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Irresistible Revolution

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Last week Josh Reid’s senior Bible class connected with Shane Claiborne via Skype. During their 90 minutes together, students asked questions they had written out in advance of the Skype date. Students began reading Claiborne’s Irresistible Revolution before Christmas break, and just recently finished. Shane Claiborne is a Christian author, speaker, and activist, and founding member of The Simple Way, a community of Christians living in community in North Philadelphia.

A few thoughtful questions for our Westside seniors:

  • How do you reconcile the Old Testament passages of God’s people going to war in His name, and the New Testament commands to love our enemies?
  • When is it okay for disruptive protesting? When is it not?
  • What responsibilities do Christians have regarding the environment?
  • How can we distinguish God’s voice from our own? How can we turn our hearing to properly hear God’s instructions?
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Seniors & Shane via Skype in the library

 

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Bible Debate

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Mr. Reid & Mr. Westerberg engaged in a stimulating debate on either side of the pacifism / just war discussion in Bible 12 this week. Over the course of 90 minutes students heard two esteemed teachers discuss, from two different perspectives, their understanding of what the Bible says regarding just war / pacifism while looking at the Noahic covenant in Geneis 9:6, Paul’s instructions from Romans 12-13, and the personal implications of the life and teachings of Jesus.

What an opportunity to have two learned biblical scholars debate with humility, civility, and the earnest desire to know God’s heart on such an important issue.

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Mr. Reid & Mr. Westerberg

Rosh Hashanah New Year

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Junior Bible just learned about Rosh Hashanah, a Jewish holiday celebrating the new year based on Leviticus 23:24-25. As Christians, we have the great privilege of looking back in hindsight (or Christ-sight) at this festival in the Old Testament. We too can apply the meaning of each symbol to our own life, seeing the fulfillment in Jesus, the Messiah!

We ate sweet bread (challah), grapes, and apples dipped in honey. There is an obvious theme of sweetness which helps us think about the sweet times from the past year, but also a bit of bitterness (grape skins) which cause us to also be mindful of life’s bitter moments. Through both the sweet and bitter times, the Rabbis teach that God is sovereign over all. No matter what happens in our life, through the bitter and sweet, we too believe and desire to live into the reality that God is sovereign.

We also blew a shofar which, if done the right way (side note – the students found out the hard way that Mr. Flores can’t really blow a shofar…when he does it, it doesn’t really make them think about God, it makes them laugh!), causes people to wake up and realize that we need to repent! We had a wonderful time thinking about our own lives and truly examining ourselves before God as Paul encourages us to do (2 Cor. 13:5).

Hopefully all of us will put a little more thought into this new year as it approaches!

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Enjoying some challah sweet bread.

 

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Mr. Flores, master baker.

 

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Rosh Hashanah, Jewish New Year.

World Religions: Maitripa College

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To finish our trek through Buddhism we ventured off campus to meet with a Buddhist at Maitripa College in Portland. While we were there, Buddhist adherent Leigh Miller shared her knowledge and experience in the Buddhist tradition. Our Westside students did a wonderful job being both attentive to Leigh’s presentation and quizzical about the tradition in general.

The main goal of this field trip was simply to learn to listen to our religious neighbor, that is, building sympathetic concern for others. Because of this field trip our students have not only been able to study about Buddhism in the classroom, but also witness firsthand the ways and practices of a Buddhist. It is very important for Christians of the next generation to be equipped with not only the head knowledge about a religious tradition, but also be provided with the opportunity to understand the reasons behind why someone practices a different religion. We believe this is especially important before our students head off to college where they will interact and engage with all sorts of various religions first hand. Like Paul says in Ephesians, our heart is to equip the Westside saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ (4:12).

Bible 11: Buddhism’s Four Noble Truths

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We are currently studying Buddhism in World Religions. Specifically, we are looking at the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path. To solidify the Four Noble Truths the students made a Butterfly with four wings, each wing representing a Truth. They also made Caterpillars to solidify the Eightfold Path. In order to become enlightened, a Buddhist must follow the Eightfold Path to advance in their next life (their fate is up in the air until their works have be evaluated). Becoming a transformed individual (or enlightened) is something the Buddhist has to do themselves by following the Eightfold Path.

We contrasted this ‘works’ mindset to our faith in Jesus Christ. We read in 2 Corinthians 3:18 that we go through a transformation, not by our works, but by the work of the Lord, who is the Spirit! This is why we made Caterpillars and Butterflies! Whereas the Buddhist is trying to transform their life and make themselves into a Butterfly (via the Eightfold Path), the Christian simply trusts in the Lord and allows the Spirit to do the internal heart change, or as Paul describes, metamorphosis (transformation)!

 

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Caterpillars creations

 

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Artistic designs

 

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Some beautiful (and colorful!) butterflies!

 

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A Bug’s Life

 

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Pipe cleaning insects

Bible 11: Knowing our Hindu Neighbor

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In Acts 17:28, 1 Corinthians 15:33, and Titus 1:12 we learn that Paul was able to quote his pagan neighbor in order to teach the truth of God. Isn’t that interesting? For example, in Acts 17:28 Paul quotes Epimenides and Aratus. Paul didn’t quote these pagans to chastise them for their stupidity, rather, he did so to find that God was already at work in their hearts. One of our most beloved texts in Acts as it relates to the teaching that our God is imminent comes from a pagan poet! “For in Him we live and move and have our being.” A strike of irony! Paul was able to quote these pagans because he was familiar with their writings.

How familiar am I with my religious neighbor so as to effectively communicate the Gospel as Paul does in Acts 17? Our World Religions course at Westside is key for developing and fostering a healthy and honest respect for our religious neighbor. To foster such respect we took our annual field trip to the Hindu Temple where the Swami hospitably gave our Christian group a tour. As we are learning from our Hindu neighbor, our very presence is a witness and testimony of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is one reason I call it a mini-missions trip! As Jesus did before, I think He would do it again, that is, He wouldn’t take the longer trip around His neighbor (to avoid them), but He would instead move through His convictions in an honest way and thus meet His neighbor in rich, engaging dialogue (John 3-4; both with Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman). Our Westside students did a phenomenal job listening to the Hindu priest and even engaging on hard topics which differentiate our faith traditions.

Our World Religions course is designed to transform our heart into a heart that is broken for anyone that doesn’t yet know the Lord. It says in Acts 17:16, “While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols.” My prayer every year is that we would learn to have this same distressed outlook on our world, not seeking to avoid tough discussions (which is always easier) but moving through our convictions in an attempt to find value, dignity, and worth in our neighbor. How am I doing? Am I distressed for my neighbor like Paul to the point of engaging them in discussion with the Gospel? Engaging another human being in this way is when the Word of God, Jesus Christ, is most clearly seen.

Bible 9: Hebrew Studies

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Last week the Bible 9 students headed out for the second annual Hebrew Studies field-trip to Multnomah University. They learned the basics of reading and writing in Hebrew, how to use online tools for word studies, and interacted with a Torah scroll that is hundreds of years old. All of this was hosted and led by two of the Hebrew and Biblical studies professors and their upperclassmen.

Hebrew Field Trip: September 30th, 2016

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WCHS Graduate (Class of 2012) Julia Glanz

 

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Hebrew manuscripts

 

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Historic Torah

 

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Student collaborating

Bible 10: Baptism & New Creation

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N.T. Wright says, “Live up to your baptism!” Quite the exhortation to take serious our walk with Jesus. What a challenge for any high school student seeking to really love Jesus and walk boldly with Him before others.

In order to describe the profundity of baptism, we had to get our hands dirty! The Bible describes baptism as a departure from the world and entrance into God’s kingdom. So to vividly see this reality come true we dirtied our hands, literally, with the world. We felt the grit in our nails and the mud between our fingers. To illustrate departing the world we had the dirty handed students circle up and hold hands. Once one of the students broke free from this circle of worldliness (dirty hands) they were able to wash their hands and see what is clean versus what is dirty. They then went on to help their friends with dirty hands. First it was just one, but then one grabbed two, and then two got two more making four, and then four became eight and so on and so forth until all those with dirty hands had been invited to wash themselves with the water.

The challenge was instilled: Live up to your baptism! Don’t go back to the world and dirty your hands, go back to the world and tell others about how Christ is able to make you clean!

 

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Dirtying hands

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Washing clean

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Hand in hand together

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Linked in unity



Bible 10: Baptism, Cucumbers, & Pickles

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The Baptism of Jesus. An event that Jesus Himself said fulfilled all righteousness. Therefore this must be an important event for any follower of Christ to consider. To illustrate the meaning behind Christ’s baptism Mr. Flores asked for three volunteers. These brave students were then asked to put on a blind fold. Three more volunteers were called up and given a toothpick to spear a cucumber. Then, all at the same time, the brave volunteers opened their mouths and in went the mysterious food item. They chewed on it…with awkward faces…not knowing what they were eating and then finally guessed what it was. A second group came up – an even braver group – and we repeated the same experiment. But instead of using cucumbers we used spicy pickles! Man, the sour expression on their faces were fantastic! So, why cucumbers and pickles? The word baptism was used back in the day to describe the process of a cucumber changing permanently into a pickle. This exercise was a fun way for them to experience the difference between a regular cucumber and a changed pickle. It wonderfully illustrates for us the meaning of Baptism as described by Paul who said, “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life,” (Rom. 6:4).

 

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Cucumber…

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…or pickle?

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A spicy surprise!

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An unexpected taste.


Christ’s Birth

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Christmas, a time of year we all love and enjoy as families come together and celebrate in the sharing of gifts, food, and time honored traditions. But ‘Christmas’ didn’t look the same back when Mary and Joseph received word that they would be the parents of the Son of God. Jesus’ birth was a radical event that changed the course of human history. Jesus was born during a tumultuous time, including another king who tried to have him assassinated! Can you imagine being Mary and Joseph, having to bring baby Jesus into that kind of world?!? To begin to understand such heavy historical realities and truths, we decided to start things off with a Birthday Scrambler! The students were responsible for ordering themselves by birth day and month in a line without talking or writing. There were a few kinks in the line here and there, but ultimately they did a good job and had fun doing it! The birthday scrambler helped us think about our own birthdays, which got us thinking applicably about the birth of Jesus.

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Birthday Scramble!

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Accomplished. Without words!