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SEEING OUR REDEEMER’S GLORY – February 10

When our lives are spared, in what we call a miraculous way; when a loved one recovers remarkably after serious surgery; when things go exceptionally well for our flesh; the words of our mouths often are, “0 God, how good Thou art.” We need no prodding or exhortation to do that. When we receive earthly treasures and fleshly joys, we, as believers, recognize this as His work, see His glory and give expression to it.

Sad to say, however, that same enthusiasm, that same loose tongue, often is not there when we taste God’s work of saving us from our sins. We are ready to confess Him as our strength when all goes well physically, but we are not so enthusiastic and ready to confess Him as our redeemer. The smile on our faces is not as broad when we speak of our salvation.

How happy are you in the knowledge that your sins are forgiven? How much is your soul thrilled when you think of what Christ did for you on His cross? How enthusias-tically can you pray, “Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly”? Is there not so much that you still want to enjoy in this life?

The need is there, but is there the desire to pray with David, “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in Thy sight, 0 Lord, my strength and my redeemer” Psalm 19:14?

There is indeed so much room for us to pray, as versified, those words of Psalm 19:14:

The words which from my mouth proceed,
The thoughts within my heart,
Accept, 0 Lord, for Thou my Rock
And my redeemer art.

Sing of God as your Redeemer as well as your strength. And pray for the grace to see His glory as your Redeemer. Pray that the things here below do not make you forget the washing away of your guilt, and the precious gift of a God-glorifying life like that of His Son. Pray that you may be more and more spiritual, to seek the things above, and be pleasing in God’s sight in all that you do.

Read: Revelation 7

Psalter versification: 41:7

This devotional was written by Rev. Heys and published by the Reformed Book Outlet. 

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A Heart to Teach – A Teacher’s Prayer (10)

As I was thinking about the next main topic of this series (the bounty), I was struck while doing my morning devotions. Reading through Paul’s epistles has brought me to the book of Colossians. Before beginning the book, I read the background information about the book provided in my Bible and was hit with the fact that it is believed that Paul was writing this book to the church in Colossae even though he, personally, had never visited that church and knew of them only through his friend and fellow colleague in the faith, Epaphrus. And yet, Paul begins this letter by penning a prayer from him to God for them. The prayer is quite stirring and powerful when you realize that this is written for saints the Paul doesn’t truly know personally. It’s beautiful and, when we read it through the eyes of a teacher, as Paul, among his many talents, was a teacher, adds another level to the true hopes and desires of a teacher and reveals what the Christian teacher prays the bounty of their work will be. This is the connector between the idea of a teacher’s service for their students and, more importantly, their God, and the reward/bounty of the work of the teacher. It places the reward/bounty of teaching in the proper perspective: that it is all God’s doing, not, ultimately, the teacher’s. Godly teachers realize that all the blood (figuratively speaking, hopefully), sweat, and tears they shed on behalf of their students would all be in vain without the guiding hand of their heavenly Father, and, so, the Christian teacher prays. He prays, as Paul, for students that he knows on differing levels: for some with whom he has built strong teacher-student relationships and for others, perhaps, with whom he has less of a relationship as they’ve kept themselves more distant, or, simply, aren’t as easy to get to know and more reserved. Yet, the teacher prays:

I give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, students and fellow heirs of the promise. Praise be to God for your faith in Christ Jesus, for the love which you show for all the saints great and small at our school, for the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, for the word of the truth of the gospel which is come unto you, as it is in all the world and bringeth forth fruit since the day you heard and knew the grace of God in truth. And therefore, for this cause, I cease not to pray for you, to desire that ye be filled with the knowledge of God in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, that you might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God, strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness. So, thanksgiving to the Father, who has made us worthy in Christ to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light and who has delivered us from the power of darkness and has transferred us into the kingdom of His dear Son. Amen. (adapted from Colossians 1:3-13)

May this be an encouragement for you as you wrap up this year. God has given us His little children to be in our care. Our patience can run thin sometimes as the students prepare and become antsy for summer. Yet, may we pray. Pray that they be filled with the knowledge of God in all wisdom and spiritual understanding and walk in that way that is pleasing in God’s sight.   

Mr. Ethan Mingerink is a teacher at Covenant Christian High School in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

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A Heart to Teach – Service (9)

Since it has been a few weeks since the last post in this series, so let’s quick revisit where we’ve been. We have been looking at some keys for teachers in maintaining good classroom management. We looked at “avoiding mutiny by boarding the H.M.S. Bounty”. The ‘H’ stood for hope, the ‘M’ for match, and the ‘S’ for serve. The final aspect of the analogy is the bounty, which is going to be addressed in the next post, Lord willing. Today, we are going to look at the concept of servitude.

As a teacher, we are servants. We serve our students every day. If you don’t believe me, then perhaps I need to give a definition for servitude. Servitude, from a Christian viewpoint, is doing what’s best for others, often at the expense of one’s own time and energy, in order that God be glorified. As teachers, this is what we do. We serve our students by wanting what is best for them and doing our best to help them be the best servants of God that they can be. We serve them by showing them in our lives that we match up our walk with the walk required by our God. We serve our students when we show them how God is seen in the content areas that we teach. We continue to serve our students when we help them navigate the sometimes-difficult, occasionally-drama-ridden rollercoaster of building friendships and developing social lives within the covenant. We especially serve our students by utilizing wisdom in doing what is best for the students. This isn’t always what the students want. That’s not the service that we are called to. The service we do for our students can sometimes be tough love when discipline is necessary.

The important part of this equation, though, lies in the last part of the definition of servitude: in order that God be glorified. That is the end goal of our service. It ought not be for our glory. It should be our utmost joy to serve God and teach our students to serve God with gladness in their hearts. This comes as a mild warning. It can be easy to lose the joy of this service amongst piles of papers to grade, lesson-planning, student-induced headaches, and the everyday cares of life that often grows and swells over the course of the school year. May we remember the joy we have in serving our Lord in serving our students.

May Psalm 100 serve as encouragement and inspiration for you as you push through to the end of the ever-upcoming close to the school-year:

Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands. Serve the LORD with gladness: come before his presence with singing. Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.

 

Mr. Ethan Mingerink is a teacher at Covenant Christian High School in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

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A Heart to Teach – The Show Mustn’t Go On (8)

“Develop your teacher persona.” An innocent enough phrase, at least on the surface. “Figure out who you are as a teacher.” Still, no major alarm bells. Then the thoughts get developed: “Think about how you want to portray yourself to your students.” – Warning. – “Be able to put on your teacher costume, wear it well for the day, and then be able to take it off and recharge.” – Warning. Warning. – “It’s fine if you distance your ‘at school’ self from your ‘outside of school’ self.” – Warning. Warning. Warning. –

Unfortunately, these are some of the ideas, in various degrees of intensity, that are fed to educators-in-training at the college level. Some aspects of these, in milder degrees, do have some level of truth to them. However, when unpacked, they uncover a disturbing recommendation for those entering education: you don’t have to be the real you as a teacher…you can make it a show. You don’t have to be genuine; you can be artificial. You can talk one way when you’re teaching, but you can walk another way once you’ve left the classroom. You can make your teaching-style an elaborate production, a staged show, in order to mask the person you really are. You can, to put it bluntly, “fake it ‘til you make it.”

At first, this rhetoric in college didn’t unnerve me much. I rather blindly soaked it up and accepted it somewhat. There are some elements of this that are useful tools and advice. You do, as a teacher, have to develop your teacher ‘presence’. That word better captures what a teacher does than the idea of a teacher ‘persona’ or a teacher ‘mask’. It is important for a teacher to devote some time to thinking about how they act in the classroom and what it reveals about them. Questions ought to be asked such as: How strict should I be? How funny should I be? What demeanor would I like to carry in class – relaxed? upbeat? borderline-crazy/intense? How personable am I going to be? How much of my personal life am I going to share and be open about? How am I going to relate to students and form good teacher-student relationships? How am I going to show Christ each day? These are good and important questions, necessary ones even. However, I prefer the word ‘presence’ to describe this development over words such as ‘persona’ because these imply some level of separation, almost like an alter-ego. When we develop who we are as a teacher, it shouldn’t necessarily be something separate from who we are as a person, who God has made us to be. So, when we are thinking about developing and forming how we present ourselves as teachers to our students, it must be done with a level of authenticity. Who we are as teachers needs to be firmly grounded in our own, genuine personality. If it’s an act, quit it. That show mustn’t go on. Your “teacher you” must still be fully and entirely you.

I had a professor in college who got this. In contrast to the message I was hearing in many of my other classes, he understood this need to be genuine as a teacher. He asked us at the start of the year what he considered to be the most important question that a teacher must answer in order to be a successful teacher: “who am I?” He believed that this was the simple, most important question that any aspiring teacher needed to be able to answer, truthfully and genuinely. The heart of a well-governed classroom, he believed, lay in the teacher’s knowledge and understanding of themselves and their ability to live and teach accordingly. The title of this class, by the way, was “Classroom Management”. Being genuine as a teacher is an important part of a well-run classroom.

In my last article, I mentioned that there were two areas in which we as teachers need to “match up.” We need to match with our God and we need to match with ourselves. Matching with God means that we need to live and walk according to the ways of our God. We can’t be hypocrites, saying one thing yet living another. We also, as teachers, need to match who we are in the classroom, how we act, how we present ourselves, with the person God has made us to be. We can’t put on a production that is fake in order to make ourselves look like something or be someone that we are not. This is, in its own way, deception. The Bible speaks at length about how much the Lord is displeased by deception and lying:

  • “A false balance is abomination to the LORD: but a just weight is his delight. When pride cometh, then cometh shame: but with the lowly is wisdom. The integrity of the upright shall guide them: but the perverseness of transgressors shall destroy them.” (Proverbs 11:1-3)
  • “He that walketh uprightly walketh surely: but he that perverteth his ways shall be known.” (Proverbs 10:9)
  • “Lie not one to another, seeing that y have put off the old man with his deeds.” (Colossians 3:9)
  • These six things doth the Lord hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him:
  • “A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, an heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, a false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren. My son, keep thy father’s commandment, and forsake not the law of thy mother.” (Proverbs 6:16-20)
  • “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.” (Exodus 20:16)

There is something important to note in all of these passages and that is this idea of perversion. To pervert something means literally to “alter [it] from its original course, meaning, or state to a distortion or corruption of what was intended” (Google Dictionary). Synonyms include words such as ‘to distort’, ‘to warp’, ‘to twist’, ‘to bend’, ‘to deflect’, ‘to misrepresent’, etc. When a teacher misrepresents themselves and gives a different appearance or “act” than what is true and genuine, what is portrayed is a warped or twisted copy of themselves. This is a deceptive and untrue representation. As teachers, it is important that we present ourselves in a genuine and authentic way that is in-line with who we are as a person and showcases the gifts and abilities and unique personality that God has equipped us with. Don’t try to showcase some other “ripped-off” counterfeit version. Like with all-things counterfeit, sooner or later someone will call-it-out, and it will be discovered as a fake. Students can sense when a teacher is putting on an act, when they’re faking it. Even if they don’t do anything about it, the atmosphere in the room and the respect they have for the teacher is innately affected. The relationships between the teacher and the students will become as fake and superficial as the act the teacher is putting on.

Often this “fake persona” is brought about by one of the greatest dangers and easiest traps to fall into for teachers: comparison. A colleague of mine recently shared a quote that I found to be inspirational: “comparison is the thief of joy”. When we as teachers compare ourselves to others, we risk desiring to be and act like that teacher and risk being discontent with and/or blind to the gifts and unique abilities God has given to us. As teachers, many of us were inspired to go into education by a teacher or multiple teachers. Perhaps we even said to ourselves, “When I’m a teacher, I want to be like so-and-so.” While this, perhaps, is not a wrong sentiment in itself and it’s good that teachers are able to inspire others to be teachers, this can be dangerous territory. You are never going to be able to be that teacher because you are you and, therefore, cannot be them. Also, if that is your goal, you’re never going to think you match up to what you consider to be an extremely high standard. Instead, realize that God has made you to be a teacher and has made you specially to do that with your own gifts, talents and personality. Use those in developing your teacher presence so that it remains still authentically you. A good practice that I have found helpful in developing as a teacher is not to think about which teachers/people I want to be like in order to mimic them, their teaching style, the way they interact with students etc. Instead, give some thought to what it is about that teacher that you admire. Perhaps you admire and appreciate the manner in which they maintain a relaxed atmosphere in their classroom so learning seems to flow naturally and easily. Awesome. Now, don’t seek to do it exactly like that teacher and, in essence, be that teacher in your classroom because you will fail. You aren’t them. Try, instead, to think about the gifts and strengths you have, who God has made you to be, and work to accomplish the desired goal (relaxed atmosphere, for example) using your gifts and your personality. This way, it stays rooted and remains authentic. God fitted you to be his teaching instrument; don’t be afraid to use and show that craftsmanship of God.

Mr. Ethan Mingerink is a teacher at Covenant Christian High School in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

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A Heart to Teach – Matching Up (7)

First year teaching, groggy and still-waking up, I pulled into the parking lot at school. The early morning sun, having just crested the horizon, glinted on the frost still remaining on my windshield and side-windows. Opening the door of my car, I stood and stretched. Looking down, my mind momentarily froze as my eyes registered the clothes that I had chosen to wear that morning. A sudden wave of horror rolled over me. The gray pants I believed I had put on had inexplicably morphed into my brown pair of pants. Somehow, I had managed to put on a different pair of pants than I thought I did, and, although the combo could’ve been worse, it wasn’t particularly award-worthy either. I could already picture the cringe that would sweep across my wife’s face when I got home later that evening.

While having clothing that matches is important enough for a teacher, in the grand-picture it is fairly trivial. However, being able to match up as a teacher is crucially important for your work in the classroom. If you want to establish a good atmosphere in your classroom where students respect, listen, and enjoy your class, matching is extremely important. Now what type of matching are we talking about? There are particularly 2 different areas that it is important that, as a teacher, you are matching: your walk with God and your walk with yourself.

If you’re a parent, you’re well aware of the fact that your children are always watching. They seem to have an innate ability to see and pick-up on little things far more than we realize and, maybe, would want. That’s why we need to make sure to be vigilant in showing them a walk that is upright before God. As they say, “monkey see, monkey do.” Similarly, our students are watching us to see if we are living a life that is in accordance with what we believe. As teachers, we are to lead by example. While not living an outwardly wicked life is, obviously, important, more pertinent to your work as a Christian teacher is to make sure that your life is not just “not bad” but that it would be looked on as a model for others. Paul expresses something similar to this in Philippians 4:4-9:

Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice. Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.

There is a lot going on in this passage. First off, Paul instructs the saints in the church of Philippi to “let [their] moderation be known unto all men.” Don’t hide your faith and your love for God; it is something to celebrate: “Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice.” He cautions them not to worry about anything (be careful for nothing). This is to be done through prayer and thanksgiving, coming often and confidently. That is the model for a Christian. A teacher, if we are being honest, is not necessarily, called to be “more holy.” That is not the idea. The idea, though, is that God has given us the position of being someone that is looked to frequently and observed keenly. In the same way that parents are responsible to their children to be good models to base their life and walk on, teachers are responsible and required to be examples of Christ’s walk to their students.

We are to match our walk up to the standard of God’s law (as much as we are able to as redeemed sinners). Paul says, “Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report…think on these things.” As teachers, these are the qualities and the characteristics that we desire our students think and walk in. Make sure we are doing so as well. If you are advocating that the students spend more time reading good Christian literature, make sure that your Christian books aren’t gathering dust. If you are telling your students how important personal devotions are, make sure that your own devotional life hasn’t lagged and become dormant. If you desire that your students are kind one unto another and serve the Lord with gladness in their hearts, show the same kind of love and tender-heartedness to your colleagues and to your students. Don’t give your students the occasion to accuse you of falling on the “do as I say, not as I do” adage. Paul recognizes the prominent position that teachers have and how others are watching when he says, “Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.” He didn’t shy away from this role. He wanted the saints in Philippi to live a life similar to his own. That was not to say he was without sin. That’s impossible. However, he knew that God had called him to live a life of integrity and uprightness before His face and that he was doing all he could each day to mortify the old man of sin within him and to live a new and sanctified life by the Holy Spirit (Form for the Public Confession of Faith). That’s what he desired for the Philippian saints as well.

This is far from the only passage in which Paul encourages an upright walk, especially for those with prominent positions. In his instruction to Timothy, he says, “Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.” Timothy was dealing with the those in his congregation who were doubting, not listening to, or not giving credit to him due to his age. Paul’s advice to Timothy was that he “set an example” so that those around him would see from his life that He was God’s servant. That’s our calling too, as teachers. Be an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. That, really, is the calling for all Christians, no matter your job or how visible it is every day (Titus 2). We ought all to be striving for this even if a teacher’s walk is more openly regarded than others.

So then, why is this so important? As we’ve seen, it is important for each Christian to model their life after Christ and that they be not hearers of the Word only but doers also (James 1:22-25). However, for a teacher, especially in the light of classroom management, this is exceptionally important. Students perceive when a teacher is being genuine in their walk with God and in their instruction about living for God. If there is a disconnect between what the students hear and what they see within the life of the teacher, this can cause a related disconnect in the relationship between a teacher and their students. Students need to trust their teachers as well as firmly believe that their teachers are living for God first, and that, through that, they are living to do what is best for their students not only for their earthly lives but also, more importantly, for their spiritual lives.

The second area that a teacher must match up is in regards to their own portrayal of themselves. This involves another area of genuineness. We will continue next week by exploring how pivotal it is that we present ourselves authentically to our students and not come across as “fake”.

One parting thought, though, for this week, still on the topic of living a life that is in accordance to the walk we pray our students walk in. One of the most beautiful and straightforward passages in the Bible that speaks about how we are to live as Christians is Psalm 1. May this passage encourage you in your own daily journey with God so that you can relay that encouragement to your students so that they too, can walk in a way that matches with the God of their salvation.

Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper. The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away. Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. For the LORD knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.

Mr. Ethan Mingerink is a teacher at Covenant Christian High School in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

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