Him, talking to Him through prayer, and reading from our Bibles. We want to be able to tell you as much as we know about Jesus so that you can understand how much He loves you. Then, you can go and tell other people about Him and how much He loves them too.”
Taylor - "Do they know?" (He points to his classmates who are cleaning up before circle time)
Miss Ashley – “I hope they all do, but we should tell them again after we clean up, because just like the heart inside you, Jesus gives us life. We need Him (in our hearts) to live forever in Heaven.
Taylor - (He nods his head, as he's been completely focused on my words, undistracted by the noise around him. Before he leaves to help clean up I made sure to applaud his question).
Miss Ashley – “Thank you so much for asking that question; never stop asking questions. I love you so much, but always remember that God loves you even more, because He created you.”
Something else to note, is that immediately after sweet little Taylor asked me if Jesus lives in everyone's heart, another child approached us in tears. Naturally, my first instinct was to stop the conversation and attend to the child who was upset. However, in this instance, the Holy Spirit opened my eyes to how the enemy was using this other precious child to distract me. Recognizing this, I was able to call another teacher over to help and I was then able to continue a truly life changing conversation. Looking back, that was such a profound moment, because I was reminded that the enemy will use any means necessary to distract us from the truth. I had to smile as well, because the enemy was reminded that he has no place in my classroom or in our school.
Psalm 8:2 (NIV)
“Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger.”
So…at the end of the day; at the end of the year, if the children have learned that Jesus loves them and gives them eternal life, then I truly believe we have fulfilled our purpose.
Thank you Lord for presenting these “divine appointments” to remind us that you are mighty, ever–present, merciful, and love us absolutely. May we always show Your love through our words and actions. Thank you Heavenly Father for being the HEART of DCS Preschool!
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Desert Christian Schools just completed our renewal for accreditation with the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI). What is school accreditation? It is the process whereby a school studies and evaluates a wide range of activities in the life of a school. The evaluation looks at best practices and what specifically the school is doing or not doing in each of these areas of responsibility. Following the self-study, a team of educators come to visit the school and inspect all these same areas of responsibility to see with fresh 'outside' eyes if the school is doing what it says it is doing. They verify the school self-study and then write a report of their findings along with commendations and recommendations for improvement. This report is sent to a regional accrediting team of professional educators to evaluate whether the school warrants the status of an accredited school.
Accreditation is renewed every five years. During each five year period the school works on the recommendations for improvement from the Accreditation process. The self-study and the visiting teams' recommendations for improvement become the basis for continuous improvement for each accreditation cycle for the school.
Of the 3,000+ ACSI American schools, only 34% of the schools take on the task of gaining accredited status. It is the policy of the DCS Board that we obtain accreditation. Accreditation is designed around the principle that excellence abounds where a commitment is made to systematic school improvement.
We began our self-evaluation this past fall. We established 10 committees for each of the 10 Standards (an area of school life or responsibility) to be evaluated. ACSI has developed an accreditation tool to evaluate multiple Indicators in each Standard related to best practices and expected activities. We gathered the entire faculty and staff along with key Board members and parents to make observations on each of the standards and evaluate our school. Each committee then wrote up a report on where DCS exceeded, met or fell below compliance to these standards. The report was then edited and complied and major improvements are prioritized for attention and improvement over the next five years.
Our report was then sent to the ACSI visiting team to read and become familiar with prior to their visit. The team came two weeks ago for a 3 day visit. They observed our classes, activities, and meetings. They also interviewed students, staff, faculty, parents, administrators and board members (103 of us) about the school. The visiting team then wrote their findings and confirmed whether our self-report reflected what they saw in practice and evaluated our compliance to the ten standards.
I am pleased to report that they are recommending we receive full accreditation for the next five years. The team made six major commendations about our schools and they gave us 4 recommendations to improve our performance. The School Board will be working with the administration to fold these areas of improvement into our five year strategic plan.
As you can see there was a lot of work for all involved. I want to thank the visiting team from ACSI, our accrediting committee leaders and our staff, faculty, parents and Board members for all your hard work. We are Tucson's only fully accredited Preschool through 12th grade Independent Christian School. DCS is doing God's work in an excellent and professional manner that I know reflects well on the name of Christ and is advancing His Kingdom purposes.
Importance of Worldview
Last week the Obama administration made an announcement through a State Department's spokesperson, Marie Harf. Ms. Harf said, “that the US needs to go after the root causes that lead people to join groups like ISIS, whether it is lack of opportunity for jobs or helping improve their governance or helping them build their economies so they can have job opportunities for these people." She implied that the economic and employment situation or their political situation is at the root of these people joining in radical extremism.
This is a great example of how each and every one of us views every situation from a worldview. I define a worldview as the conscious or unconscious set of beliefs we each hold about the reality of the world around us. People hearing this announcement by Ms. Harf either agreed with it or were incredulous. Your beliefs about reality direct you to agree or disagree with any statement about reality. Whatever your worldview, you hold those beliefs sincerely because for you they define your reality.
The issue for each of us is that sincerity does not create reality! I can sincerely believe something that is not true or said another way; reality does not bend itself to my sincerity. Zulu warriors had been told by one of their shamans that British bullets would not harm them. They attacked bravely, sincerely believing they could not be hurt. Their sincerity did not change the reality that bullets fired from guns do kill. They sadly died by the hundreds.
What would lead Ms. Harf to make such a statement? She has a worldview that leads her to sincerely believe that changing the economic and political circumstances of the Middle East would lead to less people joining extremist groups. Those who disagree with her believe these people are participating in Radical Islamic groups not because they are poor or oppressed but for other reasons like defending Islam and Allah from the corruption of the West.
I do not believe Ms. Harf truly understands a religiously motivated worldview. An Atheistic or naturalistic worldview believes that it is only physical natural things like food and work that inform a person’s choices. They believe evil is caused by systemic issues and not something that comes from within the human heart. The belief is if you change the system and meet needs you will stop evil. Her comments seem to confirm such a worldview.
A Christian worldview holds that there are evil systems in the world but that at the root evil comes from sin and Satan. Christians believe we battle against the World, the Flesh and the Devil. We hold that all people are fallen and willfully do bad things because we all believe lies or because we think we can get away with it. This view of reality embraces the idea that any time we believe a lie it will produce behaviors that are destructive or wrong. So people join ISIS because they believe a lie, that God is OK with the murder of women and children to advance His cause. The Christian sees the solution as deliverance from sin (salvation), knowing truth (Truth sets us free!), and conformity to Christ (developed virtue).
At Desert Christian we know that all education proceeds from a worldview. We know every child in our school already has a worldview and we are working to correct and develop a Christian worldview in every area of their life.
I have been reading Darrow Miller’s latest book, Emancipating the World. There is a portion of the book where he introduces the idea about the place of Culture in forming a nation. He makes the statement, “Nations are founded on religious ideals and convictions, which in turn, shape the Culture.” The word culture contains the word ‘cult’ in it. A cult is a system of worship. We can worship the theistic (the true God), the atheistic (no God) or the demonic (a false god). What we worship in turn creates a culture. Every culture has a worldview and stories or narratives to support that worldview. A culture institutes the key principles upon which the institutions of that culture are established from those narratives.
The American Declaration of Independence follows this very line of thinking. As our founders stated, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal and endowed by their creator with inalienable rights.” They worshiped God. They knew there were realities because of that God, that He created them and endowed them with rights. The theistic culture that grew from those beliefs; established the principles of individual rights, personal responsibility, consent of the governed, role of government to protect rights, and so on. The original American culture was formed from worship of the Judeo/Christian God. As Darrow says, “the cultures we create reflect the gods we worship.”
Today there is a culture war going on in the U.S. There are two ‘cults’ battling for supremacy, the theistic worldview and the atheistic worldview. These two ‘cults’ produce very different cultures; a culture of life or a culture of death, a culture of the rule of law or a culture of sociological law, a culture of revelation and reason or a culture of no revelation only reason. Each culture emphasizes different views of history (know and value the past vs. no need to study it is full of wicked actions), values (God tells us what is true, good, and beautiful vs. people who determine these by their own opinions), the future (God is bringing all things under Christ vs. Government will bring utopia for us all), views of what follows death (made by God and we will return to Him vs. made by accident and you will cease to exist).
The narratives between the two ‘cults’ are also very different. One story is that you were created by a good, loving God to reflect His image and rule over His creation, the other story is that you are only the product of chance and accident but have evolved by survival to fitness and you get to decide your own reality. As a friend of mine says, ‘if an amoeba can become a man, there can be no unchangeable rules or absolutes’. One story sees sin as what has damaged us and our world, the other sees institutional evil behind our problems. One story sees the hand of divine providence in our founding while the other sees a group of hypocritical white Europeans making rules to keep power.
This battle of ideas being played out in our day and age will determine the future of our nation and culture. They both have an answer to the question, what is the purpose of education? If we are educating students so they can get a good job, then that is an atheistic answer to the question. As author Neil Postman said to the idea of getting an education so we can get a good job, ‘we no longer have a culture we only have an economy’. At DCS we are teaching to produce good people, students who know truth, beauty and goodness and where they come from. DCS will continue to hold the line on teaching from a Christian Biblical worldview. We are not teaching dogma but engaging the ideas, because ideas have consequences, and the knowledge God and truth lead to human flourishing.
The start of the year always reminds me of the issue of origins. The beginning of a year, the beginning of our lives, the beginning of time, all of these have that concept of the start of something new. One’s view of the beginning of the physical universe, sets in motion a whole set of ideas that fall like dominos. A person’s perceptions and beliefs on origins is the foundation of all their other beliefs in their worldview. Origins is the seismic divide in worldview, it is the fault line.
A Biblical worldview on origins begins with an eternal and personal God as Creator, ’In the Beginning God’. The Naturalists view is that it begins with either eternal matter or an impersonal god-like force that sees evolution as creator, ‘In the beginning the cosmos’. Ones view of the past will affect ones view of the future. When your life origins begin with the Lord God then it is consistent that you will return to Him after death. When you begin with impersonal matter or force then that is what you will return to after death. Your view of origins informs your view of the future.
Ones view on origins will also dictate ones view on destiny and everything else in between birth and death. If the whole began by the purposeful direction of a personal God then everything that happens is working toward a particular purpose for each of us. If it is impersonal chance and accident that began this world then it is blind luck or evolution as defined by impersonal chance, which directs everything. As a friend of mine said, ‘If an amoeba can become a man, then there can be no unchangeable rules or absolutes. All values and lifestyles are equal.’ With no God we are left to choose what we want to be, we were not designed by a creator to be something He chose us to be. The whole gender confusion flows out from this starting point.
For the Christian there is a whole lot to unpack in this discussion. First the word evolution is not evil. Evolution means “change over time.” Like many words in our day it has been hijacked by some to mean something it did not originally mean. Many use evolution to mean that everything we see came from nothing by chance. Chance is the creator! Christians believe in evolution (change over time) but not by chance, we believe it is by design. God created the universe and the Laws of that universe. We can observe things changing over time, that things evolve, but Christian do not believe that evolution is the creator. Christians might disagree about the age of the creation, recent or ancient creation, but both sides agree that God created it all and it was not by chance.
At Desert Christian we are teaching students that there is a God and He has created this universe and each of them personally and that He has a purpose in all this and with them. The task at hand is discovering that purpose and not our coming up with what we want our purpose to be. Our focus in life is to investigate, know and develop the creation made by a personal loving God. The goal is not trying to manipulate the physical world to be an instrument of self-gratification but to live lives worthy of our God.
As purposely created image bearers may you find God’s will and further His purposes this New Year. Happy New Year!
I will now look at the fourth and final question the ancient’s asked related to achieving human flourishing. I have addressed the other three questions in my blog the past 3 months. I have looked at what is real, what is the good life, and who is a good person. The final question to address is; how does one become an authentically good person?
Societies and cultures throughout history have sought an answer to this question and tried to put something into place that produces good people. This is the question behind our modern approach to education. What do we do to produce good people? In the US today, the simple answer is to produce academically knowledgeable and technologically informed people. It is assumed that these abilities will make good employees and good people. I would counter that knowledge or technological ability is not the essence of a good person. A Christian perspective on who is a good person and the means to achieving that status requires that God must be part of the equation.
History has many examples of peoples, cultures and societies developing systems to produce ‘good’ people who made no room for God. Rome, Greece, Persia, China and Communist Russia all established approaches to developing ‘good’ people. Is it possible to develop ‘good’ people without God? A naturalist worldview that rejects the idea of God, views people as objects (the raw material) and not image bearers (created beings who reflect God). That worldview is saying the challenge is an engineering issue not a heart issue. Modern Behavior Modification is one application of that view to ‘creating good people’. Jean Jacque Rousseau said that children are blank slates and all we need to do is write on that slate and produce good people. Rousseau’s worldview saw religion and God as the problem.
Many religious people and organizations develop systems that approach this challenge acting as if God did not exist or is not needed. Israel wanted to be like everyone else and have a king. They rejected God as king and wanted a man to lead them. Faith based schools that focus on technique over relationship are doing what Israel did by rejecting the part God plays in education. They end up trusting the system and not the Lord. Legalism does not need God. Education communities based on success and not on relationships of grace do not need God.
The thing that is required in developing good people from a Christian perspective is God centered relationships. Relationships that begin with God and require His truth, love and grace develop good people. The real and true story of our world is a story of a God who is good and at work redeeming His creation and conforming individuals to the image of His son, bringing it all back into proper relationship with God. A Christian perspective on this is that we need God and must depend on Him working in us and on others for anything to be accomplished. Jesus said, “apart from me you can do nothing”. We can offer each other the truth, love and grace we have received from God, and coupled with the work of the Holy Spirit individuals are changed and become ‘good’ people.
As a Christian school DCS values excellent academics, and good co-curricular activities. Yet what we need more than anything is for God to be at work and for us to join Him in that work. If we focus on creating a community of grace, truth and love we will create the atmosphere where God will do great things in the lives of students and teachers alike. Human flourishing will flow from that spring!