Grace Christian School

The New Janissaries

November 05, 2018
By Donald M. Larson, PhD

The term Janissary comes from the Turkish word “yeniçeri” which means new troops. In the early 1300’s, Bey (or Sultan) Murat 1 of the Ottoman Empire established the Janissaries. This was an elite corps of soldiers who elicited terror in opposing armies because of their ferocity. These troops were primarily Balkan Christians who were put in an intense monastic environment and subjected to strict Islamic training.

In the late 1300’s, the devsirme system was used to recruit boys and young men, ages 8-20, into the Janissaries. Devsirme was an Ottoman tax upon Christians. One boy from every 40 families was conscripted. The Turks primarily selected boys from the villages and small towns, because they considered boys from the city to be too soft. They assessed them both physically and intellectually – they only wanted the best and brightest.

The Janissaries were considered slaves, but they had a higher status than what we understand a slave to be. They proudly bore the name of kul which was a slave of God (Allah). The boys were given Muslim first names and circumcised as a part of their initiation into Islam. Initially, they served on Turkish farms to learn the Turkish language and Islam. Top students were selected for the Royal schools and would receive the best education in the empire. The rest would still learn Turkish, Persian, and Arabic literature, music, and basic mathematics. All were trained for combat – horseback riding, archery, and basic infantry skills. At the end of the training, they were selected for various positions from serving in the Sultan’s Palace to being a basic infantryman.

Many Christian families volunteered their sons, because they would receive a good education and live a better life. They became the Sultan’s elite shock troops – they would attack in a dense V-shaped formation that overwhelmed their enemies. They were experts in siege warfare and were the primary force used to conquer Constantinople, Belgrade, and other European cities. These boys who were given to the Sultan became the primary tool used to defeat the Christian lands from which they came. Some of these boys killed their own Christian families who had given them to the Turks.

We do not want to become the Christian parents who turn our children over the Turks and have our children be the ones who destroy the church in America, but we often place our wants and desires ahead of our children’s spiritual lives. Too many of us choose the easy answer and turn our children over to ungodly teachers, coaches, or leaders – it is more convenient; it will cost less; or they will have better opportunities. These were the arguments that the Christian families used for giving their children to the Turks, and they are same reasons that we use for putting our children in public, charter, or elite private schools.

Ephesians 6:4 tells us that we are to raise our children in the fear and admonition of the Lord, and as parents, God holds us responsible for fulfilling this charge. Deuteronomy 6:4-9 begins with the Great Shema: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” (ESV) It goes on to tell us that we are to teach this to our children as we go through our lives and these words are to always be in our minds and on our lips. To accomplish this, we must ensure that our children are in a Christian environment with Christian teachers, coaches, and leaders who can partner with us and help us to raise our children with a Biblical Worldview.

We need to recognize that the world we live in is not friendly to gospel-centered living, and it will do everything to destroy our children’s faith in Jesus Christ. Music, social media, movies, video, shows, computer games, and education attack our children – some attacks are overt, but most are subtle and difficult to recognize without training. Our children need protection as they mature in their faith and their worldview. If we turn them over to the Turks for the sake of ease, cost, or opportunity, then we should not be surprised when they turn against us – when they become the new Janissaries.


Information for this article was taken from:
Goodwin, Godfrey. The Janissaries. London: SAQI, 2013. e book.
Nicholle, David. The Janissaries. Oxford: Osprey Printing, Ltd., 1995.

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Christian Dualism

October 09, 2018
By Donald M. Larson, PhD

In “Total Truth,” Nancy Pearcy tells a story about a theology teacher in a Christian high school who “strode to the front of the classroom, where he drew a heart on one side of the blackboard and a brain on the other. The two are as divided as the two sides of the blackboard, he told the class: The heart is what we use for religion, while the brain is what we use for science.” This anecdote represents one of the most dangerous trends in modern Christianity and is in opposition to Biblical teachings.

The reformers fought to unite knowledge and life into one sphere under God. We have transformed this one sphere into two separate categories which we call the sacred and the secular. The sacred belongs to God while the rest of life belongs in the secular category. This division is being used to remove religion from all spheres of public life and keep creation science in the realm of religion.

We, as Christians, unwittingly assist the secular humanists, as they move Christianity into this locked cage of private personal belief. We go to church on Sunday morning, but the rest of the week belongs to us so that we can seek our pleasures. We give little to church, but spend large amounts on clothes, cars, houses, toys, and vacations. We tell our children that God is the center of our lives, but only talk about Him on the way to church. We are told that secular schools are neutral, but in reality they oppose God in two ways. First, secular schools are based upon naturalistic presuppositions that are in opposition to Biblical teachings, and second, they teach that God is irrelevant to everyday life and learning by never mentioning Him.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “There are not two realities, but only one reality, and that is the reality of God, which has become manifest in Christ in the reality of the world.” It is difficult to teach our children to be salt and light in this world when Biblical morals and values are relegated to the reality of personal preferences. To overcome and be victorious in Christ, we must live consistently Biblical lives, be bold in our faith, and stop justifying our actions that don’t build up and edify Christ’s Kingdom on earth, so that our children will pick up their crosses and follow Christ even when it isn’t easy, convenient, or free. We must live all of our life for Christ and bring all aspects of our lives into conformity with scripture and glorify God with all of our heart, soul, strength, and mind. Only then will our children realize that there is nothing secular – it is all sacred.

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A Passion for Christian Education

August 24, 2018
By Donald M. Larson, PhD
GCS Alumni - now GCS Parents - Jodi Marinelli Kanagy, Bethany Glover Persian, Grace Hickin Schultz, Stacy Gardner, Janelle Miller Greenmun and Kristy Gardner Shirley after dropping off their children on the first day of school.


The 2018-19 school year has begun. I was at the elementary school yesterday morning and met a number of excited parents and students. Many of our parents graduated from Grace Christian which was thrilling, because they understand the value of a strong education from a Biblical perspective. My wife and I made sure that our daughters received a Christian education, because we realized how a secular education had delayed our development of a Biblical worldview.

I grew up in a home that went to church, but I didn’t understand what Jesus Christ did for me. At a young age, my dad walked away from the faith (he has since returned and is very strong in his faith walk). At age 11, my uncle, who had retired from the army and a Baptist Pastor, shared the gospel with me – I was on fire for the gospel, but I lived in a humanistic world. I went to one of the leading public magnet schools in the nation. It was very academic and very humanistic.

I continued as a humanist Christian for many years. I married my wife in 1986, she was more Biblical in her faith and prayed for my growth. In the early 1990’s, I went through a spiritual crisis – I began to ask questions and started to think that I couldn’t be an intellectual and a Christian. I believed in my heart, but I could not reconcile my humanistic worldview with what I read in the Scriptures. In 1996, my family moved from Okinawa, Japan, to Germany. We joined Trinity Reformed Church (PCA) in Kaiserslautern. God had set the stage and brought me to a point in my life where I was ready for exponential growth in faith. Under Pastor Doug Hudson, with the tapes from R.C. Sproul, the writings of Francis Schaeffer, and resources from the Institute for Creation Research, my head and heart knowledge came together. This synergy created a new passion for Jesus Christ and His church, and I developed a strong Biblical worldview. I lived 35 years with a humanist worldview, because of the education that I received.

When I hear someone say that their child can overcome the humanistic education of a government or private secular school, I reflect on my experience and the experience of many of my friends that have sent their children to these schools. Very few make it through unscathed; most are damaged and may recover with time with God’s grace; and many will walk away from the faith. My heart mourns for those who do not choose Christian homeschooling or Christian day school. There is a price for everything including what is free – in fact, we often pay more for what is free. A Christian education is one of the best investments we can make, because it is an eternal investment.

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A Few Additional Comments

June 28, 2018
By John Morrison

Many folks have been so very gracious in wishing me a great retirement as I hand over the head of school duties to our new leader, Dr. Don Larson. I have deeply appreciated such comments from so many.

I perhaps should clarify that I won't actually be "retiring" in the true sense of the word.  I will continue to be engaged with our re-accreditation effort over the next year, as well as assisting Dr. Larson in various ways.  I also will be far more engaged on the pastoral team at Community Fellowship Church. So, "retirement" is really not so much on my radar, at least at this point!

I do want to say very clearly that I am quite impressed with Dr. Larson, who has now been on the job here at GCS over the past two weeks  He has a great leadership background based on his career as a Lt. Colonel in the Air Force special forces, as well as significant experience in the educational world.  He obviously loves the Lord and has a passion for the unique and special form of Christian education as practiced at GCS. Such leaders do not grow on trees, so to speak.  In this context, I believe he and his wife, Marielle, are God's special and timely gift to our faith community, and that he will lead GCS in a Christ-honoring manner that will continue to make an eternal impact on our young people and their families.  Let's be praying for God's wisdom and anointing to be much upon Dr. Larson as he takes our school into the future.

I also want to commend our governing board, chaired by Ms. Jan Ingram, for stepping up and providing the strategic leadership needed to keep GCS true to its fundamental mission.  Our board members are investing much time and effort in serving our school community, and we owe them all a deep debt of gratitude. Thank you, Jan Ingram, Andy Wells, Macon Rich, Sherry Foster, Alan Brown, Ken Cullinan, Janelle Greenmun, Bryan Bailey, and Rhonda Wilmore, for serving us so well!

I would be quite remiss to not express heartfelt gratitude to the congregation known as Community Fellowship Church. There would be no GCS apart from the selfless, quiet, and substantial support provided by this church over the past thirty-eight years.  They remain quietly in the background, but their vision, commitment, and generosity have benefitted many, many young people and their families. Thank you,  CFC!

And, then, there is our dedicated staff.  I can't even begin to express my depth of gratitude for their sacrifice and commitment and passion for our students.  What a privilege it has been (and is) to serve with them! May God lavish His blessing upon them both now and in eternity as they continue to invest their lives in our families!

So, we are just getting started!  Let's roll up our sleeves and continue to work hard in advancing what I believe is one of the most strategic ministries in our community -- GCS!  Our culture is darkening spiritually. Never has this ministry been any more important, and we want to ensure that GCS continues to partner with our Christian families as well as being a light in a dark place pointing to the reality of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

If you would like to respond to this blog, please email me at

PS. While this will be my last GCS blog, I am pleased that Dr. Larson will continue this GCS blogging tradition.  Look for his first edition in the near future! In the meantime,I will be starting up a new blog later this summer related to our Community Fellowship website.  My primary themes will center around living out our faith in the context of contemporary issues. Anyone who would like to receive my continued ramblings is welcome.  Just respond to this blog (email address above) by requesting your name to be added to my distribution list. I would love to have you continue this journey with me!

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Headmaster's Blog

GCS Core Values

November 21, 2017
By John Morrison
Happy Thanksgiving!
“O give thanks to the Lord, for He is good;
For His lovingkindness is everlasting!
Psalm 106:1

I trust all my readers will enjoy this very special Thanksgiving holiday!  Indeed,  we have much for which we can be thankful, no matter our circumstances,  because of the redeeming grace of God poured upon us through Christ!  May this be a special season for thankfully remembering His gracious blessings lavished upon us!


As part of our accreditation self-study, we carefully review our school documents, especially those dealing with our fundamental mission and vision.  No document spells out our sense of “core values” better than, well,  our “GCS Core Values” statement.  As recently updated by our Board of Trustees, these four basic values define what we trust are those ideals that make GCS distinct as a Christian school.  In this and the next three blogs, I would like to share with you each of these core values.  With God’s help, we seek to be the best school we can possibly be, and our being reminded of these fundamental values helps us avoid “mission drift” by staying  focused upon these essential goals.  

None of these four values is any more important than the very first, stated as  follows:


All elements of the ministry [of GCS] must continually be evaluated in the context of the simple question, “Does this aspect of the program and/or curriculum directly or indirectly encourage and instruct our students in their need for a personal relationship with Christ and to walk in obedience to His will?”  Administrative leadership must continually use this simple question in evaluating all aspects of the program.  As the Board, we emphasize this priority as the essential value for which Grace Christian School stands.

Furthermore, this value must be deliberately applied not only to Bible classes and chapels, but to all aspects of the School’s programs.  It is vital that administration continually train teachers and staff in how to integrate the Christian worldview into all educational curricula, as well as into all extra-curricular activities.  This must be done purposefully and thoughtfully as one of leadership’s continual, highest priorities.

My last two blogs featuring a kindergarten and a high school finance class are examples of how seriously we take this challenge of purposefully integrating the Christian worldview in all aspects and levels of our instructional program.  Can any educational priority be of greater importance than this first core value?  We think not, and we expend a great deal of time and energy to this end as demonstrated by our engagement with the outstanding Worldview Matters Biblical integration program.  Our students must understand not only the content of our faith as truth, but also the why and how that makes it relevant to all walks of life

In my next several blogs, I will focus on three additional core values that we believe make GCS a very special and unique Christian school.  

Happy Thanksgiving!

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An Outstanding Class!

November 15, 2017
By John Morrison
GCS Personal Finance Class (from left to right): Josh Lockwood, Cheyenne Hareford, Tyler Johnson, Karson Wright, Byron Forsyth, Clayton Duke and instructor, Chad Brown.

God has enabled us to provide our high school students with a well-rounded education via a healthy offering of high school courses.  One of my favorites (and best kept secrets!) is Mr. Chad Brown’s personal finance course.  In a day when many  students know little about practical finance,  Mr. Brown’s class teaches essential management and stewardship skills vital for maintaining a stable financial ship.  Enjoy this following excerpt from one of Mr. Brown’s emails to his students’ parents outlining a sample of the kinds of excellent lessons he is passing along to his students.

The last couple of weeks we've been looking at purchasing reliable and affordable transportation, and some important things to consider in that process. I had the students work in the computer lab where each picked three cars to present to their classmates.  Their job was to "sell" their choice to the class. The general restrictions included the following characteristics: economical, reliable, within 200 mile radius (to allow a test drive), no more than 12 years old, 156,000 max mileage (based on average of 13,000 miles per year), affordability payment wise, within their income.

There were some interesting picks, to say the least, including a 2003 Cadillac CTS roadster, a 2004 Infinity G35, a 2013 Dodge Ram 1500 truck, a 2005 VW Jetta, etc.

After their presentations, I had them work in two groups, where each would pick his or her top three vehicles, scrutinizing whether or not they fit the general guidelines.  Then, we narrowed it further to the top three picks for the class, relating each potential vehicle back to the general restrictions above. Their final choice was a 2003 Honda Accord (14 years old) with 133,000 miles (9,500 miles per year, which is less than average annual mileage) for $2,950, which was a great deal.  Although it was slightly outside the general age guidelines, it was, in my view, a very wise choice.

Also during  the process, I had Chris Jones, a great Christian friend who has been in the automotive industry for thirty years, and who is the current Commercial Sales Manager for Charlie Obaugh, come and give his perspective on how to purchase a used vehicle.  He has been helping me with this aspect of the course for six years.  Chris brings an excellent checklist for a prospective buyer to use when test driving a car.  I always pick up new  insights from his presentation, and in fact used this checklist when considering the last car I bought.  Graciously, he gives them his business card and cell phone number and invites them at any point to call him if they ever have a question.

After their final choice, we went back to the lab to check the NADA and Kelley Blue Book values for a couple of the cars, including their 2003 Honda.  Although they got a good deal on the Honda, we looked at a couple of other vehicles that were priced well above retail value for their car.  This let the students know how not to just arbitrarily pay someone their asking price without doing their homework.

All-in-all, I think this has been a very good process for them.  In the near future, we will be looking at maintenance on this car, purchasing insurance, and making monthly payments (with the goal of paying it off early).

Yes, Mr. Brown, most certainly this has been a very excellent experience for our students!  Thank you for all of your time and effort in equipping our young people with these most practical and important life skills!

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The Joy of Learning: Going Beyond Mere Rote

November 08, 2017
By John Morrison
Kindergarten teacher, Kristi Pananas and student, Max Banta

We are certainly all about teaching the fundamental content of our Christian faith and academic subjects to our students.  But a Christian education is simply deficient if it does not go beyond focusing on mere content in influencing the formation of the child’s basic assumptions about truth.  Thus, we talk a great deal at GCS about teaching biblical worldview integration and critical thinking skills that help each child examine his or her basic assumptions about reality.

Following, in the words of Kristi Pananas, one of our kindergarten teachers, is an example of how this can work in the classroom.  

Recently, during a kindergarten math lesson, I introduced patterns: red, yellow, red, yellow; smiley face, star, smiley face, star; ABAB, etc.  We practiced a few different examples. And then, the neat stuff happened.

A little girl raised her hand and asked “What does God think of patterns and does he like them?”. Wow!

I put my worksheet aside, sat down and knew that this discussion was more important               than the “math” lesson.  I asked the question back to the class…..

           And the following were some of the answers:

The first little boy said , “We know God likes order so he must like patterns because patterns are in order.”  We had previously talked about how God is a God of order, not chaos.   I thought, “They are getting it, they remember, this is important to them!!!”

Hands were flying and everyone wanted to be part of the discussion.

Another student added, “God ordered the days, he made all things….”  We had talked about creation, and how our calendar was in order and what God thought of that.

And another remembered, “God made animals with patterns.” Patterns were related to camouflage and a way of protecting animals and God did that.

We discussed how God made people with patterns: 2 eyes, 2 arms, boys/girls. How God doesn’t make mistakes when he creates anything. How we are all created perfectly and in a special way and are made in His image (patterned after God).

       Mrs. Pananas and student, Ella Parker

To answer the question about “does God like patterns?“ everyone agreed that he does!  He made rainbows, and they are patterns.  He likes pretty things.  He wants to enjoy patterns; they thought that God wanted us to like patterns, too. We talked about how God is creative and thinks of everything.

A 20-minute math lesson turned into a 45 minute worldview lesson initiated by a child with a heart wondering about God. We were late for lunch...and no one cared, and kindergarteners always care about snack and lunch (and recess)!

I was amazed and proud.  We had been in school less than a month and the kiddos were using the questioning that they hear at school…”what does God think/feel about...?” These kiddos are 5 and 6 years old!  I can only imagine what the rest of the year will be like. God is at work in the hearts and minds of these kindergarten students.

The above is an example of taking  learning from the level of rote (which is important) to the level of critical thinking with an emphasis on biblical worldview integration and experiencing learning as one of life’s greatest joys.  Indeed, this is our goal for our students at GCS: to stimulate their curiosity in investigating and discovering the beauty and wonder of God’s creation and how it all ties together in one unified whole.  And the stimulation of critical thinking is something, as demonstrated by these little ones, that can be cultivated from the earliest years all the way through high school!  This is (or should be) one of the core dynamics of a truly Christian education!

Thanks for sharing, Mrs. Pananas!  

And what she has shared is but one example of what is taking place daily throughout GCS!

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