Upward, Inward, Outward
Our local church school Valdosta Christian Academy is celebrating its 50 anniversary and this got me thinking about the importance of good Christian education and also got me thinking about how much things have changed in 50 years.
I did a quick search to find out some of the things that happened in 1968, the year our Christian school was founded, originally in Lakeland (a city roughly 15 miles from Valdosta). I discovered all kinds of interesting things took place that year. One website had several interesting facts including that in 1968 McDonald's first began to sell Big Macs nationwide for 49 cents. It was also around that time that the Boeing 747 made its maiden flight and forever changed air travel. 1968 was also a year of terrible turmoil, it was the year that Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. There were many more major events that took place and you can read about them here.
As I read about what life was like in 1968 and how the average cost of new house was $14,950.00 and the average income per year $7,850.00. Back then the average monthly rent was $130.00 and gas cost 34 cents per gallon. Those were different times when the average cost of a new car was $2,822.00 and the federal hourly minimum wage was $1.60 an hour (source).
Life has changed a lot here in the United States from 1968 to 2018. I was recently startled by some data about the generation currently attending our school. Our students are members of Generation Z. Gen-Z is the most diverse generation ever. Nearly half of Gen-Z workers will come from Hispanic and non-white backgrounds. The breadth of Gen-Z’s diversity extends beyond ethnicity. A study by the Innovation Group finds Gen-Zers are less likely to identify as heterosexual (48% compared to 65% of Millennials). 82% agree gender doesn’t define a person as much as it used to. Facebook even now allows more than 50 different gender identities. (source)
There is a lot of information about Generation Z out there, some of it is even contradictory so I won't dedicate too much time to it. But I do want to highlight how different things are, and they keep changing at a pace that seems to continue to speed up. So the question that comes to my mind is, "Do we still need Christian Education?"
I believe we do, more than ever. But can a Christian school, especially a small one, really prepare our children for the modern world?
I strongly believe so. I say this fully aware that we are preparing them for a world that will be, in all likelihood, vastly different from ours. We are trying to equip them, in many cases, to work in jobs that don't even exist yet. Science and technology are advancing at such a pace that what you learn seems to quickly become obsolete or at least outdated.
In my personal life, I remember having to take a mandatory class in college that included a long section on how to use Microsoft Word. The very next year a new version of Microsoft Word came out, and what I had learned became outdated.
So how do we prepare the children? If you are a parent where do you send your kids? To the new big public school? To the fancy charter school? There are so many options nowadays, should you homeschool? These are not easy questions and I do not claim to have all the answers. But I would like to share how I have approached this issue personally.
I have attended public schools and Adventist schools. I attended and Adventist University and my wife attended a state university. Both of us had positive and negative experiences both in public and private schools. Because I want to refrain as much as possible from sharing just my opinions let's talk about some principles.
When everything around us is changing we need an anchor point, a way of getting our bearings. This generation coming up now will face even greater difficulties than my generation, the Millenials, are facing. It is impossible for us to know exactly what the world will be like for them, or even for us. So how do you prepare for the unknown? Since it is impossible to know the details we focus on the principles. When you have good, solid, principles, you can apply them to varying circumstances.
This summer while on vacation and stuck in traffic during a thunderstorm, while my wife and kids slept, I was listening to an interview with Ray Dalio. For those who may not be familiar with him, Ray Dalio, one of the world’s most successful investors and entrepreneurs. During his interview, he made several references to his book Principles, where he shares the unconventional principles that helped him create unique results in life and business—and which any person or organization can adopt to better achieve their goals.
His book is a #1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER as well as a #1 AMAZON BUSINESS BOOK OF THE YEAR. To give you an idea, Bill Gates said that Ray Dalio has provided him with invaluable guidance (source).
Ray Dalio says the following about himself:
Whatever success I’ve had in life hasn’t been because of anything unique about me—it’s because of principles that I believe anyone can adopt.
- Ray Dalio
I agree with Ray Dalio that the right principles can shape a life for success. If you are searching for success in the world of business and investing, I would say you should check out Dalio's principles. But I have an even stronger suggestion for you. If your desire is for eternal life and success that goes much beyond our sinful world, check out the Bible.
In the Bible, we find God's principles for life here on earth that will ultimately lead to eternal life with Him. When I say eternal, I mean without end, it goes on and on and on forever! Whatever finite thing that can be given up for something that is infinite is worth giving up.
The biblical principles can be found throughout scriptures and can be expressed in many different ways. The principles themselves do not change, though their application takes on different forms as we apply them in different ways and under different circumstances.
The first principle or the top priority found throughout the Holy Scriptures is that God must be first. The Bible tells us that everything begins with God (Genesis 1, John 1,) and God tells us to put Him first, God must not only be first, He cannot share that place with anything else. In Exodus 20 we find the words of God Himself recorded, and He said:
You shall have no other gods before Me.
- God (Genesis 20:3)
So the first principle is put God first. I like to think of this as the upward dimension of life. Our relationship with God will significantly shape all other areas of our life. Isaiah 6 illustrates this well. There we read of the prophet's experience when he, in vision, found himself in the very presence of God!
In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one cried to another and said:
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
The whole earth is full of His glory!”
And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke.
- Isaiah 6:1-4 NKJV
Isaiah finds himself in the presence of God! He witnesses God's power and greatness and holiness. In the presence of God, Isaiah does not only better understand God, but Isaiah also gains insights about himself. Isaiah better understands himself when He draws closer to God.
Our relationship with God does not only lead us to a better understanding of God but also a better understanding of ourselves. What is Isaiah's response to being in the presence of God?
So I said:
“Woe is me, for I am undone!
Because I am a man of unclean lips,
And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips;
For my eyes have seen the King,
The Lord of hosts.”
- Isaiah 6:5 NKJV
Isaiah does not become proud of boastful for being in the presence of God. Isaiah does not consider himself superior to others because of his privilege of being in the presence of God. Perhaps surprisingly Isaiah feels the opposite. He is humbled and made aware of how unworthy he is to be in Gods presence. Isaiah recognizes that he does not always speak the way he ought to and that his environment is not any better. Isaiah, being a prophet, chosen by God, is not proud but humbled by the vision of God in His Holy Temple. Isaiah is overwhelmed by who God is, by God's power and Holiness.
Instead of being proud, Isaiah fears for his life for he knows that He is not worthy to stand before a Holy and Awesome God. Oh if more of us could have that experience. So many are proud of how close to God they are. They look down on others considering them inferior. At church sometimes it seems like that closer people come to God, the prouder they become, the more judgmental they become, and the more they point fingers. When I read about Isaiah's experience, as recorded in Isaiah 6, I see a holy man who feels unworthy, who is humbled and fears for his life.
If you are reading this and you feel proud of your holiness, and godliness, I am sorry to tell you that chances are you are not as close to God as you would like to think. As we advance upward, we also delve inward and recognize we are not worthy to receive the blessings we receive daily. Upward mobility translates into humility and never pride.
In recognizing his unworthiness Isaiah is overcome by fear. Then something happens,
Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a live coal which he had taken with the tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth with it, and said:
“Behold, this has touched your lips;
Your iniquity is taken away,
And your sin purged.”
- Isaiah 6:6-7 NKJV
One of the seraphim comes to Isaiah's rescue. The angel himself is not able to save Isaiah but he brings a live coal taken from the altar. It is thanks to the sacrifice offered at the altar that Isaiah's iniquity is taken away and that his sin is purged. Isaiah now experiences salvation from God, he is now able to stand not because of anything he did but because of the offering from the altar. Isaiah has been saved by grace.
Once Isaiah experiences salvation something changed, he now heard God’s voice, Isaiah became aware of a need.
Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying:
“Whom shall I send,
And who will go for Us?”
Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.”
- Isaiah 6:8 NKJV
After experiencing salvation the prophet became aware of God’s desire for someone to go for Him, Isaiah was willing and in God’s calling, he found his mission. Isaiah, after being in the presence of God and receiving salvation now wanted to go and do God’s will. Isaiah was willing to go for God and deliver His message.
When we seek God, we find God, we are humbled by Him, saved by Him, and sent by Him into all the world.
Learning math, science, reading, and history is great. But even more important is learning to connect with God on a personal level and learning from Him how to apply everything that we learn for the growth of His kingdom. Most school will give you the tools, a good Christian school gives you also a purpose and goal that is other focused. Science and math can provide you with how, and God will provide you with a why. And that is why we support our local Christian school, because it not only teaches our children math and science and English, etc. but also Biblical values for a meaningful life.
Our life is made up of three dimensions, upward, inward, and outward. God is the key, the focus, to figuring it all out. As we reach upward to something greater than ourselves we find God who helps us discover who we truly are. In the process of finding ourselves, we realize our need of God, our need to be saved. As we experience that salvation and a loving relationship with God we find our purpose, we discover our earthly mission, to go as God’s ambassadors revealing His character to the world and sharing the good news of Salvation in Christ Jesus.