By / Sep 29

“You Matter,” “I Matter,” “We Matter,” 40 fifth graders chanted in unison on our first day of elementary school where I teach in a high poverty area in Indiana. The first days of school are momentum building. Teachers pour on the positive praise, rewards, and reinforcement. In many elementary schools, this is also the honeymoon period. There are new clothes, new hair styles, new school supplies, and pep talks from parents that haven’t fallen on deaf ears quite yet. 

My school is no different in many ways, but with the highest rates of child poverty in the city, there are unique barriers we face at the beginning of the school year. We are a “promise school,” meaning the district is committed to investing resources into our building. But the barriers are profound because of our poverty rates. Strong, experienced teachers request to work in our building, but the district moves them to more established schools. And while there is funding for technology, project-based learning initiatives, and school police officers, my classroom, for example, does not have doors, our desks are old and scratched, I have a small window, and the school battles a mice and cockroach infestation. If there was an emergency, there is no additional exit in my room that my students could actually get through with efficiency.

In light of the obstacles we face, Jesus reminds me that those who belong to him are promised his faithfulness, care, and compassion. He sees us, he knows our needs, and he loves us. I am reminded of this when a stranger writes me a $300 check for classroom snacks. Or, when partnering churches bring lunch and send in large donations of food and school supplies. I experience it when people pray and spend the evening putting up posters in my classroom. Or, when teachers give up their planning periods to assist in other classrooms. And I see it when neighborhood adults meet children at bus stops with breakfast and snacks. 

As teachers go through the school year, with all of its challenges and joys, we need the promises of Jesus to carry us through. And we see glimpses of those promises through many of our everyday experiences. 

We are promised his comfort and shelter. On the second day of school, children, teachers, and parents stand in a thunderstorm at the end of the day, scrambling to get kids home, many walking more than a mile. Many families do not get bussing due to district cuts years ago, and several bus stops are several blocks away. A pregnant mother of eight comes running and reaches for her children. I hand her an umbrella for the walk home. Teachers and students huddle together beneath the awning as they wait on parents. One of my fifth graders comforts his scared and sobbing 6-year-old brother because the storm is too loud. 

We are promised his friendship. Former students contact me, and children give huge hugs in the hallways. “Jack” has such a profound speech disability that he is unable to say any consonants. We celebrate that he is in my class with his best friend “Blake.” Jack and Blake are so close that Blake translates for Jack when someone can’t understand him. Jack will call him over when I am struggling, and Blake listens closely and lovingly interprets what he is saying. They’ve pulled each other away from fights this week and never leave the other’s side. I’ve never seen two kids have such a truly sweet and mutual relationship. They choose to be with each other because they love and enjoy one another. 

We are promised nurture. The siblings of a child who lived with us in the past are currently living with our dear pastor friend and his wife. I have prayed since these children were tiny that they would experience safety and security. The kids squeal in delight when we arrive at the bus stop. The 4-year-old runs up to my preschool daughter and says, “You coming with me.” After the big kids get on the bus, the small ones will go back to our friends’ house until pre-k starts. Goodbye hugs are given. I know our children are both seen and heard. They will be loved at school and in the home of the pastor’s family. 

We are promised he will bear our burdens. A teacher resigns after four days of instruction. The needs and behaviors are “too much to bear.” It is not only the behaviors or the needs that are too much to bear. The grief alone is too much to bear. None of us are strong enough to handle it ourselves. 

We are promised grace. A friend brings dinner on Friday. My husband and I are draped in fatigue and irritability. My mantra is “just get to bedtime.” I run upstairs to change clothes before taking my kids to play. I am half-clothed when my 3-year-old screams, alerting me that her little brother let the dog out. The neighbor meets me on my porch, and the dog follows her back, only to get away from us again two more times. She watches my kids while I grab my keys and put shoes on. The 2-year-old is crying. My neighbor says, “Sometimes motherhood is hard.” 

We are promised that he sees. An adoptive mother of seven loses her new home and puppy to a house fire. She and the children are left with the clothes on their back. I met these sweet children several years ago when they were living with little food, shelter, transportation, and proper hygiene. The mother and father struggled with addiction, to the point of losing their children. The aunt, who is now their adoptive mother, moved across the country to keep the siblings together and care for her elderly mother. When I met them, it felt so meager to deliver a package of diapers, yet the Lord knew their needs. Currently, the family is living out of a hotel room. My friend cares for the three youngest, and several churches work together to gather supplies for them. 

The promises continue.

Our teenage daughter, whose life is a testament to the miraculous promises of God, is invited to be a peer mentor for students who have experienced trauma, are on the spectrum, or have behavioral disabilities. “What an honor,” I say.

With an eye roll, and flat tone, she responds, “I just treat them like humans.” 

I am reminded that it is Jesus who says we matter, and it is his people who affirm it. We are called to treat one another like humans made in God’s image — beautiful, created, seen, valued, and loved. 

Jesus invites everyone to grab hold of his promises, and the Spirit fulfills these every day. He does not forget the orphan, widow, addicted, homeless, suffering, or wandering. He promises to meet us at the bus stops, in the food pantry, in pre-school, and in the suffering hearts of young people. He has not forgotten, and he will restore. I am forever thankful to rest on these promises. 

By / Oct 6

The last few weeks have seen the reopening of school districts across the country. Teachers are adapting to the current pandemic in a number of ways with some teaching in person, others online, and some doing both. This has, understandably, created a new source of anxiety for both students and teachers. Students have to contend with Zoom fatigue in addition to struggling through long division. Online teachers are in the unenviable position of attempting to replicate the community of a classroom from the confines of a screen with tiny little Zoom boxes and weak internet connections. In this current moment, Christian parents should consider how they can serve their teachers as they adapt to the new situations of online learning. Here are three practical ways: 

Remain flexible 

If the last several months have revealed anything, it is the truth that there are many things beyond our control. Every day brings some new catastrophe or unexpected challenge. And online education is no different. Not long after schools resumed near me, teachers started their day to discover that Zoom was down worldwide because of server problems. Immediately, an entire day’s scheduled meetings and plans had to be reworked. 

In some ways, the pandemic has just affirmed the truth of Scripture: we are not in control. In response, we can cling more tightly to our plans and our belief that we are the masters of our fate, or we can accept that there is much outside our control and trust the one who sets planets in motion and hung the stars. In the midst of a season that seems intent on inducing worry and anxiety, the same voice that calmed the waves offers us the promise of peace (Mark 4:39). 

Show your support 

With many teachers teaching online or in new hybrid options, it is very likely that parents may not ever get to meet their teacher in person as they normally would. And with so much of instruction occurring in asynchronous formats, it can be easier than ever to forget the effort that many teachers have put in to redesigning their classroom, curriculum, and even teaching style. This is especially true when every day brings a new cause for anxiety: Should we wear a mask when we leave the house for groceries or have them delivered? Will my wife lose her job because she was deemed unessential? Who is in charge of childcare this week while we work from home? In this moment of continual anxiety and fear, it would be easy, and understandable, that we would forget about what we cannot see in front of us, or about the person on the other side of the screen.

Christians should make a special effort to remember and praise the work of their children’s teachers during these times. Teachers are often facing the same existential crises in their own families, all while seeking to love and serve a Zoom screen filled with kids who are facing a new challenge of their own. So look for ways to serve and care for the teachers in your life. A well-timed email, a note sent in the mail, or brief video chat just to let them know that you see and appreciate all that they are doing can be a welcome reprieve for a teacher. We know that our words have the power to build up and encourage (Prov. 18:21), so we should seek ways to offer a word of hope, encouragement, and life to those who have devoted their lives to teaching the next generation.

Extend grace

It is inevitable that no matter how much planning occurs on the part of administrators, teachers, parents, or students, there will be confusion and problems. An assignment will be given the wrong due date. An online password will be mistyped. A Zoom link won’t work. If 2020 has taught us anything, it is that problems will arise. 

This time of learning from home offers a unique opportunity for parents to help their children learn not just how to read, write, or solve equations, but how to grow in love, joy, patience, and kindness (Gal. 5:22-23). 

However, Christians should be the first to extend grace to teachers in this season. When so much is beyond our control, Christians have the opportunity to meet these problems with the grace and forgiveness that we have received (Luke 7:47). It is precisely because Christians recognize that we are interacting with humans created in God’s image on the other side of our screens or emails that we extend that grace. So as you type that email to correct your teacher or prepare that post for Facebook about the school administrator, remember that they are also struggling with the new reality and often doing the best that they can with circumstances beyond their control. Just as you would want grace for yourself, extend it to teachers. 

And it is not just for the sake of the teacher, but for those little eyes and ears that are watching you. The students who see a parent lose it over a Zoom meeting or a problem with online learning are receiving an education in how Christians respond to problems, but not in how to extend grace to those around them. This time of learning from home offers a unique opportunity for parents to help their children learn not just how to read, write, or solve equations, but how to grow in love, joy, patience, and kindness (Gal. 5:22-23). 

When the school year ends, students and teachers will likely breathe a sigh of relief that they endure this challenging season. However, Christians should make special effort to serve their teachers during this time. In a time when it would be easy to retreat into survival mode and think only of what is best for ourselves, we ought to consider how we can encourage and pray for teachers. As the pandemic and school year ends, may this be a season when we have all learned how to recognize new ways to serve others. 

By / Jan 22

Over the last few days, a media firestorm has broken out over the fact that Karen Pence, wife of the vice president of the United States, will return to teach art on a part-time basis at a private Christian school. Immanuel Christian School, like many other private institutions, requires its staff members to sign a code of conduct and statement of beliefs. Within Immanuel Christian School’s statement of beliefs, one will find the ancient and biblical understanding of marriage as “the uniting of one man and one woman in a single, exclusive covenant union as delineated in Scripture.”

In terms of the code of conduct, Immanuel Christian expects its staff members and students to “live a personal life of moral purity.” The governing document goes on to define certain aspects of “moral misconduct” as “heterosexual activity outside of marriage (e.g., premarital sex, cohabitation, extramarital sex), homosexual or lesbian sexual activity, polygamy, transgender identity, any other violation of the unique roles of male and female, sexual harassment, use or viewing of pornographic material or websites, and sexual abuse or improprieties toward minors as defined by Scripture and federal or state law.”

Most media outlets that have covered this news, even those who disagree strongly with the positions of the school, have been fairly understanding of a private school’s prerogative to maintain standards for its staff and students. The heartache for these journalists can be found in the “Second Lady of the United States” choosing to work at a school with such convictions, and thus, according to some, “sending a deeply hurtful message to LGBTQ youth and those who support them by acquiescing to, and upholding, deeply and directly discriminatory policies as a member of the school’s faculty.”

Christian convictions and the public square

This controversy provokes the question: Is a Christian allowed to maintain and live according to their convictions in the public square? Here are a few thoughts that we must consider:

First, Karen Pence is the wife of an elected official, but not the elected official herself. Even if Karen Pence was an elected official, though, the argument that someone with such a public role in the U.S. should not associate with institutions that hold potentially controversial beliefs principally violates the no religious test clause of the U.S. Constitution. Whatever role she plays or doesn’t play as the “Second Lady of the United States” is up to her and her husband. Yet, Mrs. Pence’s association with Immanuel Christian School should not surprise anyone who has been paying attention. Karen Pence previously taught art at Immanuel Christian School for 12 years before her current role. It is not as if she deceived someone about her beliefs and convictions. The Pence family has held these Christian convictions publicly for decades, which brings us to the second point worth noting in this controversy.

A second observation worth noting concerns how scandalized and outraged many media outlets seemed to be by Mrs. Pence’s commitment to historic, Christian sexual ethics. As other conservative thinkers have mentioned elsewhere, the media is surprised that the Second Lady, a Christian, is teaching at an institution that holds to orthodox Christian beliefs. Immanuel Christian School has the audacity to be Christian.

Sadly, the scandal surrounding such convictions is not limited to Mrs. Pence. In recent days, Sens. Mazie Hirono and Kamala Harris have all but applied a religious test to the nomination of Brian Buescher to the federal judiciary. They have raised questions and objections to his service on account of his membership in the Knights of Columbus, a historically Catholic organization that also happens, to the surprise of some, to be Catholic. And last year, Russ Vought, a nominee for The Office of Management and Budget, was criticized by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, for holding beliefs that are consistent with Christian doctrine.

One cannot help but wonder if those who oppose public leaders with Christian convictions do so in part because they cannot imagine a religious person in the U.S. being anything other than nominal. It now appears that decades of nominal, convictionless, western Christianity has paved the way for progressives to argue that there is no place for convictional religion in the public square. For decades, many professing Christians have argued publicly for the need to downplay or even abandon doctrinal convictions, thinking that such an approach would earn favor in the public square. But many progressives are not merely content with expanding rights for the LGBT community; they want Christian communities to abandon sexual ethics entirely or be shamed out of public life.

The free exercise of religious liberty

Surrender and capitulation, however, are not necessary. The First Amendment of the United States grants all religious people the right to live out their faith. They have not simply been granted the right of conscience. They have been granted the right of free exercise. Furthermore, this right, while enshrined in the First Amendment, does not originate from mankind. Religious liberty is not fundamentally an artifact of the Enlightenment. Religious liberty is deeply rooted in humanity’s relationship with God. God has made man and woman in his image, and they are supremely accountable to him as his creatures. When the government or others attempt to direct or guide the religious practices of God’s creatures, they are attempting to subvert the Lordship of Christ.

At times, people will use fear, slander, lies, shame, and intimidation to drive the Christian’s convictions back into the shadows. The temptation is to respond with fear, slander, lies, and shame of our own, but that is not the way of Christ. Instead, Christians must remember who they are ultimately accountable to and why they are here on this earth. Christ left his disciples on the earth to point others to “the kindness and severity of God “(Rom. 11:22). And at times, these faithful disciples will be “reviled and persecuted for righteousness’ sake” (Matt. 5:11) because, like the prophets of old, they dared to remind people that they were sinners in need of God’s mercy. No amount of hedging or nuance will ever take away the offense of the cross of Christ.

The Christian faith was never intended to be “normal” in this world. It was intended to disrupt “normal.” The gospel, with its clear call to repent and believe in Christ, was and is “foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:18). So, we do not lose heart when people disagree vehemently with our religious convictions and tell us to leave our Christianity at home. Instead, we remember that we are strangers in this world. We are sojourners who are looking forward to “a better and abiding possession” (Heb. 10:34) that is soon to be revealed when our Savior appears (Col. 3:1-4). May we be faithful witnesses to Christ until the very end, no matter what it costs us.

By / Nov 11

Can a teacher in a public school display a personal Bible on a desk? What about answering a student’s questions about faith or the Bible?

At Focus on the Family, we received many questions like these during our nationwide religious-freedom event for students—Bring Your Bible to School Day on Oct. 6— as well as in response to a blog I contributed for ERLC on students’ rights.

A great deal of confusion exists over whether Christian educators can openly acknowledge their personal faith in the public education system. That’s because our nation’s courts have often rendered opinions on teachers’ rights that vary from case to case, rather than creating a clear-cut standard.

Generally speaking, students in public schools enjoy powerful protections for their religious-freedom and free-speech rights. Adults, on the other hand, are much more limited since they are government employees. As Alliance Defending Freedom puts it, public school teachers “are both individual citizens and agents of the state.” So the manner in which First Amendment protections apply to them is “somewhat unique.”

Below, I’ve provided a Q&A with general tips for teachers.

Can teachers respond when a student directly asks them about their faith or spiritual beliefs?

In general, teachers can respond when a student directly asks them a question about their personal beliefs. But teachers can get into sticky situations if they use the questions to begin giving what amounts to a church sermon to the entire class. That’s why it’s best to keep the answer focused on the exact question the student asked.

Teachers can also run into claims—especially when very young students are involved—that it wasn’t clear whether they were explaining their personal beliefs or those of the school. So it’s also a good idea for teachers to preempt their answers with a clear statement that they are expressing their personal perspectives.

Can teachers pray or do Bible studies with other teachers?

Teachers can engage in religious-freedom activities with other adult educators before and after school. This can include after-school Bible study and prayer groups for teachers or the distribution of invitations to religious-themed community events among educators (if the school already allows teachers to distribute flyers to one another about community related activities).  The U.S. Department of Education itself issued a memorandum acknowledging this, which stated that, “Before school or during lunch, for example, teachers may meet with other teachers for prayer or Bible study to the same extent that they may engage in other conversation or nonreligious activities.”

Can teachers give factual explanations of Christianity and/or the Bible in their classrooms?  

Yes, teachers can provide classroom instruction about Christianity and the Bible in a way that meets state academic standards and related curriculum requirements, especially when doing lessons about history, culture or literature. But keep in mind that teachers must address these topics in an objective and purely educational manner—i.e., it must be academic, not devotional.

Did you know that some state academic standards actually encourage instruction about Christianity? For example, California sixth graders are expected to note “the origins of Christianity in the Jewish Messianic prophecies, the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth . . . and the contribution of St. Paul the Apostle to the definition and spread of Christian beliefs.”  In Massachusetts, seventh grade students are expected to describe “the origins of Christianity and its central features.” Gateways to Better Education has more excellent resources on references to Christianity or religion in state academic standards.

The U.S. Supreme Court has also affirmed that the “Bible may constitutionally be used in an appropriate study of history, ethics, comparative religion or the like” (Stone v. Graham, 1980). And even in its infamous ruling against adult-led Bible reading in public schools (Abington v. Schempp, 1963), the Supreme Court acknowledged “that the Bible is worthy of study for its literary and historic qualities. Nothing we have said here indicates that such study of the Bible or of religion, when presented objectively as part of a secular program of education, may not be effected consistently with the First Amendment.”

Can teachers put their personal Bibles on their desks?

This is one of those questions that can be answered in two ways—whether teachers should have that right or whether consistent court rulings have granted them that right. Personally, I believe teachers should have the right to put their personal Bible on their desk, just as they would a personal photograph. The Alliance Defending Freedom has stated that “there’s no legitimate basis for public schools to prohibit employees from having Bibles at their desks for their own personal use.”

Unfortunately, though, when you look at how cases have played out in court, the answer seems to differ according to the facts in each individual case. To give a few examples:

  • According to both a federal district and appeals court, mandatory prayers occurring in an Arkansas school district crossed the line into a constitutional violation—while a Bible sitting on the superintendent’s desk did not. The “Bible and framed scripture verses in [the superintendent’s] office . . . were protected by the first amendment's free speech and free exercise clauses.”
  • Likewise, in 2012, a Texas district court cited the above case and stated that teachers’ personal religious items, such as crosses on their desk, did not violate the constitution. “There was no danger of a high school student getting the wrong impression that the District was promoting religion when a teacher displayed a cross next to her other family, vacation, or other personal mementos any more than having a family photo on the teacher’s desk proves that the District promotes procreation or going skiing.”
  • But more recently, in 2014, a teacher lost a lengthy court battle to fight his termination after displaying Christian-themed materials in his classroom, including a Bible on his desk. The case was complicated by the fact that several verbal and printed expressions were at issue, not simply the Bible on his desk. While the Ohio Supreme Court judges upheld the termination, they also pointed out that the school district’s “order for [the teacher] to remove his personal Bible from his desk was neither reasonable nor valid; the order infringed on . . . free-exercise rights without justification.” But another judge (who wrote a concurring opinion in the case) thought that the school did have the right to require the teacher to keep his Bible out of sight in a drawer.

So what does all this mean for teachers? When it comes to deciding whether or not to display a Bible on a desk, it’s prudent for teachers to follow the school administration’s policy. If a teacher is feeling compelled to test the waters in a gray area that may go beyond that policy, it’s absolutely crucial to seek the advice of competent legal counsel beforehand.

What if a teacher wants to support students who are engaging in religious-freedom activities or event?

Perhaps the best way teachers can be supportive is to recognize and allow students’ free-speech and religious freedom activities. A “fast facts” sheet explaining students’ rights is available in the “Know Your Rights” section of BringYourBible.org.  A teacher can also show support by volunteering to serve as a faculty sponsor for student-led Christian clubs. (Many schools require student clubs to have a sponsor.) But when it comes to promotional efforts like putting up posters or making announcements, all of those efforts should be initiated and led by students. Likewise, it’s up to students to initiate the creation of the Christian club and then organize and lead the activities.

I want to encourage Christian educators in public schools: You are likely having far more of an impact than you realize, as demonstrated by multiple Focus on the Family listeners who shared their stories on our broadcast (see transcript). By simply modeling the love of Jesus to a child whose self-esteem has hit rock bottom or by exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit consistently through your personal actions in the classroom, you also are letting “your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven,” (Matt. 5:16).

By / Oct 21

Last summer, I wrote about my experience teaching in an inner-city alternative school. Now, in the throes of another school year, I find myself looking ahead to next year and what I can do differently. My list is full of small housekeeping items, like filing papers weekly and keeping student files up to date. These are important things to do, and I will probably have tons of sticky notes placed around my room to remember it all next year.

But even though these housekeeping items are important, the most important thing I, and every teacher, need to remember in preparing for the next school year is that there is no such thing as a “perfect teacher.”

What does a “perfect teacher” even look like? Everyone has their own idea. Most teachers find themselves falling into this unhealthy comparison. Living in a technology-filled world, we have so many model classrooms and teachers right at our fingertips. I find myself scrolling through Pinterest and Instagram trying to find that one creative activity for the upcoming week’s lesson plan. I longingly wish my classroom was as cool as the classroom down the hall. I watch movies and T.V. and find myself dreaming about having the impact on a student’s life like Mr. Feeny from Boy Meets World or Hillary Swank’s character in Freedom Writers.

Unfortunately, comparisons like these cause us teachers—and specifically, us Christian teachers—to work like dogs at everything except what we are actually called to do: teach students and share the light of the gospel of Christ with them.

Becoming “the perfect teacher” is a task no one on earth will ever accomplish. The reality of the situation is that we are all imperfect sinners who will fail every single day. Responding in anger when I hear my name called for the millionth time in an hour reminds me that I am a sinner. Giving up on a lesson and sticking my kids with busy work on their laptops after a failed Pinterest activity dumps shaving cream all over the floor reminds me that I am a sinner. When I am too busy to listen to my students’ stories, even though I am the only person in their lives that gives them the time of day, reminds me that I am a sinner.

The harder I strive for perfection, the more I am suffocated by the realization that I am not the perfect teacher, and I can never be the perfect teacher.  

The gospel for the teacher

Even though we are sinners, Christ died for us. He lived a sinless life, and died a sinner’s death on the cross so that we could be seen as righteous in the eyes of God (2 Cor. 5:21). His love for us is greater than our failures (1 John 3:20). Just as we are called to salvation, he has also called us as teachers to teach. This calling on our lives gives us faith that through the Holy Spirit, we are equipped with the power and wisdom to overcome these sins and share Christ’s love with our students.

Christian teacher, I am saved and have been called by Christ to be a teacher, specifically an inner city teacher. Each day I have to be reminded of the gospel of Jesus. The gospel message does not stop with our salvation, because we are daily becoming more like Christ. The gospel tells us that, yes, we are saved, but the Holy Spirit is continually teaching us and forming us to be more like Jesus, who is the Greatest Teacher.

Rejoice, teacher, that Jesus is better than our Pinterest catastrophes, our raised voices and our selfishness. When you are feeling down after a day full of failed activities and angry responses, remember that you are not the perfect teacher. Some days you will feel inadequate, and that is OK. Rest in the fact that we are inadequate, but Christ is more than adequate. He is the only Perfect Teacher, and his love for us is so great that he gives us the power to overcome our sins and the confidence to share his love with our students.

What does this look like for a Christian teacher on a daily basis?

1. Rest in the gospel. Remember that we have been justified of our sin and have been united with Christ in salvation. This is the most important thing a teacher can do, and anything that we “do” to improve as teachers must be built on this reality. But there are ways to daily live out this truth.

2. Being with the Word. I would recommend starting the morning by waking up early, getting some coffee and digging into God’s Word. Spending time reading, meditating and praying through scripture will prepare you for the long day ahead.

3. Pray continually. As you drive to school, pray for the day. And be specific with your prayers. For some, this may be a short drive, but for others this could be a long time spent pleading with Christ to use you to share his grace and love with your students. Talk with him about the failures from the day before, and pray for the power to overcome those failures through him.

When you walk into your classroom, pray for each student by name before you begin preparing for the day. You know your students’ struggles at home and at school. Pray for those specific needs. Ask Christ to let you be the tool he uses to shine his light on your students.

4. Talk and listen. After your students enter the classroom, take time to talk with each child and hear those stories that they so desperately want to share with you. When meeting with them, let them know how proud you are of them, and remind them that you want them to be successful. They need to hear this, because they may not hear it anywhere else. Share encouraging words to each child multiple times a day, even when it is hard. When you want to say something negative, replace it with a positive comment. They will remember the times that you could have been angry, and instead showed them love. And when you feel like yelling, pause and pray for patience.

These are not easy things to do in our flesh, but remember that we are not teaching for our glory—we are teaching for Christ’s glory. We are not teaching to become teacher of the year; we are teaching to give Christ’s love to our students. If you win teacher of the year, glory be to God. The Lord rewards those who are obedient to his calling. Yet, remember that we will not succeed without being completely dependent on the one who died for our sins. Cling to him every moment of the day. Have confidence, and give your students what we all crave: Christ’s love.

This post was originally published on Tabitha’s blog.

By / Jun 5

Trillia Newbell interviews Jen Pollock Michel about her book “Teach Us to Want.”

By / Sep 26

Last Christmas, my husband and I bought a copy of The Action Bible, a collection of Bible stories presented comic book style, for our nine-year-old son. Unsurprisingly, he loved it and carried it with him everywhere. He would load up his school backpack and put The Action Bible in with his school supplies every day.

Religious intolerance hits home

Until one day when, after school, he told me that he'd gotten in trouble.

When I asked him what happened, he said that during free reading time he pulled out his Bible. His teacher approached him and quietly asked him not to bring that book to school again. I was surprised. Really? Here in the suburbs of the Bible Belt? Knowing his teacher, I didn't raise a fuss. I told Eli to be a little more careful about bringing it out during class to which he responded, “I don't care what they do to me! They can't keep me from worshiping Jesus!” His response elicited from me a sense of pride and alarm.

My husband and I have always known that we were going to need to prepare our children for resistance to the Christian faith, but we had wrongly assumed that it would be with regards to bold evangelizing when they were older. It never occurred to us that we'd need to talk to them about it where we are now. Such is the thinking of much of the church in America.

Many of us, myself included, have become so accustomed to freely worshiping Christ in public that to be opposed is taking us by surprise more than it should. The faithful apostle tells us pointedly in 1 Peter 4:12, “Do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you.” Granted, The Action Bible incident was no fiery ordeal, but we were surprised. I'm thankful that the Lord used this episode to gently awaken us from our comfortable slumber.

As I wrote last time, religious liberty in America is increasingly being limited as those practicing their faith openly, particularly Christians, are being told keep faith out of the public sphere. And as the hostility is ramping up, we are forced to remember that this is not just a grown-up situation—our children will be involved as well. So how are we to think about raising our children in this growing hostility?

Raising eternal creatures

We are prone to forget in the chaos of team sports, report cards and doctors appointments that our children's lives are much more than the here and now. As Gloria Furman tells us in Treasuring Christ When Your Hands are Full, “Our children are so much more than just potential adults.” It is imperative that we bear this in mind. Our kids are eternal souls over whom we have been made stewards. We cannot simply fixate on making sure they know how to function politely in a world that is passing away.

As parents who love and follow Jesus, we have been given the responsibility of teaching our children who Christ is and what he's done. They are going to be asked to give an account for their lives, so we need to teach them the things of God. We must dedicate ourselves to making sure that our little and not-so-little ones know the glorious gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Perhaps this seems like Christian Parenting 101, but as a fallen, sinful parent I know that life gets busy and we end up taking for granted the overwhelming necessity of teaching eternal things to our eternal creatures.

Showing our children Christ’s glory

When my son's faith in Christ was opposed, his reaction was one of determined obedience. “I don't care what they do to me! They can't keep me from worshiping Jesus!” are the words that came from his little mouth as an overflow of his heart. This is not because my husband and I are perfect parents or because our son is an angelic little Christian, but rather because Eli has seen that Jesus Christ is valuable.

If we are to raise our children in a world that will only increase in its hatred for Christians, and we desire for our children to endure this hatred, then we must show them the glory of Christ and his worthiness. Jesus Christ is the fundamental truth who precedes all other reality, matchless in glory and worthy of all worship.

Do our children see this truth emanating from us? Do they learn from our words and deeds that Christ is our beloved King? Do they see us loving him and making hard choices for him? Are they witness to our praise of him and our singing songs and hymns that glorify him? Are we teaching them who he really is or are we teaching them that he's simply the “reason for the season” or the reason we have to wake up early on Sunday mornings? Are we begrudgingly worshiping him or are we joyfully heralding his majesty?

Much of what our children come to know about the value of Christ Jesus will undoubtedly come from us. Let us dedicate ourselves wholeheartedly to the passionate praise of our King, not simply because we want our children to see us, but because we are enthralled with the glory of the gospel and what Christ has done to ransom our souls! Let’s be a generation who models the obedience of laying down our lives for the Lord to the next generation.

Felicitatis and her seven sons

When I think of raising children who would gladly lay down their lives for Christ, I am reminded of the story of Felicitatis and her seven sons in Foxe's Book of Martyrs:

Felicitatis, an illustrious Roman lady, of considerable family, and the most shining virtues, was a devout Christian. She had seven sons, whom she had educated with the most exemplary piety. Januarius, the eldest, was scourged, and pressed to death with weights; Felix and Philip, the two next had their brains dashed out with clubs; Silvanus, the fourth, was murdered by being thrown from a precipice; and the three younger sons, Alexander, Vitalis and Martial, were beheaded. The mother was beheaded with the same sword as the three latter.

I am not calling anyone to seek a violent death or elevate these saints above their station, but there is an important point here. Felicitatis endured the crushing heartache of witnessing the death of a beloved child whom she had raised and brought up in the admonition of the Lord seven times. What devastating heartache. I cannot begin to imagine what that must have felt like.

And yet as I ponder it, I cannot help but imagine that as Felicitatis and her seven sons passed from this world and into the presence of their Savior Christ, they knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that enduring such hatred had been even more worth it than they had the capacity to imagine. Let us keep this in mind as we raise our own children to see and know and endure for the glory of the gospel of Jesus Christ.