Monthly Archives: March 2015

“F.A.T. People”

“F.A.T. People”
By Dr. Bob Stouffer
Saturday, March 21, 2015

Cheryl and I had a tremendous spring break.  The highs during the day in Tavernier, Florida were in the mid-80s.  Sunny skies.  Excellent evening meals in five-star local restaurants.  Amazing sunsets every night.  The wonderful hospitality of our host, Ted.  Life came to a screeching halt, and we enjoyed our time together alone — without pressing deadlines or the active lives of our children and grandchildren.

I watched a lot of people on the beach, in restaurants, and along the waysides.  And one thing really stood out for me, as I sat and read in the shade, allowing my bride to enjoy the sunshine of the Keys.  There are a lot of fat people in the world, especially those who should be covering up more in the tropics.  I hate to sound so critical, but obesity is definitely a problem in our country.  And, before you believe I am speaking as one who is holier than thou, I number myself as one of the fat people in this world.

I was convicted.  Among my conservative estimate of 80% of the overweight people in Florida, I am one.  Of course, I can be quick to rationalize and compare.  I cover my obesity better than others.  I know how to suck in my gut.  I don’t look as fat as others. It’s the same as saying, “At least I’m not a murderer when I compare myself to other sinners.”  And, yet, still I sin and fall short of the glory of God, whether it’s my poor stewardship of the body in which He has entrusted me, or the murder of my anger, unforgiveness, or impatience with others.

May I pull the plank out of my own eye before I attempt to take the speck out of my brother’s or sister’s eye.  May I truly be another kind of F.A.T. guy.  F.A.T. is an acronym my Pastor loves.  He rightly calls all of to be F.aithful, A.vailable, T.eachable Christians.  Jesus calls us to “be perfect,” but, of course, He knows we will fall short of that mark.  He doesn’t dumb-down the standards.  Be perfect.  Be holy.  Be faithful to Me, Jesus says.  FAITHFUL.  And AVAILABLE.  As the Holy Spirit puts obvious work before us, we must be available to complete the work for His glory.  FAITHFUL.  AVAILABLE.  And TEACHABLE.  Humble.  Broken.  Hungry and thirsty for righteousness.  Open to the Potter molding me, the clay.

So I need to be more careful about the amount of sugar I consume, the number of hours of sleep I enjoy, the minutes of exercise in my schedule, the margin in my time and financial resources.  And I won’t be as fat as I am now.  But I DO need to be a different kind of F.A.T. in the days ahead.  May we all submit our lives to the Lord, and may he find us FAITHFUL, AVAILABLE, and TEACHABLE!

“Entrust”

Pastor Dave continued his sermon series on Acts, and you may be interested in my summary of his message from Acts 20, which is summarized below.

“Entrust”
By Pastor Dave Brooks
Waukee Community Church
Sunday, March 22, 2015

Text:  Acts 20:13-38

Summary and Editorializing by Bob Stouffer

We are entrusted with a huge responsibility as part of the body of Christ.  The Gospel message is SO important!  Paul was telling the Ephesians to be trustworthy messengers — and to never give up.  Follow Jesus.  Live like Jesus.  Love like Jesus.  Give like Jesus.  Never quit.  It is very important to follow Jesus in a culture where leading is valued more than following.  Before you can lead well, you must learn how to follow and learn how to lead.  We should find leaders we admire and follow the lead of those leaders.

As Christians, we must learn how to follow Jesus.

HOW SHOULD WE DO SO?

Two ways:

FOLLOW JESUS’ EXAMPLE.
There have been plenty of Christians who have gone before us.  Paul models this behavior.  “Follow me, as I follow Christ,” he said to the First Century Church.  Paul lived among new Christians, so they could see what Christians thought, said, and did.  Paul loved those he was among, and he encouraged them to love as he loved.  Paul taught the true Gospel.  By God’s amazing Grace, He came to us when we sinned against Him (and even hated Him).  Also, we must finish what we start.  Fight the good fight.  Finish the race well.  Hear, in the end, “Well done, you good and faithful servant.  Well done.”  Paul kept serving God, even though he was constantly imprisoned and afflicted.  It will become increasingly difficult to be a Christian in the American culture.  Don’t quit.  The Gospel is worth the struggles. Fix your eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of your faith.

FOLLOW JESUS’ INSTRUCTIONS.
Proclaim the whole counsel of God.  Read the instructions.  Heed the instructions.  Follow God’s plan for your life.  Keep watch over yourself and over all of Waukee Community Church.  Beware the false teachers (wolves) who will attack you.  Don’t get lazy.  Watch for and declare when the enemy arrives.  Care about doctrine.  Know what you believe.  Live what you believe.  Love each other.  Love the church.  This church — Waukee Community Church — was bought with the blood of Jesus!  In Revelation, Chapter 3, John the Apostle rebuked the Church of Ephesus for losing their first love of Christ.  Beware the purveyors of self-reliance, i.e., “God will not give you more than you can handle.” The truth is that “God will not give you more that HE can handle.”  Keep your eyes on the prize, co-inheritance with Christ.  And keeping growing in the likeness of Jesus; this is sanctification.  Keep on keeping on.  Persevere.  Help the weak.  Give.  It is more blessed to give than to receive, Paul wrote in Acts 20.  If you are indistinguishable from people in the culture, something is wrong.  Don’t quit.  Christianity has been entrusted to us.

“Exploring a New Vision of Excellence in Assessment”

On Tuesday, March 10, 2015, I “attended” a 1-hour webinar featuring Dr. Rick Stiggins, one of the world’s premier educational assessment experts. If you would like to read my summary of Dr. Stiggins’ presentation, “Exploring a New Vision of Excellence in Assessment,” please read on.

“Exploring a New Vision of Excellence in Assessment”

Dr. Rick Stiggins

Portland, Oregon

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Summary Notes and Editorializing by Dr. Bob Stouffer, Principal, Oskaloosa Christian

We are in a time of immense turmoil, regarding testing in our country.

Not only are practitioners struggling with assessment, but also politicians and parents are frustrated.

We are in a time of transition. We are in a time of re-thinking practices.

We need to resolve the conflicts and challenges we are facing.

What does that mean?

We have fundamentally re-designed education in this country, and we need to re-design assessment strategies to match the new mission.

Two decades ago, there were “winners,” “losers,” and drop-outs as a result of our testing programs.   There was “sorting” of students.

Then came “No Child Left Behind.” We want all students to be universally ready for post-secondary education or the workplace after graduation from high school.

The Common Core identified key competencies. Now, we are working toward student proficiency. We are in the middle of that journey.

We have discovered new insights about assessment, which are positively impacting student achievement. We are transitioning to a new era of assessment in American education. As we move, we should be guided by a clear set of guiding principles, which lead us to specific assessment actions to be taken at the federal and state levels.

We have an obsessive belief in state, national, and international standardized tests as primary school improvement tools. But we have left key people out of these discussions, and we have crowded-out time for other more productive assessment and instructional strategies.

The vast majority of teacher and administrator preparation programs do not properly prepare us for effective assessment, yet the assessment time is increasing exponentially. We cannot gather good data and use it productively unless those administering assessments know what they’re doing.

It is indefensible that annual standardized test scores would define a student, teacher, or school.

Policy-makers who do not understand assessment should not set policies which harm teachers and students.

Beliefs, insights, and values have emerged, and we need to pay attention to those beliefs, insights and values:

  1. All students can learn, but they do not learn at the same pace, in the same way, or in the same order. We must flexibly consider instruction and assessment in ways that accommodate that reality.
  1. Students are among the most important data-based instructional decision-makers in the system. Students are “users.”   And we must consider their perspective.
  1. The focus of our attention must be shifted from state accountability to school district accountability. The crucial decisions should be made at the local area, but the decisions are being made at the national and state levels.
  1. All assessment can and must be of high-quality, not just the once-a-year assessments developed by “professionals.”
  1. Assessments need to serve a wide variety of students.
  1. Decisions made on the basis of once-a-year assessments must dovetail with assessments which are informing decisions every four or five minutes in the classroom.

We are in transition with assessments. How do we use our financial resources and time? Who are the people making the decisions? How do we link assessment to student motivation?

We are coming to understand the need for a universal foundation of sound assessment practices. We are obsessed with test scores, but we are not effectively using the data. Assessment literacy must be universal among administrators, teachers, parents, students, and policy-makers.

Transitions

We are moving from an obsessive belief in summative assessment to formative assessment to inform teaching.

We are moving from assessment as a measure of teaching to assessment as a measure of learning.

We are moving from hopelessness of the “failures” to a hope for all students.

We are moving statewide accountability to local accountability for student learning. Locally is where the critical decisions are made. Assessments are revealing specific proficiencies of students (or lack thereof), promoting learning.

We are moving from “First we teach, and then we test” to “First we learn and then we inform next steps of learning through assessment.”

Teachers, administrators, and policy-makers are key decision-makers, and students should be included in that decision-making as well. This is the piece we have missed over the years. In the past, adults have “done” assessments “to” students. In the future, we need to learn through assessments “with” students.

If we want students to respond productively to assessment results, the antecedents need to be managed well in advance of the assessments.

Everyone should “choose to keep trying,” especially the students, who should be motivated by the assessments. Thoughtless, counter-productive assessments will not motivate students [or teachers].

What students think about and do with results is at least as important as what adults do with results. The students are drawing inferences about their results. They’re asking, “Am I learning? Am I stupid?” If students come down on the negative with assessments, no incredible assessment strategy will mean anything.

We need to keep all students believing in themselves, so they keep trying.

I have hit on a big theme: the student’s role with assessment in the new future. This is a paradigm shift.

Bringing students into assessment as full partners has positively impacted student achievement, according to a Kings College study. A New Zealand study confirmed that conclusion.

Assessment of learning is formative assessment with student involvement.

We need to keep students constantly aware of answers to the following questions:

  1. Where am I going?
  2. What am I expected to learn?
  3. How can I close the gap between where I am and where I am going?

Give students regular access to descriptive feedback (more than “judgmental” feedback).

Define key attributes of student proficiency.

I have written a book on the need increased student involvement in the assessment process: Revolutionize Assessment: Empower Students, Inspire Learning (2014).

(http://www.sagepub.com/books/Book244018/reviews).

The assessment system should be balanced. A balanced assessment system includes classroom users (teachers, students, parents), interim users (PLCs, school leaders, curriculum leaders, and annual users (policy-makers). All of this input either contributes or does not contribute to student learning.   We should bring balance to all these users. We should honor the needs of all users.

Millions of dollars are necessary to develop assessments which are given only once a year, which puts us grossly out of balance for at least the past 70 years. I’m not saying to stop the annual testing. But I am saying the other levels of testing have more power and must be in more balance with the once-a-year assessments.

A greater investment needs to be made in classroom level assessments.

High-quality assessment needs not just to measure student achievement, but, rather, to ENHANCE student achievement.

We need to move away from assessment for intimidation and anxiety production to a state of assessment for hope and confidence in increasing competencies. We need to get all students on “winning streaks,” and keep them there.

I have published a “Students’ Bill of Assessment Rights.” Students must know the pathways to success. Look for this document in the October, 2014 Phi Delta Kappan issue or at my website: http://www.rickstiggins.com/ . (The article is only available to PDK members, but the following URL links you to an article which summarizes the bill of rights: http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/finding_common_ground/2015/02/do_students_need_a_bill_of_assessment_rights.html).

All assessments must arise from a clear purpose, reflecting clear learning targets, and resulting in clear results. Assessments must support student learning and certify that teaching has led to learning.

We’re on a journey, and we’re really making good progress.

What are our action steps?

  • We need to make sure that assessment practices align with the new mission of promoting universal academic competence. Merely measuring proficiency is not the same as using assessment to promote learning.
  • We need to re-define local, state, and federal roles. The U.S. Department of Education should be supporting [not dictating to] local school districts.
  • We need to adopt the Students’ Bill of Assessment Rights.
  • We need to develop high-quality assessments which accurately measure student competency, accessible to all, no matter where in the United States. We should not be spending so much money on “highfalutin” assessments, when the money should be invested in classroom assessments.
  • Let’s also conduct research to measure how we’re doing.

The time has come.

We need to live by a clear set of guiding principals, universally endorsed, leading to specific actions at a variety of levels.

“The Digital Invasion”

Christian school educators from Grinnell, Newton, Oskaloosa, Pella, Peoria, and Sully were blessed by the teaching of Dr. Sylvia Hart Frejd (pronounced freed) at 8:10-11:20 a.m. on Friday, March 6, 2015.  Everyone in this reading audience should consider her ideas in my notes, because we are all impacted in some way by the continuing onslaught of technology in our world.  I urge you to consider that summary, “The Digital Invasion,” which follows:

“The Digital Invasion: How Technology Is Shaping You and Your Relationships”
Dr. Sylvia Hart Frejd
Keynote Address
District In-Service
Pella Christian High School
Friday, March 6, 2015

Summary Notes and Editorializing of Dr. Bob Stouffer, Principal, Oskaloosa Christian School

I covet your prayers.  I am at the point end of the spear with this topic.  People have very strong feelings about technology.  People don’t want you to “mess with” their technologies.

My prayer is that God would transform us from a culture of distraction to a culture of engagement.  Babies are addicted to iPads, and grandmas are addicted to Candy Crush.  This is a topic for all of us.  We are all being impacted.

I like what technology is doing for us.  I don’t want to go back to the Dark Ages of no technology.  But I don’t like what technology is doing to us.  Let’s keep taking steps backward with our humanity to move forward with technology.

We will not all agree in this room about this use of technology.  But let’s agree that God designed us to be in face-to-face relationships.  Let’s embrace eBooks, but the more time we’re looking at screens, the more intentionally we’ll need to be about face-to-face interaction.

We all need to think critically about how we are using technology.

We must incorporate principles of helping our students to develop emotional intelligence.  Students’ Emotional Quotients (EQs) are going down, even as their IQs may be going up.

I wish I knew yesterday what I know today.  We are in the early stages of technology use.  Technology is in its “adolescence.”  Stay open to dialoguing about this topic.   Listen to other people without feeling threatened.  Welcome parent disagreement.  It’s not perfect.  There are drawbacks about technology use, but does that mean that we should throw out technology entirely?  No.  Of course not.

Be a resource for parents.  Don’t put your head in the sand.  Netnanny is the #1 filtering software of Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Google+, etc.

Let’s watch this video of the Ohio Teacher of the Year.  She uses “Discourse” software to track the progress of students; an interactive smart board; “Schoolology,” an educational Facebook on the Internet; Remind101, a group messaging system to stay in contact with all of her students and parents; and an Airliner wireless set to insure that all students are engaged with the learning activities 100% of the time.

There is no dispute: Technology is very useful.  Technology is like fire — both useful and destructive at the same time.  The goal is to maximize the usefulness and minimize the destructiveness.

Forty-three percent (43%) of students have been victims of cyber-bullying.

Twenty percent (20%) of teens have sent or posted nude or semi-nude pictures of themselves.

The average person checks his phone 150 times a day.  We should be tracking our technology use to be accountable.  There is an app called the “self-control” app; it’s ironic to use technology to control technology!  We have the Holy Spirit in us, which should help us control our technology use.

Digital addiction is the most common and fastest growing addiction of our modern time.  There is a lot of pressure on parents to help control their children’s use of technology.  Teachers are pressured to entertain through technology use.  So much time is wasted through entertainment.  When do we say, “That’s enough!”

There is a rise of digital dementia in young people.  People are overusing technology, resulting in an over-development on the left side of the brain.   There are also rising incidences of ADHD, OCD, and other disabilities.

The Internet is making us shallow thinkers.  We need to focus longer and deeper on topics.  We need more “single-tasking” than “multi-tasking.”  A multi-tasking environment is not conducive to good learning.  Virtually every multi-tasker believes he is brilliant at multi-tasking, but they, actually, are not.  This is an important issue.  Students cannot be in “continuous partial attention.”  Students’ brains crave novelty, and the classroom is boring to them with “one thing at a time.”  Chronic multi-tasking is not an excuse for failure to fully attend to important information.  Do you want your surgeon to be a multi-tasker when he is performing surgery on your brain?  The sure sign of brilliance is focus and single-tasking.

We’re launching a campus-wide campaign on Liberty University in the fall:  “LOOK UP!”  It’s not negative.  “Look up!  Make a friend!”   “Look up!  You may meet your future wife!”  “Look up!  Take notes by hand!  Improve your grade!”  New studies show the pen to paper note-taking results in better academic performance.  It’s a personalized situation, though.

Time for Conversation

How has technology helped you as a teacher?  Schoolology is free and helpful. All of the materials are on the website.  Moodle is also a great electronic resource.

How has technology challenged you as a teacher?  We need to create healthy boundaries for technology use (between the personal and professional).  Real people trump digital people.  We have the responsibility to model appropriate use of technologies.  Don’t allow this technology use to take your life.  People are paying more to go on technology-free cruises than for others!  We need to have discussions as schools to determine how we will be communicating with each other through technology.  Make the parameters clear in the school community (for students, parents, and educators).  Don’t burn out!  Have self-awareness.

What additional training would assist you with technology?  Teachers get frustrated when they want to use technology, but don’t have the training to do so.  The Vermeer Technology Workshop in June is focusing on educational technology use.

There is, regrettably, a rapid increase of electronic pornography.  In 1995, 1% of population was viewing pornography; in 2014, 40% are doing so.  In the U.S., 40,000,000 adults admit to viewing pornography daily.  Forty-seven percent (47%)  report that Internet pornography is a problem in their homes.  Ninety-three percent (93%) of boys and 62% of girls have been exposed to Internet pornography before the age of 18.  The highest risk population?  Teenage boys from 12-17 years of age.  The average age of the first view of Internet pornography is 8 years of age.

Covenant Eyes and Fight the New Drug websites include good resources for resisting Internet pornography.

The Demise of Guys, a book by Philip Zimbardo, Stanford University

“Young men are educationally and relationally doomed.”

Excessive Internet Use

Video Gaming  (The average guy will spend 10,000 hours prior to age 21.)

Internet Pornography

Beware the smart, introverted kids who find “accomplishment” and “community” in gaming.

Be a good steward of technology for God’s glory.  As Christians, we must have a voice to change the culture in regard to technology use.  We’re wasting too much time with technology.

Children spend 40% less time with their parents than a generation ago.  This next generation will be the first to have a shorter lifespan than their parents.

Nature Deficit Disorder (NDF) is a real problem.  Parks are empty.  Kids are sedentary in front of screens.  Virtual seems more exciting, but the real thing is better for you.  There is a Vitamin D deficit of people from not getting outside, contributing to higher incidences of cancer and obesity.  Schools can contribute to healthier lifestyles.  Children form (good and bad) habits which last a lifetime.

Signs of Digital Addiction

Anxiety about not being able to use a device
Lying about digital use
Failed attempts to cut back
Spending more time in digital life than real life

Steve Jobs told someone once that he wanted the iPhone to be as pleasurable as his previous pleasure through cocaine.  We laugh, but there is truth in how the iPhone has impacted our culture in this addictive way.

The bottom line is to ask those with whom you live, so they will hold you accountable.

Technology should promote conversation, not lead to additional screen time.

Get kids to think for themselves, not to depend upon Google for answers.  Kids used to go to their parents with questions of interest; now kids go to Google.

Digital Wellness Plan

Keep informed about our digital world.  Growth of the Internet is exponential.

Encourage conversation.

Establish your own digital boundaries.

American Academy of Pediatrics Screen Time Guidelines

Children under 2 should have zero screen time.  Children need physical touch.  They need to attach emotionally with their parents.  They need to feel seen, valued, and heard.  Six-month-olds can navigate the iPad and then crave it.  There is now an iPotty app for potty training!

Children over 2 should experience no more than 2 hours per day.  Children need active engagement with their parents and other children.  Screens should not become electronic parents.

The average child is spending 8-10 hours a day on screen time.

Children need and crave conversation.  Don’t let the introvert turn inward.

Emotional Intelligence

With the digital invasion, there has been a 40% decrease in empathy and a 30% increase of narcissism.

This is the generation of the “selfie.”  It’s embarrassing and self-promoting.  “It’s not about you.”  It’s all about God.  It’s not about the number of people following you.  It’s about the number of people you’re serving.

Think about ways you can incorporate EQ instruction in the classroom.

IQ gets you through school, but EQ gets you through life.

There are long waits for counseling services at college campuses.  Students who have not gained a good attachment with their parents will have attachment difficulties for their entire lives.

Research is showing that journaling brings anxiety, depression, and suicide rates go down.   Journals allow conversation between the teacher and student.

Five Keys to Emotional Intelligence

Self-Awareness.  We don’t want to be alone with our thoughts and feelings.  Technology offers 24/7/365 “connection.”  If we’re not with people face-to-face, we will be “lonely.”  Be still.  Be quiet.  Know that He is God.  Reflect back to students what they’re feeling.

Self-regulation.  Experience and process the emotion.  Determine appropriate responses.  Help students manage stress.  Breathe.  Oxygenate the brain.  Get to the deeper, real issues.  Discover what hurts of the past trigger anger?  Go into time-out.

Self-control.  The Stanford Marshmallow Test discovered that students with self-control did better in life.  We need to learn how to defer our gratification in an instant gratification world.

Self-acceptance.  We compare ourselves to others.  We compare our children to other people’s children.  We need to have greater empathy for how people will be receiving our personalities, identities, and communication.  I’m writing a new college curriculum: “Look Up!” One strand is called “Be Yourself.”  Who are you, really?  Who does God say you are?  We are chosen by God.  We are children of God.  We are the apple of His eye.  May your life one day be as awesome as you portray on Facebook.  Accept yourself as you are, including your flaws.

Self-expression.  Know what you need, and ask in a way which is calm and civil.  Don’t up the ante and escalate impatience/anger.  People should be able to express our needs to others.  Too many people are hyper-sensitive and unwilling to confront others about their inappropriate behavior.  Be a thermometer, setting response, not a thermostat which gets cold to those who are cold or hot with people who are unkind.  I-Messages are better than You-Messages, i.e., “I feel sad when you yell at me” vs. “You make me sad when you yell at me.”

I am writing a new book, Reclaiming Conversations (with God, with self, and with others).  What is the biblical lens for relationship?  Be able to read other people’s emotions, so you can have a higher EQ.  We are here to serve others.  We are not here to be served by others.  Jesus came to serve, not to be served, to give his life as a ransom for many.

Mindfulness is important.  We need to be present where we are.  Be present to God.  Be present to self.  Be present to others.  This is our spiritual act of worship, to offer ourselves as living sacrifices to God.

We need to help children grow up to be emotionally healthy adults.  Conversation is the relationship.  We remember people through relationship, not information.

Electronic communication for information.  Face-to-face communication for emotion.  What would change if we simply “looked up”?  In parent-teacher conferences, encourage parents how to better relate to their children.

Change is hard.  Get students to think first.  (Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.)  Give reasons and motivation for change.  Teachers have a tough job.  We are educators, coaches, encouragers, motivators, ministers, and disciplers.

3 Digital-Free Spaces

Kitchen
Dining room
Car

These should be places where conversation is encouraged and flows freely.  Get the earbuds out of our ears.

We are not far from implants which allow voice-to-brain communication.  People are already “enjoying” relationships with robots.  When the technology is advancing so quickly, boundaries become even more important.  The wonderful tools of technology can be twisted by Satan to limit relationships and service in the Kingdom of God.

My Digital Boundaries

Give God the first view of your day.  Renew your mind.

Don’t tweet, text, or post until you’ve spent time in God’s Word, prayer, and journaling.

If social media is pulling me down, I log off.  Serve others to lift up the dialogue on social media.

Real people trump virtual people.  Be present where you are.

Unplug and take digital breaks throughout my day.

Regarding technology use, what will you be smiling about years from now?  What will you regret?  We should remember “real life” and relationships.  Use technology, but don’t waste time with technology.

Here is the video which I will be using to launch my nation-wide “Look Up” campaign in the fall.

“Look up!  See God’s beauty!  Be amazed!”

“Culture Shift”

I hate the weekend of Daylight Savings Time.  One simple hour difference messes-up my entire system.  But church was glorious on Sunday, March 8, 2015!  We gathered a half-hour later than usual; ate pancakes, sausage, and fruit; sat around tables; fellowshipped; sang praise songs and hymns; and were also fed the Word of God.  If you would like to read my summary of Pastor Dave’s message, “Culture Shift,” please read on.

“Culture Shift”
By Pastor David Brooks
Waukee Community Church
Sunday, March 8, 2015
Text:  Acts 19:23-41
Summary and Editorializing by Bob Stouffer
Christians are often characterized as stupid and insensitive about the “progressive” ideas of the culture.  The Kingdom of God will always challenge the kingdom of the world.  The Kingdom of God desires GOD’S interests first.  Goodness and godliness are paramount.  We must put God’s interests first.
Considering this passage of Scripture, a temple honored the goddess Artemis in Ephesus.  People embraced Artemis and the magic arts.  Paul was pushing on the culture, and the culture pushed back hard.  Can we impact the culture today in the same way that Paul impacted Ephesus?  Yes, we can, and here’s how:
DON’T COMPARTMENTALIZE YOUR FAITH.
The Kingdom of God should impact every element of our lives.  Christianity impacted the economy in this particular incident of Scripture.  Paul refused to compartmentalize his life.  Jesus impacted his whole life.  Our culture tells us to compartmentalize our faith.  Too many Christians compromise with the culture and compartmentalize their faith.  Spiritual matters should touch every aspect of our lives, including the economy.  God wants to be involved in your entire life.  This is the Lord we worship!  Paul talked about every facet of life from the standpoint of the Kingdom of God.  Paul was messing with Demetrius’ and other tradesmen’s incomes.  Paul was making a difference.  People weren’t buy silver shrines of Artemis after they discovered this was idol worship.  Paul’s talk of Jesus was, according to Demetrius, “robbing” Artemis of “her divine majesty.”  A mob of perhaps as many as 24,000 rushed into a theater, and the theater was in an utter state of confusion.  Imagine the Wells Fargo Arena in such disarray!  Many of the people probably had no idea why they were even in the theater!  FOR TWO HOURS, the mob chanted, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”  Would you let God into every part of your life?!  That’s a choice!  And do not be surprised by the pushback from the culture.
WORK FROM THE BOTTOM-UP.
When Paul arrived in a town or city, he typically went to the synagogue first.  He started with what he knew.  He often started at the bottom of society.  God changed people through Paul.  You should start where you’re at.  Evangelize/impact people in your spheres of influence.  Challenge the ideas of the culture.  William Wilberforce fought slavery for decades in England.  Paul challenged the status quo of Ephesus.  And the Ephesians shouted back at him.
GOD WILL PROTECT HIS CHURCH.
The mob was rioting.  But God raised up the city clerk, who may not have been a follower of Jesus, to calm the crowd and riot.  The city clerk dismissed this assembly of 24,000 people!  God protected His church.  GOD is in control.
Have we compartmentalized God in our lives?  What if you and the church didn’t compartmentalize God?  What if we worked together to embrace the Kingdom of God in moving against the kingdom of this world?!  Jesus and the church are the hope of the world!

“RENAISSANCE!”

Noted author, speaker, and theologian Os Guinness is the scheduled speaker for the Iowa Prayer Breakfast on Thursday, April 2, 2015.  He will also be speaking to an audience at Urbandale High School, 7111 Aurora Avenue, Urbandale, Iowa, from 7:30-9:00 p.m. on Wednesday, April 1st. In preparation for those events, I have read his two books, Renaissance and The Call.  If you would like to consider my short review of Renaissance, please read on.

“Renaissance”

A Review by Dr. Bob Stouffer, Principal, Oskaloosa Christian School

Os Guinness is FAR more than the great-great grandson of the Dublin brewer!  He is one of the world’s premier theologians, scholars, speakers, and writers.  His is a biblical voice with which you can have great confidence.  Os is featured in regular video cameos on Dr. Del Tackett’s “The Truth Project,” produced by Focus on the Family.

Os is a transformative speaker and writer.  His words in the book, Renaissance: The Power of the Gospel However Dark the Times, are life-changing.  Do you ever feel as though the world could not get more evil?  That it’s time to throw up your hands and quit fighting the wickedness of the culture? Os brings great encouragement from his writing in Renaissance.  The sub-title of his book should say it all:  Times are not so dark at any era of world history that we should even think about giving up, because the Gospel has the power to reverse evil in a heartbeat, and the Kingdom of God continues to advance in our times.

Adam and Eve sinned.  That sin has “infected” all of us humans throughout the duration of history.  ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.  Sin breaks our relationship with God.  But God made a way for restoring our relationships with Him.  He sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, to earth, and Jesus lived a sinless life, substituted for us on the cross, died an horrific death, bore the wrath of God, died, AND CONQUERED DEATH — that we might be redeemed and restored to a right relationship with the Father!

Jesus conquered Satan at the cross!  The war has been won!  But the spiritual battles still rage, and Os Hillman gives you hope through his words in Renaissance.  We, too, can have confidence in standing against the tide of evil in our culture.  As Os reminds us, “It is heaven that rules.”  God in heaven rules!  He is sovereign over all!  The world is not worse than it has ever been!  We simply see more evil in the light of day — and in real time as well.  We must stand as a Christian community in a new “renaissance”!  We must not conform to the world, but be transformed by the renewing of our minds and hearts (Romans 12:2)!

One day, God will make ALL THINGS NEW!  He will redeem ALL of broken Creation!  Jesus WILL return, and the New Jerusalem will be established! The Kingdom of God broke through with Jesus at His earthly birth; the Kingdom of God will be everlasting upon His Second Coming! As Os rightly points out in this book, “Our golden age is ahead.”

Os presents another excellent point about Christianity:  “. . .the church always go forward best by going back first.”  What does he mean by that?  What is “back”?  Why would we repeat the mistakes of yesteryear?  Why would we pine for the “good old days” when life is so remarkably better today?  These were questions which became immediately racing through my mind.  But I quickly discovered that I was not understanding Os’ use of the word, “back.”  He says that we, as Christians, must go “back to God.” Revival, renewal, and renaissance occur when we turn from our wicked ways and seek the Lord with all of our hearts, souls, minds, and strength.

I love that Os can borrow a Latin phrase with the best of authors, placing the Latin semper reformanda in the context of his Renaissance analysis:  “No God but God.”  And nihil mihi sacrum nisi sacrum:  “Nothing is sacred but the sacred.”  Finally, non nobis:  “Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to Your name give glory.”

In 1536, the City of Geneva, Switzerland voted to join the Reformation, and, by so doing, committed to “Live by the Gospel.”  Such is a wonderful call to modern Christians as well!  And, for Renaissance, Os Guinness crafted a remarkable catechism from which all of Christendom should operate: “An Evangelical Manifesto: A Declaration of Evangelical Identity and Public Commitment.”  We must read this manifesto and live by it!  Jesus, I pray that you cause a new renaissance, and may it begin with me.  Amen.

“ORPHAN, SLAVE, SON”

I recently promised a friend that I would read ORPHAN, SLAVE, SON, a book by Ben Pasley.  My commitment was half-hearted, especially since I have literally dozens of books bedside waiting to be read.  But I am SO VERY GLAD that I made this book a priority in that reading stack.  Pasley utters profound truths about Christians who too frequently act like orphans and slaves, rather than sons of the One High God.  We are not alone.  We are not orphans.  Even if we don’t have fathers, or if our fathers didn’t do a particularly good job of raising us, our Father in heaven knows every hair on our heads, every thought in our minds, and all passions in our hearts.  We Christians do not need to be slaves to sin; we can be slaves to righteousness through the shed blood of Jesus and the indwelling Holy Spirit directing us on a moment-by-moment basis.  We must not believe the lies of Satan which are being whispered or even shouted in our ears.  We must believe the truth of God, as He calls us to a full inheritance, co-heirs with Jesus Christ!  Read this book, and you will be forever changed.  (ORPHAN, SLAVE, SON can be found on the Amazon website at http://goo.gl/sGShUR .