October 1, 2014
Online Journal - Keeping our Focus on Christ
Paul Llewellyn, Executive Secretary/Superintendent/Youth & Camp Ministries, Maritime Conference, Moncton, NB

Hezekiah was blessed to have a royal call from the messengers of the King of Babylon after God had healed him from his illness. When the messengers came to see King Hezekiah, they might have been coming to see if there was a possibility of alignment with the Babylonian kingdom. Hezekiah welcomed them by showing the messengers the entire royal palace and the riches that Hezekiah had amassed. Hezekiah basically was showing off all his “bling-bling” to the King of Babylon.

Later, the prophet Isaiah came to visit Hezekiah and discuss the visit of Merodach-Baladan messengers. The conversation did not end on a positive note. Hezekiah’s final words were, “Just let there be peace and security as long as I live.” He did not seem to care that his descendants would be taken captive into Babylon and would have to experience living in a foreign land. He did not care as long as it did not happen in his lifetime.

During the visit of Merodach-Baladan’s messengers, Hezekiah did not once tell them of the God of Heaven that had healed him or that the God of Israel was able to make the sun go back 10 steps. He never once took them to the temple courts to observe the temple that King Solomon had built and to share the wonders of the God of Heaven. The whole visit focused on the greatness of King Hezekiah. When Hezekiah had an awesome opportunity to share his faith of God—he focused on his own “bling-bling.”

A few years ago my wife and I were in a quandary in regards to Christian education. I was pastoring 3 churches in the Annapolis Valley of Nova Scotia, and we were homeschooling our two children since we were not close enough to any SDA schools at the time. My wife ran a great program for our two kids, but they were accelerating too fast for us to keep up with their level of progression. So we made it a matter of prayer to see if God would bring us to a place in which we could have our kids in one of our high schools.

God was quick with a possibility. I had a call within a week from another province that would bring us into a district with a K-12 school. We were ecstatic! This school had so much to offer our two kids at the time. While there were awesome extra curricular activities in which our kids could get involved during their teenage years, but my wife and I wanted something more for our two kids. Our primary goal was to make sure that this school would bring our two children to a closer walk with God. Extra curricular activities are nice, but what good are they if the school environment draws our kids to the world and not to Christ?

I decided to do what I had learned to do over the years with God. I needed to have a heart to heart talk with Him. I went out into our wooded backyard and poured my heart out to God. I told the Lord that I did not care about the bling-bling that this potential school could offer our kids—that did not matter to me. I wanted my kids to be at a school that would introduce them to a closer walk with Jesus and give them leadership opportunities to grow in Christ. I asked God to bring them to the best spiritual school for my two kids.
Within a few days, my wife and I saw God work on a huge scale to answer this prayer of ours. And within three weeks, I had a new position, our house had sold, and we had bought a house close to a small K-12 school that seemed to have little bling-bling, but an awesome opportunity for my kids to grow in Christ.

Now my wife and I have come to another point of prayer—our kids our hitting that age in which it is time for them to be heading off to university and again our prayers are the same—bring them to a school in which they will be able to grow in Christ and that will lead them to eternal life with Him. We are not interested in the bling-bling of what neat things the school can offer or how large it might be, or even how recognized it is. I want to know that the university that they choose will be a place that will ultimately lead them to the eternal life with Jesus.

I am so glad that we have one of these universities here in Canada. A place where I know my kids will be introduced to a deeper walk with Jesus and have ample opportunity to be involved in spiritual leadership. We are smaller than all the other universities to the south of us, but that doesn’t matter to me.  It does not matter that we do not have all the “bling-bling” that the other schools are able to offer. It comes down to one thing for my wife and I as we support our kids in their decisions: will they come to know Jesus more at this school? 

I hope and pray that this is what all our goals are for our schools.  Are we asking the important question: Will the kids coming through our doors come to know Jesus more because of us?  Ten million years from now on the earth made new, we won’t be recounting all the bling-blings of what extra things our schools had. All we will be recounting is how Jesus brought us to eternity.  

Don’t get me wrong. The “bling-bling” is not wrong, it just should never be our focal point in education. At times, I think this is what we try to sell instead of bringing our students to know Jesus. We might try to convince ourselves that we are, but we must look at the fruits of the students that we are preparing for this world and for eternity.

I have the privilege of spending a week at Canadian University College each year for youth ministry and education meetings. I remember talking to a former CUC chaplain a few years ago, and he told me an interesting fact. CUC could always gauge the spirituality of the school by the amount of kids that they would get from certain high schools. There were two high schools that my friend mentioned. If they had a great number of students from one school, they would notice the spiritual influence of the school go in a negative direction. And the reverse was seen from the other school. They could not get enough students from that particular institution. We talked a bit on this subject and noticed some interesting trends from these two schools. In the one high school, the academia focused on the spiritual with very little bells and whistles, while the other school focused on its academia and on the extra curricula activities. We need to be willing to ask a very simple question in the communities in which we have our schools: what are our schools known for?  Do the communities see Jesus through the lives of our students and staff, or is Jesus blurred because of all the bling bling?  When we recruit students to our school, what is the primary focus of our message?

As everyone can hopefully see, we are drawing very near to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.  This should bring us to a more determined focal pointing of Jesus. That old hymnal song had it right. “Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.”   I believe it is time that we start to minimize the bling and maximize Jesus.