Friday, September 25, 2015

A Call to Action

"I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.  Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect."  Romans 12:1-2, ESV

Dr. Russell Moore is the executive director of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.  In light of what is happening that involves religious freedom in our country right now, his most recent book, Onward:  Engaging the Culture Without Losing the Gospel, is right on target, and will provide a lot of both perspective and comfort for Christians who are trying to sort through what is happening, and figure out how to best be the kind of salt and light that points to faith in Jesus that transforms lives while at the same time not losing the Christlikeness that is an essential part of that testimony in responding to things which, frankly, require a response from Christians.

Life transformation comes by grace through faith in Jesus, says Dr. Moore, and that must always be the primary message and focus of the church.  Christians should know that salvation and transformation can't be legislated, and that life change doesn't happen because of the law.  The culture is going to change, because it can't help itself, and if the church has lost its focus on the transforming message of the gospel, it will not effectively deal with the change.  It is in the business of pointing people to a faith that will transform their life, and equip them to handle anything that the culture throws at them.  And it will stay strong as long as it stays focused on that.

Legislation has been introduced into the Pennsylvania House and Senate which will have an particular impact on people who profess a Biblically-centered Christian faith, and subsequently those who are involved in a church affiliated institution, agency or ministry.  HB1510, introduced into the House, and SB974, introduced into the Senate, will create a special status for "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" with regard to the practice of discrimination, and will apply to employment, education, housing and any public accommodation.  In effect, the legislation removes protections of religious objections for those who would be considered "conscientious objectors" to any redefinition that allows for same-gender marriage. 

The courts have already been ruling that private business owners cannot be exempted on religious grounds when it comes to objecting to providing products or services to same gender couples, such as cakes, flowers and photographs for same-sex weddings.  This legislation would have an impact on religious-based agencies and institutions as well. Some states have already introduced anti-discrimination legislation that has had an impact on religious-based agencies and institutions. Similar legislation in other states has forced Catholic Charities to stop adoption and foster care in those states because their policy restricts placements to married couples of one man and one woman. 

Hopefully, our ministry is focused on pointing people to the transforming power of the Holy Spirit through faith in Christ, and we're not trying to discriminate against anyone.  But this legislation, if passed, while it may protect some people from discrimination, will cause it to happen to others, mainly to those who hold a traditional Biblical, Christian view of marriage, and who, in following the teachings of their savior, Jesus, believe that when he said a marriage was defined as one man, and one woman, leaving their own families, come together to form a new one. 

ACSIPA, the group of school administrators in Pennsylvania who advocate for Christian schools in the state with the legislative body in Harrisburg, is asking that Christian school communities unite in opposing these two bills which would most certainly have a negative impact on our schools and their ministries.  You can go to the website, and click on the Voter Action Center tab.  This will take you to a page which has information on these two bills and their potential impact on Christian schools.  There is another tab you can click which will take you to the voter voice email that has been prepared for this issue.  If you choose to send it, it will go to your state representative, your state senator and to the governor's office.  I can assure you, their offices keep track of the public's opinion on issues like this. 

And in the meantime, let's keep our focus on leading people to the transforming power of the Holy Spirit through faith in Christ. 

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Student Led Chapel

Therefore, let us no longer criticize one another.  Instead decide never to put a stumbling block or pitfall in your brother's way.  I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself.  Still, to someone who considers a thing to be unclean, to that one it is unclean.  For if your brother is hurt by what you eat you are no longer walking according to love.  Do not destroy that one Christ died for by what you eat.  Therefore, do not let your good be slandered, for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.  Whoever serves Christ in this way is acceptable to God and approved by men.  So then, we must pursue what promotes peace and what builds up one another."  Romans 14:13-19, HCSB

In accordance with goals set in the area of spiritual life at PCS, the weekly high school chapel service leadership has been placed in the hands of students.  Part of the overall, measurable progress of the school as specified in its governance policy is related to the spiritual growth of its students, and the administration and faculty believe that the students have demonstrated the ability to assume responsibility for planning, conducting, and praying for chapel worship. 

Today was the first "official" student led service. 

Whether they knew they'd done it or not, the message that they delivered today was very well connected to the Biblical theme for the year, found in Matthew 5:9:

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God.

The scripture passage above, from Romans, was one of the foundational passages that the chapel committee used to explain to the students about the mission and purpose of chapel at PCS.  And there's that word, peace, not once, but twice in their theme passage.  Chapel is a time of worship, where our students and staff come together as the body of Christ.  The students emphasized the fact that as we come together, we draw strength from the Holy Spirit, who guides us, and we give honor and praise to Christ.  And as we come together, though we are all individuals with unique personalities, and with a unique inner connection to God, we are unified as we worship, by the "righteousness, peace and joy" in the Spirit. 

I think our students "get it." 

We live in a "me, first" world, where things like peace and love give way to greed, selfish ambition and a demand for personal freedom and rights.  But here, at school, there is a time that is set aside and dedicated to having them come together in unity, share the inner light of God that comes from their unique relationship with him, and worship in an atmosphere of love and peace that pulls them together in unity.  In a classroom setting, we'd evaluate that as visible evidence that they've learned the objective.  Can they pass the test?  Can they come together, in righteousness, peace and joy, and instead of judgment or condemnation, can they put the spiritual needs of others ahead of their own desires in such a way as to point out the pathway to God, week after week? 

We'll see.  Today was certainly an encouraging indication.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Calendar Planning at PCS: Some Insights FYI

As a private, Christian school in the state of Pennsylvania, PCS is very fortunate to have some advantages that similar schools in other states don't necessarily enjoy.  Generally, private schools in Pennsylvania are considered independent when it comes to Department of Education regulation.  We are free to determine our own curriculum objectives, choose our own curriculum support materials, including those with a Christian worldview as a philosophical foundation, set our own qualifications for teaching staff, and choose which tests we will use to measure our progress.  We can avoid textbook driven instruction, "teaching to the test," and educational objectives which are not consistent with our Christian worldview.  And we have the additional privilege of running our own bus system, which is, in and of itself, a real blessing. 

We can also determine our own calendar. 

The state does mandate that all schools, public, charter, private, or home-based, provide a minimum of 180 days of instruction for students.  That is one requirement with which we must comply, though within the framework of the law, we are not bound to specific holidays or to follow a specified calendar.  Regardless of when we start, early or late, every student in every school in Pennsylvania will spend 180 days in school, and most of those days will be involve at least 6 hours of instructional time. 

The public schools generally follow a calendar with equally divided semesters, and their start and finish dates, and holidays are scheduled around the academic requirements, rather than to provide time off to celebrate holidays.  Fortunately, because of the influence of Christian churches and groups, the academic breaks are worked out to coincide with Christian holidays, aside from the mandated government holidays, but if you look at the calendars, "Thanksgiving vacation" is "Fall break," "Christmas Vacation" is "Winter Break," and most still give Good Friday, though in some cases, it is a teacher in-service day. 

There are some considerations at PCS which drive our calendar planning and they are generally related to our Christian mission and purpose, and our Christian identity as a school.
  • We celebrate Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter as holidays.  Because we value family time together, we provide school holidays in conjunction with these calendar dates to facilitate families being together.  The extra time at Christmas also facilitates the ability of families to participate in, and be involved in, programs and concerts which celebrate the Birth of Jesus at their local church.  Likewise, for Easter.
  • Giving a full week of Spring Break associated with the Easter holiday enables a number of our students to participate in a mission trip to the Dominican Republic each year, sponsored by Meeting God in Missions. 
  • We have been asked to, and have agreed to, give our students the actual calendar date off for Veteran's Day.  The reasoning behind that is self-explanatory, and there are several events in our area held on that specific day. 
  • MLK Day, President's Day, and Easter Monday not only allow us to put in some much needed breaks, and recognize the significance of those days, but they can also serve as "take or give" snow days if needed. 
  • There are actually 182 days in the calendar.  Because of our school hours, we have several "built in" days, but if we exceed that amount, or if we have a larger than normal number of delay starts, then we will have school June 6 and 7.  If we are under the threshold, we'll be done on the 4th. 
Because we started on the 20th, the last possible day of school will be June 7, unless we have an inordinate number of snow days.  Most everyone else will be going until at least the 10th.  So the "early start" does work its way out at the end.  But with one exception, we've started on the third Thursday in August since at least 2007.  As it happens, it seems earlier than usual this year, because of the late date for Labor Day.  But the bottom line is that, regardless of when we start, or when we finish up, we will have no more, and no less, days of school than anyone else in the state. 

There are those parents who don't like the earlier start, though it was only three school days before most everyone else around us, and in the general area, started (except Butler which, of course, has a lot more preparation work to do this year).  But there are others whose children are involved in the Dominican Trip, or who appreciate the extra time with family or to travel at the holidays, and think the early start is worth it.  Of course, we're not going to agree on everything.  But, as believers, we are responsible to see that this issue doesn't become a divisive thorn in the side of the school's ministry. 

And as with anything else related to Portersville Christian School, if it is an area of the school that falls under administrative authority and direction, you are more than welcome to give me a call to chat about it, or come into the office.  Constructive and positive feedback is always welcome, and is, in fact, preferable to either conflict over personal preferences, or complete apathy.  There are some things we can't change, and some things that are probably better left alone, but discussions about perspectives are always welcome, if they're constructive, and of course, joining together in prayer is always time well spent. 

We've had a relatively smooth start to the school year.  For the second  year in a row, we are near our enrollment capacity.   We are seeing students grow in their faith, and graduates going out to make a difference in the world.  That can't be making the enemy happy.  Your prayers for this ministry, every day, will not only be deeply appreciated, but they will be the best thing you can do for us.