Jesus and Money

Jesus knew that money gets our attention.

He raved about the generous giving of a poor widow.

Crowds listened to Him tell of a businessman who gave different amounts of money to his workers, and then, after going on a long trip, came back expecting a return on his investment.

His parables included a woman who searched diligently to find a lost coin, and a man who found a buried treasure, sold all that he had, and bought the field that it was in.

Money stirs emotions.  We can feel the angst experienced by the widow, the burden of responsibility placed on the workers given money, the panic of the woman losing an extremely valuable coin, and the joy of the man exchanging what he had for a great fortune.

Money is tangible.  It is how we deal with our most basic needs, but it is also the ticket to our greatest dreams.  Its presence gives us security and its absence leaves us feeling very vulnerable.

And money is the best predictor of what we truly value.  As wise King Solomon once said, where our treasure is, there our hearts will be also.  And Jesus was all about reaching hearts.

So without apology we make appeals for giving at Heritage.  Many of us pay tuition, which is a transaction for a service rendered – and all of us here work very hard to assure you are getting excellent value for that investment.  But when we ask that you give to Worthy Servants (our employees’ Christmas bonus) and the capital campaign (our future facilities), we invite you to place your treasure where hearts will be blessed.  We hope you see the value in our requests and give them prayerful consideration.  Click here to give.

There’s Power in Performance

I was so scared as I stood in front of the congregation.  My right leg was visibly shaking.  With pale face and sweaty palms, I sang as my heart raced.  I was 13 years old and the crowd seemed massive, though I now realize less than 100 people were in attendance.

This was part of the Sunday morning routine at our church.  The “special” always came before the pastor preached.  It was always a musical performance of some kind, with the most common type being a solo.

Over the ensuing years I sang dozens of times in that little church.  I wasn’t very good, but there were not many singers to choose from.  But soon I became comfortable being in front of people.  And while my singing career steadily decayed as I got older, my ability to stand in front of a crowd and deliver something worth hearing became an important skill.

I love our growing and ever-improving fine arts department at Heritage.  Students at every level have opportunities to participate in public performances, from concerts at all grade levels to plays and musicals performed by students in the upper grades.  Elementary students are often asked to stand and deliver at spelling bees, speech meets, living wax museums, etc.  And now we are excited to see a fledgling high school forensics team taking shape under the leadership of our new Spanish and English teacher, Mr. Valadez.

Smaller schools do have some drawbacks, but I also see them filled with possibilities.  Anyone who really wants to can be involved in the performing arts area.  Let’s encourage our students to take advantage of these excellent opportunities.  I suspect the benefits they receive will continue to pay dividends throughout their lifetimes.

Praying Around Walls to Erect Walls at Heritage

How do you eat an elephant?  You know – one bite at a time.  How do we accomplish what seems to be impossible, improbable, or insurmountable?  One prayerful step at a time.

As we move toward the future construction or the new addition to our MSHS campus, our employees are taking inspiration from the Old Testament story of the Battle of Jericho.  Joshua had assisted Moses, led armies, and crossed the Jordan River on dry ground, but then faced the impenetrable walls of Jericho.  How could they take this city?

The answer did not involve military strategy.  It was clear from the very beginning this was a battle that God was going to fight for Israel.  Their marching orders were: march around the city – once a day for six days and seven times the seventh day.  They would say nothing, but the long voiceless marching would be punctuated by a tremendous shout that would crumble the massive fortifications in front of them.

With that as our cue, our teachers at the MSHS campus have been doing a daily prayer walk around our circular building each day this week.  Teachers at our elementary campus have been joining us in prayer, but not walking outside.  Our goal is not to see the current walls fall, but rather to see the potential walls go up, which would give us an awesome new high school wing and would open space for our elementary to move to the campus.

So tomorrow – you guessed it – we will be walking around the building five times silently praying.  At the end we will give a shout of faith in expectation of what God will do.  Please join us by praying and giving to see this dream become reality!

My Gratitude List

I am thankful for:

  • Grace to be forgiven of my sin
  • Salvation through Jesus my Savior
  • Truth which I find in God’s Word
  • Adoption into God’s family
  • My wonderful, amazing, loving wife
  • My two sons and their walk with God
  • The gift of growing up in a loving Christian family
  • Friends who love me and point me in the right direction
  • My church which is standing for Christ and winning the lost
  • Area churches who are remaining true to the gospel
  • Unity among the awesome brothers and sisters with whom I work
  • Relationships with young people pursuing God
  • Students who are becoming relational, honorable, godly, and prepared
  • Co-workers who are passionate about the pursuit of excellence
  • Teachers who model the important things that they teach
  • Diversity within the body of Christ at Heritage
  • Our unrelenting drive toward academic quality and effective practice
  • Partnering with parents who want God’s best for their children
  • Great books and how they impact my life
  • Sports and the lessons that can be learned from them
  • Exercise with the renewed energy and strength it can provide
  • Good health and freedom from pain
  • Opportunity to make an eternal, positive difference in the lives of others
  • The hope I have in Christ no matter how difficult or dark life becomes
  • Peace that goes beyond all human understanding
  • Thanksgiving dinner together with extended family
  • You and your family
  • Our oneness in Christ
  • Heritage

I pray God’s rich blessings on you and your family this Thanksgiving holiday!

What the Change in Madison Means to Heritage

Whenever there is a change in the governor’s office there are questions about how things will change.  A lot of posturing took place during the campaign that led to Tony Evers unseating Scott Walker, but what does it all mean after the dust settles?

The real answer is: nobody on earth really knows.  While it seems that some things will take place, with politics we can never know for sure.

The more important answer is: God knows.  He is in control and He can bring about the results He chooses.  Regardless of how you envision the political picture, there is no reason to fear.

One of the issues that could impact our school the most would have to do with school choice funding.  More than half of our students come to us by way of vouchers, so any change to the voucher program could impact what we do.

Sherry Schmeling, Executive Director of the Wisconsin Council of Religious and Independent Schools, gives an interesting positive view of how Governor Evers may approach school vouchers.   In quoting Evers first 100-day plan, she points out that Evers said he would stand by his proposed education budget, which would include “an increase of $19,764,100 GPR in FY20 and $38,453,700 GPR in FY21 to continue to fund the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP)” and “an increase of $25,128,900 GPR in FY20 and $53,802,200 GPR in FY21 to continue to fund the Racine Parental Choice Program (RPCP) and the Wisconsin Parental Choice Program (WPCP).”

One thing seems certain – the parental choice program has been going strong for nearly three decades and isn’t likely going away.  But above all, let’s put our trust in the One who really controls our government!

Help us Become a Flourishing School

What do you think of when you hear the word flourishing?  Synonyms include prosperous, thriving, booming, successful, healthy, and blossoming.  I think of something that is growing, vibrant, resilient, and moving forward.  Flourishing is a word that I would love to describe our school, our teachers, and ultimately our students.  We need your help to make this happen!

This year all of our constituents have the opportunity to participate in a one-of-a-kind survey coming from the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI) that is geared to help Christian schools reach for the highest standards of excellence.  ACSI is on a mission to determine what true quality and sustainability looks like in Christian schools utilizing a systematic, data-driven process that remains true to our unique mission as Christ-centered schools.

Soon you will be receiving an email explaining the process.  You will get a link that will allow you to take the survey.  We will be honored and blessed as you take time to go through the survey and answer the questions as best as you can.

ACSI will be receiving survey results from many select schools around the world.  They will be compiling the data that will not only help inform them about what is working best in Christian schools, but will also give schools like Heritage feedback as to how they are measuring up to the school model they are developing through their Flourishing School Culture Initiative (FSCI).

Feedback is the breakfast of champions!  Hopefully you both gave and received great feedback through our conferences this week.  Please take one more step by filling out this survey – we can’t do this without your help!

Learning from Death

Sometimes the greatest lessons in life can’t come from words spoken in a classroom.  A number of our faculty, staff, and students attended the funeral of HCS parent James Szydel today, and in so doing, we learned what it means to live a successful life.

Mr. Szydel was in many ways an unassuming man.  If you were one of his customers at the Home Depot store in West Allis over the last 18 years, you would have witnessed his true servant’s heart.   He probably didn’t have the chance to tell you about his love for Jesus, but he sincerely hoped his every word and action would reflect that love to you.

Those who came to know him intimately at Brookside Baptist Church testify of the enormous depth of character and graciousness that was beneath his warm and gentle facade.  James was the person people would call when work needed to be done with little notice, and he would come, possibly with the assistance of his wife and five daughters, with a willing spirit.

His wife Kristy would tell you how they fell in love in their thirties.  He has walked closely with the Lord for years, but she was a new Christian with a cloudy past.  When she told him some of the things she had done she thought it would be the end of their relationship, but he loved her all the more and never made an issue of it.  She says he was the most gracious person she ever knew.

Let’s pray for Kristy and her daughters as they seek God’s grace while finding their new normal.  While they will desperately miss their husband and father, they will treasure the memory of this dear man who talked and acted like Jesus.

In Praise of Wisdom

A week ago I delivered a presentation before a group of administrators and extolled the benefits of having a well-crafted mission statement.  It shouldn’t be too long or vague.  After the session a new head of school approached me and recited the mission statement he was suggesting for his school: Wisdom.

That was it – one word – wisdom.  And while I can’t say that I am a fan of one-word mission statements, this might be a good one if we were limited to one word.  In many ways it captures so much of what we are trying to instill in our students.

Years ago I adopted Proverbs 4:7 as my life verse: Wisdom is the principal thing; Therefore get wisdom.  And in all your getting, get understanding (NKJV).  I also love the beginning of Proverbs 2 that talks about the path to wisdom and all of the benefits that come with it.

True wisdom constantly points us to God.  It repeats over and over the importance of character, integrity, humility, diligence, resilience, study, forgiveness, love, prudence, honesty, and generosity.  In light of the four outcomes defined in our Portrait of a Graduate, wisdom gives input and counsel:

  • Relational – So many interactions with others rise and fall based on the level of wisdom that is exercised in our words and actions.
  • Honorable – Character is in perfect alignment with wisdom as it provides many of the fundamental principles of integrity.
  • Godly – The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Psalm 111:10).
  • Prepared – In many ways wisdom is more important than academics, for we all know people who have the facts down pat but make an utter mess of their lives.

So let’s give wisdom its due and wholeheartedly encourage our students to pursue it!

Holding Ourselves Accountable

Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.  I Corinthians 10:12

In recent months the evangelical Christian community has been rocked by reports of well-known pastors who have been accused of sexual misconduct.  News of this kind is unsettling because it involves some of the people we look to as leaders and examples of how Christians ought to live.  Many feel betrayed and are discouraged as a result.

At Heritage, we take these reports as an opportunity to address issues with our faculty, even though we are not aware of any problems of this sort.  This is a wake-up call from God, allowing us to examine ourselves to make sure that Satan is not getting any footholds in our lives that could lead to disaster for us and our ministry.

On Monday we stepped out of our normal faculty devotional routine by having separate men and women groups meet on each campus.  Led by administrators, we discussed how important it is that each of us live above reproach.  We are tempted like all humans are.  We take precautions like having doors with windows and avoiding being alone with students of the opposite sex.  But even more important, we must choose to commit ourselves to God and our spouses.

I participated in the men’s group and we talked about the need to be accountable to others regarding our behaviors online.  We can purchase software programs that will filter out pornography while reporting our choices to other trusted people.  We can choose to have regular accountability partners who will ask how we are doing in these areas.

Many mighty people have fallen.  However, with prudent precautions and complete dependence on God, we can avoid these pitfalls that cause so much damage.

Prayer for Professional Development

Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.  Psalm 127:1

Heritage invests a lot of time and money in teacher and staff professional development.  Many years ago, when we were coming out of difficult financial trouble, we had nothing budgeted for professional development and we did not take our teachers to any conferences.  And while that situation has dramatically changed, I’m reminded about the important role prayer plays in these matters.

During that time when the school was skating on thin financial ice, people were doing a lot of effective intercession.  The Lord responded in a way that set the school on a course toward excellence, not just fiscally, but in academics, enrollment, programs, and school culture.  When things of lasting importance happen, prayer plays a vital role.

My concern is while we now have budgeted the time and resources we need to really help teachers grow in their knowledge and skills, we might forget the power and necessity of prayer.  It is unfortunate that we, as humans, tend to slide toward complacency and pride when things are going well.  We forget to look to the One from whom all blessings flow.

Next week we will not have school on Thursday and Friday so teachers and administrators can travel to the Professional Development Forum in Aurora, IL.  Please pray that this will be a fruitful use of our time as we hear many speakers who can sharpen us.  Personally, I would ask for your prayers as I will be teaching breakout sessions on how schools can develop programs like our new Leadership Trek.  Pray that we will enjoy great fellowship together and return with excellent concepts and methods that will benefit our students!