REPOST: This blog post was originally shared during a High School chapel by Dirk Jasperse, former CCHS Science teacher. Mr. Jasperse is now teaching at Rosslyn Academy, a private Christian school, in Nairobi, Kenya.
I have a great classroom, but with the lab counters taking up floor space, the desks are pretty close together. You fill those up with students, with legs sticking out, and giant backpacks in the aisles and it is a pretty crowded situation. With the coming of Chromebooks and access to electronic textbooks this year, I was really looking forward to having no need for all these huge backpacks. Nice for you, I thought, less to lug around. Nice for me, no backpacks clogging the aisles. Wrong! Now you have your Chromebooks PLUS your enormous backpacks. You carry a lot of equipment around with you. It always amazes me how a student can carry around so much stuff, and sometimes still not have a pencil when you need one, or a calculator, or a periodic table. Lots of equipment, but not always equipped.
Calvin Christian School exists to equip students. Not equipped with notebooks and pens and calculators, but to equip students with God’s truth. Stop and think about that for a moment. This school exists for you. Our prime piece of property, all our buildings and fields, soon to be a new $4.7 M building, teachers who have spent 20, 30, or 40 years of their lives here – everything we have and everything we are . . . is for YOU. This is all here because parents, your teachers, and the Christian community that has supported this school since its inception, feel very strongly about Christian education. Because we want you to be equipped for a life and an eternity with God. Doesn’t that make you feel important and valuable, that this is all for you? And maybe humble and thankful that someone would do this all for you?
But hopefully this will help you get the point that that being equipped is really important.
In the late 1890’s gold was discovered in the Klondike River in the Yukon. Thousands of prospectors swarmed to the Yukon, many arriving by ship in Skagway, Alaska, hiking the 33-mile trail up and over the Chilkoot pass, and then rafting the rest of the way to the Klondike. The Canadian government knew that gold fever had such an allure that many would rush in unprepared for the rigors of the harsh life they would find there. To prevent theft, violence, devastation of the land, and mass starvation, the Canadian government required everyone crossing the border from Alaska into the Yukon to have 1 TON of supplies. That, they judged, was enough to keep a prospector outfitted for one year. At the top of the Chilkoot pass, at the border between Alaska and Canada, the Canadian Mounties had scales set up and no prospector was allowed into Canada unless he had with him 2000 lbs of supplies. Carrying a 50 lb pack, that’s 40 trips up the trail. They say there were so many people going up the Chilkoot Trail that if you stepped out of line to tie your boots, you might have to wait 3 hours to squeeze yourself back in the line. I imagine that the stampeders thought long and hard about what to include in their 2000 lbs of equipment. They had to be well equipped. Not only their access to the gold fields depended on it, their lives depended on it.
Look at Matthew 25 and think about what Jesus is saying about equipping:
“At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep. “At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’ “Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’ “‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’ “But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut. “Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’ “But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’ “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.”
Now the teaching of this parable is not just to plan ahead and be prepared. Jesus is saying that those who seek the coming of the kingdom of God are wise. Calvin Christian is trying to equip you with that kind of wisdom.
Equipment must match purpose. No use having a backpack and hiking boots if you are going to run a cross country race. No need to have your calculator and periodic table if you are going to English class. What equipment do you need? What is our purpose in this Christian school and how are we equipping you?
Here are some of the ways:
We want to widen your awareness of God in the world. Many people can “see” God when they look at the Grand Canyon or a sunset over the Pacific Ocean or a miraculous healing. I hope you can too. But we are equipping you to also see God in cells and atoms and Newton’s Laws and the logic of math and in the patterns of history and in the intricacies of language and in a musical phrase and in developing athletic skill. We are equipping you to widen your awareness of God.
We want you to be able to engage culture in a Christian way. Literature, politics, sports, media, the arts, technology. None of these are neutral. We want you to know how to bring your Christian values to bear on all aspects of culture. Not to separate yourself from culture but to enjoy culture, to participate in it in a God-pleasing way, and influence it, helping to transform it for Christ. That’s why we study Newton and Einstein, and even Darwin. That’s why we read the Bible and CS Lewis and John Calvin, but we also read Steinbeck and Orwell and F. Scott Fitzgerald. We are equipping you to participate discerningly in culture as a citizen of the kingdom of God.
Here are some verses from the New Testament about equipping and what it is for:
Works of service. So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.
Good works. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
2 Timothy 3:11-17
God to work in us what is pleasing to him. Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
One final story about being equipped, or in this case, not equipped: You live only 5 hours (280 miles) from the highest point in the continental US – Mt Whitney. (It is also remarkable that the highest point in the lower 48 states – Mt. Whitney – and the lowest point – Badwater in Death Valley — are less than 100 miles apart.) A number of years ago, I was part of a group that was going to climb Mt. Whitney. It is a very challenging hike: 11 miles one way, 22 miles round trip, all in one day. It is steep and tough. You never really see much of the first few miles of the trail because you start out in the dark in the early hours of the morning and you end in the dark later that night.
The night before our hike, I stowed my gear in a bear box and went to sleep in my van in the campground near the trailhead. I was awakened in the middle of the night by some crunching, munching noises just outside the van. I sat up and looked outside. There was food and food wrappers and all kinds of stuff strewn all over the ground, and there was a large bear chomping noisily away at the jackpot of food he had found. Someone had come in off the trail and had not properly latched the bear box. I got out of the van shooed away the bear. I looked in the bear box and in all the debri on the ground, searching for my backpack and all my supplies for the hike. All my stuff was gone. It was one o’clock in the morning.
I searched deeper into the woods, in the direction that the bear had gone, thinking that maybe the bear had dragged my pack away and maybe I could find it lying on the ground somewhere in the woods. So I’m wandering around in the woods, in the dark, in the middle of the night, by myself, with the bear probably just behind the next tree or rock. Nothing. My backpack was gone, my food was gone, my water bottles, my hat, my jacket, even the legs to my zip-off pants — everything gone.
How could I possibly make this very difficult hike without all my very carefully chosen equipment? I was still determined to go on the hike. I began to think about how I could do it with no equipment. I had a duffle bag in the car, a cheap Padres giveaway. I slung that over my shoulder and that became my backpack. I went into the campground bathroom and found some empty water bottles in the trash can. (I was not going to let that bear get the best me!) I washed them out in the bathroom sink, filled them with water. Someone in our group gave me some green grapes, so now I had food and water. There was no way I could expose my bald head to the midsummer rays coming down through thin mountain air. I had an long-sleeved T-shirt in my van, also a Padres’ giveaway, so I tied that like turban around my head. By now it was 2:00 in the morning and I knew I wasn’t going to be able to get back to sleep so I just started up the trail.
Well, . . . I made it to the top, and I made it back down. But an already difficult climb was made much more difficult by my lack of equipment. As I went up the trail, I kept seeing other hikers with their fancy equipment – $200 backpacks, camelbak hydration systems, telescoping walking sticks, trail mix and protein bars, $50 hats from REI or LL Bean. Here I was with my used water bottles, a few slightly brown green grapes, a Padres giveaway duffle bag, and a T-shirt tied around my head!
My point: Being equipped is important. The right equipment can go a long way toward making life easier, better, more productive, and more fulfilling, more honoring to God. CCHS is here to equip you – for now, for life, for eternity.
For right now. You are not just in training for something in your future. You are already on life’s journey. You need equipping for decisions, attitudes, serving, and understanding — right now, whatever your age or situation.
For life. You have many years ahead of you. The equipment you are gathering now can serve you, God, and others, well for many years to come.
For eternity. You will live forever on the new earth that will come into being with Christ’s return. Being equipped for life with God here and now is shaping you for life with him forever.
What do you have to do? Simply be aware of what we are trying to do for you. We are not here to pile work on you and to make your life difficult. We are here to equip you. So, accept it. Appreciate it. Embrace it. Value it. Don’t wish you were somewhere else. Use what we have to offer you. Let yourself be shaped. Be equipped.
We don’t want you to go through life looking like a goof with a T-shirt tied around your head and drinking out of used water bottles. We want you to be fully equipped for good works, for service, and for God’s work in your life.