Healing a Divided Nation

Healing a Divided Nation

We are living in both troubling and exciting times.  With recent events in our nation, I have discovered that many people are angry, afraid and feel like something needs to change.  On both sides people are afraid of tyranny and the loss of freedom. On one side we have people who are concerned that the liberal left is promoting a Marxist agenda that will silence all opposing voices and lead to a loss of freedom and will destroy the Republic. On the other side people believe Trump is a tyrant who knows that he lost the election and is manipulating people to keep in power and will destroy the Republic.  It seems to me that the immediate danger to our Republic is the growing root of bitterness that is destroying brotherly love and leading to a civil war rather than civil dialogue.  Forget the “elites” and the “fringe,” most people are committed to their positions because they want to be good, loving and to help people.  Regardless of people’s perspectives, it seems that God has broken the apathy and complacency of almost all Americans.  I believe this creates an incredible opportunity for the church to shine like a light, provide godly leadership and bring in a harvest if we will fix our eyes on Jesus and be a people of hope and faith.

One of the problems we are facing is insecurity.  In a cold world governed by chance where life is ultimately meaningless, there is no genuine security.  Thankfully that world does not exist, but instead we were created by God with purpose and significance.  Indeed, all of history is being guided by His sovereignty to deliver us from the power of sin and death through the gospel into His kingdom where there will one day be no more pain, sorrow, or death.  In addition, when we study history, we see that no matter what people have faced on earth, God’s grace and presence has always been with His people and many times the church has overcome the very wrath of hell itself and brough light and liberty to the world. Once we rest in that truth, we are no longer afraid of what the future may bring.  That is why my prayer for our community is: “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13, NKJV).

When the world sees our faith, hope, love, and the security we have in Christ we will be a light in the midst of a world in turmoil.  Yet, we also need to have a strategy to heal the nation and to pass on the blessings of Christ to our children and grandchildren.  Before I go into that strategy, I will mention that one of the messages of the book of judges is that when the Israelites worshipped Canaanite gods, God handed them over to suffer under Canaanite culture.  When they cried to God, He delivered them.  The principle is that worship precedes cultural change.  Change who we worship, and we will eventually change our culture.  That is why, after God delivered Israel from the oppression of Egypt, He gave them His law.  The purpose was to preserve and pass on true liberty to future generations.  The strategy is revealed in Deuteronomy:

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 6:4–9, NKJV).

The first part of the strategy has to do with us, our love and worship of Christ.  The second part is to teach our children to walk in the fear of the Lord. While that includes the statutes and decrees of God, the first thing He tells us to do is to tell them about the mighty saving deeds of God in history and by implication, those we have personally experienced.  Remembering God’s saving deeds causes us to trust God even when it seems like the world is falling apart.  Throughout scripture, when people either trusted or cried out to God, the Lord worked mighty deliverances that defied natural human strategy.  The challenge of faith is the same today, do we really believe God can bring salvation in the midst of a seemingly impossible situation?  Whenever people believe God and turn to Him with their whole heart, they find He is mighty to save.  God can save individuals from fear, anger, frustration, and bitterness in our hearts and He can save our nation as well if we turn back to Him and follow His strategy for cultural transformation through the gospel.

With all that in mind, at Fortis Academy we are committed to teaching our children the fear of the Lord and to trust in Christ with their whole hearts.  While I believe the majority of people who are concerned about our society want to help people, the problem is that there are few who truly look to the wisdom of God revealed in scripture to structure society to be a blessing.  Good intentions to save the world that are contrary to Christ and His word create hell rather than heaven on earth. Human utopian dreams always turn into nightmares. Not only do we need the right ethics and structures for society, we need the right people to implement them.  There are few who have walked with God through the refining fire so that they have grown mature in Christ and are able to do what is right in the midst of pressure and temptation.  One of the goals of Fortis Academy and of classical Christian education is to train people in the wisdom of God and to develop the character and virtue necessary to lead people and nations into the purposes of Christ.   I am grateful to be a part of an educational community that is committed to a strategy to heal the nations through investing in the next generation.

The US Constitution Alone Does Not Preserve Liberty

The US Constitution Alone Does Not Preserve Liberty

I remember talking with some friends about the Iraq war before troops were deployed.  I told them that I did not believe we would be able to free the Iraqis because they did not have freedom in their heart.  For years I heard people talking about spreading democracy around the world as though this would bring freedom to people.   In that statement there are two important signs that Americans are losing their understanding of liberty.  The first is that no form of government can make people free if they lack the virtue and faith required for successful self-government.  Just because people vote does not mean they are truly free.  Second, the emphasis on democracy may imply the triumph of secular humanism in the fact that a democracy does not acknowledge an eternal standard of morality but instead determines ethics by the will of people.  Our founders understood this and that is why America was founded as a constitutional republic that looked to God’s standards of right and wrong and biblical truth as a sure foundation for national blessing.  Once the moral foundations of a society are destroyed society crumbles.

Recently I had a dialogue with someone online who demonstrates how we have lost our founding values.  I responded to a video they posted that stated, “Homosexuality is found in 450 species, homophobia is found in only one.  It is obvious which one is unnatural.”  I responded with, “Reason is found in only one species. Apparently when we approve of acting like animals, we lose the ability to think. The laws of nature are understood by reason not the behavior of animals.”  This sparked an interesting dialogue where I discovered the person who posted it is a homosexual, tarot reader, practicing witch, drug user and a professing Christian.  That may sound like someone who is far away from the mainstream, but many of the values and perspectives he proclaimed were very much mainstream.  The values we hold and the lifestyles we live are the foundation of the fabric of society.  If they are contrary to God’s design, then the nation will stray farther into a world of darkness where people will suffer in a broken world separated from the love and presence of God.  When people are no longer able to see self-evident truth, the solution is an army of people motivated by love and empowered by the Holy Spirit, that are armed with the rhetorical skills to captivate the hearts and imagination of a lost generation to turn the nation back to God.   It is our sincere prayer that God will use Fortis Academy to raise up a generation that will restore the fear of the Lord to America.

One key to restoring liberty to America is education.  Rabbi Sacks said, “To defend a land, you need an army, but to defend freedom, you need education. You need parents, families, and homes and a constant conversation between the generations to see that your ideas are passed on to the next generation and never lost. . . . You achieve immortality not by building pyramids or statues—but by engraving your values on the hearts of your children, and they on theirs, so that our ancestors live on in us, and we in our children, and so on until the end of time.”[1]  That is one of the goals of Fortis Academy.

While the US Constitution has created a system of government that in many ways reflects a biblical social architecture, it is only as strong as the character and faith of our citizens.  If we want to preserve the blessing of American freedom and faith for future generations, we need to engrave Christian faith and virtues on the hearts of our children and give them the skills to lead and govern society according to biblical values.

[1] Guinness, Os. Last Call for Liberty (p. 39). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.

Hope for America’s Future

Hope for America’s Future

As we are approaching the 2020 election and I reflect upon the last year in America, I believe we truly are a nation that is in turmoil.  A year ago, I would not have expected that we would see riots, looting, statues being torn down, an economy being shut down or that there would be a movement to defund police departments.  This has challenged me to think deeply about what I have seen in recent decades in America, and as I do, I realize that much of this should have been expected.   For decades, our public schools and higher education has indoctrinated students in secularism and Marxist ideologies.  An anti-Christian vision of society has been forced upon us through law, media and entertainment.  The dream of liberty being defined as freedom from sin has been replaced with a vision that freedom is to do whatever we want, in other words, a freedom to sin.  We have embraced a worldview that man is nothing more than the highest evolved animal and that there is no purpose or significance to human life. We have gotten to a place in our culture where many people cannot see the self-evident truth that God designed men and women to raise families in the covenant of marriage or that humans in the womb must be protected.  The issues that we are facing are both serious and dangerous.  They are so entrenched in our culture that they will not be fixed through an election, or even many elections.  We have been in the midst of a culture war for the faith and character of our nation for many decades and the only way we can win this war is by raising up a generation who will restore the fear of the Lord to America.

We all need to wrestle with our own convictions in order to pass faith in Christ and hope for the future on to our children.  I have heard many people express that they have no hope for the future of America, that it is impossible to win the culture war.  To some, the issues we are facing seem insurmountable.  Yet, because of a deep faith in Jesus, a knowledge of scripture, an understanding of history and what I see at Fortis Academy, I have hope that everything can be turned around.

When I ponder the birth of America, I see a people who caught a dream of liberty due to the first great awakening.  They dared to believe that God champions the cause of freedom and they boldly went to war with the most powerful empire of the day.  In many ways it was an impossible war to win.  After suffering terrible defeats during the war, many patriots questioned whether they could win.  One of the key elements of success in war is morale, and with morale hanging in the balance, people needed a word of hope.  John Adams gave such a strengthening word when confronted with that very question; he boldly proclaimed that they could win if they would fear God and repent of their sins.  The point is that great victories can be won against tyranny and sin through faith in Christ and obedience to Him.  We can do the same today.

We need to raise up a generation that loves the Lord and has the courage and skills to change culture.  I see that happening at Fortis Academy.  I have great hope because of the commitment of our families, our faculty and staff, but most importantly, because of our students.  They are being given the type of education that every child should receive.  It is an education in faith and virtue that develops the skills of persuasion.  As Christians, we know that no matter what happens in the world, Jesus Christ is Lord.  He wins!  Yet, I am deeply convinced that it is our Christian duty to champion love, liberty and truth in culture because that is pleasing to God.   In our students, I can see the hope for the future of America.

Ordering Our Loves

There are many benefits to private Christian education, and one of them is a safe environment for our children to grow in their faith and their Christian character.  Our passion is not just to see our kids obey rules, but to love and do what is right.  One of the goals of classical education is to rightly order our loves.  C.S. Lewis writes, “St Augustine defines virtue as ordo amoris, the ordinate condition of the affections in which every object is accorded that kind of degree of love which is appropriate to it. Aristotle says that the aim of education is to make the pupil like and dislike what he ought.”[1] We always pursue what we love and when we love that which is good we cause earth to reflect heaven.  Hebrews speaks about Jesus: “You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companion.” (Hebrews 1:9, ESV).  A life that loves what is good is also filled with joy.  Our passion is to raise our children to love what is good, but we also acknowledge that this is not natural, it is the result of God’s grace and a biblical education.

There is something incredible and wonderful about every child.  They are all cute and lovable.  They are also descendants of Adam, who introduced sin into the human race, and are not perfect either.  In Christian circles, there is often a high expectation that we should be loving and virtuous, and that is as it should be.  That is certainly the goal we should all be striving for, yet what truly creates a Christian community is not the lack of sin, but what we do when people do sin.  We must have rules in place to protect our children, but we also need to pray and seek God’s grace to change hearts to love and do what is good. They need to be inspired to love and follow Jesus.  One way a classical Christian education does this through a curriculum that works a Christian worldview into every subject with the purpose of giving students a vision of who Jesus is and what it looks like to be loving and virtuous.  Yet that is not enough, because we also want them to become genuinely good and loving, and that ultimately comes through God’s grace.  That is why discipleship and the great commission are the foundation of Fortis Academy’s mission.  We hope that all of our students will become lifelong disciples of Jesus Christ.

While our curriculum and studies are aimed to help our children know and love what is good, true and beautiful, at the heart of Fortis Academy is a genuine longing that each of our children would develop a personal relationship with and commitment to Jesus Christ.  We believe that the greatest chance for this to happen is for us to model such a life before our children.  One of my professors said that it was his mission in life to infect people with the love of Jesus.  That is what we need to do by modeling a love for Christ and for all that is good, true and beautiful.  When we consider how much our children our worth and how important their relationship with Christ is, we have to conclude that the heart of a Christian community that can succeed with such a vision is through the grace of God.  May the Lord touch our hearts and help us to touch the hearts of our children so that their loves may be rightly ordered, and that their first love is Jesus Christ.

[1] Lewis, C. S.. The Abolition of Man (Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis) (p. 17). HarperOne. Kindle Edition.

The Power of Ideas

The Power of Ideas

Society reflects the ideas that are in the hearts of people. We can imagine the power of ideas by examining just one of the predominant ideas of our day, that man is nothing more than a data-processing machine that evolved.  (more…)

An Axe to the Root

An Axe to the Root

We are facing many cultural problems as a nation, and I would challenge that what we are doing at Fortis Academy is preparing a generation to solve those problems.  Some years ago, the media was very concerned because the suicide rates of military vets were increasing at an alarming rate.  A good friend of mine who worked at the VA at the time pulled the suicide rates of the general public and discovered that the suicide growth rate among vets was lower than the growth rate of the general public, implying that we have a very significant cultural problem as a nation.    Since then the rate has continued to increase.  Some are categorizing these as deaths of despair and include deaths cause by the current opioid crisis.

We are also seeing some very frightening examples of violence such as school shootings.  Not too long ago, there was momentum to hire a security resource officer for the Liberty Hill public schools and in the end they ended up with their own police.  At the time I began asking questions and found that the primary danger is not from those outside the school, but from students or ex-students.  While all of us are willing to do whatever we can to protect our children, we should also be asking the larger question about the cause of the problem.

In light of problems like these, the words of John the Baptist bring hope, “And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire” (Luke 3:9, NKJV).  While contextually John was referring to the Jewish nation, the principle is that the gospel of Jesus Christ gets to the root of the problem and is able to remove everything that bears bad fruit.  The gospel mandate is to make disciples who accept all the Christ has taught us, and that includes developing a biblical worldview that teaches ideas such as rooting the value of people in truths such as being created in the image of God and being redeemed by the death of Jesus Christ.  The hope for the future is to raise us a generation who is firmly rooted in Christian faith and virtue, and this requires the right kind of education.

Current public education is only utilitarian.  The goal is the prepare children for jobs.  Plato saw serious problems in his culture and proposed an educational system that focuses on developing virtue, especially a love and knowledge of good as a solution.  That dream never truly succeeded until Jesus Christ, because Jesus is the fountain of all goodness, truth and beauty.  The Western educational tradition that brought forth modernity succeeded because it was ecclesiastical. That is what classical Christian education is restoring in our generation, and it cuts to the heart of the problems facing society by giving people purpose and significance in Christ and calling them to be His disciples.