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A Blog from the Director of Spiritual Formation

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Why Choose a Christian Education?

March 01, 2017
By David Monreal

When I was new in ministry, I quickly learned how sensitive people are to the issue of school choice. I would have people come up to me regularly and ask, “Are you against homeschooling?” or “Are you opposed to public school?” Never mind the fact that I had no children and I was single! I thought that maybe this was a local debate only with this particular church. Boy was I wrong! I was also pretty naïve to how emotionally charged this topic could be. At the last church that I served as Pastor, my children were at the Christian School, my Discipleship Pastor Homeschooled his kids, my Worship Pastor sent his children to public school, and my youth pastor had one child at the Christian school and the other two at public school! Unfortunately, people found reason to be critical with each of us for our personal choices.

Repeatedly, I would be asked my opinion regarding which school choice was best and consistently I gave the same answer. “I am not ‘anti’ anything. I am not against homeschooling nor am I opposed to parents who send their children to public school. I am personally, for my children, pro-Christian school.” Every parent needs to make a decision based on what he or she believes is in the best interest of that child. Further, every child is different. Where one might thrive in a certain context another child may flounder. I cannot say what is best for all children; I need to prayerfully consider what is best for each of my children. God has given me the responsibility to nurture and encourage the spiritual development of each of my children in addition to providing for all of their physical needs. I also need to wrestle with the question, “Do I see this time in their lives as primarily a time of equipping for a life of ministry or primarily a time of being a missionary?” Of course, it is always both, but which one do I want to emphasize? Again, these are questions that each parent needs to weigh and consider before the Lord and come to some personal convictions as to how the Lord is leading her or him.

All of our children have been in Christian School since preschool. I would like to share with you some of the reasons my wife and I have chosen to have our children at Judah Christian School. Here are six of our reasons for this decision:

1.  We wanted our children to be taught every subject in harmony with biblical truth. All truth is God’s truth and nothing that is true will contradict what God has said. The beauty of a Christian school is that from the youngest grades until graduation they are seeing how God and His Word fit together in this world.

2.  In their formative years, we wanted their learning to be from a Christian Worldview. Everyone has a set of presuppositions that shapes and informs their decisions and their understanding of the world. Some non-Christians are more open and tolerant towards Christianity but others are becoming increasingly hostile to Christ and His Word. The intention at a Christian school is to have faculty and staff who believe and live out a Christian worldview.

3.  We wanted our children to be challenged daily to do everything for the glory of God as their ultimate goal. There are many competing values and goals in the world, but as believers, our chief end is “to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” (A1 Westminster Shorter Catechism) A Christian school provides an environment where this goal is encouraged. Left to ourselves we are prone to be self-focused. An environment like Judah’s reminds all students that they are not living for themselves or for the moment, but they are living what is most important.

4.  We wanted an environment where Christ and the gospel are infused into every subject being taught and it does not seem odd when my children bring up Jesus. One of the great things about a Christian School is that there is a freedom to talk about Christ without apprehension or fear. Not only can the students express their beliefs without worry of being asked to tone it down or not proselytize, but also the teachers can actively call students to turn and place their faith in Christ alone.

5.  I hope to increase the probability that my children’s closest friends and biggest influences are fellow Christians. Paul reminds us, “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company ruins good morals.’” (1 Corinthians 15:33) In 2 Corinthians 6:14 he adds, “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers.” The imagery is of two oxen that are tied together by a yoke and are pulling in the same direction. Often this is applied to marriage or dating, but I think it applies to ones closest friends as well. Your best friends know your heart and influence your choices. I want to maximize the possibility that their closest friends will be godly kids.

6.  I want to surround my children with godly men and women who are able to notice when my children are straying from Christ. My goal is not to just have good kids. My goal is not just to keep my kids away from drugs, alcohol, and sexual immorality. Of course, I want those things for my children. Above all that, I want my children to know they are loved by God and love God in return because of Christ. School is a big part of a child’s day. Some weeks the teachers see my children more than I do! I may not see early signs of trouble or my children straying. My prayer is that other Christians will see what I might miss and let me know.

Again, these are some of my personal reasons that have persuaded me to send my children to Christian School. I know I only get one shot at raising my children and I want to do all that I can to see that they walk closely with Jesus their entire life. I want to take advantage of every opportunity available. Thanks for reading!

Dave

“Not the way it’s supposed to be”

February 13, 2017
By David Monreal

I have been thinking a lot about the issue of racism since first writing about it last month. Two thoughts keep rolling around in my head, which have helped frame the discussion in this blog. The first comes from the title of a book by Cornelius Plantinga Jr. called, Not the way it’s Supposed to Be: A Breviary of Sin. This book discussed the corrupting influence of sin on God’s creation showing how sin distorts and destroys what God created as good. The second thought comes from a preaching professor I had in seminary. He noted how much easier it can be to rail against sin than it is to make a positive case for what is good. He challenged us students to practice preaching as forcefully for the good as we do evil. With these two thoughts in mind, I ask myself this question, “In regard to race, how is it supposed to be?”

Sometimes it is helpful to start at the end to better understand the goal that God has for His people. Revelation 7:9-10 states:

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Revelation 7:9-10)

John, in a vision, is translated to heaven and he sees glimpses of the belivers who have come out of the Tribulation (cf. Rev. 7:14 – I won’t even try to address all of the possible questions regarding how to understand the book of Revelation, but suffice to say he sees actual people and it is at a time moving towards the eternal state of the New Heavens and New Earth of Revelation 21). We can glean several truths from this image:

1.  There are people from all tribes, peoples and languages. How does John know this? Was it because they were all wearing badges and standing by their national flags? No, it was because they all kept their distinctive appearance from their earthly existence. It is God’s plan and purpose to rescue a people for Himself that encompasses all the nationalities from around the world!

2.  They do not lose their distinctive characteristics how God made them. If it had been God’s will he could have made everyone look exactly the same following the resurrection. He could have obliterated any distinctions and distinctiveness that we had prior to our death. However, just as Jesus was recognized because of the similarity between His resurrected body and his earthly body, so too we will continue to carry forward the unique distinctions that God originally designed us with.

3.  There is a unity in the diversity before the throne and the Lamb. What a beautiful picture. They are all standing as equals before the throne of God and worshipping. They were celebrating their salvation that was moving towards the culmination of human history. There was love for God and presumably, love for one another since this is a characteristic of God’s children (cf. Mark 12:29-31; John 13:34-35) There is a beauty in the diversity that God created and for all eternity we will experience that reality.

4.  There is an equality before the throne, as God loves each one fully. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus,” Paul says in Galatians 3:28. In the ancient world, Jews looked down on Gentiles because they were unclean. The Romans looked down upon the Jews because they were a subjugated people. The Roman world looked down upon the Barbarians as being ignorant babblers (they called them Barbarians because their foreign language sounded like, “Bar, bar, bar, bar”). Women were viewed as second-class citizens (they could not vote or hold office). And slaves were not free, and even in good circumstances, would never be considered an equal. But, before the throne of God we are all equal and His love for each one of His children is perfect and complete. There are no divine stepchildren, God does not have favorites (Each one of us is His favorite!). There are no second-class citizens.

What difference does the truth make right now? How does this apply to my life? In the prayer our Lord taught to His disciples he prayed, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” This means that those things that are true in heaven we work towards making a reality right here, right now. Do you see others as equally valuable before God? Do you celebrate diversity as a part of God’s good creation? Do you seek unity and breaking down the walls of division? This is the way it’s supposed to be.

Beyond Politics

January 20, 2017
By David Monreal

I write this as the inauguration of the 45th President of the United States is occurring. Our country is experiencing a level of division that has no equal in my lifetime. As a culture, we have lost the ability to dialogue and discuss differences together. Instead, many resort to name-calling and vilifying.  We talk at each other and past each other rather than to each other. As a nation, we are divided along racial lines, political lines, moral lines, and economic lines. I am thinking about who we are and who we are to be in Christ before a watching world. Our goal is to see students who are decidedly different in how they think, act, react, and behave. We do not make our decisions based on the fickle findings of the latest polls. Our standard is the Word of God. Our aim is to be like Christ. How do we address the divisions we face?

As I reflected on these questions, four principles came to mind:

Unity – As Christians we are united by the cross and our common faith. What unites us is greater than anything that might divide us. There is one body and one Spirit. We have “one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (Ephesians 4:4-6) We all are equal at the foot of the cross. We are all equally loved by our Heavenly Father. We are brothers and sisters in Christ as one family.

Engagement – We also live in a fallen world that desperately needs Jesus. We do not have the option to hide ourselves away and withdraw from the world around us. It can be very easy to ignore the events swirling around us and fill our lives with church activities. Nevertheless, we have been called to “get out of the salt shaker.” We have the only message that a lost and dying world needs. True hope is found in no one else but the Person of Jesus Christ and we must proclaim Him.

Winsomeness – We can win the battle and lose the war for people’s souls. We live in an age of rancor and discord. Many have lost the ability to be civil and engage in productive dialogue. As Christians, we must not be among this group. We do not engage with others merely to win intellectual battles. We engage with others to bring them the life changing reality of Jesus. If we win the argument but push people further away from the gospel by our tone and demeanor, we have missed what God has called us to do.

Priority – The gospel is our highest priority and God’s glory is our chief aim. We do not rest our hope on a candidate or any political party. True peace only comes from Christ. True joy is only found in the gospel. True hope only comes from the one who conquered death. We rest our hope on the One who is King of kings and Lord of lords!

These are some of the principles that we need to embrace as believers and pass on to our children.

Thoughts on Racism

January 03, 2017
By David Monreal

Racism. Just the mention of the word stirs up strong emotions for many. As I began writing this several weeks ago I realized that there is more that can be said in one blog post. So, what I will do here is begin the conversation and then, on another occasion, continue the discussion.   Before I tackle this complex issue, I want to share a bit of my story.

I was living in the suburbs of Chicago (Lombard) and was the full-time youth pastor at the Lombard Bible Church. I was also finishing up my Master of Divinity degree at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. One evening, several couples were coming to my house for a small group Bible study. I realized that I needed to buy more refreshments. I drove to the local Jewel-Osco. I walked into the store behind a well-dressed lady in her late-50’s. She took a cart but must have been deep in thought because she stood there for a few moments not moving. I waited patiently. Eventually she snapped out of her catatonic state, took her cart, and walked away.

After grabbing a cart, I started walking in the opposite direction. As I was walking away, I heard the lady yell something in my direction. I didn’t know who she was talking to so I turned around and said, “I’m sorry, did you say something?” She walked up to me, looked me straight in the eye, and said, “I said, GO BACK TO YOUR OWN COUNTRY!” I was totally dumbstruck. I composed myself, looked at her, and in my most gracious voice I said, “Well, that’s kind of funny because I was born in Wisconsin.” I thought that might have defused the confrontation but she replied sarcastically, “Well, good for you!” then stormed off.

In spite of that bizarre exchange, I still had to get my things and get back to the condo before my guests arrive. As my friends came over, I shared what happened at the store. One of my friends, we’ll call him John (because that’s his name) said, “That’s funny, I have known you so long I don’t even think about the fact that you’re Mexican.” Not skipping a beat and I wryly reply, “Well John, that’s good because I’ve known YOU so long I don’t even think about the fact that you’re white!” But seriously, what WAS John thinking before?

I’m a third generation American. I was born and raised in Wisconsin (Go Packers!).  My dad was born outside of Dallas in 1927 and my mom was born in Milwaukee in 1929. In fact, my dad was 77 years old when he visited Mexico for the first time. English was the only language I knew growing up. As a kid, my favorite TV shows were The Six Million Dollar Man, Happy Days (until Fonzie jumped the shark!) and Knight Rider. I didn’t think much about race or nationality throughout childhood. I was Mexican, Bob was German, Mike was Italian, and Brian was Irish. We all looked different but no one really cared.

I was fortunate that I did not experience a lot of overt racism growing up. However, I still bear the emotional scars of each and every one. I was kicked out of a house by a new friend’s dad because he didn’t let “those kind” in his house. These circumstances were the exception and not the rule. Sometimes people were insensitive and said awkward things but it didn’t seem as though they were looking down on me.

So here is the big question: Are Christian organizations immune from racism? How about a church? What about a Christian school?

Before I answer those questions, let me ask a clarifying question: What is racism? Dictionary.com defines racism this way: “a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human racial groups determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one's own race is superior and has the right to dominate others or that a particular racial group is inferior to the others.”

I think there is a more foundational question we need to address, are there SINNERS in churches and Christian schools? Jesus says, “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Matthew 12:34) “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9) “…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) We are sinners by nature and by practice. We recognize that at conversion we are made genuinely new creatures in Christ. However, we are not made totally new, as there is indwelling sin that we must put to death. (Colossians 3:5, this distinction was first pointed out to me in a book by Anthony Hoekema) The power of sin has been broken, but the presence of sin still remains. We are being made more and more like Jesus, but we will not be without the possibility of sin until we go to be with Him or He returns and we are transformed.

If we are all sinners, why would we be shocked to realize that we are capable of every kind of sin, including racism? Please hear me, I am not minimizing the sin of racism or saying that we shouldn’t address the issue. In fact, because it is our responsibility to root out sin in our own lives and challenge others to address sins in their lives we must address this issue! Anybody (and I include everyone) has the possibility of having racism in his heart. That does not mean that everyone is a racist. Each of us have sins that we have a greater propensity to struggle with. We shouldn’t assume that since everyone is a sinner everyone is a racist. But I also shouldn’t assume that racism couldn’t reside in my heart. And for some, racism is a besetting sin that needs to be aggressively addressed.

So, how do you do that? You address the sin of racism just like you address every other sin in the Christian life. First, if you see it in your own life, you cry out to Jesus in repentant faith asking Christ to cleanse you from the defilement of sin and to change your heart. Second, if the sin was committed against another person you go to that person to confess your sin and seek forgiveness and reconciliation. Third, if you see sin in your own heart you continue to turn away from it, turn to Jesus, and thereby continue putting it to death.

What do we do if we see another Christian committing the sin of racism? Again, we address it as we would any other sin. Matthew 18:15-17 come to bear, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.” (Matthew 18:15-17 ESV)

If you see someone sin or someone sins against you, go to that person privately and directly. Appeal to Scripture and pray for the conviction of the Holy Spirit. Racism, and every other type of sin, needs to be addressed at the ground level one on one. Even for systemic issues, the collective is made up of individuals and, for the Christian, repentance will first be personal if it is truly going to be addressed corporately.

Do I think there is there is racism at Judah Christian School? I think there is more racism than some might want to admit and there is less racism than some might suspect. But of course, there will be instances of the sin of racism here because we are a collection of sinners and we prove it daily. As Christians, if we don’t first see racism as sin we are not going deep enough to the heart of the issue. The heart of the problem is that we still need our hearts to be more fully transformed to be like Jesus. The answer is not protest and accusation, it is repentance and reconciliation.

I look forward to address additional aspects of this topic in the future and I welcome your feedback.

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