A Young Man In The Middle East

This letter is from a young man in one of our sister churches. For security reasons, I left out his name. REB

Greetings from Air Force Central Command (CENTAF) for Southwest Asia.

Despite the 110 degrees outside and the ravaging sandstorms, we run the show for the whole Middle East and the rest of the region.
I just wanted to send a quick update on what’s going on: I got in last week and the work started almost immediately. We had briefings and simulation exercises to get up to speed, and we had to relieve the Squadron from Italy so they could all go home. The rooms here are small but the base has a lot of resources; the commander has really transformed this base from an expeditionary/temporary base, to a fully functional/permanent air base.

The shift is very long, 13 hours, from 6AM to 7PM every day; everyone is always wiped out by the evening. Nevertheless, the day goes by quickly; there has been a lot to do and there will continue to be an abundance of tasks, initiatives, and tactical changes to many of our systems.

For those of you who don’t know, I’m working in a Surveillance/Command and Control position, which is like Air Traffic Control on steroids. Air traffic control deals with take-offs and landings, we deal with the tactical control of fighters, bombers, tankers, choppers, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), and countless other weapons systems. Our mission is summed up in a local saying: “We put warheads on foreheads.”

This mission is critical; this mission is dangerous. For those of you who have read the news, you know that Iran just launched a Sajjil-2 ballistic missile. All media reports about the missile are true.

Without getting into too much detail, I can tell you that I was
actually on scope when the missile was fired. I cannot disclose any more information than that. We work side by side with the Army’s Patriot Missile system guys to defend against ballistic missile attacks on Middle East assets. The Iranian capabilities are there, and they have shown both the intent and the capability to attack Israel and Coalition assets overseas.

This is no joke; this is no vacation; this really is a war. It may not touch close to home, but just know that what happens here is real stuff. We receive Intel about troops in contact every day. The proximity to danger does not make one mission more important than another; my position be far from combat, but has no bearing on the importance, impact, and tactical necessity of this mission.

There are men under fire at all hours of the day, and my job
is to ensure that those men have the support they need form the air. If I don’t do my job, men die. It’s as simple as that. This war is more real than I could have imagined. Your prayers would
be greatly appreciated. I will try to send an update every month or so. I have to run. Take care, I love you all.


The Incarnation of the Son

Grace does not ask “what does someone deserve,” but “what does he need?”

So it is that the Father of our Lord did not ask what we deserved, or what we had merited, but what we needed. What we needed was God’s own Son because none other but his Son could save us. So God in his grace gave him to such hell deserving sinners of Adam’s race as we are.

Nor did God’s Son ask what we deserved, but only what we needed. Neither did he ask “how shall my reception be” or “how shall they treat me?” He knew he was coming into a world that would not receive him and would maltreat him; a world that would cast him out and even crucify him. He even knew that the very ones for whom he was dying would be helpers to those who maltreated him. He knew that given the chance to do so, we would be among the ringleaders of the mockers in his day of calamity. Nevertheless he became man in order to merit salvation for us.

Is that not grace? Is that not what we needed? A savior who would become man for us in spite of ourselves; a savior who would will our salvation even when we willed his death.

From The Christian Examiner

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A new report by the U.S. Department of Education finds that the number of homeschooled children in America has risen steadily over the past five years and stood at about 1.5 million in 2007.

Homeschooling experts, though, place the number closer to 2 million and say the discrepancy can be attributed to homeschooling parents being less inclined to respond to government surveys.

The report from the National Center for Education Statistics, a division of the federal government’s education department, said in December the number of homeschooled children was up 74 percent from 1999 to 2007 and 36 percent since 2003.

Among the top reasons parents gave for choosing homeschooling over traditional education: concern about the school environment, to provide religious or moral instruction and dissatisfaction with the academic instruction available at other schools.

“From 2003 to 2007, the percentage of students whose parents reported homeschooling to provide religious or moral instruction increased from 72 percent to 83 percent,” the report said.

Months earlier, Brian Ray, president of the National Home Education Research Institute, released a factsheet saying parent-led, home-based education a decade ago appeared to be cutting edge and alternative but now is bordering on mainstream in the United States.

Ray said in July there were an estimated 2 million to 2.5 million children in grades K-12 who were home educated during 2007-08. He also said the method was growing quickly in popularity among minorities, with about 15 percent of homeschool families being non-Anglo.

In addition, Ray, author of “Worldwide Guide to Homeschooling” from B&H Publishing, noted that homeschooling relieves American taxpayers of more than $16 billion that would have to be spent if homeschooled children attended public schools.

Most parents decide to homeschool for more than one reason, he said, and the top reasons include customizing the curriculum and learning environment for each child and accomplishing more academically than in schools. Also on his list was the option to teach a particular set of values, beliefs and worldview.

Ray’s factsheet addressed the academic performance of homeschooled children and said they typically score 15 to 30 percentile points above public school students on standardized academic achievement tests. Homeschool students typically score above average on college admissions tests, he said, and increasingly they are being actively recruited by colleges.

“The home-educated are doing well, typically above average, on measures of social, emotional and psychological development,” Ray said. “Research measures include peer interaction, self-concept, leadership skills, family cohesion, participation in community service and self-esteem.”

Zan Tyler, an acquisitions editor and speaker for Apologia Educational Ministries, a homeschool curriculum and publishing company, told Baptist Press an increase in homeschooling will have a “positive benefit on society.”

“They’re not burned out from education. [Homeschool students] have a real love for learning by and large, and they have an independence in their learning,” said Tyler, a former homeschool resource and media consultant for B&H Publishing. “They sort of own their own education. I think that’s important.

“More than that, as Christians, another interesting study Brian Ray did was I think it was 94 percent of homeschoolers said they agreed that the religious beliefs of their parents are also their own religious beliefs,” she said. “And this is at a time when we statistically see the 18-29-year-olds leaving the church in record numbers….

“I would say the greatest benefit of homeschooling is just that these kids are being raised in Christian homes and there’s just something in the discipleship model there that obviously is a blessing of the Lord,” Tyler added. “These kids are maintaining their faith as they get older in record numbers compared to other kids.”

Tyler agreed with Ray’s assessment that the number of homeschooled children in the United States probably is much higher than the Department of Education study found, and she said it has been her experience that “a lot of times homeschoolers just aren’t going to respond to government surveys.”

In 1984, Tyler and her husband Joe started homeschooling their children in South Carolina, and the state superintendent of education threatened her with jail for not sending her children to a traditional school. Through eight years in court, the Tylers advanced the cause of homeschooling in their state. In 1990, the Tylers founded the South Carolina Association of Independent Home Schools and through the state legislature won a statute giving SCAIHS the same power to approve homeschooling programs as local school boards.

Tyler said she wasn’t sure whether the dramatic increase in the number of homeschooled children would tempt the federal or local government to intervene in the future.

“I don’t know how much the increased numbers have to do with it as much as the fact that government always seeks to control or intervene,” she said. “We saw that in the California decision where an appellate court there sought to make homeschooling illegal.”

After she left B&H and before she accepted her current position at Apologia, Tyler served as the national grassroots director for the Parental Rights Amendment, a campaign seeking an amendment to the U.S. Constitution protecting the rights of parents to raise their children.

“With Obama being elected and Hillary Clinton his new secretary of state, she’s a big proponent of the U.N. Convention of the Rights of the Child, and that will not bode well for homeschoolers,” Tyler told BP. “When an international treaty is ratified, it supersedes all domestic law except for the Constitution. That’s why we’ve been seeking a constitutional amendment that would guarantee parental rights in a wide variety of things including educational choice — how parents educate their children.”

According to parentalrights.org, “Under the UNCRC, instead of following due process, government agencies would have the power to override your parental choices at their whim because they determine what is in ‘the best interest of the child.’ In essence, the UNCRC applies the legal status of abusive parents to all parents. This means that the burden of proof falls on the parent to prove to the state that they are good parents — when it should fall upon the state to prove that their investigation is not without cause.”

As for the future of homeschooling, Tyler said she believes it will continue to be an appealing option for parents who want to raise their children “in the admonition and the fear of the Lord” and according to their learning styles.

“With the economy, it will be interesting to see what happens because more mothers are going back to work. But also as more people work at home, then they’re able to blend home education with working at home and all of life. It’s really a very natural fit,” Tyler said.

The Widow’s Might Wins SAICFF


Last Saturday was a big day for Heumoore productions, as it won the Audience Choice award, was runner-up for feature film category and won the Best of Festival award for it’s feature film The Widow’s Might.

The Widow’s Might tells the story of a young group of entrepreneurs who make a film in order to help save the homestead of widow Grace Jackson from confiscation for property taxes. In the process, there is a political message and an important theological message as well. Two generations work together as the Moore family undertakes, together with Cameron Cavillo, Jim Morton, and others to bring community attention to the widow’s plight.

The film that the group (Cinemablog Productions) makes ends up being a musical western in which the railroad is attempting to take a widow’s property in cooperation with the local sheriff, making use of governmental claims of “eminent domain.” While it is true that much of the settlement of the west came as a result of the US government giving large swaths of land to the railroads prior to the settlement of the areas west of the Mississippi River the western portion of The Widow’s Might assumes an already settled area that may or may not be receiving a railroad depot.

For many years full Bible Presbyterians have been calling attention to the fact that America’s churches have turned much of their calling over to civil government. The church has the primary responsibility to care for its own widows according to Scripture. It was refreshing to see a film in which young people, especially those who are members of one of our full Bible (i.e. Hanover) Presbyterian congregations took that message public and did it in an entertaining way. In the film, the institutional church did not involve itself directly in political or theatrical activity, but as “the widow Grace” said, because of the church she would never “want for a place to stay.”

The Reverend Kevin Swanson, a speaker and judge at the festival and an ordained minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, noted that we presently live in a toxic environment as far as film and other entertainment forms are concerned. Swanson noted that films have multiple purposes of entertaining, communicating, evoking emotions or what the Puritans would have called the affections, and giving a medium to express rejoicing and edification. All Christian film, to deserve the name, must be driven by a deep sentiment of the fear of God, according to Swanson.

While admitting that there is a certain danger in adopting worldly forms because forms are often reflective of worldviews, he also noted that in the world we presently inhabit, the shepherds of youth are no longer parents and pastors, but cultural icons. We are currently raising the third generation of “teenagers” since Elvis Presley, and the social context of much film today is rebellion.

Rev. Swanson went on to discuss how rejoicing was an important part of the biblical culture. He used the example of the Israelites singing at the shore of the Red Sea after God overthrew “horse and rider” in sea. He compared it to a modern cultural response of “a victory dance in the end zone” after a touchdown.  He pointed out also that rejoicing, as it is viewed prospectively in Deuteronomy will involve the community: the widow and the Levite as well as the individual and the family.

In a private interview, Pastor Swanson indicated that he thought the primary direction of Christian film in the future will be toward the family and the home first of all rather than toward the theater or the general populace. He sees film as edifying in that it should be watched both as an entire narrative, with a beginning, middle, and end; but also because it can be stopped and restarted with family discussion taking place in the home, which cannot happen in the theater.

While film is not significantly different from any other art form in the Christian’s arsenal, Swanson explained that the visual forms tend to intensify the aesthetic experience. The Christian film must reflect the Christian worldview, first of all. Then it must pay careful attention to method, themes, ethics and the law of God, and it must be very careful how it treats sin and sinners. On this last point, the Christian film must be careful to demonstrate that one does not break God’s law so much as God’s law breaks the sinner.

The film, workshop, and interview outlined above hardly exhaust the festival experience. To download some of the films that were shown at the festival, please visit http://www.behemoth.com. It is my understanding that CDs of the workshops will be available soon from http://www.visionforumministries.com.