Thursday, February 27, 2014

Ten Things I'm Looking Forward To As I Return To Teaching

Two days ago a number of people were quite surprised to hear that I will no longer be serving as the middle school principal at Tianjin International School. The Father has placed on my heart a desire to teach middle school students His Word and the world He has created. In no particular order, below are ten things I look forward to as I return to teaching sixth graders.

1. Performing in skits with students
2. Going on spring trips
3. Creating units and lessons
4. Collaborating with other teachers
5. Assisting students with their schoolwork
6. Using an iPad for instruction
7. Students asking deep questions
8. Biblically integrating content
9. Seeing hearts transformed
10. Having my daughter Rose in my classes

Ten Things I'll Miss About Being a Principal

Two days ago I announced that after this school year I will no longer be serving as the middle school principal at Tianjin International School. After four years as an administrator, I will be returning to my former position of teaching sixth graders the Good Book and social studies. I am excited that I'll be back in the classroom full-time, but there will certainly be some aspects of my job that I'll miss. In no particular order, below are ten things I'll miss about being a principal.

1. Congratulating a student for being accepted to our school
2. Interviewing an excellent teaching candidate
3. Working closely with like-minded administrators
4. Presenting information to parents about school programs
5. Speaking at student assemblies on a monthly basis
6. Making decisions that enhance the school's appearance
7. Engaging students during classroom observations
8. Creating and improving school programs
9. Emceeing major school and divisional events
10. Helping and praying with so many teachers, parents, and students

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Do You Hear Me, God? Are You Listening?

God hears everything because He’s omniscient. 1 John 3:20 says for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. This does not mean God “listens” to everything though. Some things we think and say God may find to be flat out ridiculous, so He chooses to flat out ignore us (e.g., Psalm 66:18, Isaiah 1:15, Jeremiah 14:10-12, Matthew 6:5). Perhaps you’ve said to a child, “You may be hearing what I’m saying, but you’re not listening to me.” Hearing and listening have different meanings. Listening requires a response.

You can pray to God, and He will hear your prayer; however, He may not listen to it. His answer could very well be complete silence. In fact, if you are living your life however you like, you shouldn’t expect God to answer your prayers in a way that pleases you. Why should anyone expect any answers from God if they don’t believe He exists and if they choose to live however they want? All people need to first and foremost repent of their sins and place their faith in Christ.

If you are living a life following Christ, you still can’t expect God to always answer your prayers in a way that pleases you. We are sinful creatures with sinful desires. Sometimes our prayers can be downright unbiblical. I’ve been guilty of being more concerned about what others are thinking about my prayers than about truly praising and thanking God during my prayers. Nice, Wick. Despite my flawed prayers, God is gracious and merciful (Psalm 86:15).

God is so good yet He is also wonderfully mysterious. We often can’t comprehend God. The Prophet Isaiah reminds us, "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." (Isaiah 55:9) God's ways are also perfect therefore we know He answers our prayers perfectly all the time. Psalm 145:17 tells us how the Lord is righteous in all His ways. We can trust God whether He answers our prayers with a yes, no, or wait.

Are you trusting in God with all your heart or are you leaning on your own understanding? Have you submitted to the Son of Man in all your ways? Only God can make your paths straight. Submit to the all-knowing King of the Universe who answers all prayers perfectly.

“I am the Lord; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols.” Isaiah 42:8

Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Wonderful School of Pain

The first of Cru's four spiritual laws is: "God loves you and offers a wonderful plan for your life."

With absolutely no disrespect intended toward the late Bill Bright, I would like to add a few words to Cru's first principle that explains the Christian message of salvation: "God loves you and offers a wonderfully perfect and at times, a gut-wrenchingly painful plan for your life."

Pain is a gift from God yet we often do not think of pain this way. Typically we don't thank God for massive migraines that make us feel like our brains are going to explode or thank Him for debilitating depression that makes us want to crawl into a hole and hide. We are creatures of comfort who complain and whine about why we must endure any form of hardship.

Approximately a decade ago I read about Dr. Brand's work with lepers in India. He observed that many of his patients would lose their fingers and toes during the night. He shockingly discovered that rats were chewing on his patients' fingers and toes while they slept, but they never woke up because they had no sense of pain. Dr. Brand also noticed that young children with leprosy would gnaw off their fingers because they had no sense of pain. Thank you for pain, God.

Although pain is one of the numerous results of the original sin, without pain we would not know when medical attention is needed. James 1:2-3 says, "Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance." When we endure painful trials, we can take joy in knowing that God is at work in us to sanctify us, to make us more like His Son, Jesus. This applies to all kinds of pain - emotional, mental, spiritual, and physical pain.

The good news is that Jesus died on the cross in our place for our sins, suffering the most excruciating pain, the holy wrath of His Father. This includes paying the price for my respectable sins of discontentment and ungratefulness. Jesus understands the pains we go through and endured the greatest pain in order to redeem us and glorify His Father. 1 Peter 2:24 says, "He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed." One day death, mourning, crying, and pain will be a thing of the past for all believers in Christ (Revelation 2:14). Draining elbows and drilling kneecaps will be no longer.

Although pain is a huge part of life, God provides us the grace to persevere. The Apostle Paul says in 2 Corinthians 12:9, "And He has said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.' Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me." Pain shows how weak we are and can demonstrate the comforting, healing, and perfecting power of God.

Like you, I experience different kinds of pain from time to time. In my 40+ years, my body has endured a couple of broken bones, been under the knife on several occasions, stitched up in multiple spots, and has had numerous cuts, bruises, blisters, sprains, and strains, as well as a few lost toenails and fingernails. Many of these injuries have resulted from activities I once enjoyed such as kicking a ball and climbing trees. Recently a painful bout with elbow bursitis and the decision to have ACL surgery this summer has resulted in me throwing myself a grand pity party despite being blessed with so much and while so many are experiencing far greater pains than me. God in His mercy though has once again shown me how sinful I am and how much I need Jesus Christ.

God's plan is wonderfully perfect and downright painful at times. I shared a couple of pains I am enduring, and I could share more if I discussed all of the mental, emotional, and spiritual anguish I battle. I thank God He is refining me through painful circumstances, that the cross is a source of comfort, and that our Sovereign Lord will soon provide us glorified bodies free from sin, suffering, and sickness.

"In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith - more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire - may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ." 1 Peter 1:6-7

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Has It Been Seven Years Already?

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

I'm Always Rejoicing in the Lord

I'm always rejoicing in the Lord...NOT. Believe or not, there are some mornings when I don't exactly have that joy in the Lord feeling. Perhaps others often think that of me; however, keep in mind my joy look can be mistaken for a look of anger. :-) It doesn’t take me long to do things without rejoicing. If my eight-year-old requires multiple reminders that it's time to get out of bed, I am not exactly rejoicing in the Lord. Having only decaf coffee in the apartment does not make me jump for joy. If I open up my inbox to find an email of a less than joyous nature, that can certainly put a damper on my spirit. Even the activities I find most enjoyable in life can be experienced with displeasure due to my sinful heart. Prior to a knee injury last year, I used to really enjoy playing soccer, but I would get pretty perturbed if my teammates didn’t play defense. I enjoy fishing, but I have a few stories of fishing trips that don't include any fish. I can even worship God with others and start thinking of how someone has wronged me.
I find encouragement in the Apostle Paul’s testimony, and I look forward to learning more from him in Heaven. Here was a man who found joy in the most difficult of circumstances. In 2 Corinthians 7:4 he says, I am acting with great boldness toward you; I have great pride in you; I am filled with comfort. In all our affliction, I am overflowing with joy. In Colossians 1:24 he says, Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church. 
How could Paul make these kinds of statements? First and foremost, Paul learned this from Jesus. Luke 6:22-23 says, Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets. Paul knew his earthly troubles would be temporary and that He would be rewarded with great treasures in Heaven. Paul took his eyes off his circumstances and remembered the truth, the words of Jesus.
How does one produce the kind of joy Paul talks about? Where does it come from? It comes from the Holy Spirit. Man is unable to produce it. Galatians 5:22 says, But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. All those who have placed their faith in Christ have the Holy Spirit and through Him can have this joy in their life.
Perhaps this seems like basic stuff to you; however, we need these reminders. I need these reminders. We are quick to take our eyes off of the cross and forget what God says. Philippians 4:4 says, Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let me say that again. Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Did you realize rejoicing is commanded and not optional? What is amazing about Paul's statement is that he said it in a prison cell that wasn't exactly a five-star hotel. How was he able to do this? Again, through the Holy Spirit. 
What if we do not desire to fight for joy in the Lord? What if we are struggling to have that joy? 2 Corinthians 1:24 says, Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, for you stand firm in your faith. If we do not desire to fight for joy in the Lord, we must tell others and cry out to the Lord. He desires for us to find joy in Him. We are not to act as if we have it all together. We don't. You have junk, I have junk, we all have junk and moments when we do not feel very cheery. When I am not feeling particularly joyful, there are a few key people in my circle of friends who listen to me, pray for me and with me, and who point me to the Word, to the good news of Jesus Christ. I am thankful for the body of Christ. We are not meant to be independent but are made interdependent, for community. This includes introverts like me. We need one another in order to live life joyously in the Lord.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2