4th Wall Blog
Archives - September 2017

Learning to Serve

September 26, 2017
By Clint Fisher, Upper Elementary Principal

"In all that he does, he prospers." Psalm 1:3

What is the aim of my reach? I often feel that I am running and doing, yet I see much that I am not accomplishing. . .

We want our children to learn to serve others, but how do they do this -- for that matter, how do we? This is a question that parents have asked through the generations. There are certainly some things we can do to provide opportunities. We set aside time so the children can experience acts of service. We talk about the needs of others. However, the heart of service is not developed in a single day, but rather over time with constant reminders and focus.

Our country has faced a great deal of hardship in recent days. We see images of people in homes surrounded by water. We see neighborhoods leveled and homes scattered across the land. What do we do with this reality as Christian families and as a Christian school? Last week Kirk Stephens wrote an astonishing article on developing roots called "Storms." The roots we develop are the foundation for serving.

Believing that we are called to serve others, we can easily fall in to the trap of becoming focused solely on meeting their needs. However, we must consider how we serve. If a friend has a need, we meet the need. Yet, we don't stop there. We bring them love and encouragement as well, thus ministering to the whole person. Shouldn't we seek to serve others as we would serve our friends? 

We are so busy. How can we minister to so many needs so deeply? Are we not stretched too thin? I often feel that I am withering in the face of so many needs. I seldom feel like a great tree. What am I to do?

If we look at Psalm 1, we see the picture of a tree planted by streams of water. It yields fruit, and its leaf does not wither. Verse 3 states, "In all that he does, he prospers." We love that last verse, but we do not examine why he prospers. Consider Matthew 13:31-32. Jesus compares the Kingdom of Heaven to a mustard seed. It is not a large seed like the Oak or the great California Redwoods, yet, it was the seed he chose to to use in his comparison. Jesus illustrates that the tiniest of seeds grows into a tree so large that birds of the air come and make nests in its branches. In Daniel 4 God compares the king to a great tree that provides shelter to the beasts of the field and fruit to all around.

How do we root deeply so that we can provide for others as God has called us to do? If our roots are placed in this world, we will be bound to the things of the world. We will wither in the face of the momentous task of serving others. If our roots are found in God, his Word, and the souls of people, then we will find great freedom to serve others. If we abide in Jesus, our roots will receive nourishment to grow strong branches that can provide shelter for others. We will have more to give, will be sensitive to the times He is calling us to serve, and will see others through the eyes of Christ, helping us to sift through things that don't matter in light of eternity and focus on those things that have eternal value. If our children grow roots in Christ, then they will find their hearts less withered as they seek to serve others deeply.

Let's not wait until the end of our lives to discover that this world is empty and that a life planted in this world will lead to withered hearts and fruitlessness for our children. Set your hearts on things above. Be captivated by God's opinion of you rather than those around you. Life is not found in the abundance of one's possessions but only in the presence of God.

Come with me, and let us reach with our roots so that He may reach others through our branches. Prospering occurs below the surface. Thank you, Kirk Stephens, for challenging me to reach with my roots.

Storms

September 19, 2017
By Kirk Stephens

Over the last couple of weeks, we have witnessed how destructive hurricanes can be. For the first time ever, Atlanta was under a tropical storm warning. We have seen pictures of the effects of hurricanes Irma and Harvey. It seems that the largest problem caused by Irma's high winds in Atlanta was downed trees, resulting in widespread power outages. Typically, when you see entire trees that have fallen to the ground, you will notice that their root system is pretty shallow. The trees that have stronger root systems are better prepared to weather storms . . . even hurricanes. There is a lesson in this destructive force . . . and it was brought to my attention by my wife.

How strong is your root system -- your foundation? In what or whom do you find your strength in stormy times? What do you cling to when everything seems to be crashing down around you? You see, from the first day a seed is planted, its root system begins to form. For its roots to grow strong, it must be nurtured, cared for, and tended to on a daily basis. It must grow in rich soil to be strong. The stronger the roots, the better chance the plant has to thrive. It is no different for us, and God gives us an amazing lesson in the midst of widespread destruction. For us to weather storms, our root system must be strong and founded in the One who gives us strength, lest we experience a power outage.

Our family has been battling through the storm of stage 4 cancer for the last 10+ months. The winds have blown, the rain has poured, and we have been afraid at times. I know for certain that we could never have endured to this point without the foundation of the rich theology and truth of God's word. His promises have seen us through the worst gusts of this storm to date. In times of fear and trepidation, we have leaned on the truth that we serve a completely sovereign God who loves us more than we can fathom and is in complete control of the storm. We have leaned on the hope offered through the cross of Christ. It is the source of power given to us through the Holy Spirit -- and it is the only source of true hope in a world that seeks to distract us with its temporary satisfaction.

This points me to a story in the Bible with which we are probably all familiar. In Matthew 14, after Jesus feeds the 5,000, he tells his disciples to get in the boat and go before Him to the other side of the sea. As they are traveling on the sea, the waves begin to beat and toss the boat. During the evening Jesus "came to them, walking on the sea" (v.25). When they saw this, they were terrified. Jesus calms them and tells them not to be afraid, because His is with them. Peter then says to Jesus, "Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water" (v.28). Jesus does so, and Peter begins to walk on the water to Jesus, through the power of Jesus. "But when he [Peter] saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out 'Lord save me''" (v. 30). What happened here? Peter was doing just fine when he was focusing on Jesus. When he took his focus off of Jesus and turned it to the storm, he began to sink.

Peter's roots were growing and being nurtured as Jesus discipled him, but it didn't mean he could weather a storm on his own. Jesus was the soil Peter's roots needed to grow strong. He needed Jesus to save him in the midst of the storm because he was incapable of placing his full focus on Jesus, and Jesus knew it. See, I am guilty of focusing too much on the fact that I have cancer and not focusing solely on Jesus. When my focus is not on Him, I can feel myself sinking into despair, fear, etc. Many times, I have found myself asking Jesus if He was even there. But, He always reaches out His hand to let me know that He is with me in the storm and that He alone has the power to calm the storm. He has never failed to lift me lovingly out of the raging waters of despair.

As we go through our daily lives, are our actions and responses to storms teaching our kids that our foundation is rooted in the person of Jesus and the absolute truth of Scripture? Or, are we teaching them to lean on the things of this world, that only provide temporary solace? These might include our career, our savings account, our homes, our success, our kids' behavior, medicine and doctors (in our case), etc. What is the first thing you run to for comfort in a storm? Are you focused on self-preservation, or do you surrender the storm to the Creator? Is your root system founded in the soil of the perfect person of Jesus Christ? These are scary questions.

Here is the cool part: even when we turn from Jesus, and look for safety in the things of this world, He still reaches His hand out to pull us from the storm. That's where I want my, and my family's, roots to grow -- in the soil of the never-failing Savior!

Setting a Table of Grace

September 11, 2017
By Bobby Scott, Headmaster

Recently I had two occasions to lead believing groups in receiving the bread and wine of the Lord's Table. Christians vary in how much importance they give to this sacrament, from viewing it as a mere remembrance to almost starving for its perceived necessity for eternal rest. Presbyterians are kind of in the middle... believing it is a means of receiving grace worth pursuing, but not desperate that salvation is increasingly assured by its reception.

Though seldom pursued, a "pre-game ritual," an examination and preparation of the heart prior to the Table, can yield a benefit in nurturing the soul -- especially if approached with humility. While we will not serve the Lord's Table at Chapel this Wednesday, there will be an offering of spiritual food, prayer, and worship that has the same potential grace to nurture the souls of all our covenant children. Perhaps a few or many will be drawn by the Spirit to surrender their heart and fully abide in Jesus for the first time. 

I encourage you, as parents and first-responders to your child's spiritual needs, to have a pre-game before Wednesday. Even if you are absolutely sure your child's heart is surrendered to Christ, this chapel could be a vital time for renewal. It could be the opportunity for your child to see his or her need for pruning and purging some unhealthy attitudes and habits that are causing anxiety and lack of gratitude. Or maybe your child's relationships need attention. We will talk about what it means to lay down your life for a friend and our call to love those who are unloved by everyone else. 

Perhaps you could begin a conversation with these questions: Why does the school have a chapel program? What do you want to get out of it? If you do not have the opportunity to begin a conversation around John 15, please at least pray for the Spirit to create a hunger in the soul of all our covenant kids to feast on the grace available during that hour. May it be more than just a memorable event, but a satisfying buffet where all are filled at the point of their greatest need.

A Powerful New Beginning for Your Family

September 05, 2017
By Rebecca Little, Elementary Principal

The 2017-2018 school year is off and running. For those of us who are in education, have children in school, or are involved in discipleship or other church ministry, August and September are months of new beginnings. We have two times a year to make "New Year's resolutions" -- or as I like to think of it, two times for contemplation and expectation. We contemplate and ask God some questions: What do you want me to do this ministry and school year? What changes are you prodding me to make? What challenges might I face? After pondering, contemplating, and planning, we are able to look forward with excitement and expectation as the new year unfolds.

As I was in this process over the summer, I was reading and studying John 15. God began and continues to whisper in my ear, "ABIDE." This five-letter word is now firmly planted on my mind and heart. Jesus repeats this little word 10 times in the first 10 verses. Obviously it conveys an important concept. So, I've been contemplating what it means truly to abide in Jesus. The biblical definition of the word helps us better understand this idea Jesus chose to emphasize. The Greek meaning of "abide" is to remain or stay. When we continually stay connected to Jesus and remain or dwell in the Word, we grow in our understanding of the depth of His love for us and how to trust Him more. This understanding brings tremendous joy. God has given me this word "abide" to meditate and ponder continuously this year.

Hopefully all of us have been in this contemplation stage these last few weeks and are finding time to be still and quiet and listen to the sweet whispers of God's voice. If not, it is never too late to start. Together as a covenant school, we are on a journey of learning to abide with Jesus in a deeper and more profound way.  I want to encourage you as you talk to God to ask Him specifically for one word or scripture to pray for each of your children this school year. He will be faithful to give you that word or scripture, and you can look forward with expectation to what God will do as you continually pray for your child in this particular way over the next several months.

Today the crayons and pencils are still sharp and new, and excitement is still in the air. But we know crayons and pencils become dull, and the excitement of the year will wane. As routines begin to set in and time moves on, let us not forget to ABIDE in Him daily, for He is our life support and our everlasting joy. By residing in Jesus, each of us will be able to follow His will, walk through the challenges, and look to see Him more clearly in each new day!

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