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Proverbs 7:1-4, My son, keep my words, and lay up my commandments with thee. Keep my commandments, and live; and my law as the apple of thine eye. Bind them upon thy fingers, write them upon the table of thine heart. Say unto wisdom, Thou art my sister; and call understanding thy kinswoman: That they may keep thee from the strange woman, from the stranger which flattereth with her words.
Given at a Teacher Training Session
I am and have been a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ for the past 35 years and all of that time has been spent in this ministry in one form or another.
I trust that you also count yourself in the band of the servants of the Lord as you prepare for warfare this school year.
What a word to use, warfare, when speaking of schooling.
But I think it to be true.
As I look at you I sense that I am looking at the front line troops in the war where hearts of children are in the middle of the fray.
Each time you step into that classroom you should remember that you are engaged in a battle for the souls of those young ones in your charge.
There is an adversary that wishes you ill and wishes you to fail in their lives, but our Lord who has all power and will allow you access to all grace, wishes you to succeed.
What a responsible position you have been given in the army of the Lord and you will be answerable by the Lord for your service.
If you do not wish that upon yourself speak now and run away quickly or forever hold your peace and get in the classroom and fight the good fight for the souls of those charges that God has given you!
I also will be held accountable for my service as I speak to you this morning.
So lets both honor the Lord by our time spent in these important matters which will be centered around the principles of Godís word.
I wish for you to concentrate your mind this morning on the subject of Hedges.
I said "Hedges" for I believe this subject to be most important in the matter of our battle plans for this school year.
Now among other plants and shrubs around my house my wife and I have planted, in various locations, scrubs known commonly as hedges.
Most are in locations that allow the hedge to provide a screen or privacy to certain areas on the grounds.
One hedge on a patio outside my living room provides a nice wall of green which I enjoy while sitting in my easy chair and it also provides privacy although by living in the woods I have plenty of privacy already but it does give my wife some comfort.
Hedges planted on the grounds of homes are plentiful and provide many useful purposes.
All hedges are barriers that prevent normal passage and demand a decision on the part of a traveler to proceed through a barrier or in another easier direction.
Hedges require decision making for their presence hinders movement.
Hedges are good things most times but hedges have to be maintained like any thing does that grows.
Like anything planted it has to be commanded to satisfy the ownerís desires and wishes.
It has to be maintained to serve the ownerís purpose for the owner of the hedge is in charge and defines the limits allowed for that hedge.
The hedge is not in charge, the owner is in charge and the hedge is formed, big, wide, high, low, anyway that is needed to fit the ownerís desire.
God gave Adam the responsibility to tend the garden in Eden and like Adam we too have a responsibility to tend gardens of various sorts.
You folks especially have that responsibility to tend gardens as you work in the classroom, as you work on the campus, as you work in the lives of boys and girls.
For you have been given boys and girls as plants in Godís garden.
My wife has a plaque that says: Mine is a garden of hope, that good fruits I may bring to Godís great harvesting.
Well, children are part of that harvest and you are in the field, you are on the front lines, tending to that future harvest.
God is counting on you to tend it faithfully.
By being in this place today it appears that you have willingly taken on a responsibility to tend Godís garden.
As far as I know none of you have been forced into this responsibility.
Paul said I have planted, Apollos water, but God gave the increase.
So Paul used this metaphor to describe his work and I will also use it to describe your work.
I want to use a passage in Proverbs to begin this session for I believe it will enlighten us concerning this gardening responsibility that you have as teachers.
This passage is Proverbs 7:1-4, My son, keep my words, and lay up my commandments with thee. Keep my commandments, and live; and my law as the apple of thine eye. Bind them upon thy fingers, write them upon the table of thine heart. Say unto wisdom, Thou art my sister; and call understanding thy kinswoman: That they may keep thee from the strange woman, from the stranger which flattereth with her words.
This of course, is important instruction from a father to his son.
It is biblical instruction, it is the most important instruction of all for it is Godís instruction that we are to impart to our children.
As a Christian school teacher you are an arm of the biblical father that is described in Godís word.
You will have many children to tend in your garden this year and those children will come from many different kinds of homes, some with fathers some without fathers.
Those fathers that are in the home will have many different ideas about rearing their children and may communicate those ideas to you.
I imagine that your school Principal's could fill a book about different methods that have been suggested to them on how to rear a child.
But many fathers have no idea about rearing children and look to you to do the work.
But as a Christian school teacher you are not an arm of those fathers.
Yes, you serve those fathers in the training of their children but your lesson plan does not come from those fathers.
You do not to incorporate their ideas into your classroom, unless those ideas have passed the scrutiny of the word of God.
Why is this? Because you are an arm of a biblical father and you are to bring into your classroom only those principles of that biblical father.
As a Christian school we have to have this as our standard.
If a parent finds that this is not what they want for their child we must insist they find a place where their ideas will be honored but we must honor the word of God over the word of the childís father or the childís mother.
If a school operated on the basis of principles of the father of the child there would be no central set of principles on which to operate.
But God has solved this problem by giving us his word and his word alone, one common set of principles that will meet every childís need, one common set of principles upon which a Christian school must operate.
This should make it easy for us. It is we who complicate things is it not?
It is we who complicate things by deviating from this set of principles that our Father in heaven has given us.
You are to be the biblical father of the child in your classroom.
Now there are certain functions of the biblical father that you are not allowed to do such as the use of the rod on the child since we expect the father in the home to take care of that.
But allowing for that restriction you are to do what the father in this passage does, for this father gives his son a glimpse of what disobedience to the fatherís word will bring.
The instruction of this father includes an experience that the father has viewed from his window and he wants to impart that experience to his son so that his son does not fall the same way that the young man, void of understanding, fell.
Fatherís and teachers are to note this pattern of instruction.
This pattern is the showing to the son, in clear detail, what the results have been in the lives of others because they did not heed the word of the father.
Look at what happened to John, son, he did not heed his fatherís word and look where he is now.
So Proverbs 7 is a proverb upholding words and commandments of the father.
Every admonition that this father gives to the son in this passage emphasizes again and again the quality of un-removability of the words, the commandments and the law that this father impresses upon his son.
This fatherís word is true and unchanging and this is communicated to the son.
How this simple principle will bring peace into the home and into the classroom!
The unchanging fixed word of the father.
The unchanging fixed word of the teacher.
Classrooms have no room for a fickle, changeable, vacillating and unpredictable teacher. Children thrive on constancy.
If both father and teacher obey and depend on the unchanging and fixed word of God then constancy can be realized.
The best word to describe the fatherís actions is inculcation.
Inculcate means: To impress by repeated statement or admonition; to urge on the mind; to teach persistently and earnestly.
The Bible calls it line upon line, precept upon precept.
The act of inculcating then is the impressing of principles on the mind by persistent urging or teaching.
Donít get upset by having to repeat these principles.
That is just the way God planned it to work.
Go with his plan and keep in keeping on and keeping on in this constancy.
For this to take place those principles must have already been impressed on the mind of the father and the teacher.
As is the case in most of the Proverbs this instruction is given so that a desired result will follow.
That is what training is to be about.
Training is given so that predictable results will follow.
This teacher training at the beginning of each school year is given, not just to be given so as to check off some item on a list of goals but it is given in order that predictable results will follow throughout the school year.
Christian school administrators do not like surprises!
They do not want to be blind sided for they like predictable results. Parents like predictable results!
Teachers must know the school policies and rules, they must know what is the mission of the school, what is to be accomplished in the lives of their students.
All things must be working together to achieve a desired result in the school.
I remember the training that I received from the Navy after I had been given orders to go to Vietnam in 1968, 36 years ago.
I had received training before this in order to become a Naval Officer but I was about to face something different than I had faced in that earlier training.
In order to comply with these new orders I had to have specialized training to equip me for the war in Vietnam.
The Navy ordered me to receive training before I went to that theater of war in hopes that predictable results would follow.
And those predictable results were for me to survive the war and to return home to the Navy for further service.
Part of that training concerned the care and use of the M-16 rifle.
I was instructed in the mechanics of this weapon, the ammunition used, how to load, how to aim, how to fire and how to clean and care for the rifle.
The rifle was easy to care for.
Each man carried a rifle rod, a wad of bore patches, and a tube of silicone lubricant, to clean the rifle.
The rifle split in two for cleaning.
You removed a pin and it opened like a shotgun opens.
The entire bolt and firing pin group came out for disassembly and cleaning.
I was glad to know such good information because I was going to a place where weapons like them were being used by people who would put a notch on their belt after they had killed me.
My defense was centered on that weapon and it was a matter of life or death to learn and be prepared to use that weapon.
You can imagine how intent you can become in learning when it is a matter of life or death. I wanted predictable results.
Now the Word of God is like this especially in the matter of rearing children for God gives you light in this matter so that you will have predictable results.
You do not want to be surprised by the results of your child rearing efforts.
It is amazing how the world caters to surprises in the matter of child rearing for there is so much left to chance instead of left to the word of God.
Do you want your child to be like a lab rat testing some new theory or do you want predictable results?
We are told in the word of God that there are enemies that we will face and that we are to be equipped to face those enemies and to be victorious over those enemies.
We have enemies but God does not leave us defenseless.
He doesnít take away the enemies but he provides for us to be victorious over those enemies.
In other words the predictable result is victory in the lives of our children.
The Navy gave me instruction in the use of the M-16.
It was up to me to take that instruction seriously and to pay attention and not slough it off thinking the instruction would do me no good.
The Navy did its job by giving me instruction, by giving me the rifle, but I had a responsibility to take hold of that instruction and make it profitable when or if the time ever came where defense of my life was necessary.
Now the father in the proverbs is equipping his son with the M-16 of wisdom and understanding.
He is not expecting his son to engage in the battles of life without the proper ammunition to defend himself.
Any father who does not prepare his son for the realities of this world is not carrying out his God given responsibilities and is not earning the name of father.
Note what the father says here.
Note what his ammunition consists of.
My son, keep my words, and lay up my commandments with thee. Keep my commandments, and live; and my law as the apple of thine eye. Bind them upon thy fingers, write them upon the table of thine heart. Say unto wisdom, Thou art my sister; and call understanding thy kinswoman:
Words, commandments, and law.
We may think that the ammunition that is used in modern weapons is powerful,
we may glory in the smart weapons that we have
but the fatherís words, commandments and law have eternal power in the sonís life that cannot be matched by any weapon known to man.
My son, keep my words. These words are powerful!
It is the fatherís responsibility to give his word to his son.
It is the teacherís responsibility to give his or her word to their students.
God does not intend for fathers or teachers to be silent, but He intends for fathers and teachers to give words.
For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, as told us in the book of John.
For God so loved the world that he gave his word (Jesus Christ is the word made flesh) to the world.
That is the pattern.
Love is evidenced by the giving of the word.
Why does the Biblical father use a rod?
So that his word is heard, thatís all, so that his word is heard.
And Lack of love is evidenced by the withholding of the word.
Silent fathers then do not match the pattern that God has provided in Jesus Christ.
The Proverbs father says: Keep my words.
Now we start talking about Hedges!
This word "keep" in the Hebrew means to hedge about.
It is the word shaÚmar shaw-mar'
It means to hedge about as with thorns, that is guard, to protect, to attend to, to take heed, to look narrowly, to observe, to preserve, to regard, to reserve, to save.
This word keep is also used in the verse in:
Genesis 2:15, And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.
The job of Adam in the garden was to dress and to keep the garden.
This word dress means to work, to serve, to till, to keep in bondage, to compel.
If you have ever worked a garden this word is so appropriate for a garden is always wanting to get beyond the confines that the gardener desires.
The garden is always pushing outward against the wishes of the gardener.
The word keep is the same word that is used by the Proverbs father when he tells his son to keep his commandments.
It means that Adam was to hedge the garden about, meaning he was to guard it, he was to protect it, to attend to it and to look narrowly to it.
Adam was to be the gardenís protector.
He was to keep all the animals that God had created out of the garden.
And so too were the words of the father to be a protector.
They were to be a hedge around the son.
The fatherís words are to provide a barrier to the son that only willful and vigorous rebellion by the son will allow the son to disregard his words.
Do you get the tone of the scriptural message here?
Do you see that the fatherís word is treated with respect?
Do you see that the fatherís word is not given lightly or in frivolity.
Do you understand that when this father speaks everyone listens for this is a Biblical father and teachers, arenít you to be an arm of this Biblical father?
My son, keep my words, and lay up my commandments with thee. Keep my commandments, and live; and my law as the apple of thine eye. Bind them upon thy fingers, write them upon the table of thine heart.
The Proverbs father says: Keep my words.
This word "keep" as I said means to hedge about, but not any old hedge, it means to hedge about as with thorns.
Not a boxwood hedge or an azalea hedge, but a hedge with thorns.
The father purposes to plant over time a hedge with thorns completely around his son with his words.
For a hedge with thorns provides much hurtful resistance to passage, not just from passage into the garden from without but also hurtful resistance from passage from within the garden.
Hedges do not only have thorns on one side you know!
So penetration of the hedge in any place is designed to bring hurt and pain.
That is the kind of hurdle that the fatherís words are designed to place in front of his sonís progress through life.
For the father loves his son and intends to provide this hedge to keep the son within that love for the fatherís love is within the garden.
Isnít it interesting that the fatherís love is expressed by his words which means to place a hedge with thorns around his son.
The father must make his words serious business, for the lack of obedience to his words will bring serious and eternal consequences.
He expects his words to be respected for his word is not given lightly or in a frivolous manner.
I rarely if ever witness this kind of respect shown a father today but so what, that is not to deter us for I believe it is the Bible way.
There is way too much of a pal to pal relationship between fathers and sons today.
The Bible way is not equality between the father and the son.
The Bible says to honor thy father and thy mother, it does not tell the father to honor the son or daughter, but that is mostly what we see today.
In this day and age it appears to me that there is a concerted effort to tear down hedges or barriers that have been erected for the good of society.
The marriage barrier is the hot button issue these days.
The cry goes out that we do not want the barrier of one man and one woman to define marriage.
We want the barrier widened or even broken down to include all kinds of arrangements.
The barrier that God had erected in the womb of a woman is torn down by the proponents of the womanís right, the right to dispose of that which God has given her to bring into this world.
That barrier of the womb is the first barrier among many that is placed before the child for his or her own welfare.
That child has a God given right to the barrier of the womb and he also has God given rights to many barriers or hedges that the parents of that child are to erect in his behalf.
The barrier of the womb and other barriers are not to be torn down just because of changing fashion for those barriers are to be from one generation to another generation.
God expects fathers and mothers to be in the hedge building business for the benefit of the child that he has entrusted in their care.
And teachers are enlisted to carry out that effort for God for the childís welfare.
I remember when we had our four children back in the 60ís and 70ís.
It was a common thing to have play pens in the home.
They provided a barrier and limits for our children to play while Mom or Dad was doing something else.
They provided the prescribed limits of the childís activity and the child was kept in the play pen according to his or her age and training.
As they became more responsible the barrier was lifted and they were given more liberty.
Most hedges are not meant to be permanent but they are to provide a place for training to learn to live responsibly.
When that happens the hedge is removed but there always comes a new hedge in which to learn more responsibility of a higher sort.
That is what happens at birth.
The time has passed, the child has grown to the proper size and the barrier of the womb is removed but the child is given other barriers to learn in and grow out of.
One thing that all motherís to be, do, is to guard that barrier so it does its job and the baby is not released from the womb prematurely.
The mother-to-be follows the doctorís orders for the doctorís orders are that that baby come only when it is good and ready to leave the hedge of the womb and come out and enter a new hedge.
That is to be the pattern.
However we see in this day a concerted effort to put aside those barriers that have been erected for the childís welfare which are now thought of as a hindrance to the childís growth and development.
The play pen is out. The whole house is in.
Put up the expensive stuff so the child will not get into it instead of placing the barrier of the rod between the child and the good stuff.
The barrier of the shopping cart seat at the grocery store is out, the whole grocery store is in.
The barrier of the church pew is out, let them crawl on the floor, or wander from pew to pew or play in the back of the church.
But I know that modern children can observe barriers.
Look at the way they are tied up in the car.
My children never had the barrier of the car seat.
They sat in the car, moved on the seat, had freedom to move.
But today the little ones are strapped in so I know that it can be done but many fatherís today and many motherís today somehow have lost the idea that children need hedges to learn to live within.
And until they learn to live in a particular barrier they cannot proceed to the next barrier and so on an so on and so on.
Life is a series of hedges and unless our children learn to live in them early on they will end up being in a 9x6 foot barrier provided by the state, with free food and clothes but not much else.
Or even more drastic the barrier of an early grave.
I can almost guarantee that one or two of those K-4 students that we have in school this year will eventually end up in a jail cell or in a box in the ground prematurely.
It is a sad fact that many of those little children will not stay around here long enough to learn to live within the safe hedges that those who love them will plant in their way.
Your job is the same as Adamís was in the garden of Eden.
You are to dress those children, you are to keep those children, your are to establish and preserve those hedges and to impart to those children that the hedges are there and that they are there because you love them enough to want them to do right, to love and serve God.
You want them to be a proper garden for God.
So do right this year, keep those hedges trimmed and strong for they will communicate in the best way possible that you truly love your students and that you truly want what the best for them.
"This stream, which has been as naught to me,
To that fair-haired boy may a pitfall be;
He, too, must cross in the twilight dim-
Good friend, I am building this bridge for him."