What are Good Friday and Easter for?

This weekend the Church reflects on God’s “rescue plan”.

In the beginning, God created mankind in His image (https://www.bible.com/bible/1/GEN.1.26). He created mankind and the rest of the universe to exist within certain boundaries, boundaries that are not meant to restrict us but to protect us and to enable us to live a completely fulfilled existence that gives glory to our Creator (https://www.bible.com/bible/1/GEN.2.15-17).

Unfortunately, mankind decided to live their lives their way instead of God’s way (https://www.bible.com/bible/1/GEN.3.1-7) and brought themselves under a curse, eternally separating us from a holy God (https://www.bible.com/bible/1/GEN.3.11-14,16-19,22-24). However, God is first a God of “agape” (i.e. the essence of agape love is goodwill, benevolence, and willful delight in the object of love. – https://www.gotquestions.org/agape-love.html) and He immediately crafted a “rescue plan” to reconcile mankind to Himself. Unfortunately mankind’s rebellion against God’s boundaries for living a life that glorifies Him required a perfect sacrifice to put us in right standing with God again (https://www.bible.com/bible/1/HEB.9.kjv).

‘For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved’ (https://www.bible.com/bible/1/JHN.3.16-17). This Good Friday we will gratefully reflect on Jesus Christ’s act of “agape” love in which He has taken the punishment that rightfully belongs to us on Himself instead.

And then on Easter Sunday we will rejoice that He is risen … in 2012, my father and I had the privilege of visiting the place that is claimed to be the grave site of Jesus Christ. Do you know what? The grave is empty! In fact, there is overwhelming eyewitness testimony for His resurrection from the dead: “For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me also …” (https://www.bible.com/bible/1/1CO.15.3-8).

When you believe that Jesus is “the way, the truth, and the life” (https://www.bible.com/bible/1/JHN.14.6), then you have direct access to God, our Creator – a God-honouring, liberating and completely fulfilling way to live.

I pray that you will have a most blessed Easter celebration this weekend!

Image source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/a9/He_is_not_here_for_He_is_risen_by_Madelien_Knight.jpg

The value of a mission statement

I originally wrote this for http://www.tyndalepark.school.nz/news/we-hope-you-have-blessed-summer-holiday.

I am writing this last newsletter for 2017 with a heart full of gratitude. I thank God for faithfully sustaining us through 2017 and blessing us with wisdom to negotiate the challenges of 2017.

God blesses us with great promises in His Word and one of Jesus’ promises that encourages me as we journey together is “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father” (John 14:12). I thank God for His grace and mercy that are evident in the fact that He chooses to work through and in us to accomplish His good purposes for every student and family represented at our school, our community, our city, New Zealand and the rest of the world. I am humbled by, and grateful for, His agape love. I also want to thank every member of the Tyndale Park Christian School community for welcoming me and making me part of their lives this year. It is an honour and privilege to serve you and I look forward to continuing to partner with you in 2018.

God put it on my heart to explain the school’s mission statement to our community during my Thanksgiving Assembly address: Tyndale Park Christian School exists to assist parents by providing a Christ-centred education that encourages academic excellence and Christian service to the glory of God. The school’s programme is directed by this statement.

Assist parents

Scripture encourages us as parents in Ephesians 6:4 to “bring [our children] up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord”.  In the original language the word that is translated as “nurture” is “paideia”. The word paideia has a rich meaning that includes “education”, “training”, and “disciplinary correction”. In addition “admonition” comes from the word “nouthesia” which means “calling attention to” and by implication in the context means a “mild rebuke” or “warning”. This instruction from Scripture to teach our children to have a serious understanding of who God is and therefore who they are, is directed to parents and as a school we therefore believe that you as parents have the primary responsibility for the education of your children. We exist to assist you with that responsibility by aiming to provide a learning environment in which every student gets the opportunity, through formal and informal learning experiences, to understand that they have been made by God in His image (Genesis 1:26) and that it changes everything. Students, we are in this partnership with your parents because we believe God has great thoughts and plans for you, not thoughts of evil, but to give you an expected end, hope and future (Jeremiah 29:11).

Providing a Christ-centred education

It is our mission at Tyndale Park Christian School to develop a Christian worldview in each of our students. Why a Christian worldview? Because it is the only worldview that gives a coherent answer on the questions of origins, meaning, morality and destiny.

Genesis 1:26 states clearly that we have been made in God’s image. We are not like animals or plants which have been made according to their kinds (Genesis 1:11,12,21,24). Since we are made in God’s image it means each one of us has essential worth. Our lives have meaning because we are  His people (Psalm 100:3). We are not the product of some random accident. It therefore comes as no surprise that since we have been created with such intent that God has created us to live in a certain way, what is called a “moral law”. There actually is a right way to live.

God has communicated His expectations of us by ensuring we have a written copy of His will for us: the Bible. Not only is the Bible God’s Word, but it is a book that is based on good historical evidence. Part of our job here at Tyndale Park Christian School is to equip our students with the skills they need to engage with God’s Word in a meaningful way for the rest of their lives. We want them to have the ability to understand how to live a life that gives glory to God as well as have the skills to verify the historical authenticity and reliability of the Scriptures for themselves. As students engage with God’s Word, they are able to live with hope for the future, knowing that our life is hidden with Christ in God so that when Christ who is our life appears, then we also will appear with him in glory (Colossians 3:3-4).

We believe that if students have a good understanding of the coherent answer that the Bible offers to questions about origins, meaning, morality and destiny, they will be able to live productive lives for God’s glory.

Encourages academic excellence to the glory of God1

What is the definition of academic excellence in a Christian school? We often find in Scripture the call to abound or excel in Christian character, especially in the various ways we can express love to one another. Spiritual maturity is a quest for character for which there will be little progress without the pursuit of excellence. Without pursuing excellence, life will remain bland, lukewarm at best. The quest for excellence fuels our fire and keeps us from just drifting downstream gathering debris. This focus and need becomes quickly evident from verses such as the following.

  • Ecclesiastes 9:10: Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might;
  • Philippians 1:9-10: And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ;
  • 2 Corinthians 8:7: Therefore, as ye abound in every thing, in faith, and utterance, and knowledge, and in all diligence, and in your love to us, see that ye abound in this grace also.
  • 1 Corinthians 10:31: Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.
  • Matthew 23:37-38: Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment.

So we strive to encourage excellence in academic work at school not to prove to others that we are the best. After all, that seems to support the naturalistic notion of survival of the fittest. Instead, academic excellence means that we create a learning environment, with a context appropriate to the New Zealand economy, in which every student has the opportunity to pursue excellence, or abound, in their Christian character. We want our students to read and write so that they can make sense of God’s Word and explain who He is to people who don’t know Him. We want out students to discover the order in God’s created world through mathematics, to marvel at the irreducible complexity and design of the created world that glorifies God in science and to see God’s hand in history.

Encourages Christian service to the glory of God

Not only does God want us to pursue excellence in character, the Lord Jesus Christ called us to live lives of service. When His disciples had an argument about who of them were the greatest, He told them “Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:25-28). He vividly displayed evidence of His teaching by humbling Himself to do a slave’s work and to wash His disciples feet. At Tyndale Park Christian School we are aiming to introduce more opportunities for students to take part in Christian service.

Some closing thoughts

To the students and staff who will soon finish their Tyndale Park Christian School chapter, or who have finished their educational journey with us earlier this year, Billy Graham has been asked to share his reflection about living the Christian life on his 99th birthday in November this year. Here is what he shared. (1) Follow in the footsteps of Jesus: love one another, help one another, live according to way He has lived; God enables us to do this by His Holy Spirit. (2) Read His Word every day; this can be hard; start with the gospel of Luke and the first chapter in the Old Testament and go on from there. (3) Go to your knees and pray until you and God have become intimate friends. (4) Remember: we struggle to live the Christian life when we neglect time in God’s Word and time in prayer

I pray that each one of us will be able to have some time over the following weeks to thank God for the amazing year He has blessed us with. It had its ups and downs, but the one thing that remained constant was God’s agape love and faithfulness.

Sources:

  1. I adapted this from “Mark #11: The Pursuit of Excellence”. Retrieved from https://bible.org/seriespage/mark-11-pursuit-excellence
  2. Image retrieved from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Barnes_and_Noble_image.png

The value of encouragement

This term we will remind our students regularly that, as bearers of God’s image (Genesis 1:26), they need to “consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works” (Hebrews 10:24).

Why? Because being made in God’s image implies that we have been created with essential worth. If every human being has essential worth, it follows that we treat each other with honour. One of the ways we can do this is by choosing to love each other unconditionally, and unconditional love encourages us to find ways to help others become better versions of themselves. What better way is there to accomplish this than to do good works!

The word in the original text that is translated as “good” in the English Bible is the word “kalos”. Kalos has a variety of meanings which include “beautiful”, “good”, “valuable”, “virtuous”, “better”, “fair”, “honest”, “well” and “worthy”. We need to encourage our children to consider how they can bless other people with “works” that fit these descriptions.

I believe an intentional effort to love others and to do good works, without the promise of a reward, will not only transform our school culture but also our homes and our communities. Jesus said “Unto what is the kingdom of God like? and whereunto shall I resemble it? It is like a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and cast into his garden; and it grew, and waxed a great tree; and the fowls of the air lodged in the branches of it” (Luke 13:18-19). Little acts of kindness may seem insignificant, but with God’s help they can become powerful agents of change.

I have great faith in Jesus’ promise: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father. And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it” (John 14:12-14). Let us pray together and ask God to show us everything that He has in store for our students and our schools. The future of our schools is wrapped up in our ability to pray and work together as a community.

Breaking the silence

The New Zealand Herald started running a series called “Break the silence” from the beginning of July to address the topic of teenage self-harm. In the opening paragraphs, the reporter writes, “We want to encourage people who need help to ask for it; and we want to let them know there is hope. We believe it is time for a national conversation about the matter. Are we doing enough to help? Are we doing the right things? …”1

What is prompting this reaction by the media? Well, the statistics around teenage mental health issues in New Zealand are rather alarming2. You may even know a young person who has been affected by mental health challenges. The question that comes to mind is why do people engage in acts of self-harm?

There is no easy answer and anyone that wants to give a simplistic answer is not treating this issue with the respect it deserves. Self-harm is motivated by a complicated confluence of spiritual, psychological and physiological factors. However, I do believe that Scripture provides us with some help on this topic and we can be agents of hope to people who feel hopeless. I hope to offer a response that will enable the Tyndale Park Christian School community to have a meaningful platform for dialogue about this sensitive, complex and important topic.

We see from the account in Genesis that God created human beings for a relationship with Him, in His image3 and for His glory4, and we know that He didn’t do it because He needed us. He created us in an act of pure love, a love rooted in the perfect love relationship that exists between the God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. The word for this love in the original language of the Bible is “agape”, which means “goodwill, benevolence, and wilful delight in the object of love”5. So, Scripture teaches us that we are made from love. We are not cosmic accidents. There is loving intention behind the existence of each one of us.

We are made for love. We read in 1 John 4:9-10 that “in this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins”. We exist for a loving purpose! Michelle Tepper6 states “understanding and accepting love as the origin and purpose of humanity radically redefines how we shape our identity, how we search for meaning”. I believe one of the major reasons New Zealand young people engage in self-harming behaviour is that their lives lack meaning. They are bombarded by messages in secular media that are devoid of real meaning and often contrary to the way God has designed human beings to live this life.

It follows that if we are made in God’s image, we are made to love. Unfortunately, we lack the natural ability to love God and humanity in the perfect way God loves us. This is where Jesus’ atoning sacrifice comes in: when we believe that Jesus is the only “way, the truth and the life”7, it makes it possible for us to have “agape” love for God and the people who are part of our lives8. It also enables us to be the stewards God wants us to be9.

So, can our young people have hope? Yes, they can! Lasting hope is a fundamental component of a Biblical worldview. Does it mean that Bible-believing people never struggle with mental health challenges? No. In fact, when you read the Psalms you see that David is often troubled by the dark nights of the soul, e.g. “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God”10. Notice how David finished that thought: he knew that God was faithful despite how he felt at that moment. So, he held onto that faithfulness and God eventually restored his joy. May God grant us as followers of Jesus the ability to live with this kind of transparency and integrity and to be bearers of hope to the teenagers in our spheres of influence.

If you know of anyone that may need help, please start by interceding (praying) for that person. Contact a professional, Christian counsellor to give you advice on how to support the person. If you don’t know who to ask for help, please get in touch. I will be able to refer you to someone.

Sources:

  1. http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11885369
  2. http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11894589
  3. And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. – Genesis 1:26
  4. …: for I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him. – Isaiah 43:7
  5. https://www.gotquestions.org/agape-love.html
  6. http://rzim.org/bio/michelle-tepper/
  7. John 14:6
  8. … the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. – Romans 5:5b
  9. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth. – Genesis 1:28
  10. Psalm 42:11