What Do You Do When You Hear of Spectacular Student Sins?

Whether you teach on the Upper East Side of Manhattan or within the city limits of Baltimore or along a cornfield in Smallville, USA, you are bound to hear occasional reports of the self-destructive doings of your secondary students. I hate it when it happens, but, if you’re paying attention to your kids and seeking to know them better, you’re bound to come across reports of  students you love hacking away at their souls with pre-marital sex, substance abuse, or other foolish deeds. Yet, when we do, what should we do with this information?

One option is to ignore it. “I’m not a counselor,” we might rightly say, and then we move on with our instructional duties. This is true; we aren’t counselors. But, as Christians, we have the Wonderful Counselor residing within us; we have a constant communication link to the counselor who makes the most highly-paid counselors of our era seem like doddering fools. I don’t think that, as Christians, with access to the infinitely wise Creator of our students, we can simply ignore reports like these, though it surely may be a way to protect ourselves from emotionally draining information.

Another option is to laugh to ourselves or with a colleague. “These kids,” we might say. Using humor to cover up the intense hurt that our students are doing to themselves is just another form of self-protection.

A common option in these situations is to gossip about it. Gossip is the telling of unpleasant truths. Any time we share information about a student’s self-destructive exploits with someone besides the student or someone who can help the child, we gossip. Alarmingly, I find myself participating in this far too often. Just like the previous options, this is a form of self-protection. By telling someone, I get it off my chest.

Ultimately, this is a moral decision that cannot be joyfully made apart from the Gospel. Christ makes moral decisions both incredibly easy and infinitely challenging. He tells us that the first law is to love God with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind. We go to God with these disturbing tales; we seek and receive true comfort from our talks with Him, not the counterfeit comfort that comes with the thrill of sharing a dirty secret with a colleague. And the second command, Christ says, is similar: we are to love our neighbors just as we love ourselves.

But our students are not our neighbors… right? Asking “Who is my neighbor?” in response to Christ’s second command is as old as the command itself—and Christ responds with the parable of the good Samaritan, which effectively says, “The person right in front of you is your neighbor, whether they are of the same class, job, status, gender, or whathaveyou.” Our students are our neighbors, and we are to love them as we would want to be loved if we were them.

So, when we hear these secrets and are tempted to either ignore them or divulge them to colleagues, we can simply “put ourselves in their shoes.” If we were the student, making similarly terrible decisions, yet knowing deep down that these decisions were destroying us, what would we want done? First of all, I wouldn’t want someone to ignore or laugh about it; at least, deep down I wouldn’t. And second, I certainly wouldn’t want it spread around fruitlessly. What good would all of my teachers knowing my sin do for me? Nothing except do what I find teacher gossip most often does: create a tiny voice in the teacher’s head that says, “That student is unreachable. Move on to someone else.”

No, I wouldn’t want that. Instead, knowing what I know now, I’d want two things: first, for the teacher to pray for me; second, for the teacher to prayerfully pull me aside and ask me how things were going, perhaps even confronting me in a humble-bold manner.

The next time we hear of a stomach-churning, debaucherous deed done by one of our students, let’s put off the temptation to ignore it or laugh about it or gossip, instead turning to God with joy that we are able to be part of the redemptive work that Christ’s infinitely powerful blood and resurrection have made possible.

What do you do in these situations? What do you do when a colleague comes to you and begins gossiping about a student’s sin?


Book Review: Praying for Your Future Husband, by Robin Jones Gunn and Tricia Goyer

  • Robin Jones Gun and Tricia Goyer
  • Multnomah
  • May 2011
  • 224 pp.

Recommended. A book that will help refocus young women on God.

Our culture has a pretty pervasive belief in “the One”–the person that we are made for, the person who will become our soul mate. Some of this comes comes from romantic comedies and a vaguely “spiritual” worldview. Yet, as Christians who believe in a God who controls all things and who is omnipresent across space and time, we know that God is as much with us at this moment as he is at the moment of our births and the moment of our marriages and the moment of our deaths.

In Praying for Your Future Husband: Preparing Your Heart for His, Gunn and Goyer have taken these theological truths and made them extremely practical for young ladies who are dreaming about their future husbands. Rather than idolize relationships and the quest for finding Mr. Right, Gunn and Goyer gently help young women focus these desires for companionship on our perfectly loving Father.

You might worry that this book would be burdensome, that you will find a list of things that a woman must pray. Thankfully, it’s far from a how-to manual. Filled with anecdotes from the authors’ lives and others, this book both reassures readers who have made mistakes and inspires readers with stories of God answering prayer.

When my daughter grows older, I’ll want to give her a copy of this book.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commision’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Poem: My Greenhouse Bubble

My Greenhouse Bubble

From the polution of my heart
a bubble forms around my life;
like the greenhouse effect,
it diverts divine grace,
constantly sent sunbeams,
from reflecting from me
away from my gravity
as they were made to.

Instead, those untold graces
on their way out turn back to me.
I kneel to pray, but my prayers
constantly return in subject matter to their sender.
Naturally, I take the grace to pray
and use it to bless myself,
praying for my needs,
as if the earth, a tiny pebble,
need pray to the behemoth sun to receive his sunlight.

And, then, I intend
to praise him in prayer,
to pray for others,
yet constantly, like faithful dogs,
the words and thoughts
return to my needs, my day,
my desire to pray with pretty words.

“I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.”

Here is grace for grace,
to be given the unsearchable riches
of the gift of prayer,
and then the gift of actually seeking them.

Poem: My Superpowers

My Superpowers

My superpowers:
I can stand at the edge
of the ocean of Joy
whose depths stretch
into the abyss of the universe
and remain unmoved.

I can pray
to the one who, once an infant,
held the quintillion stars in balance
while still learning to focus His eyes,
and, while praying,
I can be unimpressed.

I can use absurd pronouns–
my Savior, my King, my God–
proclaiming ownership
of the one who made me
and whose ownership I deny
and, while praying,
I can remain nonchalant.

My superpowers,
my diamond-hard heart,
is killing me
like Spider Man’s black suit.

But unlike Spider Man, I can’t save myself.
I can’t tear the suit off.
I can’t will my heart to change.
I can’t soften diamonds.

But He can.

Pray like Jesus – Gethsemane – Mark Driscoll sermon

(I tried embedding this but it didn’t work — here you go:

This sermon was a great aid to me today, and I wanted to post it here (first post in a looooong time) because of how the Lord used it to correct me and restore me. Here are some things Mark said (apologize if I missed a word here or there):

“You live in a stupid culture that tells you you can do whatever you want. You’re told from a kid that everyone gets to be president. You’re told you get to write the script of your life and everyone else will just read their part.” 

–Life is complicated, and I appreciate this reminder of that. I’ve been frustrated and disappointed and anxieated during the past two weeks by my students not doing what I want them to do. I appreciate being reminded that life is complicated and that I’m not given a director’s power. 

“Life with Jesus is not easier. It’s just not lonely.”
“You are the author and perfecter of your life… It’s a lie.”
“Sometimes prayer changes things — most of the time, it changes us.”
“Prayer didn’t get Jesus around any of it, but it got Him through it.”
“Are you despairing because of sin and its effects or because you didn’t get your way?”
May His will be done in our lives, and may we pray more like Christians.

Anger in the classroom

(Please note that this won’t be an entire picture of the classroom God has given me dominion over, as nothing that I write truly can be. The entire picture of this classroom is a myriad of relationships and classroom history. But I am going to try to learn what God is teaching me through these experiences.)

Today my blood boiled during 1st/2nd period. Boiling blood aptly describes how my face felt. Anger. I’ve been reflecting on whether teacher anger is at the root of most write-ups, referrals, and poorly considered consequences. I think it is. Repenting of sinful anger is a key to classroom management.

It really started yesterday.

Yesterday, MW, who was being punished, wrote an impassioned note to himself that he hated me because I let JP get away with everything. MW wrote that he thought I was scared of JP. He gave me the note when I asked, and when I asked if I could keep it, he let me. I kept it in my stack of edits for that night (writing workshop produces a lot of those right now), and whenever I came across it I read it and considered it..

Today I moved JP away from MW at the start of the class, citing instructional reasons. During silent reading JP was moving over by the couch and talking to the people there, so I told him he couldn’t sit there. He asked me, “Why?” The tone of his voice and the look on his face made me angry. It appeared that he was trying to… what, bully me? Be tough?

He stared at me and I stared at him. Then I knew he was trying to be tough. This thirteen year-old boy, part of the mentor/mentee group I go to Cici’s pizza buffet with on Wednesdays, was trying to intimidate me in my classroom! I was outraged. So I stared at him. I was mad. The fight sensors were blaring in me. I wasn’t going to back down. When JP sat at his desk, he reached his hand out–challenging me to arm wrestle! He seriously challenged me to arm wrestle. Part of me wanted to try it. He’s a big kid, but he’s a kid! I could beat him… but it was absurd. He really wanted to make clear that he was the big dog in the class.

I sent him outside. He went out and slammed the door. I gave him a minute to cool down out there (and, truthfully, for me to cool down).

Practical application: Give myself time to cool down when I get mad.

When I went out there, I was able to coolly explain to JP what had been unacceptable about his behavior. He listened, and seemed to soften a bit. I told him that the Lord had given him a great, athletic body, but that it wasn’t for that. It was for glorifying God on the field, sticking up for bullied kids, protecting women, but not for what he pulled. I told him to come in when he was ready, and several minutes later, he did–slamming the door.

But by then, I was having an issue with DT, who was talking during reading workshop (of course, it didn’t help that I’d been outside for some moments now–but the classroom was still quiet, if not inactive). My anger went up quick, and, in the anger, I assigned him lunch detention.

Practical app: Don’t give consequences in anger. The tone this gives them is one of resentment. Give consequences after both parties have had a chance to cool down.

Final digression: I’ve got these two boys JD and CJ who made a girl cry today. JD was saying something smelled, and Clifton was saying it was LG (the girl). These boys are pretty quiet about what they do. They have been infuriating me this week because of their coldness; even though they’re always giggling, there’s a lot that’s mean and cruel about it. They’re not taking anything seriously.

Lord, I praise You for making them, for Your plan for them that I can’t see. I confess that I am angry and bitter towards them; I resent their attitude. You made them in love, have a purpose for them in perfect love. You are unconditionally committed to getting them into your arms at the future feast. Lord, I want to know their hearts; I want to know how to teach them; I want them to stop being mean and start being young men. Father, with Your Spirit I repent of my feelings towards these boys, and I forgive them. I ask that You would grant LG the same overflowing grace. Because we have been unconditionally forgiven, we can forgive–all because of You.

Practical app: Father, praying about students is of infinitely greater worth than worrying about them or being angry at them or bitter towards them or indifferent about them. All of these approaches besides prayer is idolatry. I repent of today’s idolatry and turn back to You, my Father.

David Bisgrove Sermon Notes — Series: “Practicing the Christian Life: Walking” — Sermon #4: The Bridge to Prayer

Sermon preached on April 27, 2008.

Teaching is based on Psalm 1:1-6

Please note that these sermon notes are provided only to encourage, and that any or all parts of the notes may contain errors or omissions, due entirely to the note-taker. Full audio of the sermon may be found at the Redeemer Sermon Store.

Introduction: Intellectual belief in itself doesn’t contain change in character.

  • I know these things, and yet I struggle with behavior in all of these things. Ex: I know I’m not supposed to lust, and yet my eyes grope women.
  • Thinking that intellectual belief itself will change our character is like saying we belong to the gym and expecting to get in shape without going there and working out.


I. The promise of meditation

II. The practice of meditation
III. The passion of meditation

I. The promise of meditation

  • “Blessed”=happiness, but much deeper than our common usage. It’s interesting that this word “blessed” starts off Psalm 1:1; the beginning of the book of Psalms–a book of prayers–is this deep happiness.
    • Many people out of a deep yearning in their hearts come to New York City
      • Yet nothing will satisfy the fundamental restlessness of our hearts
        • Jobs and careers are wonderful, but they just won’t do it.
      • We’re all meditating (walking, standing, sitting as the Psalmist writes) on something, and that something (whatever it is) is shaping who we are.
        • If we walk, stand, and sit (meditate) on success, success will shape who we are, and we’ll do anything for it. It will shape our character.
    • Unless we put our roots deeply into the God who made us, we’ll never find that answer to this deep yearning.
      • If we’re cold to God, we need to acknowledge that we’re not so good at meditation.
  • The tree, the Christian with roots deeply into God, walking, standing, and sitting, meditating on God
    • Stability (by streams of water)
      • Ability to thrive not dependent on circumstances
      • “Joy is not the absence of conflict but the presence of God.” Elizabeth Elliott?
    • Productive (bearing fruit)
      • Stick your roots into His story, connect it with your story, and you’ll be reaching your full human potential. You were made for this story.
    • Wise (bearing fruit in season though leave doesn’t wither)
      • In times like winter when no fruit is forthcoming but you’re growing
      • A wise person understands the purpose of suffering and God saying no

II. The practice of meditation (vs. 2)

  • To love being told what to do by God
      • We value freedom, this idea of loving being told what to do is alien to us (we came to NYC to get away from that!)
    • The degree to which we do this…
      • Ex: His three year old daughter who wants to pull away from Dad and do things her own way would have a life expectancy of thirty minutes in downtown Manhattan.
      • The gap in loving authority between child and father is infinitely smaller than that between us and God
  • The essence of meditation is listening to God
    • Meditation is sort of the opposite of prayer. Prayer is us talking to God (which isn’t bad!). Meditation is us listening to God.
      • The dominant communication paradigm should be: He talks, we listen.
      • Ex: in Psalm 103, David is talking to his heart
      • Ex2: J. I. Packer (theologian): Meditation is arguing with oneself until information becomes sensation in our lives.
  • Do it day and night: don’t stop doing it
    • Wife didn’t train for NY marathon by watching inspirational videos and reading books about it; she practiced.
    • Meditation takes time–it’s not magic. Practical advice: as a minimum, do 30 minutes.

III. The passion of meditation

  • Here’s the problem with all this on meditation: who really does it like this?
  • The sermon on the mount is basically Jesus’ meditation on the law (He listens to God’s command about adultery, and hears that lust actually is the same concept, etc.)
  • Vs. 5 and 6 of this Psalm describe a standard of righteousness that is terrifying; they will fill you with guilt.
  • Jesus is the stream of living water in this psalm
    • On the cross, He knew that He was being poured out like water; He quoted Psalm 22; at the well, He knew
    • Eternal life is knowing Him and knowing He knows us.
  • Jesus filled verses 5 and 6; He gave us the fulfillment of this

Close: One way to approach meditation

  • First, ask: what does this passage teach?
  • Then, use ACTS naturally, as they come, in whatever order:
    • Adoration
    • Confession
    • Thanksgiving
    • Supplication (asking for things)