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The Extraordinary Power of Faithful, Ordinary People

November 04, 2019
By Mike Skaggs

Don’t ever underestimate the power of an ordinary person to make an extraordinary impact. Consider the story of Edward Kimball, a Boston carpet salesman and Sunday school teacher...

  • Edward Kimball (1823-1901), felt compelled to share the gospel with an 18 year old boy who only attended Sunday school out of a promise to his uncle (though he often slept through the lesson). On April 21, 1855, Kimball went to the shoe store where the young man worked, asking him “to come to Christ.” Although Edward felt he’d done a poor job of presenting the gospel, that boy, Dwight L. Moody (1837-1899), left the store that day a changed man, going on to become one of the most prominent evangelists in American history.
  • While preaching a crusade in Chicago, Moody counseled a man by the name of J. Wilber Chapman (1859-1918), helping him understand the certainty of his salvation and calling. Chapman himself became a minister and evangelist.
  • An ex baseball player named Billy Sunday (1862-1935) worked for a while as Chapman’s assistant, helping organize meetings and eventually becoming an evangelist himself. In 1924, Sunday led a crusade in Charlotte, NC out of which grew an organization of Christian businessmen known as the Charlotte Businessmen’s Club. 
  • In 1934, the CBMC sponsored another crusade featuring the evangelist, Mordecai Ham (1877-1961). One night, as Ham held an invitation at the end of his message, 16 year old Billy Graham (1918-2018) walked the aisle, placing his faith in Christ.

Amazing, right? It gets better.

Week before last, in morning devotions, a TCA teacher shared that many years ago, her dad was watching TV one night when his show was pre-empted by another program. Although irritated, he left it on that channel. The interrupting show was a Billy Graham crusade, and that night he made Jesus the Lord of his life. He later became a pastor himself, leading countless people to Christ, including TCA Academic Learning Center teacher Kathy Haxel who now carries on a legacy that began in a Boston shoe store 164 years ago.

Psalm 78 is a beautiful, challenging, and convicting picture of the importance of leaving a legacy for generations to come. Our own Kathy Haxel has seen this, and I am grateful 

*** 

One of my favorite things we do at TCA is our secondary core group program. Each year it is my privilege to conduct leader training, and one activity we always do is have incoming leaders (all juniors and seniors) reflect on their years as underclassmen, and how their past core group leaders impacted them. I kept the notes they wrote, and here are a few of their observations:

  • A leader of mine asked for prayer requests and remembered to ask about them at the next meeting.
  • My leaders were able to walk me through scripture and help me be a better person.
  • Last year, when he got cancer, my core group leader used it to help other people and show us how to be faithful and trust Christ.
  • My leaders were able to help me with things I was going through that they had already been through and had advice about.
  • Hearing wisdom and advice from older friends inspired me to follow their good examples and their advice.
  • He was always at the meetings and never missed.
  • He gave us heart-to-heart advice when I had questions about my faith.
  • He taught me to trust God and be a good role model. He was a light in my life like I hope to be in the lives of my group.
  • My core group leaders always said hi to me in places other than core group time, and I really appreciate that.
  • My past core group leaders influenced me as a middle schooler; taught me that popularity isn’t everything. It changed how I acted in HS.
  • It was obvious that my core group leader cared about us all the time. She knew when we were upset or needed support, and she was that support.
  • My core group leaders took time outside of the allotted core group time to listen to what was going on in my life and offer encouragement and advice.
  • My leaders made everyone feel included.
  • My core group leader made me feel welcome and accepted not only to the group, but to TCA.
  • Last year, my leader came to our volleyball game and after was really sweet and supportive and showed how she really cared.

What a beautiful legacy these students are leaving every day. Please pray for these young men and women as they lead. And remember to lead them as well. In our homes, classrooms, teams, and relationships, may we impact those around us for Christ in ways big and small.

In the words of Mrs. Haxel, “Let’s not be fooled, the Lord’s will, will be done with or without us. But what a wonderful legacy we can have when we choose to be faithful and obedient. We never know just how far the influence will reach. May your day be blessed as we realize how God uses the seemingly small and ordinary to make the greatest and most lasting impact. Everything we do matters!”

TCA Different By Design

August 19, 2019
By Mike Skaggs

At a pivotal point in the 2000 movie, The Legend of Bagger Vance, the title character, played by Will Smith, shares a word of wisdom with a young boy who is worried that his hero, golfer Rannulph Junuh, will not perform well the next day. When the child asks Bagger if he thinks Junuh can win, Bagger says yes, but only if “he can find his authentic swing.” 

Bagger goes on to explain to the boy that “inside each and every one of us is one true authentic swing.” He tells him it’s “something we was born with, that's ours and ours alone.”

At Trinity Christian Academy, we recognize that each of us is designed for God-ordained purposes that are truly “ours and ours alone.” In fact, our school’s sole reason for existing is to help students understand and fulfill that purpose in a four-way partnership between the student, our school, their family and the local church.

By now most of you know that our theme for the 2019/2020 school year is “Different by Design.”  We know God has a unique design for every child at TCA, and while we may not do it perfectly (in fact, I promise we won’t), our desire is to do our best to help each boy and girl discover their “authentic swing” and help them live out that purpose.

Additionally, I believe God has a purpose for our school as a whole, and part of that purpose is to reflect a different (is it okay if I say “better”?) way of doing school. In a world that makes academics a road to financial security, creative arts a means of self-glorification, and sports an idol, we believe that a school bearing the name of Christ can and should be different!

Bagger Vance also provides another truth we can’t afford to miss. After telling the child about the authentic swing within us all, Bagger warns that over time “the world can rob us of that swing and bury it inside us under all our woulda's and coulda's, and shoulda's.” 

May we all determine now that on May 21, 2020, when the school year is over, that we can look back and be proud of what God has done in and through us. Let’s live in such a way as to limit our “woulda’s, coulda’s, and shoulda’s” by being different and living according to our unique design. 

Have a great year!

Mike

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” ‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭2:10

Laying Up Treasure

May 20, 2019
By Mike Skaggs

2018-19 has been a great year, and the Trinity family has much to be proud of. Instead of looking back, however, let me share a story about looking forward.

Moses Montefiore was a successful Jewish businessman in 19th century England whose genius for investment banking made him wealthy at a young age and whose royal connections led to a knighthood in 1837. Working and travelling into his 90s, Montefiore was elected sheriff of London and was known for his philanthropy, using his fortune to fund a school for girls in Jerusalem and multiple hospitals among other endeavors.

On his 100th birthday, The London Times devoted a full section to Montefiore’s praise. One editorial shared that when once asked to reveal his net worth, Sir Moses gave a number well below what was expected. “The surprised inquirer said, ‘But surely the sum total of your wealth must be much more than that.’ With a smile, Sir Moses replied, ‘You didn’t ask me how much I own. You asked me how much I am worth. So I calculated how much I have given to charity this year. We are worth only what we are willing to share with others.’” 

***

So I must ask: “What’s your net worth?” Pastor and author Mark Batterson puts it this way, 

“It’s not calculated by the sum total of your stock holdings or real property assessments. And it has nothing to do with the trophies in your case, the degrees on your wall, or the title on your business card.

Your net worth equals the sum total of all you’ve given away. Not a penny more. Not a penny less. 

And when everything is said and done, what you don’t share is lost forever. But what you put into the hands of God becomes an eternal keepsake.”

As we come upon the freedoms that summer affords, I encourage us all to lay up treasure (see Matthew 6). It won’t just happen, so be intentional in the investment of your resources (time, money, talents, etc.) in kingdom enterprises. Build your eternal net worth, and teach your children to doing the same—just like Sir Moses did!

Have a great summer. We’ll see you in August!

Mike

Batterson, Mark. All In. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2013. 135. 

 

On Harvard and TCA

November 05, 2018
By Mike Skaggs

Everyone knows Harvard, right? What most people do not know, however, is that it was founded for the purpose of training Christian ministers. In fact, soon after its founding, Harvard University adopted a document titled “Rules and Precepts” which contained the following:

“Let every Student be plainly instructed, and earnestly pressed to consider well, the maine end of his life and studies is, to know God and Jesus Christ which is eternal life (John 17:3) and therefore to lay Christ in the bottome, as the only foundation of all sound knowledge and Learning. And seeing the Lord only giveth wisedome, Let every one seriously set himself by prayer in secret to seeke it of him (Prov. 2:3). Every one shall so exercise himselfe in reading the Scriptures twice a day, that he shall be ready to give such an account of his proficiency therein, both in Theoreticall observations of Language and Logick, and in practical and spiritual truths, as his Tutor shall require, according to his ability; seeing the entrance of the word giveth light, it giveth understanding to the simple (Psalm 119:130).”

I’m sure Harvard’s founders were proud of this statement...and they should be! Over time, though, things have certainly changed at our nation’s oldest university, and much has been said regarding their drift from that original mission. But I see something else worthy of a conversation here. Notice where the responsibility for mission success rests. While teachers were to “instruct plainly” and make clear the purpose of learning, mission success fell to the student. It was the learner’s job to take his studies seriously, always being ready to demonstrate his proficiency in the required curriculum. Kind of makes sense, doesn’t it?

Now, let’s take a look at our school’s goals. TCA’s vision (the direction we look to and move toward) is to help each student fulfill God’s purpose for his/her life and reach maximum potential. This is done in an active partnership between the school, the home, the church, and the student.

On the school and church side, this makes sense. Like good old Harvard, our teachers work to “help each student fulfill God’s purpose” by instructing plainly and directing them toward a right understanding of God and the world around us (including math, science, languages, creative arts, etc.). Our curriculum and learning environment does this well, and so does a church with a good education program.

But what about the parents? We know our kids still need us, but we also understand that they’re capable of a great deal. How do we avoid Helicopter and Lawnmower parenting styles that can cripple them emotionally, spiritually, and academically without throwing in the towel completely, embracing Free Range parenting that can, at its worst, leave kids without the boundaries needed to safely grow.

It’s not easy to keep it all in balance. But take heart parents, you’re not alone. You’re part of a team! God has given us direction in His Word, and His church is a crucial source of wisdom and support. Countless resources exist online for Christian parents seeking help. Other parents can give sound advice, especially seasoned parents who’ve walked the tough road of raising kids and lived to tell the tale. Finally, don’t forget that the men and women on the TCA staff. They love your child and want what’s best (not easiest) for him or her.

The ultimate responsibility for learning, however, falls to the learner. I mentioned this to a group of teachers a couple of weeks ago, and TCA Bible teacher Jeff Anderson shared the following from a talk he’d given a few years back about the role of the student in the learning process. He identified the student as being responsible to (1) prepare for instruction, (2) be present, (3) receive instruction, (4) work to understand instruction, (5) be assessed, and (6) apply instruction. I would argue that these reflect the same truths that Harvard identified almost 400 years ago. It’s our job (school/parent/church) to press our kids toward these responsibilities and then step back. Succeed or fail, it’s on them, and lessons are there regardless. It’s the end result of godly men and women that we’re aiming for! (Interestingly enough, these same responsibilities apply to personal spiritual growth, but that’s a discussion for another time.)

One of Trinity Christian Academy’s most important core values is that our students will “value personal responsibility for their actions and decisions.” As this happens rightly, kids at all age levels assume increasing levels of responsibility. The results are transformation for them and all around them as success in this area brings real value not only to their lives, but also to their present and future families, to our school, to our churches, to our community, and eventually to society as a whole. Let’s work together to do this well for their sake and ours.

I think John Harvard would be proud :)

Being a "Real Gardener"

August 20, 2018
By Mike Skaggs

Years ago, I remember looking forward to the time when my kids would hit the teen years and my yardwork days would come to an end. Oddly enough, once they were big enough to run the mower, I didn’t want to hand it over! I found that while I enjoyed the labor and needed the exercise, I appreciated the isolation provided by the mower’s roar; it allowed me precious time and space to think. In fact, TCA’s motto of “Student Success for God’s Glory” came to me while mowing my yard 15 years ago!

Mostly though, I like the sense of accomplishment yardwork provides. Bringing order to chaos by trimming trees or laying stones to create a garden just feels good. Cultivating, tending, and helping establish something that will last seems to meet a deep, God-given desire within us all.

Author Ray Bradbury says puts it this way in his novel Fahrenheit 451: “...the difference between the man who just cuts lawns and a real gardener is in the touching. The lawn-cutter might just as well not have been there at all; the gardener will be there a lifetime.”

As we enter our 26th year as a school, I think we can learn from this.

We have been given a great foundation. We have a legacy of strong leadership to build on. Those who came before worked, prayed, and sacrificed together to see their God-given vision come to life. They left a garden that was in many ways well-tended and in order.

But the past is past. Today it is our time to maintain order in a world where, without a constant, intentional, caring touch, our garden will quickly fall into disarray and chaos.

So we work. We sacrifice. We pray. We dream. It will not be easy. The enemy wants to divide us and destroy the work, but we will not allow it. Instead, we will approach the next 25 years just like we did the first 25--together, in lock step, moving toward the common goal of helping students fulfill God’s purpose for their lives.

Thus, it is fitting that this year’s theme is “Stronger Together.” For only together can we move successfully into and through our next 25 years.

One day 25 years from now, we will proudly leave another generation with a garden that is well-tended, flourishing, and fit for use. But that doesn’t just happen. Thanks for joining us in the task.

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