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Welcome to the second in what is likely to be a blog series that will last me the rest of my life (should blogs still be a thing in the future). This is a series where I freak out at the prospect of having to raise a real-life human creature! This is also a series in which I take my expensive theological education and figure out what that looks like on the ground, in real life, as a parent.

Youth group was a formative time for me, despite my absenteeism. Before I was ever married I accepted a job as a youth pastor at a church. All of this to say, the formation of children and young people is something that I thought about before ever having children. With marriage, comes talk of children. And with talk of children, comes talk of how you will raise said creatures and this of course involves matters including but not nearly limited to education.

Christina and I have spoken at decent length about education and what we’ll do when Charlotte and our other children reach that age. We’ve had similar conversations with our parents and family members. We have friends who homeschool, un-school, send their kids to private Christian school, send their kids to montessori school…the list goes on. For someone unfamiliar with options other than regular old public school these other methods may seem strange and scary. There are, however, some significant philosophical and methodological questions being asked here. There are significant advantages to pursing a non-public-school education for your children. Furthermore, for the Christian, there are really important issues to be grappled with here.

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I got into a discussion, of sorts, with some folks on facebook (where else?) the other day on the subject of what Christian parents ought to do about their children’s education. It was sparked by the video embedded above. The video is of Gary DeMar, founder (I think) of an organization called American Vision whose mission is to, “Restore America to its Biblical Foundation” by “Exercising Servanthood Dominion”. Then, when America “recognizes the sovereignty of God over all of life…America will be again a ‘city on a hill’ drawing all nations to the Lord Jesus Christ and teaching them to subdue the earth for the advancement of His Kingdom.” Phew. That was a mouthful.

At any rate, this is a growing opinion in some Reformed circles (though, I hesitate to even attribute the term “Reformed” to these groups as I’m not sure they’re getting the Reformers right…but I digress!). Here in Ontario, Christian parents are increasingly concerned about the public school curriculum (and for good reason, I might add). We are told all sorts of things about said curriculum: you’re child will learn about same-sex marriage in the 2nd grade; anal sex in the 7th grade; evolution (!); and so on and so forth. Worst of all, we’re told that parents have no say in the matter, perhaps because it may well be the case that parents do not have the right to control how their children will be educated. Now, some of this is indeed problematic and is worth challenging, but how?

Some of my brothers and sisters argue that Christian parents should withdraw their children from the public school system entirely. Indeed, this is touted as not only a Christian response but the Christian response. Listen to Gary in the video above: “If you really really believe in a Christian worldview and you really want to believe that you can make fundamental changes in the world, you’re not going to be able to do it with someone educating your children 6 hours a day 5 days a week 10 months out of the year for 12 years.” And again: “Every aspect of your life has to be awash in the things of God’s word, you can’t do that if you’re sending your kids off to a completely different worldview.”

Did you catch that? (I hope you did, I italicized it.) “You’re not going to be able to do it”. “You can’t do that if…”.

Removing one’s children from the public system is held up as the only fitting Christian response to this current crisis. This, I argue, is at best fear-mongering rooted in ignorance. And, (perhaps) well intentioned but ultimately irresponsible leaders like Gary here are having a negative impact on everyday Christians (surprise!). I recently had a sister in the Lord tell me that if I sent my daughter to public school that she would come home dressed as a boy and confused about her gender (!). I had another conversation with a university professor at a Christian institution who attempted to convince me that not only was the public school system “at odds with the Christian faith” but that Christians in N. America are a persecuted people group and that the public school system is out to teach our children that “white, male, heterosexual, evangelicals” are “archetypal oppressor(s)”. Thus, Christian children will be educated within a system that considers them “structural oppressors”. As a result, our children will be unable/unwilling to self-identify as a Christian in the public system. When I was unconvinced by this gentleman’s arguments he proceeded to tell me that I was naive, irresponsible, and putting my children’s innocence at risk.

I sincerely wish I was making this up.

The new face of "structural oppression", according to concerned Christian parents and their understanding of the public school curriculum.

The new face of “structural oppression”, according to concerned Christian professor and his understanding of the public school curriculum.

This post is already getting long-winded. My point here is simply to suggest that (1) Christians have nothing to fear from the public school system because Christians have nothing to fear, and (2) there is not a Christian response to this matter only varied responses from varied Christians whose ultimate desire is the same — faithfulness to Christ in the midst of a watching world. These matters take wisdom, patience, and much prayer. I’ll try to make a point of writing a follow-up post in which I will offer another possible option for Christian parents that differs from the one expressed in the video above. In conclusion, I leave you with the words of Michael Ramsey:

“Let me add one final counsel. Beware of attitudes which try to make God smaller than the God who has revealed himself to us in Jesus…Whenever exponents of the Christian faith treat it as something which we have to “defend” like a beleaguered fortress or a fragile structure they are making God to be smaller than he is…(c) So too there is a spirit of fearfulness which thinks that no good can ever come of movements which are outside the camp of Christendom, forgetting that God could use a Cyrus, an Assyria, or an altar-to-an-unknown-deity in his great purpose in history. We are not indeed to confuse what God does as redeemer in the unique sphere of gospel and Church with what he does as illuminator through the light that lighteth every man (sic); but to be blind to the latter is not to enhance the former or to understand it better.”

And again: “But certain distinctions can be drawn. It is one thing to state main Christian principles, or to denounce a particular downright evil. It is another thing to commend a particular programme, on which the technical skills and wisdom of competent Christians may differ, and to say “This is the Christian programme”, as if to unchurch or label as second-grade any Christians who might for good reasons dissent.

I welcome input and even push-back on this matter! Thoughts?!

Lord, grant us wisdom. Amen.

A group of persecuted Christians praying outside of the Canadian Parliament, Ottawa.

A group of persecuted Christians praying outside of the Canadian Parliament, Ottawa.

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It is well known that the ancient Greek society was rigidly structured. Individuals within that society each had roles that they were born into (i.e. master, slave, male, female , rich, poor etc). Aristotle has much to say regarding this. For Aristotle, in order for a society to be good and just each member of the society had to accept his/her role and play it and this began in the family. So then, for Aristotle, there could be no ordered society if there were no ordered family.

This is similar talk that you might here nowadays from particular (conservative?) Christian circles. Exceedingly, the emphasis is placed on the family unit (for example). What is needed is a focus on the family. A properly ordered family will lead to a properly ordered society (for example). The purpose of life, “is lived out first within our own families then extended, in love, to an increasingly broken world that desperately needs Him.”

To be sure I have a family. I love my family. I think family is important. My goal here is not to detract from the family. No, I think that Jesus and other New Testament figures do a better job of that than I. Consider some of the following sayings of Jesus:

“Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household. He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it,” (Mt. 10:34-39).

“While He was still speaking to the crowds, behold, His mother and brothers were standing outside, seeking to speak to Him. Someone said to Him, “Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside seeking to speak to You.” But Jesus answered the one who was telling Him and said, “Who is My mother and who are My brothers?” And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said, “Behold My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother,” (Mt. 12:46-50).

Who does Jesus consider his “mother and brothers”? “Whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven.” In contrast to this, John tells us that, “not even His brothers were believing in Him,” (7:5). Family within the kingdom is not necessarily the same as family in light of the world.

See also Paul’s letter to Philemon. Speculation about the relation between Philemon and Onesimus aside, Paul writes to Philemon, “for perhaps he was for this reason separated from you for a while, that you would have him back forever, no longer as a slave, but more than a slave, a beloved brother,” (v.15-16).

Remember Aristotle and the structured Greek society? Each member had a role that they simply had to play. Well, Paul speaking to this very world, proclaims that, “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ,” (Gal. 3:28). In the kingdoms of Greece and Rome there may very well have been structured roles to play. However, in this new kingdom, in God’s kingdom, all of the roles that would generally serve to separate folks are done away with, “for you are all one in Christ.”

Further, each role in society came with certain expectations. In Romans 13 Paul seemingly plays into this: “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities,” (13:1). Wayne Meeks argues in The Moral World of the First Christians that the ruling class in these days literally made up 1% of the population (we are the 99%, anyone?!). Paul continues on and it seems that he is arguing for this sort of structure in society: “Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour,” (13:7, emphasis mine). But then he goes on: “Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another,” (13:8, emphasis mine).

So wait, what do we owe people? Tax? Custom? Fear? Honour? Nothing? Love? For Paul (in his own subversive way), as for Jesus, it would seem that this new society is founded on something other than societal and familial roles. “For you are all one in Christ.” This is a society in which the nature of Philemon’s relationship with Onesimus is forever altered—no longer slave, but dear brother. This is a society in which we are to, “owe nothing to anyone except to love one another.” This is a society based on what we might call friendship. And it is thus, as Wayne Meeks argues, that the earliest Christians were ridiculed as not only pagans but as those who were out to destroy the family.

BABIES!

So, Christina and I are pregnant (technically she’s pregnant). We’re expecting our little one to arrive on July 26th.

Christina’s sister Katelyn is getting married two weeks before the baby and my sister Jessica is getting married the first week of September. All in all, a fantastic summer awaits!

Exciting times.

Well we’re back! Christina and I touched down at Lester B. Pearson in Toronto at about 2:00pm on Sunday. When you’re away for that length of time and living out of a suitcase it always feels great to be home. So much happened in our 3 weeks in France and Hungary that I couldn’t possibly highlight it all. However, despite that I’ll be writing a couple of posts highlighting particular things that really changed us.

We went to Europe with an amazing group of people from the Toronto area and Minneapolis (although they were dubbed honourary Canadians for the week!). The team was made up of the following people.

Howard, Caron and Patty Moore. Howard is the Canadian Director of Greater Europe Mission (GEM), Caron is his wife and Patty is one of their daughters who just so happens to be a Paramedic (this came in handy when a women fainted on one of our flights).

Paul, Vicky and David Burke. Paul and Vicky are pastors of Church in the City, Church in the Beach and Urban Cornerstone Church in Toronto and David is their son.

Flora. I’m not sure of Flora’s surname, so I won’t try but she is the mother of Vicky Burke.

Keith and Noreen Jacka. Keith and Noreen are a part of Church in the City and live downtown. They both have their Ph.D’s in education.

Kathryne Silver. Kathryn was a last minute addition to the team. She’s 18 and will be going into her second year at Tyndale this fall.

Peter Goulos. Peter is a part of Church in the Beach and works for RBC in downtown Toronto. He is Greek and hilarious.

Casi and Andy Buch. This couple is from Minneapolis and are quite fun to be around. They’re moving to Spain on September 16th so that Casi can teach English for a year in Madrid. Their last name means ‘book’.

All of these people were so great and we really enjoyed getting to know them over 3 weeks! We look forward to hanging out more.

Everyone came from different experiences and walks of life, but we all love Jesus and had at least that in common. There were 18 year old college students and retired Doctors. Bankers and Pastors. Singles and married folk. However, these differences only made us stronger as a Body.

Myself, Andy, Kathryne, David, Christina and Casi in front of the Gare de Flandres station in Lille. A little blurry, I know.

L-R: Myself, Andy, Kathryne, David, Christina and Casi in front of the Gare de Flandres station in Lille. A little blurry, I know.

Patty, Flora, Paul, Caron, Peter and Vicky.

L-R: Patty, Flora, Paul, Caron, Peter and Vicky trying to figure out where to go in Vienna, Austria.

Howard, Keith and Noreen at Basilique du Sacré-Cœur in Paris, France.

L-R: Howard, Keith and Noreen at Basilique du Sacré-Cœur in Paris, France.

Peter, myself and David at the GEM Conference in Sopron, Hungary.

L-R: Peter, myself and David at the GEM Conference in Sopron, Hungary.

We love you guys!

Grace and peace.

JT

Lot’s has been happening lately which partially explains why I haven’t written much. From June 27 – July 7 Christina and I took a group of 9 students and 1 other leader out to Glace Bay, Nova Scotia to work alongside Dave and Shirley Sawler. I’ll write more on this later.

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This past week we held the first ever Cornerstone Sports Camp: Foundations for Life and Sports. This was a sports camp put on for kids in the Aurora community. A lot of work went into this and it turned out to be a great week. We ran baseball in the morning at a local park and then basketball in the afternoons at a local high school. The kids all had a great time and it was really fun getting to know and spend time with them. Definately look forward to doing this again next summer. Kudos to all of our volunteer coaches and team leaders!

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This evening Christina and I headed down to Church in the Beach to hang out with the Burkes and the local Body there. It was quite the evening. The group of people that we are heading over to Europe with include the Burkes and some people from the faith community in the Beach so we gathered there as a sort of ‘send-off’. It was great. I really love worshiping with the folks at CITB because they all seem so free from pretense. No one pretends that they have everything figured out. The leadership isn’t convinced that they are the most dynamic leaders the world has seen. It’s refreshing. There was probably about 30 people that were there last evening. Most evangelicals would likely chuckle upon hearing that number but I tell you, God was present.

Howard Moore, the Canadian Director for Greater Europe Mission preached about the mission of Jesus. We looked at how/why the Father sent the Son into the world and the impact that this had on the Church being sent into the world. Great stuff. Afterwards we had a time of prayer for those of us heading to Europe.

Then came the party. After our gathering everyone, and I mean everyone, headed back to the Burke residence and partied. Food, drinks, converstation…the whole bit. Why party? Well one of the women that has been a part of this community since 2001 has been a refugee in Canada since 1999. Just this past week she won her immigration case and was granted refugee status! Great! Paul asked her if she had anything she wanted to say. “I won!” was her cry. Then from the back of the room came this: “We all won!” Wow. This really hit home. How wonderful. This woman did not win this case by herself. Rather, the entire community won and was granted refugee status. At times like this I realize how true Paul’s words are: “so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others,” (Rom. 12.5) and “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of your is a part of it,” (1 Cor. 12.26-27).

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This Friday Christina and I along with a group of others head over to France and Hungary for 3 weeks. Essentially the break down of our time looks like this: we’ll spend a week in Sopron, Hungary at a conference for church planters from all across Europe. I’m super stoked for this and can’t wait to learn from these people. Then we’ll head back to Paris, France for a week where we will try and be Jesus on the streets there. Finally, we’ll take the train up to Lille, France to try and be Jesus on the streets there. What’s really cool about Lille is that it is about 60% muslim. This is one of the cities where there were riots between muslim youth and police a couple of years ago so I’m pretty excited to walk those streets. I’ll try and update with pictures and stories from along the journey.

Grace and peace.

JT

“If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector,” – Jesus (Matthew 18:15-17).

In my experience, most people are terrible at dealing with any sort of conflict or disagreement. I say most and not all because there are some people that are better than others at dealing with such things.

Much of Christs’ teaching has to do with how we ought to relate to others. The above passage is no different. Jesus is here talking about what you ought to do if someone “sins against you.” For our purposes, let’s broaden that a little bit to anything that someone does to upset you including saying something that you may disagree with.

When someone becomes offended or upset I most often see one of two reactions: 1) The hurt person goes and complains to someone else about the particular situation or, 2) The hurt person says nothing but stores up bitterness towards the person that has upset them. Both of these reactions, although prevalent, are extremely problematic and poisonous. Let’s say someone says something that I disagree with. Is that unfortunate? Maybe. However, what is even more unfortunate and just flat out poisonous is if I react in one of the two ways listed above. Let’s look a bit longer at the above responses.

1) If you are hurt or upset by something that a person says your reaction ought not be to run and complain (“tell”) to someone else for, “a gossip separates close friends” (Prov. 16:28 ). Gossiping can very well fuel your own discontent towards the person that has upset you. Sharing and gossiping with someone about how terrible another person is for saying such a thing simply gets you more worked up and angry at the person that has done the hurting and this in no way resembles the love and grace we are to show others. Yet this happens every single day. People are hurt all the time and their first reaction is to tell someone else (now certainly I’m not saying that you should ALWAYS approach the person that hurt you because in some cases this may not be safe, but I’m simply talking about your average situation where something was said that you may disagree with etc). When will we learn to practice better, more constructive ways of dealing with hurt?

2) Likewise, if someone says something that is upsetting to you it is unwise to do nothing and allow yourself to become bitter. Paul exhorts the church in Ephesus to “get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice,” (4:31). Bitterness ought to have no place in Christ’s Body. Likewise, the writer of Hebrews says we ought to “see to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many,” (12:15). The writer of Hebrews teaches that bitterness can “cause trouble and defile many.”

As Christians, we *ought* to relate to people differently. If we are upset about something that has been said we should not react by gossiping or becoming bitter because these reactions are not reflective of being created anew. We are made *new* in Christ and ought to demonstrate a better way of living, that includes a better way of dealing with conflict and hurt. Jesus prescribes a better way when he says, “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you,” (Mt. 18:15). If we truly believe this and do it we can save ourselves all of the hassle that comes with the previous two options and in so doing we can actually demonstrate a better way. When you go directly to the person to show them their fault (instead of going directly to someone else to show them someone else’s fault!) you eliminate the gossip. There is no chatting amongst people. There is no hearing things from third or fourth or FIFTH parties! If you are hurt, go directly to the person and let them know you are hurt. When this happens and it is kept “just between the two of you” then “you have won your brother over” and it is an edifying experience for all those parties involved: People are encouraged by one another, the truth is spoken in love and we are able to grow *together* as a Body and rejoice in that! (The same cannot be said about gossip). Likewise, if we handle conflict in such a way it leaves little room for bitterness. If you are hurt and go to the person to talk about it and share your hurt with them and they listen to you then you both grow closer and there is mutual healing and edification. This eradicates any bitterness because you are left healed and encouraged.

I think that the Church has much to learn in the area of dealing with hurt/conflict, however, when I see Jesus I see hope. As Christ’s Body we can demonstrate a better way! In fact, this is our DUTY! So let us do away with childish things such as gossip and bitterness and let us pursue truth and reconciliation, and over these things let us put on love.

Grace and peace.

JT.

this is nothing new. people have been talking about this for along time, however, i’m beginning to experience it for myself. so here it is.

if you live anywhere in the developed world, like myself, you know what it’s like to walk into a mall. shops of all sorts and sizes. they are renovating the mall close to my apartment to add in new stores. we have shops that sell 50 different kinds of popcorn, shops that sell clothes for big ladies and small ladies, shops for skater kids and kids that want to be in the next abercrombie commercial, sports shops, jewelery shops, nutrition shops, zellers and restaurants. if you like yoga, go lulu. TVs? try the sony store. whatever you want, it’s there. clothes, food, gadgets and books. all under one roof. all you have to do is show up with your family or friends and stroll down the halls, stopping in at the shops you like and purchasing whatever you want. give me what i want.

and, if you live anywhere in the developed world, like myself, you know that this attitude isn’t reserved for the mall. people are completely detached from products, people and places and they have this notion that whatever they want, they can get. just go out and buy it. out with the old, in with the new. when you live like this, it effects all aspects of your life. so what happens when you go to church?

well, if you live anywhere in the developed world and go to church, like myself, you know what it’s like to see church become yet another commodity. next time you meet a churchgoer ask them, “why do you go to your particular church?” in all likely hood they will probably go on about some sort of program for their kids or the great worship or the preaching or the 3-ply toilet paper. is this healthy? is this church? when you attend a particular church because of what that church can offer you, aren’t you just strolling around the mall? but the problem is, this isn’t the mall, this is a community of faith. the problems with this consumer mentality when it comes to church is that it never ends! maybe you attend your church because they have a great kids program. well suppose the childrens minister leaves and you hear of another church across town that has an even better kids program. “let’s go there!”

my point is simply this, church isn’t meant to be another thing that you consume. can we be honest and call this what it is? it’s selfish, it’s self-centered and it’s not reflective of the renewal of one’s mind. when we gather as a community of faith, we gather not to consume, but to be consumed. we gather with the hope that Christ will consume us, all of our strengths and our failings, and that he will in turn, send us out to be consumed by others. so it’s not about great programs or crappy programs, it’s about committing yourself to the Body and playing your part, whatever that is. it’s about dying to yourself and your own crappy desires and being renewed by the Spirit so that you can learn to desire rightly. it’s about realizing that you are important to the local Body, even if you’re the body part that releases excrement.

church is all about consumption. just not the kind we’re used to in the developed world. so lay down your life, pick up your cross and be consumed by Christ so that you can become food for others.

grace and peace.

jt.