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The Gain of Serving God

We had a wonderful BIG Serve, with well over 200 students, teachers, and parents going to more than 20 sites around Nacogdoches to serve our neighbors in love. Our school chaplain, Pastor Bryant Tyre, reminded us in Morning Assembly that “It’s not about you!” Instead it’s about serving God, side-by-side with one another, because we want to share the love He has shown us. It is at the core of our mission as a school to train students to serve God and their neighbor, and the BIG Serve is one key way we live out that mission each spring. I am so thankful for the spirit of service, selflessness, and grace that fills our community.

I ran across some good words from Pastor John Piper that remind us all how needful and grace-filled it is to serve the Lord God. This is why we serve Him and why we serve our neighbors at Regents Academy. What we call “Blessed In Giving” is what Pastor Piper calls “The Gain of Serving God.”

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The Gain of Serving God 

By John Piper

“They shall be servants to him, that they may know my service and the service of the kingdoms of the countries.” (2 Chronicles 12:8)

Serving God is utterly different from serving anyone else.

God is extremely jealous that we understand this — and enjoy it. For example, he commands us, “Serve the Lord with gladness!” (Psalm 100:2). There is a reason for this gladness. It is given in Acts 17:25. God is not “served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.”

We serve him with gladness because we do not bear the burden of meeting his needs. He has no needs. So, serving him can’t mean meeting his needs. Instead we rejoice in a service where he meets our needs. Serving God always means receiving grace from God to do what we have to do.

To show how jealous God is for us to understand this, and glory in it, there is a story in 2 Chronicles 12. Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, who ruled the southern kingdom after the revolt of the ten tribes, chose against serving the Lord and gave his service to other gods and other kingdoms.

As judgment, God sent Shishak, the king of Egypt, against Rehoboam with 1,200 chariots and 60,000 horsemen (2 Chronicles 12:2–3).

In mercy God sent the prophet Shemaiah to Rehoboam with this message: “Thus says the Lord, ‘You abandoned me, so I have abandoned you to the hand of Shishak’” (2 Chronicles 12:5). The happy upshot of that message is that Rehoboam and his princes humbled themselves in repentance and said, “The Lord is righteous” (2 Chronicles 12:6).

When the Lord saw that they humbled themselves, he said, “They have humbled themselves. I will not destroy them, but I will grant them some deliverance, and my wrath shall not be poured out on Jerusalem by the hand of Shishak” (2 Chronicles 12:7). But as a discipline to them he says, “They shall be servants to him, that they may know my service and the service of the kingdoms of the countries” (2 Chronicles 12:8).

The point is plain: serving the enemy and serving God are very different. How so? Serving God is a receiving and a blessing and a joy and a benefit. Serving Shishak is exhausting and depleting and sorrowful. God is a giver. Shishak is a taker.

This is why I am so jealous to say that the worship of Sunday morning and the worship of daily obedience is not at bottom a burdensome giving to God, but a joyful getting from God. That is the true service that God demands. In all you do, trust me as the giver.

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Re-Evaluating the Liberal Arts

In a society in which education is routinely confused with a truncated form of vocational training or as secularized ideological indoctrination, the liberal arts have gotten a bad reputation.

A book on the top of my stack these days helps to clarify the liberal arts, revealing them as the center of a powerful paradigm for classical Christian education. The book is The Liberal Arts Tradition: A Philosophy of Christian Classical Education by Kevin Clark and Ravi Scott Jain. I wholeheartedly recommend it.

Philosopher and author Peter Kreeft, in the book’s forward, argues that liberal arts education is no longer “mainstream” education. Rather, “the educational establishment feels deeply threatened by it.” Then he lists what he calls “eight silly objections to [liberal arts education] that are really advertisements for it.” These objections are well worth considering. They take us to the heart of what Regents Academy is striving to accomplish.

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1. It’s “divisive.” It’s not what everyone else is doing. It marches to a different drummer. It cultivates excellence rather than conformity. Yes it does. And this is actually sometimes used as an objection rather than as a selling point!

2. It’s old, outdated, unfashionable. Yes it is, like honor, courage, integrity, and honesty. It doesn’t try to tell the truth with a clock; it doesn’t practice chronological snobbery. In an age which has embraced every novelty, the true rebel is the traditionalist.

3. It’s not in line with modern philosophies: skepticism, cynicism, subjectivism, relativism, naturalism, materialism, reductionism, positivism, scientism, socialism. That’s exactly right. It’s not. It’s countercultural. It harnesses teenagers’ natural proclivity to rebel and turns that force against “the bad guys” who are now the “establishment” instead of against “the good guys.”

4. It’s “judgmental.” It believes there really is good and bad, true and false. The typical modern education is judgmental only against being judgmental, and skeptical of everything except skepticism.

5. It’s small. It’s private. It’s grassroots. It’s implemented mainly in small schools, not big ones. This is true, and it’s another plus rather than a minus. “Small is beautiful.” The bigger the school, the more standardized it has to be and the more the person tends to get lost in the system and get identified with his or her race, economic class, gender, sexual orientation, or political party.

6. It seeks the truth for its own sake, not primarily for pragmatic uses. It aims at wisdom, not wealth. It makes its graduates philosophers instead of millionaires. This is also true. But it’s not a fault. As Chesterton says, “Man’s most practical need is to be more than a pragmatist.”

7. It’s not specialized. It doesn’t include courses on underwater basket weaving or pickling and fermentation (which was actually a major at Ohio State). It doesn’t teach you clever ways to outguess Microsoft Word, or the government, or lawyers, or your professor, or the standardized tests. It just teaches you how to think and how to live. But businesses, law schools, and government agencies don’t want specialist drudges and drones; they want people who can read and write and think logically and creatively.

8. It’s religious. It’s Christian. It doesn’t pretend that the most important man who ever lived never lived, as our public education now does. It assumes that the supernatural is not the enemy to the natural, that “grace perfects nature rather than demeaning it,” as light perfects all colors.

Kreeft closes his forward with these words: “It’s precious – because children are precious.” Amen.

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Some Basic Principles

Consider these wise words from the Circe Institute on the purpose of classical education and its relation to God’s grace:

Purpose: The purpose of Classical Education is to cultivate virtue and wisdom. The classical Christian does not ask, “What can I do with this learning?” but “What will this learning do to me?” The ultimate end of Classical Christian education is to enable the student (disciple) to better know, glorify, and enjoy God. Since we are able to know things with which we have a common nature, the more we are like God the better we can know Him. A student gives glory to God when he is like Him. Our enjoyment of God is derived from our ability to see Him and to see His handiwork.

Grace: In a Christian school, learning is not an end in itself.  Instead, the classical Christian teacher asks God to use his teaching, dispositions, and actions as an instrument in His hand to cultivate the students’ souls toward holiness.  In this sense, learning can be a means of grace.

What a beautiful picture of education. What a powerful tool to shape our children for Christ.

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Are You #Blessed?

Our community of families has been and is being blessed by our great God. Blessings, all around and abundant. Recently I enjoyed reading an article about blessings by freelance writer and blogger Vaneetha Rendall Risner. The article, which appeared at Desiring God, was a timely reminder for me, and I hope it helps you think more clearly and biblically about God’s blessings in your life. Are you #Blessed?

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What Does It Really Mean to Be #Blessed?

Feeling blessed is in vogue.

A quick look at Facebook and Twitter shows how many people today feel #blessed. In our social-media world, saying you’re blessed can be a way of boasting while trying to sound humble.

College scholarship? #Blessed. Unexpected raise? #Blessed. Wonderful family? #Blessed.

As Christians we use that term too, of course. We pray God will bless our family. We attribute our undeserved gifts to “God’s blessings.” We talk about ministries being blessed. But what does it really mean? How should we understand the blessing of God?

The Good Life

For believers, is the blessed life synonymous with the successful life? Is it the Christian version of the good life? A loving marriage, obedient children, a vibrant ministry, a healthy body, a successful career, trusted friends, financial abundance — if these are the characteristics of a blessed life, then having all of them should translate into an extraordinarily blessed life.

But does it? If someone had all those things, would they be extraordinarily blessed?

Rather than turning to God, they might feel self-sufficient and proud. Perhaps a bit smug and self-righteous. After all, their hard work would be yielding good fruit.

Moreover, they wouldn’t need to cry out to God for deliverance; everything would already be perfect. They wouldn’t need to trust God; they could trust in themselves. They wouldn’t need God to fill them; they would already be satisfied.

God’s Richest Blessings

My desire for God is greatly fueled by my need. And it is in the areas of loss where I feel my need most intensely. Unmet desires keep me on my knees. Deepen my prayer life. Make me ransack the Bible for God’s promises.

Earthly blessings are temporary; they can all be taken away. Job’s blessings all disappeared in one fateful day. I, too, had a comfortable life that was stripped away within a span of weeks. My marriage dissolved. My children rebelled. My health spiraled downward. My family fell apart. My dreams were shattered.

And yet, in the midst of those painful events, I experienced God’s richest blessings. A stronger faith than I had experienced before. A deeper love than I had ever known. A more intimate walk than I could explain. My trials grounded my faith in ways that prosperity and abundance never could.

While my trials were not blessings in themselves, they were channels for them. As Laura Story asks in her song “Blessings,” “What if your blessings come through rain drops? What if trials of this life — the rain, the storms, the hardest nights — are your mercies in disguise?”

This revolutionary idea of blessing is also firmly established in Scripture.

The Common Thread

One translation of the New Testament (ESV) has 112 references with the words bless, blessing, or blessed, none of which connects blessing to material prosperity. Consider these passages:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit. . . . Blessed are those who mourn. . . . Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake . . . Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you.” (Matthew 5:3–4, 10–11)

“Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” (Luke 11:28)

Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven. (Romans 4:7; quoting Psalm 32:1)

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial. (James 1:12)

“Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on. . . . Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” (Revelation 14:13, 19:9)

There is no hint of material prosperity or perfect circumstances in any New Testament reference. On the contrary, blessing is typically connected with either poverty and trial or the spiritual benefits of being joined by faith to Jesus.

According to the Key-Word Study Bible, “The Greek word translated blessed in these passages is makarioi which means to be fully satisfied. It refers to those receiving God’s favor, regardless of the circumstances” (emphasis added).

What is blessing, then? Scripture shows that blessing is anything God gives that makes us fully satisfied in him. Anything that draws us closer to Jesus. Anything that helps us relinquish the temporal and hold on more tightly to the eternal. And often it is the struggles and trials, the aching disappointments and the unfulfilled longings that best enable us to do that.

Truly Blessed

Pain and loss transform us. While they sometimes unravel us, they can also push us to a deeper life with God than we ever thought possible. They make us rest in God alone. Not what we can do or achieve for him. And not what he can do or achieve for us.

In pain and loss, we long for Presence. We long to know that God is for us and with us and in us. Great families, financial wealth, and good health are all wonderful gifts we can thank God for, but they are not his greatest blessings. They may make us delight, not in God, but in his gifts.

God’s greatest blessing always rests in God himself. When we have that, we are truly #blessed.

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Pursuing Accreditation

The Apostle Paul wrote, “For we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves. But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise” (2 Cor 10:12). It is indeed unwise to compare yourself to yourself and then commend yourself. But consider the converse of Paul’s words: it is wise to seek to compare yourself using an objective standard outside of you; then you can allow someone else to commend you rather than simply congratulating yourself. “Let another man praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips” (Prov 27:2).

This principle of objective evaluation is the reason for school accreditation. Accreditation is a process by which schools are examined by an independent organization who evaluates the school’s philosophy, leadership, faculty, academics, and culture to confirm that the school has integrity and is truly excellent. Once a school is accredited, then it can point to the accreditation process as a confirmation that it is doing an excellent job at educating its students and serving its constituency.

Regents Academy already holds accreditation through the Texas Alliance of Accredited Private School (TAAPS). But now we are seeking to be accredited by the Association of Classical Christian Schools (ACCS). This is the gold standard of accreditation and a goal that our school has desired to attain for many years. 

In short, this is a big moment for our school. Our administration and teachers have worked very hard to prepare for the ACCS accreditation visit, and now we will spend two days undergoing a thorough examination that seeks to insure that our school is meeting a high standard of excellence in classical Christian education.

On Monday and Tuesday three gentlemen, all fellow classical Christian educators, will be on campus observing classes and interviewing staff, students, and board members. We have intentionally planned these days to have as regular and uneventful a schedule as possible. Please join us in encouraging your children to make these days smooth and helpful (and hopefully less stressful for teachers!) by being well-rested, in uniform, and ready to learn and obey. In fact, these are good goals for every day!

Thank you, parents, for allowing us to serve your family in this highest of callings – the call to provide a Christ-centered education for our children. Thank you for praying for us, too – we certainly covet your prayers. With the Lord’s help, we will attain this worthy goal of ACCS accreditation.

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Texas Outdoor Writer’s Association Winners

Congratulations to our Regents Academy students, who won ALL of the awards in this year’s Texas Outdoor Writer’s Association (TOWA) youth essay contest! 

Once again, the students were asked to write about a favorite outdoor experience. They were judged from other entries in their division from around the state. In the middle school (6th-8th grade) division, eighth graders swept the division with Katelynn Anderson winning first place (and a new laptop computer!), Ella Li placing second, and Joseph Pratt placing third. In the high school (9th-12th grades) division, tenth graders dominated with Lilly Hook winning first place (and a new laptop computer) and Leah Vermillion placing second. A third place winner in this division was not announced by TOWA this year. 

Hearty congratulations and many thanks to Mrs. Sherry Wiggins for overseeing her eighth grade students’ entries and for keeping all the students on track with the contest deadline.

Pictured, from left, are Katelyn Anderson, Ella Li, Joseph Pratt, Headmaster David Bryant, Leah Vermillion, and Lilly Hook.

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VFW Contest Winners

Congratulations to Regents Academy Logic School students for sweeping this year’s Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Patriot’s Pen essay contest for the second year in a row. (They must have one AMAZING writing teacher! Thank you, Mrs. Wiggins!

VFW Post #3893 Commander Don Kirkley presented plaques and checks to this year’s Patriots Pen essay winners, who reminded us “Why I Honor the American Flag.” Winning first place for her essay was eighth grader Ella Li. Placing second was seventh grader Cate Baker, and third place was won by eighth grader Holden Kelly.

Commander Kirkley also presented a second place plaque to tenth grader Caroline Alders whose entry in this year’s Voice of Democracy audio essay contest addressed “Why My Vote Matters.”

Pictured (from left) are Mr. David Bryant (headmaster), Ella Li, Cate Baker, Holden Kelly, VFW Commander Don Kirkley, and Caroline Alders.

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Touring SFA School of Nursing

Three Regents Academy seniors recently spent their morning touring the SFA School of Nursing and visiting with clinical instructor Mrs. Michelle Klein. Possible future nursing school candidates Hannah Alexander, Elise Landrum, and Luke Riley toured the classroom and lab facilities, where they were introduced to live professors and sophisticated mannequins. Pictured around one of the mannequins (valued at close to $100K) lying in a hospital bed are, from left, Elise, Luke, Hannah and Mrs. Klein.

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Spelling Bee Winners

Congratulations to our 5th grade and our 8th grade spelling teams! Both teams won First Place at this year’s Lufkin-Nacogdoches Kiwanis Club eight-county District Spelling Bee this past weekend. And many thanks to 8th grader, Holden Kelly, who shared third place honors after misspelling “farouche” (who knew that word??) in the grueling sixth round of the individual bee. He represented our school very well. Our 5th grade team, led by Meena Shanmugam with teammates Jericho Maness and Armaan Rajani, placed first in the K-5th grade division. Our 8th grade team, led by Noah Satir with teammates Ella Li and Joseph Pratt, placed first in the 6th-8th grade division. Hearty congratulations to ALL of our spellers!

Pictured are the winning teams and their coach, Mrs. Nicole Alders, at the Lufkin Kiwanis Club awards luncheon held recently at Crown Colony Country Club.

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What is your vision for your children?

Who is a good fit to be a Regents family? 

Without a doubt, there are many ways to answer that question, but certainly one good answer is this: a Regents family is a family who has a distinctively biblical and Christian vision for their children. These families want something more than just a safe environment with Christian teachers and a good college prep curriculum that produces high test scores and college entrances. Rather, a Regents family merely begins with these things. They parent with eternity in view. They see the long term and know that in the blink of an eye, their children will be young adults about to go out into the world. They envision their children bearing the fruit of a long, worthy journey through a classical Christian education that influences their souls and minds for Christ, shapes their worldview, molds virtue, and inspires a lifelong love for learning. 

In short, what is your vision for your children? The school publishes its vision for its graduates. Take a moment and consider this vision as worthy aims for you as parents. When we partner together, humbly and prayerfully, committed to Christ and His church, God can work mightily in the lives of our children over the years they are under our mutual care.

We envision that a graduate of the academic program at Regents Academy will embody the following traits:

  • Virtue and mature character: This includes heart-obedience rather than mere rule-following, good manners, honorable relationships, self-control, and Christian leadership. If nothing else, students should live in accordance with Coram Deo—living as though they were in the presence of God at all times.
  • Sound reason and sound faith: We expect students to realize a unified Christian worldview with Scripture as the measure of all Truth. We expect them to exhibit the wisdom to recognize complex issues and to follow the consequences of ideas.         
  • Service to others: We expect our graduates to “love their neighbor” by serving others in their community.  Graduates need to develop an awareness of the many types of needs that others around them have and learn to be like Christ in their willingness to minister to others.        
  • A masterful command of language: Because language enables us to know things that are not directly experienced, nothing is more important within Christian education. Without a strong command of language, even Scripture is rendered mute. As people of “the Word,” Christians should be masters of language. Students master vocabulary, grammar, usage, and translation through our study of Latin, English, and Spanish.  
  • Well-rounded competence: Educated people are not specialists who know little outside of their field of specialty. Educated people have competence in a variety of areas including fine arts, drama, music, physical activity, history, logic, science, and arithmetic. Throughout our program, skills essential for an educated person are introduced and developed.        
  • Literacy with broad exposure to books: Educated people are well-read and able to discuss and relate to central works of literature, science, art, architecture, and music. 
  • An established aesthetic: Further, educated people have good taste, formed as they are exposed to great aesthetic masterpieces, particularly at a young age.
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