BirchBox Review: January 2016

So I really didn’t have any friends who had ever to my knowledge use the subscription service with BirchBox. But as I was looking at subscriptions for clothing, BirchBox was one that kept on coming up as a suggested box subscription for men. So I bit the bullet and decided to try it out. It took just about 1 week from my setting up my subscription to get my first box in the mail. I will share my review below: Continue reading

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Audio Drama Review: Jonathan Park: The Adventure Begins

I first learned of Jonathan Park through facebook friends sharing what a great Christmas gift this would make for children. I took a look and was interested, but was afraid to spend $25 on something I wasn’t sure my young children would be interested in at this time. So instead of purchasing them myself, I told my mom about them and she bought them for the boys for Christmas.

I grew up listening to the likes of Patch the Pirate and Adventures in Odyssey on the Christian side and Old Time Radio on the secular side, so I have heard and enjoyed the production of good quality Audio Dramas. I would now add Jonathan Park to that list of quality Audio Dramas.
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An Honest Review of the Book: How To Stay A Christian in High School

HB03-lI just finished a book entitled How to Stay Christian in High School by Steven P Gerali a book written to encourage teens that they do not have to give into the pressures from the world. I kind of had mixed emotions about the book. But here is the good and bad of the book:

The Good

The book was a fresh look at teenagers in the Bible and their ability to overcome great obstacles. I never really thought about how many people in the Bible that we call “Men of God” were really teenagers when their testimony of trust in God was tested. This book really got me to think about other characters outside of the book that faced great testing as a young adult.

As a youth pastor I will adapt some things from this book to encourage my youth group. Two specific teens that the author looks at, Daniel and Joseph, were thrust into pagan societies as teenagers but by the grace of God were able to resist the temptations of the world around them. While they were able to be raised in the early part of their lives in “Christian” homes, as teenagers they were completely separated from the godly influences of their family, but were able to find the strength through God to face their difficult situations. These two were a specific encouragement to me because I know that teens so many times feel like it is impossible to live godly with the seemingly overwhelming ungodly influence around them. This isn’t just how a teen going to public school feels, it is the way teenagers in any type of schooling feels. Even though as I spent my entire teenage years either in a Christian school or homeschooled, I still felt overwhelmed at times with the amount of effort it took to keep a right relationship with God. So there are going to be some good lessons I can adapt from this book.

The Bad

There is a reason that I am going to adapt lessons from this book, rather than use this book as written to use as a Sunday School curriculum. I feel like while trying to make the book feel relevant today, that they over killed it, and at times seemed irreverent to the Scriptures. This isn’t to say that they did it on purpose, but it still struck me in a negative way at times.

I also feel like the author had to assume a lot with some of the points he made, or ways he brought a story together. If I did not already have a keen knowledge of the Bible and the characters that the author presented in the book, it could have possibly come across as more than just creative liberties, but could have made me think that it must really be what the Bible says.

Conclusion

Overall if I were to give this book a rating it would be a 2.5 out of 5 stars. Not a book that I would scream from the rooftops for people to read, but a good one to read like you eat a fish, eating the good parts and spitting out the bones. Looking forward to using some of the thoughts from this book, to teach and preach to my teens.

An Honest Review of the Book: Christian Teachers in Public Schools

9780834128644_p0_v1_s260x420Just this week I finished the book: Christian Teachers in Public Schools: 13 Essentials for the Classroom. While the focus of this book is for teachers, as a parent of a public school child, I appreciated the insight into what challenges a Christian Public School teacher faces and what opportunities there are to shine for Christ.

The author was very honest with the struggles that she faces as a teacher and finding way to witness for Christ. She doesn’t try to make you believe that being a Christian in a Public School is easy, but make you realize it isn’t as impossible as some people make it out to be. The author included a lot of personal material in there: letters from students, writing prompts from students, personally stories, and lessons learned from the classroom.

So just to highlight what I got from the book, here are some things that really stuck out to me.

1) Materials from students

If the author had tried to make it seem like an easy task to be a Christian teaching in the Public School then she would have included all the heart touching perfect stories that come from some of her students. Instead she wanted you to see the reality of why there needs to be Christians both teaching and learning in the public school by including letters and paper from some of her students. Some of the papers were written by students who came from homes filled with drug and violence and the influence that a Christian teacher had on their lives. One story that stuck out in my mind was about a student who had no desire to do any work whatsoever and what she was able to do to convince him to actually get engaged in doing his school work.

2) Personal stories and stuggles

While not everyone will always be interested in knowing someones personal stories or struggles, I believe the author did a good job connecting with the reader with her personal tidbits. At one point she gave a personal story about how she was ready to just give up and quit at one particular school, but God sent a student into her class who really didn’t even belong in her class to answer a writing prompt “The worst thing a teacher could do”. A lot of students gave answers like these: Give homework on the weekend, make us do school work, give to many assignments, ECT. But when this student raised his hand he said, “The worst thing a teacher could do is quit.” The author acknowledged that that one boys answer completely changed her attitude and she decided she could not quit.

3) Little short devotions in every chapter

A unique aspect of this book was the author included a little devotional from a fellow teacher at the end of each chapter that helped re-enforce the purpose of the chapter. Sometimes the devotions really hit home for me, making those chapters stand out above others in my mind.

This book was a blessing to me, I was actually kind of sad to see it end as I am sure there are probably more than 13 life lessons that she has learned from teaching, but the 13 essentials she gave were excellent and very insightful to the ministry of being a Christian Public School Teacher. No matter if you are a parent of public school children, a teacher, or even a substitute (like myself), this book would be a great read for you.

An Honest Review of the Movie: Already Gone

Already GoneI have owned the film “Already Gone: Why Your Kids Will Quit Church and What You Can Do to Stop It” for several years now. I have also shown this film several times to various groups and have watched it several times my self. I know that some feel that I gave the film “IndoctriNation” a very hard review, but I also gave that film a very honest review from my stand point. I also will give a very honest review of this film. So here are several observations from this film:

1. The percentage of “Christians” in public schools

I appreciate that when they had presented their research and found that 95% of Christian families that they polled said that their children are in public schools, that they did not say that it was 95% of Christians as a whole. They never made the assumption that just because of the thousands of Christians that the polled, that it would indicate that 95% of all the Christians in the nation send their children to the public schools. They know that in order to find a true and accurate percentage you would then need to poll the majority of the 75% of people who claim to be Christians. In their research they also did a good job of narrowing it down to a select group of conservative churches.

2. The presenting of the problem

I also appreciate greatly how Ken Ham goes to present the problem of why we are losing our children. He builds a very strong case, and he tells us plainly what errors are taught in the realm of education. However, when he presents the problem, he doesn’t just assume it is in the public schools that the problem exists. He shows how the problem also exists in youth groups, churches, Sunday school classes, Christian schools, and at home. He understands that there is a deeper problem than just blaming it all on a select group of educators.

3. The answer to the problem

Ken Ham in this film does an excellent job presenting the case that Churches, families, Sunday school teachers, and Pastors need to be teaching the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. They need to do more than just preach about salvation, but also need to teach how Genesis 1-11 is foundational to the rest of the Bible and how we find all the principles that pertain to the Christian life in those first 11 chapters of the Bible. He shows that if we fail to teach Creation as the Bible teaches it, then it under minds the rest of the Bible, and that is a “BIG” reason why we are losing so many from our churches today. He doesn’t try to pit the blame on the public schools, but encourages Churches and Families, that no matter what school a child goes to, that THEY are ultimately responsible for teaching their children what the Bible says about creation, death and suffering, sin, ECT. THEY are responsible for teaching children how to give an answer to the science teacher, be it in a Christian School or Public School, that teaches contrary to the Word of God.

4. The acknowledgment of Christian influence in Public Schools

One of the biggest things that I appreciate about this film is the acknowledgement that Ken Ham makes that there are Christian Teachers and Christian Students who are serving as missionaries to those in the Public School. Some people will throw out the “Salt and Light” argument, and say that Christians need to make a mass exodus from the Public School system as a whole, but this film while it does not urge more Christians to go into the public schools as missionaries, it also does not attack those who have been placed in the Public schools by the leading of God.

Conclusion:

I feel like this film, while it focuses on a very negative topic, does a good job of pointing our eyes to a brighter tomorrow if we get back to the foundation of the Bible. Many families and churches have gotten so off based. The blame can not be put on the public school as a whole, because the truth is, if Churches had been doing their job teaching the Bible as true History, true Science, true biology, and as the true directive for life, rather than constantly under minding it, then we would not find Christianity in the state it is in today.

While over all I think this film gives a lot of great tools for being a testimony, there are still some things that I wish the film would have given more insight to. 1) While it does a good job of telling students that they can get the answers from God’s Word, I still would like to see a film that gives instruction to students on ways they can be able to present those answers in the school. 2) As a former public school teacher himself, I wish Ken Ham would have also address the way that Christian teachers in Public Schools can present a Biblical worldview while still abiding by the set rules.

An Honest Review of the Movie: IndoctriNation

Indoctrination-DVD-3DI have been asked by many of my friends who oppose the Public Education System to watch a movie entitled, “IndoctriNation: Public Schools and the Decline of Christianity in America”, and I can honestly say that I have watch the film in its entirety. There were a number of observations that I will make about the film to give an honest review from a youth pastor, public school parent, a substitute teacher, and most importantly a Christian.

1. The difficulty of sharing the Gospel as a teacher.

The movie did do a good job showing that there is difficulty sharing the Gospel as a teacher, but they pushed it so far as to make it seem like a Christian teacher or Principle can have little to no impact on the students in a public school. They make it seem like every public school is going to fire you for speaking about the Lord, grant it there are some areas where this might be true, but the truth be told there are ways to talk about God in the classroom while abiding by the rules of the schools. Some would say that there shouldn’t be rules against talking about God in the first place. But I can tell you that most work places, government or not, do not want you to talk about God when you are supposed to be working. So to separate from public schools for this one reason is hypocritical and unreasonable.

When I worked at McDonald’s during my years at college, I was told from the very beginning, that while I was on the clock I was not to bring up the subject of religion or God. Why? Because I was hired to work not talk about the Lord. Now my co-workers certainly knew that I was a Christian and knew that any time I was not on the clock that they were free to talk to me about Christ.

I can now also speak with authority on the subject of speaking of the Bible and of the Lord in the Public Schools. I am a regular substitute teacher in the Public School Sector. Whenever I enter the class room, I immediately distinguish myself as someone who the students can feel free to talk to about the Bible and about the Lord. I tell them my name is “Aaron McBride, I am a Youth Pastor at a local church and I also do freelance graphic design work”. Pupils know that they can talk to me about the Bible. The only rule given to me as a teacher is this, “you may not initiate a conversation about anything religious, however if a student asks you something about your beliefs or the Bible, you may engage in conversation as long as the student wants to continue the conversation.” I can tell you that I have had entire classrooms interested in my worldview as a Youth Pastor, and have had complete freedom to share Christ in the classroom.

2. The Percentage of “Christians” in the Public Schools

After watching this movie and reading several other sites that speak out against children being educated in something other than a Christian/Home School setting, they have done a good job of making up a statistic. They say that 90% of Christian parents will send their child to public schools, however if you try to find an actual research done to get that percentage it is not to be found. In fact here is what the producer himself said when he was interviewed by The New America.

TNA: You claim that 90 percent of Christian children are enrolled in public schools. How did you arrive at that statistic?

GUNN: It’s hard to pinpoint a precise number. We’ve seen various statistics anywhere from 80 to 90 percent, but the important point is that the vast majority of Christian parents are sending their children there.

The problem with the 90% figure is that they assume that just because a person is a church goer it makes them a Christian. But we all know that there is a big difference between a Practicing Christian and a Professing Christian. If you were to break the percentage down between those two categories you would find that the percentage of actual Practicing Christians in the public school is far less that the 90% would indicate. In the US we have about 75% of the population who claim to be Christian ( Christian being as the media defines it not as the Bible. I do not count the 2% of Mormons in this statistic. If we were to also break down the group of Christians into people who teach salvation as the Bible teaches, the percentage of ‘Christian’ children in the public school would be a lot different from this breakdown.), but of that 75% only 40% of these  claim to go to church on a regular basis and only 20% of those go to church on a weekly basis. So out of the estimated 236.5 million proclaimed “Christian” People in the US only 94.6 million go to church on a regular basis and of that statistic 47.3 million go to church on a weekly basis. If we were to break this down into Christian homes (assuming that these are all 2 parent homes, even though the likely hood is that they are not, it will give us a good ideal of how many American families are practicing true Christianity), there are roughly 47.3 million  families that claim to go to church monthly and 23.6 million of those are active weekly.

In the US there is an average of .90 children per house hold, which if we apply that to our statistics, you would have 42.5 million children active in church on a monthly basis and 21.3 million  of those are active on a weekly basis.  Of the 55.2 million enrolled children in the US 11.1 million are enrolled in schools outside the public schools. Let’s just assume that most of those are people coming from our two breakdowns of Christian families. If the 11.1 million in the other schools come from the larger group, than that would mean 25% of monthly active Christian children are enrolled in a private/charter/home school setting. If it comes from the families that are active weekly in church, the “true Practicing Christians”, than 52% of Practicing Christians are enrolled in private/charter/home school setting (obviously there would be some fluctuation there as we know not all people who go to private school or are home schooled are Christians). So the “facts” found in this film are misleading.

3. Laws that forbid you to speak about God in the Public Schools.

 “Freedom is about raising our children to serve the Lord Jesus… they are forbidden by law to publicly state that Jesus Christ is Lord.” ~ R.C. Sproul, Jr.

Again it is true that there are limits to when and with whom you can talk about God in the public schools. There are laws that are set up to guide when it is appropriate to talk about God, but God can indeed be talked about in the Schools. Students actually have the privilage to talk about God and religion freely according to the law, but teachers are employees of the government and must abide by the guidelines of the law. This does not mean that teachers have to be completely silent though. The Christian Law Association, has given you a good guide for what you can and cannot do as a teacher that can be found HERE.

Students have a lot of right though and if parents and churches will take time to train their strong Christian students what their rights are and how to use those right to tell others about Christ, than I believe we can see a huge change in the lives of the lost seeking for a Savior. You can find a good list of Students’ rights HERE.

4. The learning of objectionable materials

Is it true that there is objectionable materials that are taught in public schools? Yes. Can you opt out of sex education classes and classes that talk about homosexuality? Yes. Can you get permission to opt out of reading materials you would not approve of your children reading? Yes. Is it possible that your child we be told about some of these issues by fellow students? Yes, probably so. Does getting information that you wouldn’t approve of only come from the Public Schools? No.

They make a point in the film that your children will learn things that you would otherwise as a parent never want your child to be exposed to, however unless you live in a cave devoid of any outside influence what so ever your children will be exposed to objectionable materials. I grew up going to Christian Schools and being Home Schooled, but I was exposed to things that my parents would disapprove of regardless of the protection of those types of schooling. It wasn’t because my parents threw me into situations to learn of those negative things, but because I lived and functioned in a “REAL” world, not a make-believe world where everyone was perfect because they were saints borne on the wings of angels to this earth. In a Christian School that was full of only kids from our church, I was exposed to pornography by fellow students, there were people who were found to be doing drugs outside of school, and students who were sexually active. As a home schooled child, there were people I went to church with every week that were home schooled and they would curse, drink, and live in complete disregard for God. So to say that this  happens only in the public school is a misconception.

Just because you child goes to a public school doesn’t mean that they will turn out anti-God and will have a skewed worldview and just because your child goes to a Christian school or is home schooled doesn’t mean they will turn out for God.

Conclusion

Was there some good points in “IndoctriNation: Public Schools and the Decline of Christianity in America”? Yes there were some good points. But by in large the film is not as honest as it should be. I would rather have a film that teaches our children how they can be a godly witness in the Public Schools, if that is where the Lord has led their parents to send them. A film that teaches parents of public school students how to prepare their children to take a stand. Lastly I would like to see a film that shows Christian parents, that no matter what school their children goes to, that THEY are responsible for teaching their children about who Jesus Christ is and what it means to have a relationship with Him. THEY are responsible for teaching a Biblical worldview. In this film they assume that the decline of Christianity is to be blamed on public schools, but the real issue isn’t what is taught in the school, it is what is not taught in the home.

Recommended Resource

images      Knowing that Aric would be starting school this year, we had a lot to consider. We started at home last year by teaching him the typical pre-school things like the alphabet, counting, and spelling his name. We had strongly contemplated home schooling him using an online public school curriculum called k12, we looked into a few options of Christian schools in the area, and finally thought about sending him to a local public school.

Before we could make a final decision we spent much time seeking the direction of God. Some might would say that, since we are Christians and since my wife and I serve in ministry, that there are only two options that we had, to home school him using a “Christian” curriculum or to send him to a Christian school, but this is just not the case. Every child is different, every child has different strengths and weaknesses, and every family must follow the Lord’s leading completely. Early into this process I was leaning strongly toward the public home schooling program, as this would allow us to monitor what he was being taught, and would allow us to adapt the material into a worldview that we embrace.

We continued to pray and watch as Aric’s personality developed, as this would play an important roll into how he would do in different school settings. After months of prayer and watching him grow, we felt like the Lord had given us the wisdom to know that he would do better in a classroom setting, interacting with other children his age. We also felt at peace that God would be pleased with us enrolling him in a Public School.

In preparation for the 2013 school year, which started today, my wife and I began reading a book entitled Going Public: Your Child Can Thrive in Public School. This was an inside look of a Christian family whose children have grown and thrived not only academically but spiritually in a Public School. They give excellent advice on what to do to get involved with your children and that even if your child is in Public School, that you as a parent are still responsible for teaching your child what you believe and why you believe it.

If you are considering placing your child in a public school, or your child is already in public school, I would highly recommend that this book be read and added to your library. It is available in paperback and on Amazon Kindle. You will find a link to it below.

Going Public: Your Child Can Thrive in Public School

Do you have any resources that you would highly recommend as being a help to those who’s Christian children are attending a public school?