There’s A Big Problem Among High-Achieving Teens And Young Adults

It happened to Tyler Hilinski.

And Justin Cheng.

And Daniel Green.

And Kim Long.

And Miranda Williams.

And Lara Nosiru.

And Elsa Scaburri.

And Sam Symons.

And a host of others just this year.

These people have a lot in common. They share similar ages. They are all high achievers. And they all committed suicide.

As far as we know, none of these young adults demonstrated the typical patters that society once associated with suicide. They went to good schools to study things like neuroscience and law. Eight students at Bristol University and one from the University of West England have committed suicide in just the last 18 months. Tyler Hilinski was probably going to be the starting quarterback for Washington State this fall. He had just returned from a vacation with his family before killing himself. Whatever pain these students were experiencing was not bound by a nation’s borders.

There are no easy answers here. Christians do more harm than good when we resort to clichés about people “needing the gospel.” The same goes for those in the medical world who seem much more apt to administer drugs with questionable results than to address the actual problem.

I don’t know the parents of these young men and women. We must not assume that this is a result of some major flaw in their parenting. To do so would be reckless and self-righteous. But we can learn from these tragedies. The best thing that parents, educators, and others who have influence over teens and young adults can do is to take the time to listen. Pay attention to what they are saying. Get to know the songs and movies that resonate with them and find out why. But as important as listening is, there comes a time when we have to speak too.

We must be careful that the only words those under our care hear are not, “Do more,” “Work harder,” and “Not good enough.” Again, this is not to say that such was the case with the parents of the people listed above. Even those with the most idyllic family situations make the wrong decisions. But I have spent a lot of time on youth sports fields and I’ve come across quite a few parents who would rather give their kids the burden to perform than a word of encouragement.

The young men and women under our care need to be reminded that their true identity is not found in their athletic prowess or academic accomplishments. They are not the number at the bottom of a 20-page paper. They are not their 40 time. They are human beings created in the image of God. It is that, not their abilities, that gives them worth. And if they are Christians, they are sons and daughters of God. It is that, not their accomplishments that gives them hope.

Balance is required here. If we over-protect our students and children, we leave them ill-equipped for the challenges that lie ahead. But if we train them to be nothing more than performers putting on a show for us, we are setting the stage for crisis when the day inevitably comes that they just don’t measure up. We need to challenge them to take risks but we also need to love them when they fail. And in-between the starting line and the finish line, we need to be ready to listen to their fears and guide them through them. The young men and women under our care do not need us to be helicopters or drill sergeants but they could sure use some adults who care enough to listen and know enough to direct.

I don’t have all of the answers for this. There are not Six Easy Steps here. I’m sad for the families of these young adults. I can’t even begin to understand their pain. But perhaps we can begin to understand the pain of the teenagers and young adults in our lives. Yes, even the high achieving ones who show no signs of doing something as terrible as suicide. It starts with compassionate hearts, listening ears, and a few words of wisdom.

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2 (ESV)

 

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Be Careful How You Use The Word Uneducated

The word uneducated has been thrown around a lot over the past couple of days. It’s one of those words that can’t really be used in a nice way. We don’t say that children are uneducated. We just say that they’re in the process of getting their education. Usually, when we use the word uneducated, we’re trying to find a nice way to call people dumb. The only problem is that it’s not too nice. And it’s, well, an uneducated thing to say.

A while back I was driving my 1990-something automobile down a busy road at night when smoke suddenly started coming out from under the hood. I jumped out at a red light and tried to correct the issue. About a mile down the road, my 1990-something automobile reminded me that I don’t know anything about cars. The smoke got worse but I managed to guide the dying automobile into a church parking lot.

I got out and said a prayer.

And then I made a phone call.

The guys who came to help me don’t carry any initials after their names. They’ve never been asked to write a book about anything. They’ll probably never give a commencement address. I, on the other hand, have spent a lot of years in school. When I finish my current degree I will have spent almost as much time in school after high school graduation as I did before.

But standing next to that dead car of mine, guess who the uneducated one was.

Some of the most brilliant people I know have never been to college. Have you ever watched a carpenter work? A good one is one half Michelangelo and one half Mike Rowe. He’s an artist with dirt under his fingernails and blisters on his hands and drive in his heart. And he’s far from uneducated.

There are many times in my life when I don’t know what my next step should be. When I find myself in that situation, I don’t go looking for the guy with the most degrees. I go looking for the guy with the most wisdom. The two are not the same. Typically, the guy with the most wisdom has more gray hairs and wrinkles than he does degrees.

A while back someone asked me if it was a requirement for a pastor to go to seminary. For me, it was. I needed the discipline and rigor. But that’s not the case for all ministry leaders. Some of the best ones I know have educated themselves through interaction with other wise leaders and reading a lot. On the other hand, there are those pastors who can’t keep track of all of their degrees but who also couldn’t recognize the Holy Spirit from a graduation robe.

This is not to say that degrees and higher education do not matter. They do. If you’re getting surgery, you want the guy holding the scalpel to have tons and tons of initials after his name. A good, formal education is a necessity for some. But not for all.

We have to remember that we’re all different. We have different roles. And those different roles don’t make some better than others. Society needs doctors and carpenters. The best example for us is the Trinity where we see one God made up of three distinct yet equal persons. The Holy Spirit is no more or less God because he’s not the one who died on the cross.

No matter who came out on top in the election, I knew I wouldn’t be happy about the winner. I can’t remember the last time that I was happy with the outcome of an election. Maybe one day I will be. But I’ve never called in sick to work or asked for the day off from classes because I needed to cope with the bad news. There are a lot of highly educated people who did just that this week. I know a mechanic, a guy who some in our media would refer to as uneducated, who wasn’t too thrilled with this week’s election results either. But he went to work the next day.

It goes to show, there’s a difference between being uneducated and miseducated.

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You Don’t Really Want Prayer Back In Public Schools

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I grew up thinking that every problem in the country, at least the educational problems, would be solved if the government would just allowing prayer in our schools again. Now that I’ve got a few more gray hairs, I’ve come to realize that I’m not really for “putting prayer back in public schools.”

To be clear, I haven’t gone off the deep end, traded in my Bible for the writings of Gandhi and replaced the preaching time in my church with yoga. I’m firmly committed to Christ, his word and his people.

It’s my faith in how good of a job the government would do at leading and teaching legitimate prayer that is lacking.

At some point long ago, we started believing that in order for our prayers to really work, they need to be said by the principal every morning on the intercom right after reminding everyone that prom fees are due by next week. Before we get what we ask for, let’s take a moment to consider what would happen if prayer were allowed back in public schools.

There are a lot of Christlike teachers, teacher’s aides and principals working in public schools all across this country. But can you be certain that one of them will always be leading your fourth grader in that day’s prayer? Of course not. There is the very real likelihood that your fourth grader will be led by his teacher in a prayer to Lothi the Tree God followed by an interpretive dance to Hillary the God of Womanhood. Are you sure that you want that kind of prayer in school?

A while back I heard a guy talking about the school that his kid goes to. Here’s a quick recap of what he said.

“Man, it’s a great school but they push Jesus too much.”

And here’s the funny part.

His kid goes to a Christian school.

Rule of thumb: if your kid goes to a school with Christian in the name, unless of course that school is Christian Laettner Elementary School, don’t be surprised if he comes home having been taught a Christian worldview. It’s what Christian schools do. Well, at least the good ones. But it doesn’t stop there. If your kid goes to a public school, that is one that is funded and operated by the government, don’t be surprised if she comes home having been taught a secular worldview. You know, how to put condoms on bananas and that sort of thing. No matter the educational setting, it is your job as the Christin parent to use the Bible to either affirm or deny what your children have been taught that day.

If you insist on sending your kid to a public school, teach him to pray. Teach him that prayer doesn’t always have to be out loud. Teach him that God hears the prayers of his people wherever they are. Teach him that some prayers are made without a sound.

But if you prefer to send your kid to a school where teachers and administrators pray to the Father by the help of the Spirit and in the name of Jesus, don’t hold your breath waiting for the government to give that to you. Find a good Christian school.

Putting prayer back in schools is one of those loaded political phrases like, “Hope and Change” or “Make America Great Again” that either has no meaning at all or more meanings than you would like to know. Don’t get me wrong on this. I believe that prayer in school is a good thing. I think that kids are better off starting out the day with their teacher or principal leading them in a legitimate Christian prayer. I think that coaches should be free to pray with their teams. But in a religiously diverse society such as ours, we must remember that in many institutions, prayer would mean nothing more than public statements of whatever faith, or lack thereof, rules the day at that school. At a school in rural Georgia, that could mean praying to God. In Madison, Wisconsin it will likely mean something completely different.

So before we start repeating the talking points about putting prayer back in school, perhaps we should start praying that genuine repentance and renewal would happen in our homes, churches and communities. Without that, your kid would be left with nothing more than diversity day if his school were to start throwing in public prayers every morning.

Prayer never was taken out of public schools. I went to a public school for seven years and prayed frequently. Especially during those moments when the teacher asked everyone to turn in their 12 page paper on the complexities of thermonuclear physics and all I had was a notecard reminding me that some really long paper about something that sounds really hard was due sometime in the distant future. As long as that happens, as long as a girl comes to school after having just watched her family fall apart, as long as classmates die and as long as terror looms, there will always be prayer in school.

No government can stop that.

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A Few Words For The People Who Think That College Should Be Free

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Don’t go.

Or if you’re already there, drop out.

College drop outs have gone on to do tremendous things with their lives. You could be one of them. Contrary to popular opinion, you can live a fulfilling life without a college diploma.

But you think that a college diploma is your right.

Why? Where is this written?

The Bible? The Magna Carta? The Constitution?

No, no and no. The Constitution does speak of our right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Here’s the trick. Your pursuit of happiness can’t cut in on someone else’s pursuit of happiness. When it does, it stops becoming a right and starts becoming criminal.

I don’t blame you for this. Most likely, you’ve been raised to believe that it’s all about you. You were probably given trophies for being on little league teams that went 2 and 14. And, most likely, you attended a school where babysitting and indoctrination took priority over education. So it’s not all your fault.

Someone has to break it down for you and since no one has up until this point. I’m happy to do the job.

Maybe college isn’t for you. I know. I know. It’s your dream. I get it. I had a dream too. My dream was to be a starting running back in the NFL. Things came to a screeching halt for me when I was about 12. So I found something else to do. I didn’t try to force my dream on others. I just found a new one. You should do the same thing.

There is another option but I’m afraid that you’re going to like it even less. It’s just one word. Risk. If you really want to go to college, take out a loan to pay for it and hope that you can get a good enough job to pay that loan off in a timely manner. So you might want to switch your major from Studies of Lesbian Culture As It Relates to Reality Television to something a bit more practical. Maybe law.

Here’s the first rule of economics. Are you ready?

Nothing is free.

Nothing.

Even if you get something for free, someone else is paying for it. And I know that you think that you’re sticking it to The Man by making him pay for it. You’re not. You’re actually sticking it to yourself. You see, if you keep making The Man pay for everything, he won’t have enough money to create a job that could’ve been yours. And eventually, he and all of his other one percenters will leave the country. After enough of them leave, guess what. You become a one percenter. So, Mister One Percenter, are you ready to pay for other people to go to school so that they can get a worthless degree in Sociological Metaphors in the Music of Drake?

I didn’t think so.

You have two options. Take the risk that your diploma will be worth enough to pay back your loans without everyone else’s help or just go find a job working retail or driving a delivery truck. Those jobs are no less important than any other job on the planet. Here’s the thing. If you work really hard, show up everyday, go more than three hours without stopping to Snap Chat someone about how terrible your boss is and try not to stage any walk outs, you might just get a promotion. And if that keeps going, you may even work your way into a position where your employer willingly pays for you to go to school. Or, better yet, you might figure out that you’re already making more money than your friends with college degrees.

Imagine that!

And before too long, you’ll be moving on up in the world. You may even find yourself making $300,000 a year. Oh, but wait a minute. That would put you in the the top one percent.

Now you’re the evil, rich scum.

Once you reach your new tax bracket, you’ll probably change your tune about making the top one percent pay a 90% income tax rate so that some kid you’ve never met can go to school to learn about the impact of Taylor Swift’s music on plant life.

Contrary to what you’ve heard, there’s no shame in stepping away from something you can’t afford.

But there’s plenty of shame in calling that thing a right and making someone else pay for it.

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Missouri And Yale: We Now Return To Our Regularly Scheduled Programming

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I’ve finally figured out what started the low-grade war that is currently raging on the campuses of Yale and the University of Missouri. It has nothing to do with Halloween or some guy in some truck yelling a racial slur at some student.

We can find the source of the problem at a little league soccer game.

Allow me to explain.

I was standing with my son, waiting for his game to start. The current game was winding down and things were getting intense like they usually do among the parents of six-year-old soccer players. At about midfield, two boys collided. There was nothing special about the collision. It clearly wasn’t malicious and I had seen my own sons endure much worse.

But the mother of one of the fallen boys apparently had not.

The fall happened right in front of her. The kid looked up at her and she forgot the first rule of parenting. Never make eye contact with your child when he thinks that he’s hurt but really isn’t. As soon as their eyes met, the kid screamed. The mother sprung out of her chair and walked out onto the field to pick up her son. In typical soccer fashion, the game carried on.

The mother walked her allegedly wounded child over to the other side of the field. As she did, the coach, who happens to be from another country, was in disbelief. I’m sure that he was second guessing his decision to relocate to the States.

“What are you doing? There’s nothing wrong with him.”

And there wasn’t.

But there is now.

The grown up version of that kid is now on the campuses of Yale, Missouri and a host of others and he’s a viral YouTube sensation for all of the wrong reasons. For years, parents have done everything for their children. And in so doing, they have done nothing for their children. Mom’s have made a big deal out of phantom injuries and have indirectly trained their kids to be whiners. Dad’s have seen it as their responsibility to finance every dream of their kids, even if it means allowing their daughters to play defensive tackle on the high school football team and have thus raised little gods and goddesses who don’t know how to cope when they leave home and find that the rest of the world doesn’t care so much about their dreams.

On top of all of that, when mom and dad do decide to land the helicopter and give the kids some space for an hour or two, television or some video game steps in to fill the parental void. Have you ever noticed what is said after a television show is interrupted for breaking news? “We now return to our regularly scheduled programming.” And that’s just what they’re doing. Programming.

So as a result, you have a generation of coddled, ill-prepared kids who see themselves as the hero in some social justice docudrama. And, when other authorities don’t give them their weekly Robin Williams to Matt Damon “It’s not your fault” hug like mom and dad did, well, shut down the campus quad because the safe zone is about to take over.

But there’s something else at play here.

There are people behind the scenes. It’s the “they” group you and I always talk about when we say, “They don’t want that” or, “They want to take that away from you.” In this case, they want to divide and conquer. And, in this country at least, there’s no better place to do that than on a college campus full of pre-programmed self-identifiying social justice warriors. And there’s no better way to kick things off than by reminding people of how offended they’re supposed to be.

So, Instead of simply not going to a Halloween party because you’re afraid that some costume there might offend you, you have to fight to shut down the entire holiday and then drop F Bombs on a professor when he commits the terrible crime of only listening to you and not agreeing with you.

Instead of dealing with a racist on your own, you have to call for the school president’s head because he didn’t get out of his car to get yelled at by you during a homecoming parade and because he hasn’t rushed right in to join some student’s hunger strike.

Instead of simply ignoring some offensive remark, you now have the campus police asking you to report “hurtful speech.”

What would Rosa Parks say about all of this?

“Wait, you’re upset over what now? I fought for respect and equality and you’re fighting over a Bruce Jenner costume?”

Something like that.

All of this comes together to form what appears to be the beginning of a very public collapse of our nation. And as much as we’d like to blame the government, we can’t for this one. They’re just taking advantage of an opportunity. An opportunity that would likely never have been there if more parents had just kept their seats when their kids fell down and prepared them to deal with pain and disappointment at an early age.

Free speech was once welcomed on the college campus like nowhere else. It was a place where people were encouraged to paint, say or do whatever was within their constitutional rights. It produced a lot of weird stuff but weird stuff is protected too. Not anymore, at least on some college campuses. Now, the truth is weird. Facts are weird. Politely disagreeing is weird. Now, the mob of overgrown kids who were raised by helicopter parents and programmed by television, has determined that constitutional rights are just plain wrong.

On the campuses of Missouri and Yale, the mob is winning.

That should scare you. Because a mob, perhaps you know it by it’s better known and less abrasive name – democracy, is nothing more than two wolves and a sheep deciding what’s for dinner.

Right now, our constitution is for dinner.

And if you love liberty, you might be next.

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Back To School Fears

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This is a weird time of year. Some people are really happy. Others are bordering on depression.

School is starting back.

My wife loves school. She works at one. I think that secretly she wants to live inside of one.

I’m the opposite. I can’t prove it but I think that my blood pressure used to go up about 20 every morning when I walked through those double doors and into my school building. I’m all for education. It’s just that some of the most difficult moments of my life were spent in school buildings.

I shouldn’t say difficult. It’s not like I had to bust rocks. I just had to find x. And let’s be honest, what’s the difference really? I’m kidding, teachers! Sort of.

If you’re a lover of all things school, congratulations. Your Super Bowl is coming up. And while you are certainly free to continue reading, this post isn’t for you.

This post is for the students, teachers and parents who are on the verge of worrying a hole into their stomach because of what is waiting for them in just a few days. This if for the tragically average student. I’m writing this for the teacher who fights back tears whenever she thinks of all the fun she had with her family this summer while wishing that that season could somehow swallow up the other three. This is for the parent who is really nervous about loosening the grip on her child even more as another school year brings her baby one step closer to adulthood. This one goes out to the home school parents that are already overwhelmed before the year even starts.

Right now, you probably feel sort of like that lion-hunting dentist that everyone is mad at. Your time to come out of hiding is approaching. And you know that it’s not going to be pretty.

Take heart.

If you are a Christian, you are never alone.

Here are a few things to remember.

1. Trust Jesus when you are scared. 

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:4-7 (ESV)

Fear can consume you or it can be your friend. It consumes you when you believe its lies that the future really is hopeless. It is your friend when it is nothing more than a gentle reminder to pray to the One who is in control and taking care of you. This is best done through prayer.

Be honest in your prayers.

Tell your Father what scares you.

And then remember what Jesus is doing. He is protecting you by standing guard at your heart and mind.

2. Trust Jesus when you don’t understand what to do next, 

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. James 1:5-8 (ESV)

There’s nothing like school to remind you that you’re not as smart and independent as you think you are. There are tests that seem designed for failure. And not just the written ones that students take with number 2 pencils. Parents and teachers face their share of difficult exams too. Instead of coming on white sheets of paper, these exams come at surprising moments in the speed of life.

Your lack of understanding can lead you to apathy, despair and depression. Or it can lead you to your Father in Heaven.

When you find yourself in a situation where you do not know what to do, and you will, ask God to show you. God never promised to give you all of the answers on a test or to fill you in on all of the things the kids are doing while you’re not looking. He has promised something better. He has promised to give you his wisdom. Just ask in faith. You’ll be glad that you did.

3. Remember why you are here.

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31 (ESV)

Your main, Divine objective is not an A in math. It is to glorify God.

You can get an A in math or raise an honor roll student or win teacher of the year and still miss the point. You were put here to glorify Jesus Christ.

Yes, it is possible to do well in school without glorifying Jesus.

However, it is impossible to fully glorify Jesus if you’re cheating, complaining or being lazy.

Maybe God didn’t design you to be scientist. That’s okay. But he did design you to glorify him. So, for the sake of Jesus Christ, do your best.

It’s Thursday.

But Monday is coming.

And this is a Monday that is perhaps more dreaded than any other.

Don’t let it be that way. Instead, know that you are not walking through those double doors and down those hallways alone.

The Sovereign Creator of the universe is with you.

And he has promised to see you through until the end.

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Teacher Appreciation Week

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I don’t know where I would be without the teachers I’ve had. I just know that it wouldn’t be pretty. It’s Teacher Appreciation Week and the appreciation comes easy for me.

Mrs. Guidry, I’m glad that you were my teacher. The year before I got into your class I started struggling with worry. And the struggle was real. I was going to doctors so that they could figure out what was making me so sick. It turns out that it was just worry. That was in the fourth grade.

You came along in the fifth and sixth grade. You taught me how to loosen up. And you taught me how to toughen up. I used to cry because I hated school so much. I can remember crying one morning while I held the door open for you. You had a strong look on your face when you stared me down and told me to cut it out. You knew that nothing was wrong with me.

I’m not sure, but that may have been the last time that I ever cried in school.

Mrs. Guidry, thank you for not settling for teaching me math and spelling. Thank you for teaching me how to be strong. I needed that. And I appreciate you.

Turk Holt and Todd Wright, thank you for teaching me about Jesus and the Bible. There are a lot of guys like you who teach and preach. But there aren’t many who live it out like you do.

Turk, I still remember sitting at your desk with a Strong’s Concordance. You were teaching me how to prepare a sermon. That was in the seventh grade. I still think about that day almost every week when I sit down to prepare a sermon. You shaped me more than you’ll ever know. I needed that. And I appreciate you.

Todd, the last meal that we had together was at a pizza restaurant in Clayton County. There is a greater than 90% chance that that place is currently on fire or the scene of some horrific crime. I was home from college and I wanted to stay. You talked me into going back. You said that the diploma was important but not as important as finishing what I started. That’s a lesson that I still carry with me today. Thanks for being a pastor who was faithful in the pulpit as well as at some table in a pizza restaurant. I needed that. And I appreciate you.

Marsha, you are my favorite teacher. School and I have never been the best of friends so it only makes sense that I would marry a teacher. And a math teacher at that. Thank you for modeling the love of Christ by fighting for the good of your students and the teachers that you lead. Thank you for helping our young sons with their math homework when their dad gets stumped on the word problems. And thank you for giving me a reason to be a better man. When we met, I was Billy Madison. Now, you make me want to be more like Jesus. I needed that. And I appreciate you.

I saw a bumper sticker somewhere that said, “If you can read this, thank a teacher.”

So I guess that’s what I’m doing now. But you all did more than simply teach me how to read. You were placed by God in my life at the moment when I needed you most.

And I genuinely appreciate your faithfulness.

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A Word To Christian Teachers

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You are overpaid.

The only reason why you are a teacher is because you wanted summers off.

Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.

You’ve heard all of that. You know that it’s wrong. But ignorance never stops some people from sharing their opinion, even when that ignorance is embarrassingly on display for all of the world to see. Like when a guy goes on a Facebook rant telling us that, “Teachers need to mind they’re on bisiness,,,,,,”

Apparently, his did.

But you don’t. As you see it, the kids in your classroom are your business. And business is tough these days. But you press on. That’s because you are more than a teacher.

You are a missionary.

Missionaries go to places that the rest of us don’t. They work their way into cultures that some of us like to pretend don’t exist. And, to the best of their abilities, they try to leave that culture better than when they found it. All for the glory of God.

Read the words of Jesus Christ.

“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:13-16 (ESV)

Jesus mentioned salt because of its preservation qualities. In the days before your LG refrigerator, salt is what kept meat from going bad. It prevented decay. Jesus’ point is direct. The world is decaying.

Teacher, you know this perhaps more than anyone.

If you teach at a public school, even a really good one with a great principal and school board, you are still in a broken system. There are some politicians and bureaucrats in authority over you who know more about manipulating the system for personal gain than they do teaching. As a result, they make foolish decisions that negatively impact you, your students and millions more. Each year you attend endless meetings about some new curriculum that you are told will be much better than last year’s curriculum. But you know that the state will change it all again next year. It always does.

Still, you press on.

In a system that is decaying because of corruption and government bureaucracy, you are the salt that Jesus spoke of. In your own little way, you are slowing the decay, maybe not for the entire country but certainly in your classroom.

There is another implication in Jesus’ words when he says that, “You are the light of the world.” The world is dark. It could use some light.

Teacher, again, you know this perhaps more than anyone.

You know the nine-year-old who has to play the role of father and mother to his three younger sisters. You’ve held your sophomore math student’s second baby. You’ve cried with students who have lost friends in yet another car accident. You come home burdened for the kid whose only meal for the day was whatever he got in the cafeteria.

Your students come from a dark world. Darker than most of us will ever know. And you are the only light they ever get to see.

Preaching the gospel is important. There’s an old saying that says, “Preach the gospel, use words if necessary.” That’s garbage. The gospel must be spoken. But sometimes it can’t be. You’re probably not allowed to share John 4 and how Jesus’ grace has impacted you with your geography class. So instead, you are doing the next best thing.

You are salt in a decaying world.

You are light in the dark places.

You are a missionary.

You might not ever get to explicitly share the gospel with a student. But you can still be salt and light. When a kid lives in a house filled with violence, uncertainty and heartache, you have no idea what it means for him to walk into your classroom and see your smiling face and to hear your calm voice. You have no idea what it does to that student when you say, “I’m proud of you.” Even when you have to discipline that student, you have no idea what it means to him when you do it in love and with self-control for his ultimate good.

Here’s another familiar saying from Jesus.

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12 (ESV)

The light that you are sharing is not your own.

It is Christ in you.

So you may not ever get to preach to your school about Jesus.

But everyday, as best as you can, you show your school Jesus.

Jesus has something else to say about that.

Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’” Matthew 25:34-40 (ESV)

Teacher, it’s the end of the year. It’s that time when you’re questioning your career path. Hang on. Your students need you to stand in the gap for them. You might just be the only thing standing between them and absolute darkness and decay.

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I Wish That President Obama Would Have Given This State Of The Union Address Last Night

Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, members of Congress and my fellow Americans,

I’ll spare you the stories about a hypothetical teacher who spent extra time with her students or a woman who was able to start a business, all because of my policies. I want to get right to the point.

America, you’re on your own.

I know that that doesn’t sound very presidential. It certainly doesn’t sound like something that this president would say. But I’ve had a change of heart. As you know, I’ve changed my mind on important policies before. I’m doing it again.

You are on your own when it comes to going to college. I will not be paying for your first two years. Honestly, I wasn’t going to be paying for it anyway. Your neighbors were. But not anymore. If you really want to go to college, save up for it. Come to grips with the fact that you might have to go to college later in life. Better yet, accept the possibility that you might not go to college at all. A college diploma, while noble, isn’t quite the savior we’ve made it out to be. The work of a welder, truck driver and stay-at-home mother is just as noble. Whatever path you take, I wish the best for you. But, when it comes to getting help from me, you are on your own.

That is why, beginning in July of this year, there will no longer be a United States Department of Education. From now on, the education of our nation’s children will be up to states, private institutions and, most of all, families. You are on your own. Make the most of it.

You are on your own when it comes to taxes. There will be no tax increase for the wealthy, as you might have heard I was planning on proposing. In fact, there will be a tax decrease for the wealthy. And the middle class. That’s because, beginning in January of 2016, there will no longer be an Internal Revenue Service or Federal Reserve.

It has been said that my presidency has been hard on jobs. I suppose that I am proving that true. If you work for the IRS, you have a little less than a year to find a new job. And then you will be on your own. I wish you the best.

The Federal Reserve will be a completely different animal considering the fact that it isn’t even a government agency and it answers to no one. In fact, for far too long, presidents have been answering to the unaccountable bankers who are running the Federal Reserve and controlling your money. That stops now. I may not be able to shut this agency down but I can stop serving to it.

Citizens of America, when you are driving in your car, working on your computers and resting in your home, I want you to know that you are on your own. The government will not be there anymore. We will stop reading your e-mails in the name of liberty. We will stop listening to your phone calls in the name of fighting terrorism. We will stop watching you from above in the name of national security. That is why I am announcing a massive overhaul to the NSA and CIA. Every American citizen should live in the confidence that they are being left alone. For the remainder of my presidency, this will be the case. You are on your own.

Finally, there will be one area of your life where I will not leave you alone. When it comes to protecting your constitutional rights, I will be with you. I realize that I have done my fair share to harm those rights. Many of my colleagues on the right side of the aisle have been just as eager to trample your rights. I guess you could say that for the past several years, the one thing that us politicians in D.C. could agree on is taking away your liberty. While I cannot speak for those on the right, or even my own party, those days are over for me.

I took an oath to protect you from enemies foreign and domestic. I didn’t take an oath to give you cell phones, manage your kid’s school lunches or spy on you.

My fellow Americans, there are people who want you to have less liberty. Some of those people live in far away lands. Some of them are in this room. As they work to chip away at your rights, I want you to know that you are not on your own. You have a president who is working on your behalf. But I can’t do it alone. I need you to take responsibility. If this system is to work, it has to be more about you and your family and neighbors loving each other and working together than it does any sort of bipartisan effort here in D.C.

Let me be clear, when politicians in D.C. get together to do something in a bipartisan manner, it’s usually bad for you. But when regular American citizens come together, without the assistance of government, to accomplish a task, good things happen.

I believe that good things can still happen in the United States of America. But I will need your prayers. And you can count on mine.

God bless you.

And God bless the United States of America.

If You Have Kids And You’re Not Homeschooling Them…

I started talking like a Russian as we drove closer to the school. I always do that when I drop my kids off in the morning. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s the result of some emotional scar from my days as a below average student. Or maybe I’m just trying to give them one last laugh before they walk through those double doors and into their classroom.

Me In My Best Russian Voice: “Have gud day. Crush opp-oh-zee-shun.”

I’m sure that there are plenty of nice Russian people. But whenever I talk like a Russian, I always say something about crushing the opposition or breaking someone. I know for a fact where that comes from. Drago. Rocky IV.

My kids didn’t laugh when I told them to crush the opposition. Well, they kind of chuckled. It was one of those courtesy laughs people give preachers when they fail at an attempt at humor. I’m used to that laugh.

Here’s what my youngest son told me.

“Dad, we don’t have any opposition. But we might have a puppet show!”

Each day, when one of us picks the kids up from school, my wife and I find out whether or not they had a puppet show. Or if they crushed the opposition. My wife usually leads them in more thoughtful conversations than I do. That’s because she’s nowhere near as good as me at talking like Drago.

Here’s a question that she always asks our boys at the end of their school day.

“Did you hear any words at school today that you don’t know what they mean?”

This always leads to good parental conversations.

One day one of my sons gave us a nervous answer.

“Yes.”

For a second, my wife and I had thoughts of our son reciting a line or two from Pulp Fiction.

He didn’t. Instead, he just said the word. Here it is.

Coincidence.

I’m not sure if he thought that was a dirty, Pulp Fiction word or if he just didn’t know what it meant but he seemed relieved when we gave him the definition. We told him that a coincidence is when things happen at random, with no planning or for no particular reason.

I loved his response.

“But that can’t happen. There’s no such thing as coincidence since God is in control of everything.”

I was so happy that I almost started singing Amazing Grace in a Russian accent.

There’s a point to all of this.

If you have kids and you are not homeschooling them, you aren’t doing your job as a parent.

Now, before you throw your iPhone across the room and send me a virus or report me to the FCC, hear me out. If your kids, like mine, leave the home everyday to go to school, they still need to be homeschooled. What I mean is that they need to be learning things from you that they can’t get at any school.

They need to learn how to laugh and enjoy their day, even when that day involves a Science test. That’s a lesson that is best learned in the car from mom or dad.

They need to learn how to read. If your kid goes to school outside of the home, and that school is not in the district that I grew up in, there’s a good chance that he will learn how to read. But he needs more than that. He needs to learn how to interpret, analyze and think critically about what he is reading. Again, those are lessons that are best learned from mom and dad.

One of my favorite things about the body of Christ is that there is room for all sorts of different educational philosophies. In my church alone, we have parents who send their kids to public schools, homeschooling parents and private school families. If every single family in your church educates their children the same way and shares the same philosophies of education, that’s probably not a good thing. A church where everyone is the same is typically more segregated than it is unified.

But, regardless of where your kid learns his reading and writing, he needs to be learning at home too. And that’s more than simply helping with homework. It means dropping what you are doing to ask questions, answer questions, raise new questions and even have a few laughs. Trust me, these lessons will stick with your children.

My son was wrong.

He was wrong when he said that he doesn’t have any opposition.

Everyday, your kids and mine face opposition that could keep them from becoming the men and women that we want them to be. Even the best educational environment cannot fully protect them from that opposition. A good church will help them to fight against it. But the primary equipping must come from mom an dad.

In the home.

Or in the car.

The Russian accent is optional.