Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Centrality of Christ in Christian Education

The new school year is here! Teachers are getting their classrooms and lesson plans ready. Students are assembling their school supplies. This has always been one of my favorite times of the year!

As the school year begins, I've been thinking about the importance of the religion classes in our school. Beginning with "Jesus Time" in preschool and continuing all the way to Confirmation Class in 8th grade and theology classes in Lutheran high school and college... teaching the faith takes priority in all Christian education.

We make substantial sacrifices of time and money to maintain this priority. Some might even think it is a waste of time - a detriment to an excellent education. Why then do Christian schools still lead the way in academics year after year? The reason is that to serve Christ we must not only know what He teaches in the Bible, we must also know what He teaches through His creation. We serve the Lord in a variety of callings, and for each of them it is vital that we understand languages, mathematics, history, science, etc. It is precisely because we give so much emphasis to God's word that we also give so much emphasis to learning everything else.

One of my favorite quotes on this idea comes from Sir Francis Bacon, whom some consider the first philosopher of science:

"To conclude therefore let no man upon a weak conceit of sobriety or an ill applied moderation think or maintain that a man can search too far or be too well studied in the book of God's word or in the book of God's works divinity or philosophy but rather let men endeavour an endless progress of proficience in both only let men beware that they apply both to charity and not to swelling to use and not to ostentation and again that they do not unwisely mingle or confound these learnings together." (Advancement of Learning, 1605, p. 10)

God bless all the students and teachers heading back to school this fall. I pray that we would all advance in our learning from "both" of God's good books!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

One Hundred Sayings of Sirach

Jesus Son of Sirach was a Jewish scribe who probably taught in Jerusalem. Around 180 B.C. he committed to writing the oral wisdom he had taught his students. Sirach's wisdom is similar to that of Proverbs and also creates a bridge to that of the later Pharisees.

If you don't have time to read the entire book, you might enjoy clicking through the flashcards I've created... One Hundred Sayings of Sirach. These quotes (along with a few notes) will give you a good taste of Sirach's thought. Much of it is very good. Some of it is definitely not so good.

The errors in Sirach's thought is one of the reasons the Lutheran church never accepted the Old Testament apocryphal books as inspired. Two other important reasons for this is that they do not reference the plan of salvation nor are they hardly ever quoted or referenced in the New Testament.

However, there is much good to be gained by reading the apocryphal books. Martin Luther commended them, and they were included in the first Bibles published by the Lutherans.

Friday, August 12, 2011

iPhone, Dragon Dictation & Evernote

The iPhone, Dragon Dictation and Evernote have transformed the way I study!

One of the most important ways I study is to read and take notes. I used to do that by underlining and then typing out certain phrases, sentences and notes of the book I was reading. This was a painfully slow process. Then I advanced to audio notes. Instead of writing the notes, I recorded them with a digital recorder. This can still be helpful if listening is one of your best learning styles. But the drawback here is that it is difficult to search the audio notes you have taken.

The iPhone, Dragon Dictation* and Evernote** have enabled me to combine both the audio and the typographical records. Here's how I do it:

1. Record your notes in Dragon Dictation on the iPhone. Use the words "period," "comma," and "new paragraph" for punctuation. Keep your recordings short. But you can add new dictations to the same window before you go through the copy and paste procedure below.

2. Copy your text from Dragon Dictation.

3. Paste into an Evernote document.

* Dragon Dictation is speech to text software. The iPhone has a free application for this. It works amazingly well, and you can touch up all your notes with a keyboard.

** Evernote is a free online software program that allows you to type and paste all sorts of notes. There is an iPhone application and a PC program.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Lessons from a Banana Tree

Trouble is everywhere in this world. God knows that, and His promises to us are not that we will be exempt from trouble but that we will survive it and thrive in spite of it. I once knew a retired pastor who grew banana trees in his backyard. Bananas will grow in our hot and humid summers in Southern Illinois. But the season isn’t long enough for them to produce much fruit. Some people tried to overcome this by starting their banana trees in a green house earlier in the spring. But, according to my pastor friend, banana leaves, in particular, have to be exposed to the wind as they are growing. If they grow in a quiet greenhouse, and are then put outside, those big beautiful leaves will be shredded by the first summer windstorm. So too, we are exposed to troubles of all kinds as Christians just like anyone else. But God uses those troubles mixed with faith to strengthen us. Job said, “But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold.” (ESV Job 23.10).

(Adapted from "Lord, Save Me" Matthew 14.22-33 Sermon for the 8th Sunday After Pentecost, August 7, 2011.)

Additional Passages that Teach Us About God's Grace in Adversity

NKJ James 5:11 Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord -- that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful.

KJV Psalm 94:12 Blessed is the man whom thou chastenest, O LORD, and teachest him out of thy law;

KJV Hebrews 12:6-9 For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. 7 If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? 8 But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. 9 Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?

NKJ Matthew 5:10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

NKJ Job 13:15 Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him. Even so, I will defend my own ways before Him.

ESV Job 23:10 But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold.

NKJ 1 Peter 1:6-9 6 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, 8 whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, 9 receiving the end of your faith -- the salvation of your souls.

NKJ 2 Corinthians 5:1-3 For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven, 3 if indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked.

NKJ Habakkuk 3:17-19 Though the fig tree may not blossom, Nor fruit be on the vines; Though the labor of the olive may fail, And the fields yield no food; Though the flock may be cut off from the fold, And there be no herd in the stalls -- 18 Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation. 19 The LORD God is my strength; He will make my feet like deer's feet, And He will make me walk on my high hills.

NKJ John 16:22 "Therefore you now have sorrow; but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you.