Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

A BITTERSWEET THANKSGIVING PSALM

Thursday, November 23rd, 2017
When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dreamed.
Our mouths were filled with laughter,
our tongues with songs of joy.
Then it was said among the nations,
“The Lord has done great things for them.”
The Lord has done great things for us,
and we are filled with joy.
Restore our fortunes, Lord,
like streams in the Negev.

It is a heart-wrenching psalm–the speaker is obviously a farmer who is struggling to make ends meet. Every year, the harvest is iffy and year after year he barely makes it.  One thing he must do, though, is save the seed barley or wheat.  He can eat some of his crop, but he dare not eat all of it–or he will not have anything to plant next year. Perhaps his children are hungry, some even may die. But he holds on to the seed, to the dream. He must. Or the dream dies.

So the farmer suffers, watches his family suffer, but he holds on to the seed. Waiting. Watching. Hoping. Believing.

And then, finally, it is spring! Water fills the Negev and Palestinian hills with fresh, new, vigorous growth.  The wait is over!

Those who sow with tears
will reap with songs of joy.
Those who go out weeping,
carrying seed to sow,
will return with songs of joy,
carrying sheaves with them.

Then with tears of joy, of remembrance, and of hope, the farmer plants again! He suffers in the winter because he believes in the harvest. Those who sow with tears . . .

This Thanksgiving season we are still waiting. Waiting for that long-delayed but inevitable harvest that surely will come soon. We must just keep working hard, holding the seed in our hand until that time of bountiful blessing comes, until our Lord comes!

 

Saturday, November 18th, 2017

Admission to competitive universities has been the subject of numerous movies, including Risky Business, Paper Chase, Love Story, and, a movie my wife Karen and I saw this weekend, Admissions. While I do not recommend any of the aforementioned movies (especially Risky Business), they often highlight some of the difficulties connected with college admission.

In the movie — starring Tina Fey and Paul Rudd — Princeton University’s admissions office seems woefully behind the times when it comes to technology, with applicant records kept in folders (orange of course). Admission or rejection is accompanied by a dramatic checking of a box (or in one case where an admissions officer is angry at an applicant’s false claim, stamping the rejection twice on the folder). Princeton’s admissions dean (played by Wallace Shawn) is traumatized by a drop from No. 1 to No. 2 in the U.S. News & World Report rankings (when the only rankings indignity real-life Princeton suffers is being tied for the top spot with Harvard University).

Of course very few of us are going to go to Harvard or Princeton—although it is not as hard as you might think—both universities favor homeschool students and offer generous financial aid packages—but I want to highlight a few things I observed in the movie that are true.

  1. While I would never denigrate the ACT, it is not as prestigious a college admission exam as the SAT. Prestigious colleges prefer the SAT and ordinary/good colleges give larger financial aid packages to students who take the SAT and score high. My advice: Take both.
  2. Consider accumulating AP credits instead of CLEP credits. The former are far more prestigious. I still have openings in my AP classes. Visit http:www.forsuchatimeasthis.com and click on “Distance Learning.”
  3. If you opt to ignore the SAT and ACT—which is the only legitimate college admission test for the best colleges– and do something like College Plus, you jeopardize your financial possibilities and admission to prestigious graduate schools. Pray about it.
  4. College admission officers look at the essay portion of the ACT & SAT in lieu or in addition to the college admission essay. You should really, then, give a lot of attention to both.
  5. Choose the 5 colleges you would attend and apply. I recommend having 2 “long shot” choices, 2 “possible,” and two “in the bag” choices. Visit all 5 if you can. Arrange for interviews.
  6. Do not think about financial aid until you are accepted. Apply to a college—any college you feel God is calling you to—and then apply for financial aid if you are accepted. NEVER pay an independent agency to find financial aid or scholarships for you. The admitting college will help you gratis.
  7. Know the difference between early action & early decision. Early decision plans are binding — a student who is accepted as an ED applicant must attend the college. Early action plans are nonbinding — students receive an early response to their application but do not have to commit to the college until the normal reply date of May 1. Therefore, apply to one early decision school and many other (5?) early action schools. After all, early action/early decision applicants have a much better chance to be accepted and to receive scholarships than regular admission students.

If you find the above insights helpful, feel free to visit www.forsuchatimeasthis.com. Consider inviting me to conduct an SAT/ACT/College Admission Seminar for your COOP, school, or group. SAT/ACT Seminar. I will conduct an ACT/SAT seminar for you at a time that meets your schedule. Since I am a grader for the SAT many new insights are fresh in my mind. I will administrate a real SAT /ACT, evaluate the SAT/ACT score, and offer specific test-taking strategies. Parents attend the seminar free! Contact me directly if you are interested, jpstobaugh@alumni.harvard.edu or 814 479 7710.

I am also presenting a college admission workshop on Outschool.com. I would love to have you join me!

Tuesday, November 14th, 2017

By the time that you read this blog, I will have evaluated over 1500 SAT essays. I personally evaluated 2-3% of all the October essays. I am a fast and, I wish, a more accurate grader. I am paid per hour according to accuracy and productivity. So you should listen to me! My advice is not based on online wisdom or hypothetical anecdotes – I do the real thing!

I work for Pearsons/CollegeBoard and evaluate SAT essays for them. English teachers with attitude all over America are grabbing a cup of tea and trying their best to evaluate what is, by all estimations, a very subjective assignment.

The SAT and ACT, college admission tests, are approximately three hours long—three hours and fifty minutes if you write the optional essay. The essay portion is given at the beginning of the test. The score is factored into the writing section.

The SAT and the ACT essay are critical components of the college admission portfolio and students ignore them at their own risk.

For one thing, it is no small comfort to admission officers to see that students can actually write and, at the same time, SAT/ACT essays allow students to showcase their writing skills.

At the same time, many colleges purchase SAT/ACT essays as an addendum to the anxiety ridden college application essay. In other words, not trusting students to submit an honest, clean appraisal of their writing abilities in 650 words, colleges revert to using the spontaneous SAT/ACT essay. After all, colleges can be certain that no one assisted students in these creations!
Therefore, the SAT/ACT essay is critical. Students, you simply must take it.

Each SAT Essay consists of one passage between 650 and 750 words that you will read and then respond to. You will have 50 minutes to complete the SAT Essay.

The purpose of the new SAT Essay is to assess your ability to analyze an author’s argument. It is not merely a paraphrase of his/her argument. To write a strong essay, you will need to focus on how the author uses evidence, reasoning, and other rhetorical techniques to build an argument and make it convincing. Three components are evaluated: Reading, Analysis, and Writing. A perfect score is 4 plus 4 plus 4, or 12 times 2 (since there are two different graders), or 24 total.

The essay task will be the same in every test. What will change is the reading selection you’ll be asked to analyze. If you are familiar with the Essay prompt ahead of time – and understand exactly what your task is – you will save time on Test Day and write a stronger essay.

If you are interested in talking more about the SAT/ACT essay join me for an online webinar/discussion @ 1PM EST, Tuesday, November 28, 2017, e-mail jpstobaugh@alumni.harvard.edu for an invitation. During this webinar I will give you more specific writing strategies and I will be available to answer any of your other questions.

Know the Time

Monday, October 23rd, 2017

Come,” they say, “let us destroy them as a nation, that the name of Israel be remembered no more” (Ps 83:4). When Karen and I (mostly Karen) began homeschooling in the 1980s, we did not much think about grand things. We mostly simply wanted to arrive on time to mid-week church just one time. That was particularly embarrassing since I was the pastor and leader of the Bible study. Just once. Never happened.

Yet, in the midst of controlled chaos (that you all know so well), there was a sonorous hope that empowered us. We were doing the right thing, we knew it, teaching our children. We were making a difference. Those were the days!

In retrospect, we were living the end of an age. Camelot was disappearing. The end of the Christian era. The post-Christian era was about to begin.

Know the time!

When our children were younger we raised 4-H Suffolk sheep. Sturdy fences surrounded 10 acres of alfalfa pasture and bubbling spring water. With maximum temperatures of 80 degrees in the summer, Suffolk Sheep frolicked and procreated with security and joy. However, in the Laurel Highlands of Pennsylvania, like so many other places, nefarious coyotes, even inquisitive black bears, and packs of wild dogs wandered down from distant woodlands and meadows. An old shepherd warned us, “The fences are not to keep the sheep in but to keep the critters out.” He was right. Angry, ravenous predators lurked outside our green pastures. Electric fence reinforced with barbed wire keep predators out and helpless sheep in.

In case you haven’t noticed, the fences are down. The enemy is rallying against the People of God.

I do not fear though. And either should you! He is more than able to defeat our enemies! “Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready” (Rev 19:7). “I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband” (Rev 21:2).

Know the time!

The Kingdom of God will always be a place of conflict in the world. In the long run, it is really no contest at all.

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11)

Your children, all of us, will not merely survive, exist. We shall take back what is rightfully His. We shall be more than conquerors in Christ Jesus!

Your students will infiltrate the university, the courthouse, the government building, the world. Cleverly disguised as lawyers, physicians, university professors, engineers these dynamic young Christians—your children—will turn the tide of history. I know it.

In summary, there has been a season of peace for followers of Christ in the western, European and Asian world. But know that a season of persecution is to come. The fences are down. “However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name” (1 Peter 4:16-17).

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:31-37)

Know the time!

The Giver

Saturday, September 30th, 2017

The Giver is a 1993 American young adult dystopian novel by Lois Lowry. The society has eliminated pain and strife by converting to “Sameness”, a plan that has also eradicated imagination. The Community lacks any color, memory, climate, or terrain, all in an effort to preserve structure, order, and a true sense of equality beyond personal individuality.

As I prepare for my World Communion sermon tomorrow (October 1) it feels like I serve in a colorless, memoryless world, that has forgotten who it is, and, therefore what it must do. I find myself serving communion to a world, and, to a lesser extent, a congregation, that is modest in its expectations, limited in its energy, tentative in its hope. In other words, we lack any color, memory, climate, or terrain, all in an effort to preserve structure, order, and a true sense of equality beyond personal individuality.

Therefore, as I prepare my pastoral sermon, I realize that, tomorrow at least, I will need to be a prophet, not a pastor:

“The prophet engages in futuring fantasy. The prophet does not ask if the vision can be implemented, for questions of implementation are of no consequence until the vision can be imagined. The imagination must come before the implementation. Our culture is competent to implement almost anything and to imagine almost nothing. The same consciousness that makes it possible to implement anything and everything is the one that shrinks imagination because imagination is a danger. Thus every totalitarian regime is frightened of the artist. It is the vocation of the prophet to keep alive the ministry of imagination, to keep on conjuring and proposing futures alternative to the single one the king wants to urge as the only thinkable one.” Walter Brueggemann, The Prophetic Imagination

Our world has lost hope because they cannot imagine a different world from the dystopian world in which they imagine they live. They live in a world of sameness where hope is an aberration because they cannot imagine a world any different from their world. It would be absurd to do so. It would be fanciful to do so. “Hope, on one hand, is an absurdity too embarrassing to speak about, for it flies in the face of all those claims we have been told are facts. Hope is the refusal to accept the reading of reality which is the majority opinion; and one does that only at great political and existential risk. On the other hand, hope is subversive, for it limits the grandiose pretensions of the present, daring to announce that the present to which we have all made commitments is now called into question. . .”

So what I intend to do tomorrow is to put on my prophetic hat and offer an alternative reality. I will make the bold claim that Christ is the Giver. This bold assertion will be difficult for my congregation to accept. We are upper middle-class Presbyterians; we are the givers. But if this thing is going to work tomorrow, this communion-thing, it really has to be the Lord’s Supper and He alone is the Giver. We have to accept His grace. We have to stand again at the foot of the cross and accept the gift we could not earn, did not deserve, but is given to us anyway. “The cross is the assurance that effective prophetic criticism is done not by an outsider but always by one who must embrace the grief, enter into the death, and know the pain of the criticized one.”

Tomorrow, then, we gather to blow the hopelessness of the world apart! We will make claims that are powered by the imagination.   We dare to hope that we can change, indeed, that our whole world can change. We will begin with the astounding truth that our God loves us, our Savior died for us, our Holy Spirit empowers us. We will color our world with hope. We will leave that place tomorrow with renewed expectation. Bold assertions. Bold hope. A new tomorrow! Let us begin . . . “On the night that our Lord was betrayed . . . He took bread.”

AN ONTOLOGICAL DILEMMA

Friday, September 29th, 2017

At a church meeting/breakfast this morning I was faced with an ontological dilemma: what do I order for breakfast?

I am being trite, even disrespectful you think.  Well, listen . . .

I am on a diet. Really. The kind of diet that disallows all carbohydrates. Potatoes, toast (even, healthy whole grain toast), and everything sweet, are history!

Which is why I faced an ontological (relating to the basic nature of things, beginnings) dilemma this morning.

The first crisis: I could do what I liked.  My surrogate conscience (my wife Karen) was absent.  I knew full well that my church comrades would willingly, with no judgment attached, join me as co-conspirators. It is a confession of faith among Presbyterian men, indeed, the eleventh commandment, “thy shall not tell thy brother’s wife what thee and thy comrade ate at the men’s breakfast.” Oh we don’t lie but half-truths have evolved into a perfidious science. When asked what we ate we respond, “Oh it was health” or “It was not as bad as usual.” And then we quickly change the subject, “Honey, your hair looks beautiful today” or something like it.  I hope my readers will appreciate my raw honesty, and will not, ontologically, condemn me. So I could have sinned today and eaten what I liked . . . but I didn’t. I will tell you why I didn’t in a minute.

The second crisis: my brother-in-Christ Jeff, who is not on a diet, ordered a double hash brown order “to make up, Pastor, for what you are not eating.”  Of course, Jeff was doing no such thing—eating my portion to make up for what I was not eating—he was being mean. Spiteful. Disrespectful. Ontologically, he forgot my high and lofty role in his church! For a few moments I wished to be an Episcopalian or Roman Catholic priest, full of hierarchical power, but, alas, I was captured by a dilemma: I thoroughly embrace the notion of the “priesthood of all believers” so Jeff, fortuitously, escaped clergy wrath and I smiled and with great frustration sprinkled more hot sauce on my unappetizing American cheese omelet.

The last crisis: in the midst of a plethora of choices—indeed, my life is normally full of choices—500 plus television choices, 18 different menu items—Belgian waffles, blueberry pancakes, Texas toast sandwich—sigh, I now had one choice: Eggs and bacon or sausage. And I was not enjoying the feeling.

So I ate my breakfast, without sin and guile. I did so with a smile and joy in my heart (sort of). I will take my ½ pound of weight loss this week and smile. I do it to please my wife, to improve my health, etc. But I also do it for love.

And here is the point of this blog—eating this breakfast is sort of like my walk of faith. I do it because I love God and I want to please Him and I want to . . . well that is about it: I love Him.  I do not wish to trivialize the grace of God by suggesting it is remotely related to my diet—but human motivation, in the face of so many choices, in the face of so much temptation, when push comes to shove, comes down to love. Not fear. Not manipulation. But love. God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son—That is pretty well the reason I obey God’s commandments. He will love me anyway—I do not embrace a performance-based religion—my Savior died on the cross for my sins because He loved me and willingly chose to do it.

So think of these ontological things . . . and pass the hot sauce. . .

“Now” to me has become a wonderful thing.

Wednesday, September 20th, 2017
I greeted the sun this morning on the crest of the hill behind my 1880ish Mennonite built farm. The foundation allegedly was part of an earlier structure, probably built in the middle 1700s.
I walked on this hill today to greet the sun and also to wrap myself in history. It is on this hill where I remind myself that I am part of something much bigger than my farm, much bigger than my lifetime. From this hill Algonquians braves, perspicuous German settlers, and now this old campaigner greet the dawn. I know my God liveth when I stand on this hill. Behind me is an old wagon trail. An earlier Mennonite tenant threw perfectly sculptured sandstone rocks that I have built stone walls to support perennial flowers and thriving holly bushes. At this point, at this  confluence seven springs join to provide my family with the sweetest, cleanest mountain water that a person could hope to experience. I hear the bubbling overflow from my spring house. Whitetail deer, bear, rabbits, and other critters, are even now gathering to enjoy its bounteousness. No wonder Native Americans fought for this land!
I peer over the horizon.  From this place, or nearby, hay chewing squint eyed dairy farmers peered at the smoke from the Flight 93 site only eight miles away. “Yep,” my neighbor observed, “Them A-Rabs are attacking us.”  Even then I wondered what a terrorist had against our old abandoned strip mining fields.
There was 16 years ago and this is now. “Now” to me has become a wonderful thing.  I am as young (at heart) and full of fight as I was then, when America struck the first blow for freedom, on that beautiful autumn morning in early September. 

No, I am as young as any man alive, at any time. As I am reminded as I serve the Lord’s Supper, I (we) join a cloud of witnesses who celebrate and proclaim the goodness and mercy of our God! I remember again, that I am alive, will always be alive. Not in some smoky pantheistic karma, but in the presence of our Almighty God. In the pens, in the memory of my students, I, and all those who serve one another in Christ, who call Him Savior, shall live. This is not a therapeutic moment; it is a historical moment. An affirmation of the Creator who knows all, the only path to the destination where I am heading someday. 
September 11 has always been meaningful for me.  On September 11, 1975 I fell asleep at the wheel of my Fiat 128, hit a bridge, and spent the next year recovering in hospitals (2.5 months) and physical therapy (9 months). In feverish pain I suffered through Luis Tiant’s near victory in the 1975 series. Knowing I was soon to live in Cambridge, MA, I felt obligated to support the home time. I was discouraged, to be sure. Seemed like God had abandoned me! Here I was going to seminary to serve Him, and pow, look were I landed! And then I remember that my delayed Harvard debut meant that I met my beloved wife, Karen, my life partner of 40 years (so far) and mother of my (our) four children. She is sleeping now, even as I write this blog.  I reach for her in prayer as I peer down into our bedroom window. Even for the hour or so I will be away from her, until she joins me for breakfast (and cooks it too, I might add!), I will miss her.
Yes, I digress  but let me end it by saying, continuing to say, that I am as young and hopeful and full of energy as I have ever me.  No, I have more energy, the way old Caleb looked at the high country and asked only to be granted the privilege to defeat God’s enemies (Joshua 14). I stand again, this morning, look! I see the sun rising . . . its rays are accentuated, not dissipated, by golden and red sugar maples autumn leaves. Brothers and sisters, the promise is as real and alive as ever. “The land on which your feet have walked will be your inheritance and that of your children forever, because you have followed the Lord my God wholeheartedly!” (vs. 9).
Let’s roll! Let us take back what is rightfully ours, what belongs to our God. The thistle and the vine, the hill and the flat lands, this is our land.  It is our time. Let us bow down together and thank almighty God that we have been so blessed to be alive, to see the coming of His glory! The vindication of His Word!

Racial Reconciliation: The Only Hope is the Church

Saturday, September 9th, 2017
     My old professor, Harvard University’s Dr. Robert Cole in his book The Spiritual Life of Children describes an interview he had with a young African-American child named Ruby Ridges.  This child was being accosted by angry segregationists as she walked to school. In the face of so much hatred, Cole wanted to know why she was smiling.
     “I was all alone,” she began, “and those people were screaming, and suddenly I saw God smiling, and I smiled.”
     Then she continued with these astonishing words: “A woman was standing there [near the school door], and she shouted at me, ‘Hey, you little —-, what you smiling at?'”
     “I looked right at her face, and I said, ‘at God.'”
     “Then she looked up at the sky, and then she looked at me, and she didn’t call me any more names.”
     In order for reconciliation to occur between races, there must be a profound and sincere acceptance of responsibility for our bad choices.  We must own our responsibility. How blind and judgmental we can be, we religious people!  At the same time, like Ruby Bridges, we must continue to believe racial reconciliation is possible.  To remain hopeful in the face of hopelessness.
     Jesus Christ is the Way and the Truth and the Life.  And He loves all children, red and yellow, black and white. Period.  I know that this seems simplistic and somewhat chauvinistic. There is no other way to eternal life or present happiness.  And I suppose that is the bottom line in my discussion of racism.  As early as 1976 John Perkins was saying the same thing–only the gospel can transform people (Romans 12:1). The goal was voiced by Martin Luther King, jr.: “. . . the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave-owners will sit down at the table of brotherhood together.”  This Christian ideal lost its spiritual moorings and the integration cure began to choke the life out of the very ideal of racial harmony it was intended to save.  I believe that the time has come for all Christians to integrate one another.  But to do so in the name of Jesus Christ and biblical veracity.
       Integration was a clear goal for the early church.  After all, the example of the cross drew all persons into hopeful relationship. Paul had no trouble defining his gospel and his life as `the message of the cross.’  On the contrary, he boldly declared that, though the cross seemed either foolishness or a stumbling block to the self-confident (i.e., modern humankind!) it is in fact the very essence of God’s wisdom and power (1 Cor. 1:18-25).49 The cross will be a stumbling block to the white supremist and the black nationalist.  But it will be the Christian’s Hope of Glory.  The world does not need a new religion–it needs Jesus Christ–crucified and resurrected.  And, at risk of sounding simplistic and redundant, as we make Jesus Christ Lord of our lives we will see our racial attitudes change.
      Don’t get me wrong.  What I am suggesting is truly revolutionary, or, as the theologian Walter Brueggemann suggests “subversive.” The church–our church–is called to a higher commitment.  A radical commitment.  The choice for Christ occupies first place, above parents, children, job, and, if necessary, life itself.  The gate leading to health and wholeness in our world is not reasonable size.  It is narrow.  In that sense, I am calling us all to a radical faith, a prophetic faith.  We are called to a major reclamation project of our views of atonement so completely presented in Scripture and in our Confessions.  And racism, after all, is a direct threat to the atonement.
    The challenge for the Church is to be different in a meaningful way.  To be in the world but not of it.  To lead America away from the self-destructive cliff to which racism has brought us.  The call to us all is to find our identity in Christ alone–not in color, creed, ethnicity or any other category. Again, though, I am convinced that racial reconciliation is coming for one very important reason:  men and women and the organizations that they represent are falling down on their knees and asking God to give them strength to change.  Faith in the Lordship of Jesus Christ–more than any other single factor–will bring peace.  This outspoken subservience to the Lordship of Christ, the open admission that peace will not come in any other way, makes the present moves to reconciliation to be more hopeful.  Nothing quite like this happened in earlier reconciliation attempts.
In William Faulkner’s The Unvanquished a white boy named Bayard is reflecting about his black friend Ringo: “. . . Ringo and I has been born in the same month and has both fed at the same breast and has slept together and eaten together for so long that Ringo called Granny ‘Granny’ just like I do, until maybe he isn’t a n—er               anymore or maybe I isn’t a white boy anymore, the two of us neither, not even people any more: the two supreme undefeated like two moths, two feathers riding above a hurricane.”
       The Church is called–somehow–to ride above a hurricane.  To be that peculiar people about whom we read in Scripture.  To find a unity that transcends the substantial barrier race represents.  This is no small feat, but one that the Church must undertake. And soon.  By showing American society the way out of racism the Church of Jesus Christ has a unique opportunity to reclaim Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s “center of the city.”  Using Augustine’s City of God as a standard, the Church is called to be an efficacious model of reconciliation to a fragmented and broken community.   We are all on a journey–white, black, yellow, and red—whose ending is the City of God.
Finally, Christians are called by God to serve our culture even though our ultimate loyalty and hope is in the city of God. I believe, with all my heart, that the road to Christian revival must pass through the school of racial reconciliation.  There are several examples of racial reconciliation in our country today and I am truly encouraged. But there is much work that remains.  As I have intimated before, until the Church finds a way to bring racial reconciliation in a widespread way into its own camp, American society at large has no hope of doing the same. As we begin the 21st Century this reclamation project will be America’s most valuable gift to the world.
           The whole world waits with bated breath . . .

 

The Homeschool Community

Tuesday, August 8th, 2017

Never in the history of a people, has there been such opportunity for a cultural demographic: the homeschool community, to affect, laudably, culture. Homeschooled students in increasing numbers are being admitted to college and awarded scholarships. To God be the glory!

College graduates assume most of the leadership roles of this country. They make most of the decisions, write most of the literature, and adjudicate most of the court cases. In short, college graduates make most high culture! Christian college graduates can be world-changers for Christ!

The term “high culture” was introduced into English largely by Matthew Arnold in Culture and Anarchy (1869). Around the same time, German scholars wrote of Kultur, meaning that there is a mystical spirit permeating society, something that is more profound than Western civilization itself. Indeed!

High culture creates the best that has been said and thought in the world. It is a force for moral and political good. It promotes and creates the way of life that a civilization enjoys—the art that it views, the movies it enjoys, the books it reads. I am not talking about fads and froth but about the things that determine how we think, govern, and worship. The term is contrasted with popular culture, as well as with traditional cultures. I want you to create a wholesome, godly high culture, something more profound and ubiquitous than anything in Western culture.

To reach this goal, young people need to be the best they can be for our God. Join the high-culture creation epicenters of education, government, entertainment, health, law, and religion; go to those spheres, and make a difference.

The SAT Prep for the Thoughtful Christian will prepare you for college and therefore to be world-changers for Christ, to create a new high culture.
Here are a few nuances of the SAT:

1. No penalty for wrong answers. You and your fellow students will no longer be penalized for wrong answers while taking the new SAT.
2. Revamped essay. Instead of composing a personal essay for the writing section, you will read a passage and then analyze how the author persuades the readers. Although content passages will change, the essay question itself will be the same on all tests.
3. Evidence-focused reading. Just like the essay section, the reading section will also be more focused on content evidence. You will be asked a question about the text and then need to give evidence best supporting your answer. If you get the first question wrong, it could be difficult to answer the second and third questions correctly.
4. Context-based vocabulary. The new SAT will ask you to define a word based on how it is used in context. Sample questions show familiar words that can have various meanings. More than ever, learning Greek and Latin roots trumps vocabulary memorization every time.
5. More graphs and charts. The new test will have an increased emphasis on questions that make students gather information from graphs and charts.
6. More emphasis on grammar, syntax, and dictions. You will also be asked to revise sentences in order to make them consistent with standard English practices.
7. Primary-source texts. The new SAT reading section will include excerpts from U.S. founding documents like the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights. You will not be expected to be familiar with the documents beforehand, but that would not hurt!
8. Stress reduction. Scripture memorization will calm your fears and help you focus!

I am excited! “Now, God be thanked Who has matched us with His hour, and caught our youth, and wakened us from sleeping” (Rupert Brooke, who died in World War I, in 1915)

Grievance Mentality

Wednesday, August 2nd, 2017

When conflicts occur, sociologists Bradley Campbell and Jason Manning observe in an insightful new scholarly paper, aggrieved parties can respond in any number of ways. In honor cultures like the Wild West or the street gangs of West Side Story, they might engage in a duel or gun fight. In dignity cultures, like the ones that prevailed in Western countries during the 19th and 20th Centuries, “insults might provoke offense, but they no longer have the same importance as a way of establishing or destroying a reputation for bravery,” they write. “When intolerable conflicts do arise, dignity cultures prescribe direct but non-violent actions.”

These affronts, offenses, are called grievances and they develop into grievance mentalities or identities. A grievance is a wrong considered as grounds for complaint, or something believed to cause distress. A grievance becomes a mentality when a person, a culture, or a society begins to function out of that perceived grievance. In the history of Civil Rights, the politics of difference (African-American scholar Shelby Steele’s term) led to an establishment of “grievance identities.” By the 1980s the African-American community gained identity according to grievances committed by the dominant group. They sought to document the grievances of their group, testifying to its abiding alienation. African-American and whites alike were punished for not recognizing and accepting this litany of grievances. They lost their way.

Christians have been taking offenses and participating in grievance mentalities for centuries. Peter, in Acts 10, is threatened by the notion that alien Gentiles, in wholesale fashion, would be welcomed into the Kingdom of God. Peter reached for his Teddy Bear and looked for a safe place in law driven, exclusive Judaism. It would not happen. Paul reminded his friend Peter that all were outcasts, all were saved by grace through faith. Peter would be wise to get onboard.

And so should we, homeschoolers. We live in a threatening, debilitating culture that is opposed to what we believe and know to be true. We celebrate the life of an unborn child; our nation murders him/her. We embrace biblical marriage; our nation legislates that biblical marriage is only one choice. And so forth. In 2017 we are in danger of embracing a grievance mentality.

To do that will subvert the movement. If Peter’s views would have been adopted, the Church would have become a declining sect, disappearing in one generation. The African-American reform movement, after such a propitious start, to a large degree, has become a petty, parochial, ignoble reflection of existential liberalism.

Homeschoolers we do not have to become like the pagan to share Christ with the pagan—we merely need to remain true to ourselves, to our core values, to our God. Peter had nothing to fear from the Gentiles. God had everything under control. We have nothing to fear from secular America or the secular university. We serve an awesome, powerful God!

I understand and I celebrate the veritable stampede of capable evangelical homeschoolers into the 10-20 most competitive universities in the USA. Never in the history of academia has a cultural group—Christian homeschoolers—been so vigorously recruited and lavishly rewarded. God’s favor is truly on this homeschooled generation of youth.

So what do we fear? Whom do we fear? Only God and we reverence and love Him because He loved us first and sent his only Begotten Son to be our savior.

Finally, in the 40 years since I matriculated out of Harvard University I have watched my classmates assume the most powerful positions in the world. This I have learned: failure and success is not measured by accumulated wealth or human accolades—no what really matters is what God thinks. The most grievous indictment of my generation was that we learned much knowledge and we applied it to our life situations. Somewhere along the line, however, we lost our passion. We forgot who we were and Who He is. We need to raise this generation to be madly in love with Christ. We need to get them to take their eyes off the problems and look to the solution to these problems! You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world (1 John 4:4).