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An Educational Foundation

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BY DAN KIEHL, Senior Pastor of Oakwood Presbyterian Church

     One of the biggest changes that I’ve seen in State College since my family moved here in 2012 has been in the skyline of the town. It’s been shocking to see so many new high-rise apartment and commercial buildings being erected in such a short period of time. Older two-story buildings disappear, and several months later a monolithic structure stands in its place.

     The only stage of constructing these buildings that seems to take a long time is the laying of the foundation. We will drive by the construction site for months, seeing nothing but tarp-covered fences surrounding a huge square pit, while an army of workers create the most important part of the structure. Once this base and infrastructure is in place, the rest of the building will rise quickly. A strong foundation makes for a strong building; a weak foundation will be catastrophic.

     When we go to Scripture, we find that the responsibility of training our children is one of our highest callings as parents. This is the long, slow process of building the foundation for their lives. We live in a culture where the vast majority of a parent’s responsibility to educate their children is delegated to others – the nursery schools, elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools. For most parents, we feel we’ve done our job if our kids get their diplomas and in our spare time we teach them how to cook, sew, play baseball, or build a bird house. The educational responsibility has been so thoroughly delegated that most parents, either consciously or subconsciously, see it as the ultimate duty of the state or the private school to prepare our children for life.

     I’m not advocating here for one particular method of educating our children. Every family and every child is different, and parents have the responsibility to decide what is best. For our family, a solid Christian school was the best option. It is a good and often necessary option for parents to seek assistance in training their children and to delegate some of the responsibility to teach. Believe me, my children wouldn’t have wanted me to teach them trigonometry! But it is the parents, and especially the fathers, who will stand before God and give an account for the stewardship of their children’s education.

     The most important “course” that our children should be taking continually is Biblical Theology and Application. In Deuteronomy 6:5-7 the Lord says to parents, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” Training in the Scriptures must permeate the lifestyle of our households.

     A thorough knowledge of God’s Word and a Biblical worldview are the foundation of all other learning. Ecclesiastes 12:11-13 says, “...like nails firmly fixed are the collected sayings; they are given by one Shepherd…Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh…Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” In other words, the study of history, mathematics, science, and the arts is not only worthless, it is dangerous if it isn’t built upon the foundation of a Biblical worldview. Our children must know the Bible and see all of life in its light.

      How complete and how sound is the foundation of your children’s education? 

Spiritual Rebooting

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 BY DAN KIEHL, Senior Pastor of Oakwood Presbyterian Church

     When personal computers first came on the scene, users argued about whether it was best to shut down your computer every night and start it up again every morning or to leave the computer running continuously. Since there was no clear consensus, I came down firmly on the side of leaving the machine on, figuring that one less switch to turn off and on each day can only be a good thing. However, I soon discovered that, like most everything in the world, computers needed to be shut down once in a while in order to operate effectively. When programs acted like they were trying to compute the square root of the mean of the dimensions of the universe when I asked them to perform a simple function, I knew that it was time to shut it down. After a prolonged period of opening and closing programs, checking e-mail, and surfing the web, the “brain” of my PC became full of both useful and useless information, resulting in sluggish performance and the occasional “locking up”. When the PC was shut down, it purged its memory of all the useless data, stored the important stuff, and then “rebooted” with all the essential software running smoothly.

     I am convinced that one of the biggest problems with our lives as twenty-first century disciples of Christ is that we don’t “shut down and reboot” enough. We fill every block in our calendars with work or social activities. We can be reached at any moment by cell phone. Even in our leisure time, we sit with the remote and channel-surf through thousands of messages and images. Our five senses are barraged all day long and we are continually running behind schedule. And then we wonder why we feel so worn out and don’t sense the presence of the Lord in our lives.

     Striving to be Christ-like means more than becoming more righteous, humble, and honest. It means reflecting His priorities in life. A casual reading of the four gospels might lead one to think that Jesus’ brief, three-year ministry was a whirlwind of non-stop activity – healing the sick, casting out demons, raising the dead, preaching the Good News. However, Luke tells us that, in the midst of prolonged periods of grueling ministry and teaching, “…Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” (Luke 5:16). Some of these “spiritual retreats” occurred just before major events in His ministry – before He chose the twelve apostles; before the Transfiguration; and in Gethsemane, before He went to the cross. It was very important to our Lord that He often shut down the activity of His life and spend time alone with His Father.

     There are three elements to a Christ-like spiritual retreat. First of all, Luke says that Jesus “often withdrew”. It is essential that we “get away from it all” on a regular basis – withdrawing from work, family, and social responsibilities in order to focus on God’s “big picture”. Secondly, Luke says that Jesus went to “lonely places”. Whether it was in the mountains or in the desert, the purpose of these locations was to remove all the possible distractions. Finally, the purpose of Christ’s retreats was for Him to pray – a time to immerse Himself in the presence of His Father. Great refreshment waits for the disciple who is willing to reduce all of life to their Bible, prayer, and the presence of God, whether it is for a few hours or for a few days.

     Summer and holidays are traditionally times in our culture for people to schedule some “down time”. Unfortunately, we typically fill that “down time” with trips to overcrowded beaches and amusement parks, cross-country jogs to visit family members, or major home-improvement projects. I’d like to challenge you to eliminate some less important activities from your schedule and plan regular times of “withdrawal to lonely places to pray.” Find a “lonely place” in your home and spend at least a half an hour a day in prayer and Bible study. Find a “lonely place” in your community (such as a park) and spend a few hours a week in extended Bible reading and prayer. Find a camp or retreat center in your region where you can spend a few days once or twice a year in prayer, fasting, and searching for God’s presence and guidance. If “spiritual rebooting” was essential to the life and ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ, then who are we to consider it optional?