A Response to the Transgender Mandate

As I’m sure you’ve heard or read, the Obama Administration has issued a letter to all public school districts in the country telling them to allow transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms that match their chosen gender identity, as opposed to their birth certificate. The letter includes threats of potential lawsuits and the loss of federal aid for schools and districts that do not comply. Sadly, this was a predictable outcome in light of recent legislation, legal decisions, and cultural trends.

So, what should we do? How should we react? May I offer some brief suggestions for all of us?

  • We should pray! Pray for all of the students, teachers, administrators and families in public schools who will be adversely affected by this.
  • We should encourage and exhort! Encourage friends, family, neighbors, and colleagues who have children in public schools to seriously consider other educational options – private Christian schools like CCS, home school, co-ops, etc. Exhort them to take the necessary steps and make the hard decisions to move their children into God-honoring, spiritually edifying educational environments.
  • We should support Christian education like never before! I do believe this newest move by the federal government will compel many more parents to look for alternative schooling options, including our school. There are children and parents who are feeling an increased sense of profound discouragement and despair because, even though they desperately desire to move to a private Christian school, they simply cannot afford it, and homeschooling is not a viable option. My great desire is that our school would be in such a solid, surplus financial position that we can make our school affordable to more families than ever before. Admittedly, this is not a new desire, but it has suddenly become much more urgent in light of this latest federal mandate.
  • We should trust God! He is in complete control, and He is working out His purposes for our good and His glory (Isaiah 46:8-10Romans 8:28). Nothing will ever change this soul-securing, fear-subduing, perspective-shaping truth.

May we resolve “to be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom [we] shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life (Philippians 2:15-16).”

What Satan Thinks About Education

Apollyon:  “I will be God. I must be God. I will dedicate every part of my being to achieve my ends.”

Legion:  “But, how? Jehovah has created a weapon that cannot be defeated-the Word of God. It changes the very nature of the sinner’s heart and captures his affections, actions, and words. That weapon also instructs the mind of his subjects so they can discern when we are working. His subjects study the Word and use the Word so the Spirit of Jehovah can change them and teach others.”

Apollyon:  “You are right. I would like to simply kill them all, but he won’t let us. However, while we can’t stop the power of His weapon, we may be able to remove it from certain areas of their life.”

Legion:  “I don’t understand how we could possibly get them to do that.”

Apollyon:  It will take time and we must be patient, but the most obvious would be to remove the weapon from the education of their children. Our strategy would be one that employs great subtlety as well as our usual tactics of deception and confusion.

Legion:  “Oh Great One, I must hear your plans.”

Apollyon:  “It is a brilliant and multifaceted approach. Because His subjects are generally weak, we will find the weakness in each one of them and exploit it. First, let me share with you how we will deceive and confuse the parents.

Some of the parents say they believe in the absolute power of His weapon, but secretly they do not. We will exploit that weakness by pointing out every situation where a child in a Christian school does not become a Christian. I will encourage them to disregard the importance of having their own child in a place where the weapon is wielded every day.

We will constantly remind the parents that they should be very concerned about their financial futures. So much so, that fear will overcome any ideas about spending money to have their child in a school that uses the weapon. We will be quick to dull their memories about Jehovah’s promises to provide for them.

We will encourage parents to think not about the spiritual condition of the child, but more so about athletics and obtaining scholarships to go to college. This is sure to work well until their child gets to the college years and the parents find out that they did not attain their goal and the child knows nothing about Jehovah. At that time, it will be too late for them.

Even though His subjects claim that they know every child is born a sinner, we will encourage them to think of their children as little subjects who are going to heaven because they exhibit a sweet personality and a compliant nature. This will give the parents a sense of protection for the child that is not grounded in reality. We will encourage them to send them to a school where they will have no weapon to defend themselves, or have the ability to go on the offense for Jehovah. Even though the parents are educating the child without the very means that Jehovah has ordered, they will blindly believe in the power of Jehovah and his ability to work in the life of that child. We will help them forget what Jehovah says about training of children and the vulnerability and foolishness of every young person. We will work on the child slowly and allow the parent to have hope that the child is learning the ways of Jehovah; meanwhile, we will be teaching the child our ways.

We will prey on the parents’ desire to see many new subjects come to the light in a school where the weapon is forbidden. We will convince them that any small mention of Jehovah or even a drawing done in an art class is enough to convert one of our worldlings into one of Jehovah’s subjects.

For those who rely on feelings or leadings instead of the clear teaching from Jehovah’s Holy Book, we will put thoughts into their heads so they can conclude that they are being led to place their children in a school that hates Jehovah.”

Legion:  “This is truly a brilliant strategy. To use the weaknesses and strengths of Jehovah’s subjects to confuse them in such a way that they are actually destroying their children is incredibly exciting! But, what about Jehovah’s leaders? Surely they will step in and correct the wrongheaded thinking of the subjects?”

Apollyon:  “You are beginning to learn, my young apprentice. Yes, we have a plan for Jehovah’s leaders as well. Just as we will do with Jehovah’s subjects, we will exploit the weaknesses and even the strengths of Jehovah’s leaders.

We will create so many problems and challenges for the leaders that they will have no time or energy to face the challenge of getting Jehovah’s subjects to be faithful in educating their children. Whenever they think about it, we will be sure to overwhelm them so they put the battle off until some later date. Their teaching or comments about education will become muted and they will tell themselves Jehovah will lead the subjects as He wishes. As an added bonus, we may also succeed in muting the teaching about family devotions, because to do so would require teaching what Jehovah says about having His weapon before the children 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

We will convince them to think about a Jehovah school in such a way that it can be ignored. We have many ways to make that work for us. For example, we will lead them to think the school is self-sufficient, or the children that attend are somehow better than or not as sinful as those in secular schools, or that the school is safe and does not face the same spiritual war as a church.

When they become convicted into thinking about it again, we will convince them that a discussion or teaching about education in their church is divisive so they need to avoid it. We will help them picture a situation where many families would become angry and leave. This will create fear in their hearts and we will draw them to think also about the financial implications should that happen.

We will encourage them to think that having an education in a place without the weapon does not always turn out badly. We will dilute their conviction that the absence of the weapon in education does damage to a child’s heart and mind by giving them regular examples of exceptions, even though we know that only happens because Jehovah has been exceedingly gracious to his subjects.

We will give Jehovah’s leaders a false sense of comfort and an expectation that children attending a school where the weapon is used needs no support from the churches. We will exploit a zealous evangelistic mindset by fooling them into believing that their support must go to areas where the weapon is hated and forbidden.

We will lead and encourage Jehovah’s leaders to conclude that an occasional mention of Jehovah’s school means that they are supporting the school simply because they mention the school at all. We will tempt them to compare themselves to the many churches that never mention Jehovah’s schools at all, instead of judging themselves according to Jehovah’s teachings.”

Legion:  “Truly, you are the master of deceit and lies. I hope to one day be as wise and wicked as you. I have only one other question. If none of these things work, do you have a final solution that will keep Jehovah subjects from placing their children in a school that uses his weapon?”

Apollyon:  “Yes, my ultimate tactic is most brilliant and it takes the very core of the weapon’s teaching and turns it on its head. I used the same tactic long ago on Jehovah’s first two subjects. We will have Jehovah’s leaders tell the parents that they must send their little children to a place where the weapon is forbidden because they must evangelize other children. Think of the irony of it-they will be sacrificing the hearts of their children for the sake of saving others without the weapon to achieve it.  In the end, we will control both the hearts and minds of His subjects as well as those who are the children of our subjects!”

Legion:  “This is so grand, so diabolical, and so wonderful. I wonder if it will really work.”

Apollyon:  “It already has.”

“We Will Not Hide Them From The Children”

Give ear, O my people, to my teaching; incline your ears to the words of my mouth! 
I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings from of old, 
things that we have heard and known, that our fathers have told us. 
We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation 
the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done.
Psalm 78:1-4

The Bible tells us that children are a gift from God. Along with the gift comes great responsibility and ultimate accountability. Parents are called to think Biblically about their parenting, especially in the particular area of education.

Culture is defined as the dominant or pervasive worldview in our society. Whether or not people in the culture discern its existence, the fact remains that there is a particular culture in which their children are being educated and trained to think. Every Christian parent must examine the quality and philosophy of the private or public school their child attends because the heart and mind of a child is being impacted every day.

The following sections are linked to FAQs and brief articles which are designed to help us as parents know the plain commands and precepts from God. Our ultimate hope is that we may see Him work in the lives of our children and one day stand before Him and hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Stressed for Success!

At the start of every school year, they pop up on Facebook posts and Instagram feeds like colorful bursts of embodied  enthusiasm. The proverbial “First Day of School” photos flood onto social media sites, traverse text messaging networks, and grandparents-computerfile into e-mail inboxes across the country to the delight of many a grandparent.

Invariably, these memorable images of bright-eyed students convey a fresh eagerness and optimism that often coincides with new beginnings. The backpacks are loaded with neatly organized binders. The hair is combed back, braided up or buzzed down. The uniforms are crisply pressed with no traces of any recess or lunchroom residue to be found. The slate is clean and opportunities abound. They are dressed for success, and no obstacles to that success are in view… at least not yet.

Then, school actually gets underway, and with each passing day, the stress gradually begins to mount. What once looked like a grand and inviting vista of opportunity and future achievement now looms gravely over the students like an impenetrable wall of homework, tests, projects, practices, jammed lockers, strained friendships, demanding schedules, demanding teachers and demanding parents. Sure, there is plenty of fun and frivolity to be had amidst all of the challenges of an average school day, but what often shows up at home in the evening are the frazzled and frustrated countenances of our once happy children. We, then, begin to ask ourselves questions:  “Where are the shining smiles that lit up those “First Day of School” photos?” “Are all of the kids as stressed out as mine seems to be?” “Is it time to schedule some parent/teacher conferences to try to get a handle on this, or should I wait to see if things settle down in time?”

In the following paragraphs, I will attempt to answer some common and important questions concerning academic stress. I will also offer some time-tested principles that I hope will encourage and strengthen you as you walk with your kids through the ups and downs of everyday student life.

Sometimes, just the simple knowledge that we are not alone in our more challenging experiences can be helpful. According to a USA Today article summarizing the results of a 2013 survey by the American Psychological Association (APA), “Teens across the USA are feeling high levels of stress that they say negatively affect every aspect of their lives.”

This annual APA survey entitled Stress in America also found that stress among teens often rivals, even exceeds, that of adults, and very few in either category are effectively managing their stress. The answer to the question, “Is it just my kid?” is a resounding “No!”

So, we should feel much better now, right? It is just a fact of life that we are all stressed out and virtually none of us are handling it well. Can we finally get back to our giant bowls of Blue Bell and continue binge-watching on Netflix until 2:00 AM?

Of course, this would be the opportune time to highlight the well-documented health risks associated with excessive, unmanaged stress such as insufficient or listless sleep cycles, unhealthy eating habits, and inadequate exercise and physical activity.

stress infographics - sleep-eat-exercise

While the research in these three areas is voluminous and generally conclusive, what is most compelling about the interplay of stress with sleep, diet and fitness is the circular nature of their relationships. Can excessive stress directly contribute to sleeplessness, or is it the other way around?

Answer:  Yes.

And the same is true for eating habits and physical fitness. Students and parents who are riddled with prolonged, extreme levels of stress typically do not sleep well, eat well or get enough exercise. And… you guessed it… those who do not sleep well, eat well or engage in enough physical activity tend to struggle with excessive, unmitigated stress.

This is certainly not new information for most of us. And these common effects of stress only scratch the surface of what many students and parents actually experience from day to stressful day. Again, according to the APA:

  • Forty percent of teens report feeling irritable or angry and 36 percent report feeling nervous or anxious.
  • Almost one-third (32 percent) of teens say stress makes them feel as though they could cry.
  • Many teens report feeling overwhelmed (31 percent) and depressed or sad (30 percent) as a result of stress.
  • More than one-third of teens report fatigue/feeling tired (36 percent) and having lain awake at night because of stress (35 percent).
  • Nearly one-third of teens (32 percent) say they experience headaches, 26 percent report changes in sleeping habits and 21 percent say they experience upset stomach or indigestion as a result of stress.
  • Nearly one-quarter of teens (23 percent) have skipped a meal because of stress.

Nothing adds to the already elevated stress level of parents like seeing their children under duress. The common protective instinct is to aggressively pursue measures that would quickly relieve the stress they are experiencing. Parents can even feel a certain degree of resentment toward whatever or whomever they identify as the sources of their children’s stress. And, what is the most prominent source of stress among children in general and teens in particular? Surprise, surprise… it is, of course, school and concerns related to school.

According to the Stress in America survey, “teens report that during the school year they have an average stress level of 5.8 on a 10-point scale, compared with a level of 4.6 during the summer.” In addition, “the most commonly reported sources of stress are school (83 percent), [and] getting into a good college or deciding what to do after high school (69 percent).”

On day 1 of the school year, students are “dressed for success”, but it doesn’t take long before the picture changes and they become “stressed for success.” By the time they are half way through the first quarter, the pressure on many students has Stressed title imagealready escalated to what seems like an unbearable level. What is clear to most parents is that their children weren’t like this when school started. What is often less clear is what they should do about it.

Parents generally know that a certain amount of stress is normal and can serve as a good motivator for higher performance in their kids. They also expect their children to experience some added pressure while they are in school. But when the pressure begins to appear persistent, unhealthy, and unmanageable, a protective instinct kicks in and many parents begin looking for direct causes and constructing defensive barriers. Again, more internal questions emerge:  “Is the homework load simply too much?” “Do the teachers even realize the amount of stress they are causing?” “Is the administration aware of how my child is being treated by her classmates?” “Do the coaches understand how challenging it is to manage all of the practice and game schedules while maintaining good grades?”

Questions like these fill the minds of many parents who see their children struggling under the weight of stress. Unfortunately, the resulting action steps often move in unfruitful directions. For example, some families choose to “suffer in silence.” If the stressful circumstances do not change, however, the pressure becomes unsustainable, and relationships within the home and between the family and the school can become severely strained and even broken.

Some parents begin sharing their concerns with other parents. If they discover that other families are experiencing what appear to be similar challenges, they believe their assumptions about the direct causes of the undue stress (i.e. excessive homework load, insensitive teachers, inattentive administrators, demanding coaches, etc.) have been conclusively confirmed. This can lead to feelings of deep frustration and personal resentment directed toward the school in general and toward school officials in particular. If, out of sheer frustration, the parents schedule meetings with teachers to discuss their concerns, those meetings usually start off on very shaky ground because the discussions begin in a fog of emotion and distrust. This, in turn, becomes the filter through which everything said during the meeting is interpreted.

To be clear, I believe that the stress for our children is real. The emotional and physical risks associated with continuously high stress levels are truly unnerving. And, it makes logical sense that elevated stress levels in students are directly related to school, as cited in the Stress in America survey. It stands to reason, then, that something about school needs to be adjusted in some way in order to alleviate what has become an unacceptable burden for our children, right?

Well, maybe… sort of…, but not really. What am I saying here? I’m saying that I wholeheartedly agree that stress and school go hand in hand. I also firmly believe that it is incumbent upon teachers, coaches, and school administrators to pay very close attention to the students and exercise appropriate and proactive care for their overall well-being. In fact, this is the unique domain of Cherokee Christian Schools, in that we are partners with parents in the comprehensive spiritual, emotional, social and intellectual development of their children.

Furthermore, as Christians, we are called to “bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2).” The clear implication of Scripture is that we should be attentive enough to see the burdens of others, and then be compelled by Christ-like love to help bear them. Each school day brings a wide range of interactions, experiences, and obligations for all students, faculty and staff. Within that broad and varied spectrum lies the foundational mandate and unique opportunity of mutual burden-bearing.

At the same time, there are other key biblical principles that have profound and powerful implications for parents and students experiencing burdensome levels of stress. For parents, thinking biblically about stress and instructing their children to do likewise poses one of the greatest challenges and solemn duties they will ever face. I certainly won’t attempt to cover the waterfront on this subject in the conclusion of this article. I will simply direct you to one over-arching biblical principle that I trust will be of some help as you seek to honor the Lord in and through stressful times for you and your children. This principle is obvious to  most, yet it is profoundly impactful when thoughtfully considered.

So, here it is.

We live in a Genesis 3 world.

broken_world

The implications of this principle are monumental. This foundational chapter in the first book of the Bible sets the spiritual, anthropological, and theological context for all that we experience in this life. That includes stress – our own, and that of our children. If we lose sight of this principle and begin interpreting our experiences apart from its context, it is unlikely that we will respond to trying times in fruitful, Christ-exalting ways. To better understand this principle, let’s highlight some of the key points from Genesis 3.

  1. The mortal enemy of our souls is a master-manipulator, liar, and twister of God’s Word (Gen. 3:1, 4-5).
  2. When we stray from God’s clear and complete Word, we are easily deceived by half-truths, quickly disenchanted with God’s abundant provision, and foolishly determined in our rationalized disobedience (Gen. 3:2-6).
  3. When we fear that our sins and failures will be exposed, we tend to run and hide and/or shift blame (Gen. 3:8-13).
  4. The consequences of ignoring the truth and falling into sin are certain, severe, and sustained (Gen. 3:14-19).
  5. Even in our darkest moments, God remains our ultimate source of comfort and care (Gen. 3:21).

Now, let’s consider some implications from these key points that apply directly to our handling of stress and how we counsel our children through their stressful seasons.

First, we must recognize that the world we live in is broken, mired in sin and deception. Seeing, understanding, and fully embracing the complete truth is uncommon and unnatural. We can be easily deceived, and we routinely deceive ourselves when our minds are not saturated with the truth of God’s Word. This should serve as a caution for us when we, or our children are faltering under a heavy weight of stress. We should take deliberate and prayerful steps to identify what is truly causing the stress, with the understanding that the Genesis 3 world we live in is always taking its toll on us.

Second, we need to acknowledge that our “run-hide-escape-blame” tendency is alive and well in us and in our children. When it looks like our shortcomings may be exposed, we quickly start heading for the exits. When our failures come to light, we naturally look for shy-hiding-child1someone or something else to blame. Again, we live in a Genesis 3 world. The curse is comprehensive and ongoing. There is sin all around us all the time, so there is always someone or something close by that we can blame. And, to a degree, the blame may even be well-placed. When the actions of others legitimately contribute to our troubles, however, our avoidance of healthy, honest, and biblical self-examination (Matthew 7:1-52 Corinthians 13:5; 2 Peter 1:3-11) only results in severely stunted spiritual growth, and a virtual guarantee that we will repeat the same sinful decisions that contributed to our stress in the first place.

Third, we need to see the stresses and struggles of this life as part of God’s sovereign, redemptive plan. As such, they are purposeful, not random. They are not hazards to be avoided, but rather, they are often unavoidable trials in which we should rejoice (James 1:2-4). In a Genesis 3 world, trials and turmoil are inevitable and perpetual, but so are God’s plans and purposes. When we shift our focus off of our trials and onto the plans and purposes of God, joy breaks through and lightens the burden.

Finally, we simply need to trust God more. We need to instruct and encourage our kids to trust God more. The God we see in Genesis 3 is faithful and true to His word. He is generous in his provision. He is loving in his protective care. He is gracious even in His execution of justice. He is a God we can trust fully no matter what we are facing.

We are often eager to quote and declare with the apostle, Paul, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

“What kind of things, Paul?”christ-strengthens-me

Let’s pick up the context of this great verse by starting midway through verse 10 which says, “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through [Christ] who strengthens me (Philippians 4:10b-13).”

Paul is not talking primarily about overcoming difficult circumstances, or just gritting his teeth and persevering through a stressful season until it passes. He is really talking about possessing a deep and abiding contentment in, and through ANY kind of circumstance. The “secret” to this contentment is trusting God and relying upon the strength He provides through Christ. It is a Genesis 3 world, but God is faithful and true, always working all things for His glory and our good (Romans 8:26-39).

When the stress of school, and the stress of work, and the stress of home and family life begin to feel unbearable, that is the moment of truth. That is the time when the powerful, stabilizing truth of God’s Word should be our daily meditation (Psalm 1:1-3). It should inform all of our actions and reactions. It should temper our emotions. It should guide our steps like a light on our path (Psalm 119:105). Whether a stressful situation for our kids warrants some form of direct engagement with the school or not, we must fully engage our hearts and minds in the transcendent truth of God’s Word. For, in knowing the truth, we are truly set free to walk through all the experiences of this life in faithfulness and peace (John 8:31-32, 36).