Old Hymn Sings Integration

At my school, the teachers get together weekly to pray. Earlier this week, we gathered and praised God by singing “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” before a time of group prayer. We focused on God’s constant presence and work in and for us. Along with the overarching message of the song, a theme of biblical integration struck me. Look at the words of verse two:

Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above,
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.

Here we can see a word-picture that illustrates general revelation. We can see some of God’s characteristics by seeing his world. Seasons and stars testify to what He is like. However, verse three takes us to a different aspect of his faithfulness.

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!

In this section, we see God’s special revelation. Not only is God great and creative (as we see in nature), He is also active in rescuing us. He made Himself known to us by becoming one of us. His Spirit is with his people uniquely. We have hope because He has given it to us. And we see it illustrated clearly in the Bible. 

The message is “manifold” in the world (general), but made clear in the Word (special).

In your classroom, I encourage you to work hard to bring general and special revelation together as often as possible. Be a living picture of the structure of “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.” Use the general revelation in the world to show your students that God is great, powerful, and wise. Use the special revelation to show that He is also good, kind, and just. Biblical integration is, in large part, showing these two types of revelation together in your class.

For more about bringing together general and special revelation, check out Every Bush is Burning.

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How Does the Holy Spirit Speak in the Classroom?

I recently asked a student, “How can you know what God wants you to do? How can we listen to the Holy Spirit?” The answer was fascinating. The student answered by pointing to prayer, talking to parents/mentors, and turning off the smartphone. While those are helpful and needed answers, the foundation was missing. Even after much prodding, the student could not seem to get there. Of course, the key to knowing God’s will is listening to his words… the Bible.

It is amazing that many seem to miss that God is speaking still today through his ancient words. Scripture is living and active (Heb 4:12). It is fully equips us for every good work (2 Tim 3:16-17). It comes down to this: you cannot know the Lord if you don’t listen to Him speak. And, while there are variations between English translations, there are about 800,000 words in the Bible we read. There is no question in the believer’s mind that these 800,000 are God’s own words. This is the objective message of God. So we must hammer home that in order for students to hear the voice of God, they need to listen to Him speak through his Word. Do we want to hear the Spirit speak? Do we really? If so, we must go to the Word.

And, of course, we know that. How did the student know that it is important to pray, speak to wise mentors, and eliminate distractions? From the Word.

A pastor painted this picture beautifully for me from the Bible. Ephesians 5:17-20 (NLT) says, “17 Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do. 18 Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit, 19 singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts. 20 And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” How do we understand what God wants us to do? By being filled with the Spirit. But how do we do that?

Look at the parallel passage from Colossians 3, “16 Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. 17 And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.” Here Paul replaces his statement about being filled with the Spirit with being filled with the message. So how do we know what the Spirit says? How can we become filled with the Spirit? Become filled with the Spirit’s message. Become filled with the Word. He is the Author of the Bible, after all.

So do you want the Spirit to speak powerfully in your classroom? Then give the Bible, the Spirit’s own words, a prominent voice in your teaching.

The Rubric and Biblical Integration

In Every Bush is Burning, I make the case that if biblical integration is in the syllabus and the assessments, it will be much easier to ensure that you really teach in an integrated fashion. As teachers, we want our students to be prepared for their exams. We want them to accomplish what is mapped out in the syllabus. However, as with most things, integrating assignments/assessments is often easier said than done.

Here is one area that can help you make great strides to integrate your class: Include integration in the grading rubric.

The purpose of a rubric is to assess student performance against stated expectations. Therefore, if you regularly include an integration component into your rubric, you will then teach students to integrate everything they do. Look at the (incredibly basic, bare-bones, lightweight) example of a rubric that might be used in any class that assigns papers, presentations, etc.

Style/Grammar (40) Good: … Fair: … Poor: …
Content (40) Good: … Fair: … Poor: …
Biblical Engagement (20) Good: Accurately, thoughtfully shows connection to biblical ideas/themes/principles. AND cites/references specific Scripture passages. 16-20pts. Fair: Makes some effort to show connection to biblical ideas/themes/principles. OR cites/references specific Scripture passages. 10-15pts. Poor: Does not engage biblical ideas/themes/principles. OR presents inaccurate/shallow understanding of biblical teaching. 0-9pts.

Notice that all students are expected to participate in biblical integration. It is not something that they consume, but something they contribute. They are expected to practice thinking about their topics from a biblical worldview. This means that they are growing in their critical thinking, Bible study, and gospel communication. That sounds like a win for Christian education to me!

PS: This really can be done across subjects and in many different ways. Here are some examples using themes from the book of Jeremiah. In English, a student might note the brokenness of the heart (Jer 17:9) that arises in so many literary themes. In Anatomy/Biology, they might note design that God employed in making his people (Jer 1:5). In Music, they might talk about the different ways that God has given us to express emotion (Jer 33:11; 48:36).

The Holy Spirit and Your Class

Jared Wilson, in Supernatural Power for Everyday People: Experiencing God’s Extraordinary Spirit in Your Ordinary Life, says,

“The bottom line is this: the Holy Spirit can’t be pumped and scooped. He can’t be slung around, gathered up, or dispensed. He’s not pixie dust. There’s no such thing as the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit is not a thing at all, but the very presence of the personal God himself—with us, in us, and around us.”

The doctrine of the Holy Spirit is one of the most misunderstood ideas in the church today, and much hard work needs to be done to help get us back onto a healthy track. However, I think this quote gives us a good place to start. It helpfully reminds us that the Holy Spirit is a Person, and that Person is God Himself. For a more in-depth look at the Holy Spirit in education, download the paper below. I wrote it about how teachers should understand the Person and work of the Spirit. I know it will help you start thinking about this in a constructive way.

Click to Download Paper Here **The Role of the HS in Christian Ed_Hayes PDF**

Help for Science Teachers

This post is meant to highlight the great tools that you can access (for free!) from FASTly (Faith And Science Teaching).  We will get to activities and lesson plans, but, before that, watch this short video to get a picture of what FASTly is all about.

Science is one of the most important subjects of our day. It is highly valued in our society. It drives much of our commerce and allows avenues for creativity and curiosity. For biblical integrators, science is a key field because it is focused on examining and understanding the world that God has made. We can better understand the Law-Maker through his physical laws. We can better understand the Author of Life by looking into the various lifeforms He has made, the ways that He sustains them, and the way they work together.

Click here to view FASTly’s Activity Maps to help you thoughtfully practice biblical integration with science in ways that will connect well with your students. Let me emphasize: these are integrated activities. The value in activity is immense because students are not just hearing about integration. Instead, they are engaging in it—they are exploring it for themselves. I would highly encourage you to look at Activity Maps that relate to your science subject, download some of the tools, examine some the articles, look at the sample lesson plans. There is so much there! (PowerPoints, worksheets, Bible helps, etc.)

Whether you are working on a more integrated syllabus for next year or trying to find a good activity for your class right now, this is a helpful tool to have in your toolbox.

You Can Do This!: Some Tools to Help

Teaching is hard.

Our job is busy. We may be stressed and frazzled. We know that teaching biblical truth is a big responsibility, and we already have many heavy responsibilities in our daily work with students. Is biblical integration just one more more thing to add to my overflowing to-do list?

We know that it is not. Biblical integration is what makes Christian education Christian. However, we need to do more than integrate… we need to do it well.

A huge problem arises when biblical integration is not actually biblical. The way that we ensure that we are on the right track is to rightly understand and apply God’s Word. This can sometimes seem intimidating or difficult for teachers. So here are a few links to a great audio series called “Help Me Teach the Bible.” They are very helpful guides on key topics that will help us better understand the Bible and what it means in our classroom. You can download these and listen in the car, play them on your computer while you enter grades, or just try to listen to one each week.

And, as you are learning and growing, don’t forget that this is a process. God is working in the lives of your students, and He is working in your life too! Press on to grow in serving Him more and more faithfully. He is faithful to help you on the journey.

Modern Worship Sings Integration (and Evolution)

NOTE: This is a quick music review that will be of interest to Christian educators and leaders. It addresses serious issues that apply to many topics beyond music itself.

So Will I (100 Billion X) is a popular worship song by Hillsong United. The first several segments of the song highlight different areas in which creation glorifies God. And each ends with a personal commitment. For example, “If the stars were made to worship so was I,” or “If creation still obeys you so will I.” This is a great picture of the healthy integration—when we see God’s world, it should press us to respond rightly to God.

However, there are some problems with this song. The most glaring is that it seems to clearly endorse evolution. Look at these lines about God’s creative work:

And as You speak
A hundred billion creatures catch Your breath
Evolving in pursuit of what You said
If creation still obeys You so will I

While this might just be a lack of precision in language, the writers seem to clearly endorse a theology of theistic evolution.

Like most things, this song has some good and some bad. However, in this case, the strong call to a biblical response of worship to God is wonderful. And, on the other hand, the endorsement of theistic evolution is unhealthy (at best, divisive) and almost hidden in the middle of the song.

So here is the call for you as an educator (or parent, or pastor, etc.): Don’t assume that everything with a Christian label can be consumed by your students without critique and care. Hillsong United is popular. In the world of worship music, they are tastemakers. Their lyrics are on the lips of millions. But one of the biggest weapons of the evil is a lie coming from a trusted voice. And just last night, I was at an event where almost 200 students (and their leaders/parents) sang this song with vigor. No one seemed to bat an eye or pause with concern. And that is what concerns me most.

We must teach our students to discern truth and error. We have the means to do this because we have the Bible. Use your biblical integration to help students think and weigh things from a biblical perspective.