Loving the World through Celebrating Teachers

Steve Viars August 14, 2016 Deuteronomy 6:1-12

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One of my West Lafayette High School teachers sparked an early interest in U.S. history and economics that stays with me today. That was Charles Banning.  The mid- to late-‘60s was a period of great civil unrest.  Mr. Banning shared many extra hours with me explaining, listening and, at times, debating the events of the day with a perfect balance of encouragement and objectivity.  

His approach encouraged you to speak out without feeling judged.  He timed his challenges that made you consider another view.  It is a skill I’ve always admired but never mastered as well as Mr. Banning.” (Gary Lehman)

“The first time Mrs. Heckle sent back a ninth-grade English paper with red marks all over it.  She said, ‘It was the best paper in the class, but not the best you can do” (Mitch Daniels).

Atlantic on October 18, 2013 by Liz Riggs “Why Do Teachers Quit?”…

  • 40-50% of teachers will leave the classroom within their first five years
  • This includes the 9 1/2 % who leave before the end of their first year…
  • 40% of teachers who pursue undergraduate degrees in teaching never enter the classroom at all.

Richard Ingersoll - “One of the big reasons I quit was sort of intangible.  But it’s very real: It’s just a lack of respect.”

“In my interviews with teachers, the same issues continued to surface. In theory, the classroom hours aren’t bad and the summers are free. But, many young teachers soon realize they must do overwhelming amounts of after-hours work. They pour out emotional energy into their work, which breeds quick exhaustion. And they experience the frustrating uphill battle that comes along with teaching—particularly in low-performing schools.

“What people are asked to do is only the kind of thing that somebody can do for two or three years; you couldn’t sustain that level of intensity throughout a career,” said Thomas Smith, a professor at Vanderbilt University’s education school…“[It’s] the same way that people might think of investment banking. It’s something that people do for a few years out of college, but if you want to have a family, or you want to have some leisure time, you know, how do you sustain that?”

Deuteronomy 31:9-13 - So Moses wrote this law and gave it to the priests, the sons of Levi who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and to all the elders of Israel. Then Moses commanded them, saying, “At the end of every seven years, at the time of the year of remission of debts, at the Feast of Booths, when all Israel comes to appear before the Lord your God at the place which He will choose, you shall read this law in front of all Israel in their hearing. Assemble the people, the men and the women and children and the alien who is in your town, so that they may hear and learn and fear the Lord your God, and be careful to observe all the words of this law. Their children, who have not known, will hear and learn to fear the Lord your God, as long as you live on the land which you are about to cross the Jordan to possess.”

3 reasons to celebrate the teachers amongst us

I. Celebrate Teachers by Accepting Our Role in the Education Process

A. Education is fundamentally the responsibility of parents

1. Love for God should be on your heart

Deuteronomy 6:6 - These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart.

Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it;

Unless the Lord guards the city, the watchman keeps awake in vain.

It is vain for you to rise up early, to retire late,

To eat the bread of painful labors; for He gives to His beloved even in his sleep.

Behold, children are a gift of the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward.

Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth.

How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them; they will not be ashamed

When they speak with their enemies in the gate. Psalm 127

2. Teach them diligently

Deuteronomy 6:7 - You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them…

3. Teach them regularly

Deuteronomy 6:7 - You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.

B. Wise parents seek help from other teachers when/wherever appropriate

C. The danger for all of us as parents is to abdicate our God-given responsibility

II. Celebrate Teachers by Finding Ways to Express Thanksgiving for Them

A. To the Lord

Colossians 4:2 - Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving…

B. To your children

Deuteronomy 6:7 - You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.

C. In simple ways

D. Willingness to serve/lighten the load

III. Celebrate Our Ultimate Attention on the Greatest Teacher

Matthew 8:19 - Then a scribe came and said to Him, “Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go.”

John 13:13-14 - “You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.

John 3:16-17 - For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. 

Manuscript

David: My name is David Lambeth and I’m going to be a junior this year at Faith Christian School

Lydia: Hi, my name is Lydia Jefson. I will be a junior at McCutcheon high school this year.

Rebecca: Hi, I'm Rebecca Merkel. I'm a senior and I'm homeschooled. I'm blessed to have my mom as my teacher. I've benefited from her assistance with my school work and her wisdom with my spiritual life. Being at home, I’ve developed a close relationship with her and I'm really thankful for that. One of my favorite teachers that I've had through school was my fourth and fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Nelson. Mrs. Nelson was kind but she kept a disciplined classroom and she wasn’t afraid to help students figure out what needed to be done even if that meant explaining everything over again. She taught me to think critically, to be organized and to work hard to the best of my ability.

David: Along with many of the other teachers at Faith Christian school Mrs. Hume has specifically been a big impact on me. This has just been a real encouragement to me how she will, through teaching, science and chemistry, point back to God and just on a daily basis use science to show God’s glory and his power and the beauty of his creation that really points back to Him.

Rebecca: Having my mom as a teacher has really helped because she knows what I’m doing in my school work and what I have done and what I have to do to prepare me for college and after college.

Lydia: My teachers have helped me to be more prepared by teaching me the fundamentals and how to not procrastinate and be organized and that'll help me to be ready to be more of an independent learner.

David: The teachers at Faith have prepared me for life after high school by showing me how to solve problems biblically and to just apply biblical truths that I’ve learned and to solve things with Scripture.

Speaker 4: Wasn't that wonderful? Thank you Lydia and Rebecca and David. I’m sure that they speak for many, many students throughout our community today. Probably everybody here has a story or two about a teacher who dramatically impacted you, though it may have occurred decades ago in some cases, you probably remember that teachers name. You could probably still think of specific events that happened in that classroom.

There was an excellent article in our newspaper this week entitled "Sharpening Minds" where community leaders were asked to share a transformative educational experience and also the teacher that provided that, one of our church members Gary Lehman said this, "One of my West Lafayette High School teachers sparked an early interest in US history and economics that stays with me today. That was Charles Banning 00:02:47]. The mid to late 60s was a period of great civil unrest. Mr. Banning shared many extra hours with me," and by the way, that’s a theme this morning as all of the extra hours that teachers spend.

"Mr. Banning shared many extra hours with me explaining and listening, at times debating the events of the day with a perfect balance of encouragement and objectivity. His approach encouraged you to speak out without feeling judged. He timed this challenges that made you consider another view. It’s a skill I’ve always admired but never mastered as well as Mr. Banning." I also enjoyed the one that Purdue president, Mitch Daniels, submitted.

He said, "The first time Mrs. Heckel," and by the way, there’s a perfect name for teacher right there, right? Like one of my friends who teaches in the seminary, his name is John Babbler. That's a perfect seminary professor’s name, I think, but anyway, Mrs. Heckel. We all had a Mrs. Heckel in our life, but back to what he said, "The first time Mrs. Heckel sent back a ninth grade English paper with red marks all over it, she said 'It was the best paper in the class but not the best you can do.'"

A lot of us had a Mrs. Heckel in our life. I don’t know that I ever got the, "It was the best paper in the class," part, but I certainly got plenty of the, "That's not your best not your best work," but just think about those and then couple them with student testimonies we heard a moment ago. All that affirms the powerful influence of great teachers. So you would think that teachers would be among the highest compensated employees in our culture, or at least would enjoy universal appreciation.

Never hearing this foolish, "Well, all you do is work to 3 o’clock in the afternoon and you get the summers off." By the way, if you've ever said that to a teacher, there are masonry walls on the outside of our buildings. I would encourage you to bang your head on the side of one of them on the way out and there's probably a few teachers who would be happy to help you but I’m already off my notes.

You would think that there would be at least a universal appreciation, that there would be high morale. There would be great job satisfaction for those who work in the field. If teachers have that much potential influence on our children and on all of us, but that’s not the way it is in this culture. Teachers and other school employees often get caught in the crossfire between political and culture wars. While I imagine, we can probably get a fairly healthy debate going this morning on topics like standardized testing and teacher accountability and education standards, all the rest and some of that has its place, but when those kind of arguments are done, it’s amazing how much blame is sometimes placed on teachers.

There’s an astounding number of self-proclaimed education experts who have never spent one day in a classroom, which may explain some of the statistics that ought to give us pause. There was a very insightful article in the Atlantic. This was back in 2013 by Liz Riggs. It was entitled "Why do teachers quit?" She said that 40 to 50% of teachers will leave the classroom within their first five years, including this that shocked me: 9 ½% who leave before the end of their first year.

Then this one: 40% of teachers who pursue undergraduate degrees in teaching never enter the classroom at all. Why in the world would all of that be? One of the men who left the profession interviewed for the article was named Richard Ingersoll. He said, "Well, one of the big reasons I quit was sort of intangible but it’s very real. It’s just a lack of respect, just a lack of respect." Riggs went on to say, "In my interviews with teachers, the same issues continued to surface. In theory, the classroom hours aren't bad. The summers are free but many young teachers soon realize they must do overwhelming amounts of after-hours work. They pour out emotional energy into their work, which breeds quick exhaustion and they experience the frustrating uphill battle that comes along with teaching, particularly in low performing schools."

Then this gentleman said, "What people are asked to do is only the kind of thing that somebody can do for two or three years. You couldn’t sustain that level of intensity throughout a career. It’s the same way that people might think of investment banking. It's something that people do for a few years out of college, but if you want to have a family or you want to have some leisure time, how do you sustain that?"

Well, there's a fair question for all of us to consider this morning. How do you sustain that? As we were thinking about how to develop this theme that we’ve been developing all year long on loving our world, we wanted to take this particular Sunday and focus on the joy of celebrating teachers. Friends, I want to say to everybody who’s going to hear this message today, there is a place in what we’re speaking about for every person here, for every parent, for every grandparent, for every member of our community and here’s what I believe, strongly, that perhaps if the Church of Jesus Christ would do its work in this area, the profession of teaching would be a more pleasant and effective place in which to serve.

With that in mind, I want to invite you to open your Bible to Deuteronomy, Chapter 6. Deuteronomy, Chapter 6 is on page 137 of the front section of the Bible, under the chair in front of you if you need that this morning, so Deuteronomy, Chapter 6 or page 137 of the front section, the Old Testament of the Bible under the chair in front of you. One of the things that we did with this message after I prepared a rough text version of it, we sent it out to a bunch of teachers.

So this has been vetted. I don't always do that with my messages but I did because I wanted to be sure that I was addressing things that really are consistent with what they’re experiencing. I heard all sorts of troubling things to be honest with you, but one of the statements that was repeated was, "What concerns me is, as a teacher, is the treatment that I sometimes receive from people who say that they're followers of Jesus Christ. I would expect that from those who would not claim to have a relationship with God, but there doesn’t seem to be a significant difference in the way that I’m treated by parents who know the Lord and those who don’t, or are people in our community who say they know the Lord and those who don’t. The emails that get fired off late at night are as snarky by Christians as those who wouldn’t claim to know the Lord or the lack of appreciation or the lack of preparation of the students, etc. etc. etc."

Now, that's why we're having this message is if you would agree with what I have just said, that the Church of Jesus Christ has some work to do, that if we did what God called us to do because let’s face it, a rather significant percentage of the people who call this town their home would say that they're followers of Christ. Well, if that’s the case, then wouldn't you, if we're living out our biblical responsibilities as members of our community, then wouldn't you agree with me that part of that would mean that the profession of teaching would be a more pleasant and effective place in which to serve?

Judgment, by the way, if you didn't like that statement, wait, but judgment begins at the household of God. True that? Judgment begins at the household of God. Now the book of Deuteronomy, written by one of history’s greatest teachers, a man named Moses. What this is, it’s a series of speeches or lectures. That’s really what it is, a series of lectures which many conservative students of Scripture believe were delivered January to February in the year 1405 BC, which would have been just prior to Moses’s death and just prior to the entrance of the children of Israel into the promised land and that’s why toward the end of the book we would read this about what we're about to study this morning.

Moses wrote this law and he gave it to the priest that the sons of Levi who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord to the elders of Israel that Moses commanded them saying, "At the end of every seven years at the time of the year remission of death that the feast of Booths when all Israel comes to appear before the Lord your God at the place which He will choose, you should read my lectures. You shall read this law in front of all Israel in their hearing. Assemble the people, the men and the women and the children and the alien who is in your town so that they will hear and learn and fear the Lord your God, and be careful to observe all the words of this law. Their children who have not known will hear and learn to fear the Lord your God as long as you live on the land which you are about to cross the Jordan to possess."

Now in the particular passage we have before us, Deuteronomy Chapter 6, we learn about who is ultimately responsible for teaching. I really believe that if this central pit principle was more understood and believed, the pressure on teachers would be dramatically reduced, so it’s time to review the lecture of Moses. Deuteronomy, Chapter 6, beginning in verse one.

"Now this is the commandment, the statutes and the judgments which the Lord your God has commanded me to teach you," to teach you, "that you might do them in the land which you are going over to possess so that you and your son and your grandson might fear the Lord your God, to keep all his statutes and his commandments which I command you all the days your life, and that your days may be prolonged. Oh Israel, you should listen."

How many teachers had to say that? "And be careful to do it, that it may be well with you and that you may multiply greatly just as the Lord, the God of your fathers, has promised you in a land flowing with milk and honey." Now beginning in verse four, the Shema: "Here, O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is one. You shall," here’s the foundation of it all, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I'm commanding you today shall be on your heart." Now just once every seven years, "On your heart," and then what you do with them?

"You shall teach them diligently to your sons." This is written to parents. "And you shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down and when you rise up, you shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorpost of your house and on your gates. Then it shall come about when the Lord your God brings you into the land which he swore to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to give you great and splendid cities which you did not build and houses full of all good things which you did not fill and hewn cisterns which you did not dig, vineyards and olive trees, which you did not plant and you eat and are satisfied, then watch yourself that you do not forget the Lord who brought you out from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery."

We're talking this morning about celebrating teachers and from this passage of Scripture and some others we're going to weave in as we go along, let's talk about three reasons to celebrate the teachers amongst us. First of all, this: celebrate teachers by accepting our role in the education process.

I. Celebrate Teachers by Accepting Our Role in the Education Process

By "our" I’m talking about parents. I’m talking about grandparents. I'm talking about other members of our community. Celebrate teachers by being sure everybody’s wearing the right size backpack. That’s really what we’re saying.

See, the text is very clear about this. Education is fundamentally the responsibility of parents. I strongly believe this. The most important element improving education has nothing to do with standardized testing. It has nothing to do with teacher accountability. It has nothing to do with enhanced facilities or extracurricular activities. In fact, as ironic as this might sound this morning, the best way to improve education has nothing to do directly with people involved in formal education.

The key is getting parents to accept and fulfill their role in the process. I believe if parents and grandparents and other community members who have the potential to the impact the child lived in a way that was consistent with the principles outlined in this passage, then being a teacher would be a much more pleasant experience because you’re just partnering with and affirming the great work that was already being done by mom and dad in the home.

Now if I haven’t stirred up enough yet, just push the pause button on that thought for a moment and let me talk with you about something that’s even harder. You did come to be pastored, right? Is that why you came today? Okay, and is it possible that sometimes God allows pastors to think thoughts and think about Scripture in a way that helps us get to a place that we might not have come on our own? Otherwise, if that’s not true, why do we come to church?

There's a tendency on the part of many, if not all, of us to be quick to place blame on everybody else in the equation but ourselves. Could I get a "True that" on that? That really is true. Let me try to illustrate that with something that isn't an education based at all, but it demonstrates this tendency in another branch of social problems and then we'll bring it back around to teachers this morning. It involves, and yes, I am wound up about this, but it involves the work we're doing in the North end of our town, through the community development Corporation that our city asked us to start three years ago.

Practically anybody who’s paying attention to what is going on in Lafayette would say that some of our largest problems exist in the North end. Pick a demographic, anyone, and compare it to anywhere else in our community and the North end is where the stats are the worst. There’s no question about that, but what is the working narrative to explain that? This is going to be hard, but let's just ... I don’t believe in ignoring things. So what is the working narrative on the part of many people in our town as to why the housing is so deteriorated in the North end or why the crime is higher in the North end etc. etc. etc.?

Let’s be honest, it's those poor black people from Chicago. That's what we hear, or those unreliable Latinos from Mexico. It’s some version of that narrative repeated over and over and over. Some people are not going to like what I’m about to say but when you drill into the demographics and find out who actually owns a significant percentage of those properties down there, do you know what you find out? It's rich, white people from Tippecanoe County who bought those houses as investment properties and then in some cases charge exorbitant rents and do very little to keep the units well-maintained and look the other way on criminal behavior as long as the money's paid every month.

In a case I’m not making myself clear, because I realize sometimes I’m a bit fuzzy, so let me say it more directly just to be sure that this is coming through. It’s amazing how many rich white folks in this county really don’t care about the conditions of the North end because their hearts are filled with greed and apathy. Then to add insult to injury, they want to place the responsibility for the problem on somebody else’s back.

Can we all be honest this morning that that tendency to point the finger everywhere else except inwardly is a struggle that we all face and when we bring that around to education, let’s allow the word of God to help us place the responsibility for education where it truly belongs. Now let’s think more specifically about the past. As I said, these verses are the Shema from the Hebrew word to hear and it speaks about parents in verse five who love the Lord their God with all their heart and their soul and their strength and then, verse six says that that love for God, it ought to be on your heart, "These words, which I’m commanding you today, shall be on your heart." Why?

How does that even get us logically, the flow of the text, how does it get us logically to parenting anyway? Well, recognizing that your children are a gift from God first and foremost to you, not to the teacher, not to the village, to you from the God you love, which is why the psalmist would say this to parents, "Unless the Lord builds a house, they labor in vain who build and unless the Lord guards the city, the watchman keeps awake in vain. It's vein for you to rise up early, to retire late, to eat the bread of painful labors, for He gives to His beloved, even in His sleep," you say, "Well, what's that talking about?"

Keep reading, "Behold children." It's talking about children. "Behold, children are a gift of the Lord, the fruit of the womb is His reward like arrows in the hands of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be ashamed when they speak with their enemies in the gates." Everything that we're talking about this morning, it flows out of a heart that loves God for this awesome sacred trust of children. The text says, "Teach them diligently. You shall," you, parents, "You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them diligently."

It’s something that mom and dad have to work at and can we bring other people around to help us? Absolutely. We’ll talk about that in a minute, but not in a way that places the ultimate responsibility for this on anyone but ourselves. The text also says, "Teach them regularly," and the beauty of this principle is, you’re not ... I don't want parents to leave from this morning saying, "I got something else to do." It’s a mentality that affects what we're already doing. "You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you're sitting at your house." We all do that, right?

But are we fulfilling our responsibility as teachers then? When you walk by the way, we all do that, right? So you know I drive. Well, same idea, same idea, but I'm to be teaching then. When you lie down, we all do that. When you rise up, so here’s the question. Parents, who's your child’s teacher this year? You are. You are. That’s the first and the best answer to this question.

Now wise parents seek help from other teachers? Of course, when and wherever appropriate. If we're doing our job as parents, then the role of other teachers, it becomes much more delightful because everybody’s doing their job. It's not that we're making, we're insisting on teachers to do our job, but we're asking them to assist us but we're taking the proper amount of responsibility for the task.

When our family moved to 29 years ago, our daughter Bethany, who is also a teacher and an administrator and who helped me with this message, she was two years old, two years old and she was shy as I'll get out. She did not want to go to her Sunday school class. She did not want to leave our side. She was very, very frightened of the whole process and so my wife, Chris and I, we brought Bethany over to this building during the week and we taught her, "Now honey. Here’s where the hallway is. Here’s how it’s going to go. Mom is going to bring you over here at we're going to kiss you on the cheek and then you’re going to go in the class, and remember the song we sang earlier, you're not going to be alone. God’s going to be with you."

You’re trying to teach that at a two-year-old level and so we did everything that we possibly could to help our child be prepared to do what God wanted her to do in that particular situation, but I’ll tell you right now, I am glad that in the providence of God, on the other end of that equation was Cindy Rusk. Cindy taught two-year-old Sunday school at this church for a long, long time and it was amazing how Cindy made that end of the process so much easier. She assisted us in so many delightful ways and I’m very, very, very thankful for her and the impact that had on our little daughter. So did we need Cindy? Absolutely. Should we just rely on Cindy and walk away from our responsibility? Absolutely not.

Our daughter, Karis, a chemical engineer at Lily, well you could put everything that me or my wife knows about chemical or chemistry or engineering in a thimble and have plenty room left for your finger, but I'm so thankful for her. Her teachers who taught her and equipped her in all sorts of ways, but does that mean that Chris and I did not have a responsibility? Absolutely not.

One of the things that I heard from several teachers is, "I just wish parents would teach their children a strong work ethic. I wish they would teach them, especially if they're going to call themselves Christian teachers or Christian families, that the value and the joy of working hard every day, living coram Deo before the face of God, and that affects the way you do your seat work just as much as it affects anything else and the parents what we would do the job of teaching their children a solid work ethic, that would be so much easier for me as a teachers," so wise parents seek help from other teachers when and wherever appropriate.

But the danger for all of us as parents is to abdicate our God-given responsibility and there I say, dump it back on the backs of overworked teachers. Now by the way, I need to ... There are several caveats because you’re always wondering, "Now, how is this going to be received by this person or this person or this person." What I’m not saying, here’s what needs not to happen. We don’t want to create a bunch of, how I say this, monster parents who go to the school house tomorrow and say, "my pastor, pastor Pastor Viars, said I am my child’s teacher and so that reading curriculum you’re using, I don’t like that anymore because I saw meme on Facebook that said this."

We're not talking about you now being the educational expert more than people who were professionally trained. That’s not what I’m saying, but what I am saying is that if we do the job that God has instructed us to do in the home then teachers are going to have a much easier time to do theirs, so what are some of the practical takeaways of all this because I do want to try to make this as practical and easy to understand as possible. Well how about how about this, just asking your child’s teacher what you can be doing as a parent to be sure your child is ready to learn every day?

You might hear simple things. How about being sure that your child gets enough sleep every night? You might say, "They fight because they want to play their video games until midnight." For crying out loud, that’s why God gave them parents. If kids could just exist by themselves, they would’ve been born in the woods for crying out ... They need you. They need you to be a mom or to be ... Don’t ask the teacher to be the hard person because you’re not willing to be the person God created you to be in that situation.

Just being sure that your child is getting enough sleep or that your child comes to school properly fed. Listen, I understand in some situations that’s an economic issue. We could talk about that at another time, but there’s no excuse for a parent who is so undisciplined that they won’t prepare a proper breakfast in the morning. That’s not a money issue, that’s a discipline issue and ... Do you want me to say it?

For some parents, they’re too busy playing on their goof phones till late in the night instead of getting themselves to bed so they can do their job in the morning, making it easier for the teacher to do their job the rest of the day and if that’s the case, judgment begins where? In the household of God, and if we have a community that has such a significant percentage of people who call themselves followers of Jesus Christ, why would that ever be an issue? Or creating a home environment that’s peaceful, as opposed to chaotic?

If your child is walking into World War III night after night after night and is hearing you and your spouse or whomever bicker and fight even while they’re supposed to be in bed, how in the world can you expect your child to be an emotional condition to be able to study well the next day? For some who hear this message, maybe it’s time to humble yourselves and get counseling help for you and your spouse for 100 reasons including the fact that it puts your children in a better position to learn the next day, that you’re reviewing your child’s homework every evening. That’s going to take a lot of work.

You might've wanted to think about that before you had them. That is part of the privilege and the responsibility, helping your child learn how to solve problems biblically. There’s all sorts of things that come up at school. Of course there are. What a great opportunity for you to sit down with that child and talk through, "Now, here’s how we're going to communicate about that and here’s how we're going to get that solved," or this that you're reading correspondence that comes home each week and responding in a timely manner.

I was shocked at how many teachers said to me, "I just wish parents would respond to emails. I wish parents would read the things that go home with them and fill out the forms or do the simple things that they are asked to do," that you’re helping your child develop proper study habits, a disciplined, orderly life. What I’m saying this morning is the reason many teachers are exhausted is because they're not just having to teach. They're having to parent. We need to stand up as the Church of Jesus Christ and say, "That needs to stop." Just like greed and apathy in the North end needs to stop, that needs to stop as well.

Now, I realize I've been a bit direct. I just felt like I needed to. And I’m leaving the country this week. But after we’ve properly adjusted the size of the backpacks, what else then can we do that on this topic? Well, celebrate teachers by finding ways to express thanksgiving for them.

II. Celebrate Teachers by Finding Ways to Express Thanksgiving for Them

At this point, I’d like you to meet four teachers, one from the public education, one from home school, and then a couple from Christian school. I'd like you to hear just a bit about their heart as illustrative of the greatest teachers all throughout our community, so we're going to start with Rita Jamison.

Rita: Good morning. My desire to become a teacher started in junior high school when I realized a gift a fifth grade teacher had given me. I was a student that was very far behind in education and I had not learned to read by fifth grade, so I was failing all of my school classes, pretty much all of my elementary school until one day a fifth grade teacher became a part of my life.

She started standing daily recess times and many hours with me after school to teach me to read and then she taught me a process of to study and complete my homework successfully. In junior high, I determined to become a teacher so I can help students who struggle just like I did and that teacher that helped me. When it came time for me to consider which college I would attend, I was so excited even though some of my high school teachers didn’t think I could successfully complete classes, but my dad was willing to give me a chance and even encouraged me to go meet my goals from which I am incredibly thankful.

What a blessing the Lord allowed by having this fifth grade teacher in my life. I am so thankful for the study skills plan she taught me. It had directed me during my junior high, high school and even college years. Exodus 35 says, "All the women whose hearts stirred with a skill used it for the Lord’s purpose." Later in that same chapter, it says, "God also has put in their hearts to teach. God has lifted them with skill to perform their work."

Now I know this passage is talking about the building of the tabernacle, but it was my inspiration for this personal application. I’m convinced the Lord gave me this personal experience in school to develop within me a desire and a compassion for teaching children who struggle academically. I spent 27 and a half years teaching in public schools and the last four years at Faith Christian School. My life's goal was and still is to be a reflection of God to the families and the students in my care.

I love teaching those who struggle and was blessed by the student's happy responses when they finally learned a difficult skill. After a long struggle to learn, you can imagine their joy. One of my biggest blessings though in teaching was the privilege of working alongside parents. God gave children to parents, as we just learned, and the Scripture tells us that teaching and training a child is a responsibility of those parents.

I also believe teachers are an extension of the parent’s ministry in that child’s life, so working with the parents and sharing in the development of their child was important to me. In my experience, I have found that much more can be accomplished in a child’s life when teachers and parents work together toward the same goals. Because God helped me learn and then helped me grow in the skills necessary to encourage struggling students, that's where I want to invest the rest of my life.

I’m not sure of all that God wants for me in retirement, but I do know that I should be using what He has taught me over these last 45+ years as I seek to minister for Him and for His glory. I’m so thankful the Lord gave me a teacher that loved me enough to give me a gift of her time for a whole year. She was instrumental in proving to me that I could learn. I'm very thankful for my parents who encouraged me to go and try college even though many thought I would fail. I'm also thankful that God allowed me the blessing of working with families and a teaching career, giving me the desire of my junior high heart. Praise the Lord for all He has done.

Candace: Good morning. Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the Lord and to do it, and to teach his statutes, Ezra 7:10. "Not many of you should become teachers. We who teach will be judged with greater strictness," James 3. Teaching is a sobering task in which I've had to set my heart like Ezra and consider the strict judgment that James describes.

Though I've taught in many classrooms, the greatest has been at home with my children. I love the interaction. The "ah-ha" moments are just satiating for me. Here are 3 quick snippets of how teaching has changed my life. The first and greatest impact is that teaching has made me a perpetual student. Now I read the textbooks with my students because I can experience God’s beautiful handiwork and not only the Bible, but math, science, history or grammar. I have grown to see how God has inextricably interwoven his innovations. I learned to say that with the kids.

And what a treasure to share with my children how beautifully integrated God's creation is. It unites into one knowledge of Him. Teaching has also taught me to ask better questions so that I can realistically evaluate how much they're internalizing my instruction. I’ve learned to probe the deep waters of their understanding versus just flaunting my teaching skills.

So lastly teaching has given me a greater revelation of who I really am. Nobody. At first I thought that the success of teaching was directly dependent on my marvelous oratory, when actually my impressive delivery is not the determining factor. I've learned that only God releases the reign of understanding and penetrates their minds. I should instruct with excellence and all my might, but I must also pray, humbly assiduously that He will open their eyes. Good teaching and good praying. I teach but God enables comprehension.

Lynn: Hello, my name is Lynn Heusinger.

Kathy: And I'm Kathy, and this begins our fifth year here at Faith Christian School and our thirty-eighth year in Christian education.

Lynn: Coming from a home where my dad was a pastor and my mom was a school teacher, I’ve always been involved in working with young people, especially those in our home, whether it was in Bible camps, Bible clubs VBS or youth groups, just gathering around with them at home or at home or at church.

Kathy: When I was nine years old, my dad was saved and that began some changes in our close-knit family. I had never heard of such a thing as a Christian school, but my parents learned of one and soon moved our family 600 miles so we could attend. I can remember sitting in my eighth grade class and thinking, "God has given me a desire to be a teacher."

Lynn: I wanted to take the gifts that God gave me and use them to influence young people for Christ in coaching. It wasn’t until later that I realized how much I enjoyed teaching the young people I coached and coaching the young people that I taught. One of the joys we've had in teaching at a Christian school is to point young people to the God of the universe, who's the author of all true knowledge and wisdom, and who demonstrates His glorious attributes throughout his creative world as is seen in Romans, Chapter 1, verse 20.

Kathy: And to be able to share Christ openly with young people and to bring God’s word to focus on the need of the moment.

Lynn: Whether in a classroom-

Kathy: A hallway-

Lynn: The office-

Kathy: Or in a Bible study-

Lynn: Or an athletic event-

Kathy: In a study group at our home-

Lynn: And a lot of other venues. Through their struggles and through their achievements both in school and out of school has been a blessing to hitch our wagon together, so to speak, with them for a little while and in the process to be led by Christ to influence them for His kingdom while they continue on their way. As we've gotten older-

Kathy: Whoa, not older. More experienced.

Lynn: Yeah, okay. More experienced. One of the neatest blessings we’ve had is to watch the young people we’ve taught go on to serve the Lord all over the globe.

Kathy: And to pour their lives into the lives of others.

Lynn: And the next generation, thank you.

Kathy: Wasn't that wonderful? You realize that is illustrative of the thousands of men and women who are about to begin another school year. I don't know about you; I've known Rita Jamison for nearly 30 years. This church has been incredibly blessed by all that she and Jerry do around here and it's such an incredibly professional way. To think that Rita ever even had any academic trouble, I have trouble even processing that in my brain, but what that tells you is that a great teacher was used in order to help her at a great time and we’ve all been benefited as a result of that.

If that’s illustrative of what we have in our town, isn’t it unfortunate that teachers would feel unappreciated for what they do? So how about we make an agreement? All of us, whether we have children or not, that we're going to celebrate teachers by expressing thanksgiving for them. In this passage, first of all to the Lord, remember we're commanded to have the love of God in our hearts, so where’s that cultivated? First of all, in prayer. Many times, prayers of thanksgiving out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks and so I want to challenge all of us to regularly thank God for the teachers among us.

You may have heard this question as posed in a variety of forms, but it’s a good one. What if you woke up today with only the things you were thankful for yesterday? I wonder how many teachers would be left. Paul said to the Colossians, "Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving," and I just wonder what would happen in this entire town if every person who claimed the name of Christ made a commitment to be thankful for and pray for our communities teachers this year. I’m thankful by the way for the groups of people who meet in all sorts of schools, groups of parents who meet all over our town just to pray for our teachers and then also to your children.

In other words, to help your children be thankful for their teachers. It is possible that one or more of your children might come home and find some reason to complain about his or her teacher. Is that possible? I would just ask you, do you allow as a parent that kind of communication or is that one of those ways where it’s time for you to teach? Now if your child has a legitimate concern, we're never going to shut that down and we want to teach them how to solve that problem but you realize in some homes, kids come home and they just pop off about teacher day after day after day and mom and dad do nothing to shut that down.

I served as a school administrator years ago when I was working on my doctorate out in Philadelphia. I was just a young guy back then and I distinctly remember one of my first calls with parent about a problem with their child and this parent just started reading me the riot act and all of a sudden I hear a child’s voice in the background and this parent is dressing me down, frankly, very disrespectfully and I said, "Is your child there?"

So the child is feeding the parent wrong information and the parent is assuming that the child is telling the truth and speaking to me in a way that was absolutely despicable, being a terrible example to that child about how problems are solved. I would just encourage you, I know the way it was and I'm sorry to talk like an old guy, but I am. That certainly wasn't the way it was when I was growing up. If my teacher or surely principle called home and talked about something I was doing wrong, it never dawned on me to try to blame the teacher. Never. I was just preparing for the discipline I was about to receive because there was going to be a very short period of time from when my parents hung up the phone, and I realize for some of you young ones, you have no idea what that means, but hung up the phone and was disciplining me in some fashion.

Also in simple ways. You have a number of things listed in your bulletin, how can we ... All sorts of things, maybe bringing the teacher their favorite morning beverage or some handwritten note of thanks, of positive social media posts. Can we all just raise our right hand right now and promise that if you have a problem with the teacher, you will never post that on social media? Or please make me your Facebook friend if you haven’t already because I want to post back, like way ... Please don’t ever, ever, ever diss a teacher on social media and get that whole thing spinning among the other people in the class. That willingness to serve and lighten the load.

I had several teachers say to me, "You would not believe how much time I spend cutting things out." Honestly, that thought never went through my brain and teachers say, "You know, if a parent or somebody else would just volunteer to come in and cut out the things that were laminated, that would be an incredible lightning of my load." We have a great "Read to succeed" program in our town. The volunteering in order to serve in that particular fashion, serving as a room mother or a room father, being a chaperone on field trips and special days just looking for ways to serve and lighten the load of those who teach among us.

I realize regardless of the perspective from which you've been listening to this message, you might say, "This is hard," and it is. In our busy world and are sin-cursed world, what we’re talking about this morning doesn’t necessarily come easily, which is why I would want to conclude by saying celebrate our ultimate attention on the greatest teacher.

III. Celebrate Our Ultimate Attention on the Greatest Teacher

You realize that one of the terms that persons use the most to describe or address Jesus Christ during His earthly ministry was "teacher". You see it all over the Bible. Just as an example, Matthew 8:19, "Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go." So if there’s any question about the significance of the role we're describing, that puts it to rest. If Jesus himself even said, "You call me teacher and you’re right about that," and I will just say that for all of us today, perhaps this discussion of the challenges of teaching again, from whatever perspective we come, would eventually ultimately take us to the cross, who taught very simply, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life."

What that means is if I’m going to be the right influence on teachers this year, I’m going to need the power of Jesus Christ to do that. If you’re going to have the right influence on teachers this year, you’re going to need the power of Jesus Christ, but it is worth it. It is worth it and I think I can sum up the efficacy and power of a teacher with one picture. Did you see this moment in the Olympics when after David Boudia and Steele Johnson won the silver medal in platform diving this week, that they prayed with their coach?

Another one of our church members, Adam Soldati, a great teacher, what a great teaching moment that was and right after they received their metals, a reporter put a microphone in David Boudia's face and said, "Hey, how'd you handle the pressure of all of this?" David gave the perfect answer; by God’s grace he gives the perfect answer. He said, "Well, it is tense. It is nerve-racking, but what help me deal with the anxiety was just repeating truth from the word of God in my heart and also remembering," and he pointed his hand over to the pool, he said, "What happens out there, that’s not my identity. My identity is wrapped up in who I am in Jesus Christ and that can never be lost."

That message this week was proclaimed to the world. That blew up on social media. Why? Well David would say, in part, because he's had such a marvelous teacher. Let’s celebrate teachers so they can continue to have that kind of an impact on their students. Would you stand with me for prayer?

Father in heaven, thank you for the teachers among us. Father, forgive us for failing in our responsibility many times in many ways, but thank you that you are a forgiving God who stands ready to help us get to a better place and I would pray that as an entire community this year, Lord I pray that, especially those of us who would name the name of Christ would take our responsibility in such a way that makes being a teacher a more delightful task. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.

Steve Viars

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987. He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and two grandchildren. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video