Have We Taken God out of School?

I fell for it.  I fell for it, hook line and sinker.  I parroted this critique of the liberal public education establishment:  they’ve taken God out of our schools.  That was before I became involved with our local school.

There are many who believe that the cause of our societal decline began when The Supreme Court outlawed prayer in public schools.  The Supreme Court’s decision in Engel vs. Vitale has become an easy scapegoat for the moral decline in our nation.  It’s convenient to blame nine dead justices for everything we revile about our society, but in our righteous” anger, we’re exacerbating the problem.

When we declare God’s removal from public schools, we’re declaring that The United States Supreme Court has the power to move God.  We proclaim the sovereignty of God from our pulpits, but in our conversations we intimate the sovereignty of a human institution.  The court didn’t push God out the door of our schools in 1962.  They only forbade government sanctioned recitation of prayers.  God was never taken out of our schools, and He never will be.

When we propagate this untruth, we’re insulting our teachers.  There are three public school teachers in my congregation who pray for their students.  Are their prayers not heard?  Do their prayers not count?  If God has been taken out of our schools are the prayers of Christian teachers useless?  I’ve found most teachers to be courageous, humble, and selfless.  Christ encourages and pronounces blessings on people with those qualities.  If God was not in our schools anymore, we wouldn’t have so many quality educators.

I also pray for my children every morning as they get on the bus.  I used to pray only for my children, but now when the bus drives by my widow, I pray for all the children on the bus.  If God were absent from our schools then my prayers would be useless.  I know there are other parents who pray for the school children.

There are also children who pray for one another.  What are we telling those children when we tell them that God has been taken out of school?  We’re telling them that their prayers don’t count either.  That subtle lie does more spiritual damage to our children than we’ll ever realize.

When we insinuate the uselessness of prayers from teachers, parents, and students, we’re operating from a defeatist mindset.  Christ has admonished us to not be afraid because He has overcome the world.  There is no reason to operate as though we’ve been defeated, and when we act as though prayers for our school, we are slowly conceding the battle to the enemy.

There are also parents who use this battle cry to pull their children out of public schools.  We’ve removed a large chunk of Christians and children from Christian homes from our schools, and that has done more to erode the potential spiritual impact than the Supreme Court’s decision in 1962. We should never use our children as missionaries in our public schools, and there are situations where it is necessary to remove children from a public school.  However, by removing so many Christian children from our public schools, we have removed a large Christian influence from a public institution.  The secularization of our schools should come as no surprise when we remove Christian influence.  When we remove our children from public schools, we also remove our influence from them as well.

I’ve made some of you angry.  I can hear you furiously pecking at your keyboards with accusations such as:  how dare you insinuate that I’ve done more to remove God from our schools than The Supreme Court.  You’re going to accuse me of sending my kids into a secular public school just to be missionaries.  You’ll probably tell me that I don’t know what I’m talking about because I’m only 38.

My family is blessed to live in a small town with an outstanding school.  We know and love our teachers and administrators.  There are many of you who are not that blessed and have made the decision to not educate your children in the public school.  I respect that decision and know that education, both public and private is complicated.

What’s indisputable is God’s presence in our public schools.  He never left because God does not dwell in a building.  His Holy Spirit lives in each one of us.  If we kicked God out of school, which we could never do in the first place, then every teacher who is filled with The Holy Spirit would have to leave.

I’m never going to utter the phrase, “we kicked God out of school,” again except to point out the absurdity of that notion.  God bless all of the courageous teachers who dedicate their lives to the education of our children.

Why Dave Ramsey Was Not a Waste of Time at the SBC

My wife and I made sure we made it back into the convention hall Tuesday afternoon to hear Dave Ramsey speak.  When we came in, he had already begun speaking.  I was excited to hear him.  I’m always excited to hear Dave speak; I’ll admit I see him as a bit of a hero.  My wife and I are Dave Ramsey fans and as soon as we get our house paid off, we’re going to Nashville to do our debt-free scream.  My kids even have the introduction to his radio show memorized.

I was disappointed to hear grumbling in my section, and then murmurings afterward about his appearance.  There were those who thought his speech was a waste of time.  I’d like to give a few reasons as to why his speech was not a waste of time and some benefits to partnering with Ramsey Solutions.

  1. He spoke God’s Word: As far as I know, Dave confines his thoughts on scripture to those passages having to do with money and stewardship.  He does not try to be an evangelist or a preacher.  Any time we hear God’s Word, we are not wasting our time.
  2. He speaks on a difficult subject: He’s not afraid to speak on one of the most difficult topics in scripture.  He’s not afraid to kick our behinds in the right direction when we need it, and let’s face it, with so many Americans living paycheck to paycheck, many of us need our behinds kicked in the right direction.  I know I did.  I suspect that some of those who think hearing from him was a waste of time think so because he spoke uncomfortable truths.  He makes us squirm, and we need to squirm.
  3. His program benefits our churches: When pastors and members learn to handle God’s money God’s way, then they have more money to give.  Dave teaches the tithe, and he also teaches generous giving.  How much money would we have for missions if we taught our people to tithe, get out of debt, and give generously?

What are the possible benefits of partnering with Ramsey Solutions?

  1. Financial health: A pastor once told me when I was negotiating salary with a search committee to tell them, “You don’t want me sitting at my desk every Monday morning wondering about how the bills are going to get paid.”  That statement could not be more true.  How many pastors out there go to the office on Monday morning wondering how they’re going to pay their bills?  Financial health allows a pastor to focus on his job.
  2. Fewer funds needed for Mission Dignity: I love Mission Dignity.  I think it’s a great program.  Some of you are going to think that I’m accusing all recipients of Mission Dignity funds of bad financial management.  I am not doing that.  Some of the Mission Dignity participants are victims of churches that did not steward God’s money God’s way and thus could not provide adequately for their pastor and his family.  Mission Dignity is a great safety net, but what if we could move that safety net up 20 or 30 years?  What if we could save pastors and their wives from having to use Mission Dignity funds?  There would be more money for missions.

The Ramsey Solutions group is very open to working with churches.  I hope more leaders use their programs because we have an opportunity to intentionally move the safety net forward for our brothers and sisters in Christ — our pastors and our members.  If more members of the SBC had financial peace, how much more could we do with the Cooperative Program? How many more missionaries could we support? How many pastors could devote their time and mental energy completely to prayer and ministry of the word?

Why Dave Ramsey Was Not a Waste of Time at the SBC

My wife and I made sure we made it back into the convention hall Tuesday afternoon to hear Dave Ramsey speak.  When we came in, he had already begun speaking.  I was excited to hear him.  I’m always excited to hear Dave speak; I’ll admit I see him as a bit of a hero.  My wife and I are Dave Ramsey fans and as soon as we get our house paid off, we’re going to Nashville to do our debt-free scream.  My kids even have the introduction to his radio show memorized.

I was disappointed to hear grumbling in my section, and then murmurings afterward about his appearance.  There were those who thought his speech was a waste of time.  I’d like to give a few reasons as to why his speech was not a waste of time and some benefits to partnering with Ramsey Solutions.

  1. He spoke God’s Word: As far as I know, Dave confines his thoughts on scripture to those passages having to do with money and stewardship.  He does not try to be an evangelist or a preacher.  Any time we hear God’s Word, we are not wasting our time.
  2. He speaks on a difficult subject: He’s not afraid to speak on one of the most difficult topics in scripture.  He’s not afraid to kick our behinds in the right direction when we need it, and let’s face it, with so many Americans living paycheck to paycheck, many of us need our behinds kicked in the right direction.  I know I did.  I suspect that some of those who think hearing from him was a waste of time think so because he spoke uncomfortable truths.  He makes us squirm, and we need to squirm.
  3. His program benefits our churches: When pastors and members learn to handle God’s money God’s way, then they have more money to give.  Dave teaches the tithe, and he also teaches generous giving.  How much money would we have for missions if we taught our people to tithe, get out of debt, and give generously?

What are the possible benefits of partnering with Ramsey Solutions?

  1. Financial health: A pastor once told me when I was negotiating salary with a search committee to tell them, “You don’t want me sitting at my desk every Monday morning wondering about how the bills are going to get paid.”  That statement could not be more true.  How many pastors out there go to the office on Monday morning wondering how they’re going to pay their bills?  Financial health allows a pastor to focus on his job.
  2. Fewer funds needed for Mission Dignity: I love Mission Dignity.  I think it’s a great program.  Some of you are going to think that I’m accusing all recipients of Mission Dignity funds of bad financial management.  I am not doing that.  Some of the Mission Dignity participants are victims of churches that did not steward God’s money God’s way and thus could not provide adequately for their pastor and his family.  Mission Dignity is a great safety net, but what if we could move that safety net up 20 or 30 years?  What if we could save pastors and their wives from having to use Mission Dignity funds?  There would be more money for missions.

The Ramsey Solutions group is very open to working with churches.  I hope more leaders use their programs because we have an opportunity to intentionally move the safety net forward for our brothers and sisters in Christ — our pastors and our members.  If more members of the SBC had financial peace, how much more could we do with the Cooperative Program? How many more missionaries could we support? How many pastors could devote their time and mental energy completely to prayer and ministry of the word?

Thoughts on J.D. Greear’s Comments on Homosexuality

I was once asked to officiate a wedding for a young couple that had been attending our church.  The young man had waited for me outside the building and he was very nervous.  I knew the couple had been living together, and when he asked, I looked into his face and said, “I don’t normally marry couples who are living together.  That’s against what God’s Word says, so we’ll have to talk about that.”  I’ll never forget that conversation. I was right. However, I did a poor job of loving my neighbor.  I loved being right more than I loved that young man, and it cost me the opportunity to influence a young couple with the gospel.

J.D. Greear has been accused by American family Radio of jettisoning gospel truth in favor of loving his neighbor, particularly those neighbors who happen to be homosexuals.  If you haven’t read the accusations, you can read them right here.  The statement that prompted these accusations seems to have been “We have to love our gay neighbor more than we love our position on homosexuality.”  Greear went on to say, “We say yes, this issue is important.  I cannot compromise, but I love you more than I love being right.

I’d like to give a few thoughts on this article:

  1. The author says that the number one cultural and social issue of the day is homosexuality.  I respectfully disagree and believe that the number one social and cultural issue of our day is the tribal nature and labeling so prevalent in our culture.  If we could find our identity in Christ rather than a political party or a certain moral position, then, as Dr. Tony Evans said at the 2018 Southern Baptist Pastors’ Conference, “Two hundred year problems would become two-minute problems.”
  2. Loving our neighbor does not mean we have to jettison Biblical truth.  we need only to look at the example set by our Savior to see an example of loving they neighbor and standing for truth.  In the eighth chapter of John, Jesus is confronted with a woman caught in adultery.  Did He shame her for her adultery?  Did he tell her that adultery was against God’s plan for her life?  Did he tell her that she would need to repent of her evil before He could offer His help?  No, He saved her life!  think about that for a minute.  Jesus, who could have rightly condemned this woman for her evil act, saved her life first from the hypocritical religious leaders of her day.  He loved her.  Did he let her sin slide?  No, he instructed her to go and sin no more.  He both loved her and stood for Biblical truth.
  3. We have to learn to live with those who have specks in their eyes.  The author of this attack on Dr. Greear seems to assert that we cannot live with those who are living homosexual lifestyles.  How exactly is Christ supposed to use us to draw others to Himself if we have to live separate from them?  We can live with sinners and not participate in their sins.  We do it all the time.  If we knew everyone in our communities who had been convicted of a crime or spent time in jail, we would understand that we’ve always lived among sinners without participating in or endorsing their sins.
  4. What about millennials?  The author says something about millennials and the election of Greear as SBC President.  I’m not sure what that has to do with Greear’s election other than I guess the author is blaming our generation for the future demise of the SBC.  I’ve been a Southern Baptist since I was born, and if our convention is advocating showing more love to those who do not know Christ, then I will continue to be a Southern Baptist.

Let me be clear, I believe sin is clearly defined in God’s Word.  God has shown us what is right and what is wrong, and we are responsible for communicating God’s truth to the unbelieving world.  We’re also responsible for loving the unbelieving world.  I would be willing to bet that the man who had been beaten and left for dead in Luke 10 was glad that the Samaritan man didn’t read him a list of all his sins before he bandaged his wounds. I’d bet Matthew was glad that Jesus didn’t condemn him for being a cheating tax collector before He asked Him to come follow.

Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 13, “If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a ringing brass gong or a clashing cymbal.”  What good does it do us to have knowledge of everyone’s sin yet fail to show them love?  I’m afraid AFR is becoming a clanging gong or a clanging cymbal.