Bible teacher and historian Ray Vander Laan shares inspirational lessons that can be learned from the Apostle Paul about living an authentic Christian life, changing the culture and serving the broken world around us. (Part 1 of 2)
Miss Lexie Peterson: You don’t really see people’s true colors and their true faith. So, it was a big eye-opener for me to see how many people around me were really Christians and how they were sharing their faith with each other. And it was just like God had reigned over the school and in my classroom and He was standing there right with me that day
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John Fuller: That’s Lexie. She’s a young teen girl who has a passion for sharing her faith at her public school. You’ll hear more from her and several others on today’s “Focus on the Family,” in which we examine how children can become effective witnesses for Christ and what we as parents can do to encourage them. Your host is Focus president and author, Jim Daly and I’m John Fuller.
Jim Daly: John, I’m surprised that about 50 percent of Christians come to Christ by the age of 13. I mean, that’s what a lot of the research points to, certainly by 18. And it’s critical that children are exposed to faith thought and faith ideas, because they are formulating where they’re gonna turn, where they’re gonna draw wisdom from, the world or from God.
And in the culture right now, there are some people who are very annoyed when children particularly, express their faith. And I know it’s hard to believe, because we live in the land of the free. But there’s a battle goin’ on and we need to recognize it. And Focus on the Family is doing something to strengthen those young people who want to express their faith in the public square, specifically at school.
John: Yeah, the effort is called Bring Your Bible to School Day and we’ve got a free participation kit for students who want to do that and information for parents, as well. And the kit will help your child have confidence to express their faith. Learn more about it at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio.
And joining us in the studio, Jim, four guests. We have Jaimie Peterson and her daughter, Lexie. We just heard from her a moment ago and the Petersons live in Atlanta, Georgia. And then our own Ken Windebank, he’s the chief operating officer here at Focus on the Family and his adult son, Chase, who’s joined us, as well.
Jim: Well, welcome to the program everybody!
Panel: Thank you. Good to be here.
Jim: Now we have four guests, so we’re gonna have to at least acknowledge your names because it’ll be hard for the listener to pick up on who’s speaking, but Jaimie, let me start with you. Describe for me your family and the faith environment you’re in and you know, where your wonderful daughter, Lexie, who I am very impressed with—a 13-year-old, you’re incredible—
Lexie: Thank you.
Jim: –but where she sees that faith within your home and that strength of faith.
Jaimie Peterson: Thank you, well, first I just want to start off by saying, thank you for having us. It’s an honor to be here. I like to describe myself first of all, as just an ordinary mom, just made extraordinary by our God. He has led us, called us to be what we are. We came from a Catholic background where we had mostly what I like to call a religion, but not a relationship with God.
Jim: And that can happen in any—
Jim: –denomination. I mean—
Jim: –many Catholics listen to Focus and we appreciate that. It’s just that deep relationship with God, that’s what we’re talking about.
Jaimie: That’s what I was called to do for my family, mostly. And so, I moved to Georgia from Michigan where God had called me to do that for my family. And so, by having influences from friends and from a mentor that was put into my family through God, and a wonderful ministry that I’m a part of called Moms with Swords and that is what brought me to be able to minister to my family through that.
Jim: And how long ago was that? I know Lexie’s 13, so—
Jim: –I’m trying to gauge how much of a deep-rooted faith she saw in you and your husband.
Jaimie: That was in 2014. That’s what really was the stepping stone for me to bring that into my family.
Jim: You know when we look at this, Lexie, I’d love to hear your observation as a then 11-, 12-year-old right—
Jim: –when your family was changing dynamically in terms of their spiritual commitment to God. What did that feel like to be 11 and see mom and dad kinda getting more serious with God?
Lexie: Well, when I was in Michigan, we didn’t go to church a lot and I didn’t feel a relationship with God. And then when we moved to Georgia, it suddenly all changed because we got connected into a church.
And then I saw my mom extremely grow in her faith and she just said, “You know, everything happens for a reason. God is working in our lives.” And then my dad saw off of her example and then he jumped into it and then the whole changing atmosphere kind of made me realize that, oh, I better get on the train.
Jim: (Laughing) Yeah, right. That’s good!
Lexie: And I started getting connected into church and I loved church and everything about church made me feel special, that God loved me and that He had a plan for my life and that I was put here for a reason. And just based off of my mom’s example, it makes me want to be so much more like her.
Jim: Well, that is powerful, Lexie. What you’re sayin’ there should penetrate the heart of every parent—
Jim: –because we go through the motions sometimes, not realizing that our children are actually watching us and care. The fact that you saw it and saw such a profound change that it motivated you to seek God, I’m tellin’ ya, mom and dad, there it is right there. Don’t be lazy about your faith, because it is speaking volumes to your children.
Jim: That is fantastic. Ken, how about you and Tina, your faith journey? You’ve been Christians for a long time.
Ken Windebank: A long, long time.
Jim: You married as Christians.
Ken: Yes, we did. We knew each other growing up back in Long Island in New York. My accent may come out in the broadcast here today. But we have five children. Chase is the second and we have a rich heritage of faith in both of our families back through our parents. And my parents, similar journey to Jaimie and Lexie.
Ken: And I did see the change in my parents, as well, actually, the same journey and I was a lot younger than you, Lexie, but when I saw that change in them, it spurred me on to a deeper faith—
Ken: –as a young person, so that was kind of the start for me in our faith journey. But I would say in regard to the example, Jim, that you’re talking about and that was very inspiring what Lexie said, you know, there are three things that we really tried to concentrate on as parents, was [sic] intentionality, consistency and being an example.
Ken: And the last is probably the most important, having our kids watch us in the moments when, you know, we don’t quite do it right or we do it really well and in both of those moments to really address those things and engage with our kids.
Jim: Chase, let me get you in here and let’s start with your story, because it is a really good story. Uh … you were a freshman at a local high school. You started a Bible study, which (Laughing)–
Chase Windebank: Right.
Jim: –you know, is incredible!
Jim: Tell us about that and then let’s work the story through and what happened and what ended up going a bit astray for you as a high school student.
Chase: Yeah, absolutely. Freshman year at 14-years-old, I decided to start a prayer meeting/Bible study and the only place we could do it was in the gym. So, we would sit on the floor in the corner, while a pick-up game of basketball was goin’ on. Basketballs would like fly at us sometimes (Laughter) and what not, have a little speaker, doin’ worship, you know, stuff like that. And it was actually really cool to see kids who normally wouldn’t step out in their faith just take that little step of sitting in public in the gym floor–
Jim: Being seen by others.
Chase: –and being seen by others bowing their head or opening up their Bible was really cool.
Also for me to provide that place for them and also for myself, it was huge for me to start stepping out, ’cause going from homeschool, kindergarten to eighth grade into a public high school was a different environment.
Jim: Right. How did you find that courage to actually try this? And how’d you go about talking to the school about doing a Bible study during school? I mean, they had to look at you like, “What?”
Chase: Yeah, I think something that I really learned is C.S. Lewis said, “You begin to speak what you really care about.” So, when a father holds his newborn son, he says, “Wow, isn’t he beautiful?” And then he looks to everyone else and says, “Isn’t he beautiful?” And we join in together with them.
And so, for me, to own my faith at such a young age, my parents had us memorize before 2-years-old, Psalm 23 and started us on that journey. And so, one, like 1 Corinthians 11:1, “Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ.” That’s what my dad taught me and engrained in me.
And then so, “Where your treasure is, your heart will be also.” And so, you can just speak out of [your heart]. It’s a meaning; it wasn’t here’s what I have to do, ’cause that’s when you kind of have to have courage more, versus, this is so meaningful to me; I just want to share the treasure. I want you to be with me in heaven.
Jim: So, how did you go to the school and say, “I want to do this?”
Jim: And how did they respond?
Chase: Absolutely, so I started out with just some friends from youth group. And we sat on the gym floor and then I was like, “All right, guys, your goal is to invite one person the next [time].” We did two times a week. Your goal is to invite one person next time, one person next time, one person next time. And we had non-believers coming. We had various other people and it was a small prayer meeting, but it was intimate and it was encouraging for sure.
Jim: And the school was okay with that?
Chase: Oh, yeah, absolutely. There was no problem at all.
Jim: And this was done during free time?
Chase: Yeah, so it was period called “Seminar” that was done and basically, when you had good grades, you could leave your homeroom, I guess is what would equate to it and you’d be able to go get a snack, go do your homework, if you need a teacher, play a pick-up game of basketball, whatever. We decided to use that time for prayer.
Jim: And so, it kept going for a couple of years and then, bang. They were no longer comfortable with it. Why?
Chase: Yeah, so all the way through junior year it was difficult obviously. Sometimes I was the only one there and so, that was really challenging and discouraging. It felt like—
Jim: That challenged you, too?
Chase: Oh, it did; it challenged me a lot. It felt like I wasn’t doing anything for the kingdom. But then senior year, I did nothing different in how I advertised or anything and the first meeting, we had moved to the choir room at that time, [we had] gotten smart.
Jim: And no more basketballs!
Chase: Yeah (Laughing), no more basketballs and 30 kids came to the first meeting of the year. Normally it’s two and then the next meeting was 40, 50, 60, 70, all the way up to 92 kids and all of a sudden, I got called into the vice principal’s office and he said, “Based on separation of church and state, like we don’t want you having this here. We don’t want to get in trouble or anything like that.” And I tried to show them the laws saying I could, but eventually I said, “Okay, I’ll respect that and get help.”
Jim: Tell us what the law says, because it’s important, because other children, young people listening and their parents certainly would benefit from that. What can you do as a student in a public school to express your faith?
Chase: Absolutely, it’s the First Amendment. We have the ability, so the government cannot establish anything of religion. That’s what the Church of England said.
Jim: So that’d be like a school administrator saying, “We’re gonna do this.”
Jim: That wouldn’t be appropriate.
Jim: But student led?
Chase: Yes, but student led they can’t prohibit anything either. So, by allowing it to happen, they’re not condoning it.
Chase: They’re just allowing it to happen as free speech. So, they can do that. Separate of church and state is a Jefferson writing that was more to protect each institution from corruption, rather than from each other and the ideals. It’s like the foundation. The foundation is Christ. Government is built over here on this city block. All churches built over on this city block, but they have the same foundation.They just are different structures.
John: And when you explained it that way to the school administration, everything went well, right?
Chase: No (Laughing), I wish. I was really hoping that.
Jim: You had to threaten a court action and in fact, take us through how that happened quickly.
Chase: Yeah, my dad recommended a team of skilled attorneys and I just was first calling, I was thinking, “Oh, I’m just gonna get some advice, say some crafty things, show some different laws and then they’ll back down.”
But I met with the principal, vice-principal and athletic director two different times just on my own and still nothing happened. They dug their heels in. And so, then they sent a letter. I tried all options besides going into court. And then they sent the letter saying, “Hey, he has the right to litigation,” but they still didn’t move and so they filed lawsuits end of October of 2014.
Jim: And how did that get resolved then?
Chase: It took a year to get resolved. So, we one, first respected what the school teachers were saying and we didn’t meet during school. We met before school and it dropped from 92 to 3. And I was really discouraged throughout that point. I knew it wasn’t about the numbers in my head, but in my heart I felt like I was being a disappointment.
Chase: And so, it took an entire year and then finally we had to add another underclassman to the lawsuit, because they were just gonna wait me out and then dismiss the case. We pulled our appeal out when they consented to our agreement that we wouldn’t have to go anymore. We weren’t out for the money or anything; [we] just went and said, all right, now we can pray during our free time, so it was really cool.
Jim: Ken, as a parent and you see your young child going through this, what did you feel? Did you feel like, man, I don’t want to get into all this? I got so much goin’ on. This is gonna take our time. Or were you gung-ho? Let’s go to bat.
Ken: Yeah, we actually had prepared for that moment and one of the things that I’ve always taught my boys is, don’t allow yourself to come to the situation where you haven’t prepared yourself for that moment.
And we had talked about the potential of this happening. And you know, three years doing a Bible study and there was nothing, not a word mentioned and things were going well. For that to happen was quite a surprise to us, but again, we were prepared and obviously, working here at Focus, it helped a lot to be able to know where to go and to get the attorneys to help and that encouragement.
Jim: But let me say it to the folks. You don’t have to work at Focus to get that direction.
Ken: That’s right, correct.
Jim: We’re here for you and if you’re in a—
Jim: –situation, whether it be Atlanta or New York or California, call us, because we’ll help equip you on how to move ahead. In fact, that’s the program, Bring Your Bible to School and we’re gonna talk about that in a minute.
Ken: And the journey that Chase took, there were a lot of moments of discouragement for him along the way, a lot. And he came home and he was faithful and I would say that to Lexie and to the other young people out there in regards to Bring Your Bible to School Day, just be faithful and God will show Himself to you.
Jim: Boy, that’s such a great message ’cause in Scripture you see that all the time. Don’t try to control the outcome. Just be faithful and let God work through the circumstances.
Lexie, you had quite an experience, too. Bring Your Bible to School for Focus started about two years ago and we had 8,000 students that first year. Last year we had about 150,000, 155,000 to be more accurate, participate in Bring Your Bible to School.
This coming year, October 6th, right around the corner, we’re hoping for over 300,000 students to participate. That’s the reason we’re making you aware of it right now and sharing these stories, so you can, you know, talk about it around the kitchen table and see if that’s something that your school-age child would like to participate in. It’s completely legal in this country and one of the challenges, we simply have to exercise that muscle. And so often as Christians, we retreat, rather than saying, “We’ve got every right to speak about our faith.” And I’m so proud of both of you. Lexie, take us through last year and what you experienced with Bring Your Bible to School.
Lexie: Okay, well, last year was really new to me. I’d never even heard of it and my mom pointed out to me in the newspaper or a magazine and she was like, “Look at this. We have to do this.” And I was like–
Jim: (Laughter) Way to go, mom!
Lexie: –I was like, “Oh, that’s a great idea.” And then I knew that my friend. Sydney, she was deeply rooted in her faith and I knew that she was a big talker (Laughter) And she liked to get out there and [lead].
Jim: In the most positive of ways.
Lexie: Well, I’m the quiet one and I don’t really like to get up in front of the whole entire FCA and speak, but I knew that she would, so I asked her to help and spread the word. And then she was like, “Yeah, let’s do it.” And she really made a big impact and I’m so glad that she as there with me to help promote it.
Jim: So, really student led?
Jim: I mean, you took the initiative and you and your friend and you got goin’?
Jim: And what happened that day?
Lexie: At FCA, she made me get up and stand by her and she was like, “Listen, guys, Bring Your Bible to School Day, let’s do it. You know, they can’t tell us we can’t do it.” And everybody was like, wow! And they were shocked, because nobody’s ever heard of this before.
Jim: And FCA is Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
Jim: So, it’s a club at school, normally, so I was in that when I was younger, so way to go. What kind of fear did you feel? I mean, of course your friend is encouraging; probably you’re encouraging each other. But did you have a bit of fear like, ooh, am I sure I want to do this?
Lexie: I did have a lot of fear. I was very nervous about–
Jim: And that’s very normal, by the way. (Laughter)
Lexie: –what people would think of me. And you know, I just don’t really get up there and talk, like I said, but … and I was like, what are people gonna think of me? And then I got to the point where I was like, you know what? It doesn’t matter what people think about me, because I’m doing this for God and not for myself.
And so I took the initiative to know, introduce the idea of making T-shirts and then we spread the word. And everybody was getting involved. They were like, “Can I have a T-shirt? Can I sign up?” And it was to the point where [the] majority of my classroom had their Bible and it was a shock to me. I was like, I did not know, you know, maybe all by six or seven people are gonna have a Bible on their desk.
Jim: And what happened that day? You did your free time during free time or recess or—
Jim: –I mean, lunch, whatever it was—
Jim: –you came together and you read the Scripture together? Just take us through what happened for you in your environment.
Lexie: Everybody was teaching each other about the Bible and they were like, “Oh, this is my favorite Bible verse,” and everything.And everybody was really into it and it was like,you don’t really see people’s true colors and their true faith. So, it was a big eye-opener for me to see how many people around me were really Christians and how they were sharing their faith with each other. And it was just like God had reigned over the school and in my classroom and He was standing there right with me that day.
Jim: You know what that points to, Lexie, is when we’re free to express ourselves, how much encouragement there is amongst your friends, that you learned some people were Christian you didn’t even know were Christian.
Jim: And that’s where it’s so dangerous, where they’re trying, “they” being authority, trying to suppress that expression, because they don’t like it. But that’s not what this country’s all about!
Jim: Jaimie, mom, you have done a great job with this little girl and it is impressive and the Lord particularly working through your life. What did you do throughout the day? Did it encourage you? Do you want to do it again this year, October 6th?
Lexie: I really would like to do it this year and I really want to take the step to be the one who leads it this year, because Sydney has moved on to another school and she’s not involved in my school anymore. And I want to be the one, along with her little sister that [will] kinda lead it up this year. And I pray that God gives me the courage to go up and talk in front of 300 people.
Jim: I think He will do that, (Laughter) if I’m hearing you correctly. But I love it. How has it changed the dynamics at school? I mean, we’re kind of at two goal posts here—last year, early October when we did it and we had 155,000 students participate. Now we’re coming up on October 6th this year, hoping for over 300,000 to participate. What’s happened in the last 12 months? Has that been able to be a catalyst for you to talk about faith with your classmates—
Lexie: Oh, yes.
Jim: –and keep it going?
Lexie: Uh-huh. All of my friends that I surround myself with are Christians and I’m not scared to talk about my faith with everybody now. I used to be. I was that one person who was like, hm.
Jim: Has it changed the family dynamic, Jaimie? How has this program helped you and the family?
Jaimie: I mean, to through life and have her be able to witness in our family, you know, she’s a role model for me as an adult to like—
Jaimie: –I learn from her. She can sit around the dining room table and teach me things, you know, ’cause I still feel like I’m new in my walk. I mean, I truly am even at my age, because I feel like I learn every day. And she–
Jim: It’s encouraging.
Jaimie: –she teaches us.
Jim: Yeah, it is so encouraging. Chase, you’re now through high school. You’re takin’ a little time off; you’re goin’ to college, I think, right?
Chase: Yes, I am.
Jim: Are you gonna continue to speak out on a college campus for your faith?
Chase: Yeah, absolutely. I think it’s something that’s really important. I decided to keep a book of everybody’s names that I meet and something about them. That way I can say their name, because the sweetest sound to somebody else is their name from someone else’s lips (Laughter)
So I will speak, yes. And I think the most important thing, too, for students like Lexie is, Bring Your Bible to School Day is something that can be 365 days a year, whether you’re at school or you’re at church.
Jim: Yeah, it doesn’t have to be the one day. That’s for sure.
Chase: It doesn’t have to be the one day and it shouldn’t be the one day. The Bible is something that you can draw encouragement from all the time, not just to speak out, but for yourself, as well, you know.
Jim: Let me ask Lexie and Chase. You’re energized in your faith because you’re putting it into play I think. And so often, even as adults, as we speak to a non-believer about the faith, you do feel kind of a welling up inside of good things, that when you share about the Lord and you see the Lord move. It may not be that you win the day and the person says, “What must I do to be saved?” although that does happen.But you just feel built up in your own faith when you share it. And again, Lexie, you’re right, the enemy of our soul is trying to keep us from that because it gives us courage—
Jim: –to speak to others about God.Um … what would you say to those young people who are in church like your mom’s describing, who are lukewarm? They’re just not, for some reason, they’re just goin’ through the motions. I’m sure you know friends like that. I know—
Lexie: Uh-hm, I do.
Jim: –I know friends like that.
Jim: What would you say to them about how to live a life that is energized through faith?
Lexie: Well, it’s a big step to, you know, get out and speak about your faith and a lot of kids are shy and they don’t want to do that and I used to be that way. I know how they feel, but I’m telling them right now that you need to let go of the fear of what people are going to think about you and what, you know, you feel about yourself, because ultimately it doesn’t matter. It matters because you’re making God happy and when you make God happy, He’s going to return the favor and be proud of you.
Jaimie: I think it’s so important that we as parents root our kids in God and raise them up and pray over them. I daily there’s a book by Jodie Berndt, Praying the Scriptures Over Your Children [FYI: Correct Title: Praying the Scripture for Your Children] thatI never knew before. I became part of the Moms with Swords group and root[ed] myself in having to pray over your kids, I didn’t know how important it was that you could pray over your kids. Pray for certain things for your kids. Pray for favor. Ask God for favor for your kids. I didn’t know that, that was acceptable to do.
Because I wasn’t taught that as a child with my own parents. And I’m not faulting my parents for doing that, but I think that there’s so many parents out there that they don’t know that there’s a place or a God that you can go to, to ask for those things.
Jaimie: And so, when you plant the seeds in your own children and you give them the tools that they need and that they know that they have a God that they can go to, um … she has brother. I have a 6-year-old son, too. And I mean, I can just see that he’s learning and he’s growing in [faith] and my husband and I, we pray with him each night and we have a devotion that we do with him each night and we read a little book with him called Sticky Situations.
And just because he learns at a different pace than she learns. But he can see the good in the things that the Lord is doing in his life and even when we have little things that night or daily things that happen and he’ll go, “Mom, you’re having a bad day. Let’s pray.” And he grabs my hand. He’s 6, but he gets it—
Jaimie: –because we can plant those things in his head.And if more people in the world just knew that God is so good. He’s a good Father and if you can go to Him and people knew that, that was what He’s there for, God, He’s a good Father. That’s what He’s there for.
Jim: Well, that is a good place to end, because God is a good Father.
Jaimie: He’s a good Father.
Jim: And I am so impressed, Lexie, with your courage and your faithfulness to the Lord.
Lexie: Yes, thank you.
Jim: He’s got plans for you.
Lexie: Yeah. (Laughing)
Jim: I mean, it’s gonna happen. You’re gonna run for President maybe someday. (Laughter) Chase, for your courage, too, I mean, taking it right to the brink of a lawsuit and standing in the face of that with, I know that Christ-like spirit that you possess.
So many older people get discouraged with the younger generation. You should be a message of hope and encouragement to people listening saying, “Where are we headed?” I meet other young people like the two of you. That’s why I can say, God’s got it in His hands.
Jim: I feel that as you guys get older, God is gonna do something amazing with your generation to turn this around. So, thank you for being with us.
Lexie: Thank you.
Jim: I want to encourage each and every person who can participate in Bring Your Bible to School, to do it. If you’re the parent, talk about it with your children. And if you’re that child listening and the school-age level, you know, participate. We have the kit. You can download it. John, you’ll give more details about that.It’s October 6th and we would love to see over 300,000 students participate this year, maybe more and we are looking forward to it.
Bible teacher and historian Ray Vander Laan shares inspirational lessons that can be learned from the Apostle Paul about living an authentic Christian life, changing the culture and serving the broken world around us. (Part 1 of 2)
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Dr. Francis Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health, gives an update on the coronavirus pandemic.
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