Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Has God Abandoned You?

On November 17th, I was blessed with the privilege of preaching at Rio Vista Community Church, and I wanted to share this message with our Bethany family.

To listen, click the sermon title below.
Jesus' Triumph Over Satan's Temptations

Just as the sheep are called to know the voice of our Shepherd, so too are the sheep expected to recognize the whispers of our great adversary. As we read about Jesus' triumph over the devil’s greatest temptations, we discover that our Savior is the only unfailing hero in this world. Our God willingly embraced a life of suffering, so that he could sympathize with our tears and secure our fate in heaven. Incredibly, Jesus loved us too much to accept a kingdom without the Cross. And he did all of this for us! So when the familiar whisper of Satan comes to you in the midst of your greatest moments of suffering (“If God really loved you, he would never allow you to suffer"), let us remember the faithful example of our Savior who persevered through suffering and refused to let go of the faithful promises of God.

I pray that this message richly blesses and encourages your heart!

In Christ,

Sam Kastensmidt
Bethany Christian School

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Letter to BCS Middle School Parents...

Hello BCS parents,


I wanted to take this opportunity to thank each of you for the privilege of teaching your sons and daughters. As you know, I have taken on the role of teaching Bible this year, and it has been such a great joy for me. I have been so impressed by the maturity and wisdom expressed by your kids. As a teacher, I have always had very high expectations for my students, but I confess that their ability (and eagerness) to grasp the most important concepts of life has been quite impressive — especially considering that they are in the middle-school stage of life. They are an awesome bunch of kids, and they have absolutely dominated my high-school level Bible curriculum. Our textbook is being used in three private, Christian high schools in Broward County, and I’d put my students up against any of their students!


In each of my classes, we have had so many great conversations about life, the grace of God, Christian ethics, philosophy, and the most important priorities in life. From my perspective, the students seem genuinely excited to learn about the Scriptures, which has really blessed my heart. Along with you, I am hopeful that their deepening relationship with God is giving them a solid foundation for the rest of life.


The Middle School years can be among the most challenging developmental years in all of life. As I mentioned during the Open House, each of the teachers in the BCS Middle School considers ourselves to be partners in shepherding your child’s heart. If you ever notice an area where your child needs encouragement or discipleship, please let us know. While we are absolutely committed to providing the best academic environment possible, each of us serves at Bethany Christian School because we feel called to help shepherd and shape the hearts of our students for a lifetime to come.  


Again, thanks for the opportunity and privilege that we have in loving and teaching your kids!



Blessings in Christ,


Sam Kastensmidt


Bethany Christian School

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Calling All Bethany Dads...

Last year, we launched the DADS' ministry of Bethany Christian School. Each month, Bethany's dads gathered in the Attic once each month to enjoy an impressive breakfast spread, to build friendships, and to share in a brief devotional message on biblical fatherhood. Ask around. It was always a great time filled with really fruitful discussions.

This year, we will be holding the DADS' Breakfasts on the second Tuesday of each month at 7:30am in the Attic. There is no charge, and childcare is available. Our first breakfast of the year is scheduled for September 10th. Our goal is to cultivate a healthy and vibrant community of dads who are engaged and growing closer together in friendship.

The Bible tells us, "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another." As dads, it is extremely important that we are fed spiritually and encouraged in the difficult task of fatherhood.

I look forward to seeing you on September 10th when we will be discussing the impact of fathers as "role models." Please feel free to invite other dads!

Blessings in Christ,


Saturday, August 24, 2013

Thanks for Your Generosity!

Hello Bethany families!
We have officially launched the 2013-2014 school year, and things are off to a great start! You can sense the incredible level of enthusiasm and positive energy among our students, parents, faculty, and staff. This atmosphere makes it a lot of fun to be part of the Bethany family!

During the past two summers at Bethany, our team has worked very hard to ensure that our school's facilities and resources are top-notch. Thanks to the generosity of our school families and church community during our two major annual fundraisers -- Boosterthon and the Auction, we have been able to make a number of significant upgrades to our campus. It's always good to know the impact of your generosity, so I wanted to take a brief moment to highlight thirty upgrades made to Bethany's campus during the past fourteen months.

  1. 30 iPads for classroom use
  2. A Mobile iPad Cart (36-Unit)
  3. Wireless Access Points Blanketing the Campus
  4. A Guest Network for Wireless Access
  5. Overhead Mounted Projectors & Screens in Each Classroom
  6. Apple TV connections (enabling interactive iPad instruction)
  7. Security Surveillance System Covering the Entire Campus
  8. New Graphic Arts Program & Software for MS Students
  9. New Online Reading Comprehension Program
  10. New Signage around the Campus
  11. Newly Renovated Art Room
  12. Newly Renovated Music Room
  13. Newly Renovated 2nd Grade Classroom
  14. Newly Created Media Center (22 Laptops)
  15. Newly Renovated Teacher Workroom
  16. New MacBook Pros for Our Teachers
  17. Upgraded PCs for Administrative Personnel
  18. Office Renovation for our New Director of Academics
  19. Biblical-Themed Murals on Campus Walls
  20. Integrated VOIP Phone System for Entire Campus
  21. Updated Wiring in the Preschool Building
  22. Fiber-Optic Cable (beneath 9th Street)
  23. Integrated Networks to Allow for File-Sharing
  24. A Ministry Outreach Coordinator
  25. A New Nursery ("The Creation Station")
  26. Drywall over Cinder-Blocks in Downstairs Classrooms
  27. Newly Painted "Green-Top" Courtyard (reducing heat)
  28. New In-House Digital Camera to Record BCS Events
  29. A Contract for Hardcover Yearbooks (coming this year)
  30. New Online Platforms for Grades & Communication

With an incredible faculty, an impressive academic profile (top 4% in the nation), and upgraded facilities, Bethany is a top-tier private school in Broward County. And word is now getting out. Last year, Bethany set an opening day enrollment record with 265 students. This year, we set yet another enrollment record -- opening our doors with 291 students (305 students, if you count the nursery).

Along with the blessing of growing enrollment numbers comes the challenge of spatial needs on our existing campus. Last year, we added a second Kindergarten class. This year, we added a second first-grade class. Our team has already drawn up plans to ensure that our facilities can accommodate two classes for each elementary grade going forward. We are planning an expansion campaign for Bethany! This year's fundraising goals will be devoted to short-term expansion needs as well as the development of exciting new academic programs.

It is a great time to be a Bethany Bobcat! Thank you so much for your past support, and we hope that you will partner with us for the exciting days ahead!  


Sam Kastensmidt
Bethany Christian School

Sunday, May 5, 2013

An Open Letter to the BCS Faculty

Dear BCS faculty,

On Tuesday, the nation will celebrate the national Teacher Appreciation Day. As we come to the end of the school year (my first at BCS), I wanted to let you all know how much I love and appreciate you. Being a teacher is hard. It requires such an enormous investment of love and energy, and your efforts aren't always noticed (though God notices) or accompanied by obvious fruit (though I've seen a lot of fruit this year)! But I want you all to rest in the promises and exhortations of God. Even in the seasons when the labor is hard and the harvest seems empty, cling to the words of the Apostle Paul.

1 Corinthians 15:58
"Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain."

Bethany is a very special place, because of you! You have done an excellent job to make this place shine. And I count myself blessed to work with such a Christ-like and committed group of people. I've only known you for one year, and you already feel like family. And while things are great at Bethany, I pledge that I will do everything in my power to assist you in making next year even better! There are some exciting things in store for Bethany.

I am very excited about the team that God has assembled here, and I am confident that He will richly bless our efforts going forward! 

So let me steal a few lines from the Apostle Paul and make them my own...

1 Corinthians 1:4-6
"I always thank God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. For in him you have been enriched in every way—in all your speaking and in all your knowledge—because our testimony about Christ was confirmed in you."

Philippians 1:3-6
"I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus."

I love you all, and I am very grateful for the faculty at Bethany Christian School!

In Christ,

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Happy Easter!

Last Thursday night, my wife and I went to the MaundyThursday evening service at Rio Vista.We had a special time of worship with Ryan. We heard a great message from Pastor Matt. As we celebrated Communion, all of the families were invited up front to be prayed over by the church's pastors and leaders. We then listened to a reading of the Passion narrative and left in total silence. 
What a wonderful and much-needed evening to help turn our eyes upon Christ!
As Matt began his message, he talked about the honor that our Mickey took in transporting the heavy wooden cross to the stage in preparation for this weekend. Mickey chose to carry it alone, treating it as an opportunity to reflect upon Christ and His love in carrying the Cross for us. And when Laura and I walked to the front to receive prayer, I was met by Jim Stafiej, who received us with a smile and a hug. He prayed over us. It was really beautiful, and it again reminded me of how much I love and appreciate our staff at Bethany! Thank you for loving Christ so well and wanting to love Him even more.
As I sat in my seat toward the end of the service, I was not ready to go home. I wanted the evening to continue all night. Husbands were praying over wives. Tears were flowing all around me. Then a woman I've never met came and sat down in front of me. She was wearing a shawl around her neck with a Scripture verse stitched into the fabric facing me. It was my life verse... a verse that I had penned into every yearbook as a teacher at Westminster Academy -- hoping that my students would cling to it. It was the verse that I chose to include in our Bethany yearbook. It was a verse that God has used to help rescue me from so many painful seasons in life.
Zephaniah 3:17
"The Lord your God is with you, He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you; He will quiet you with His love. He will rejoice over you with singing."
That verse captures so much of the heart of God to me. He is so very close and near to us. He has promised and is powerful enough to provide rescue for you. This verse shows His ENTHUSIASTIC love for you -- His passionately romantic heart for you. Your Savior SINGS over you! He takes DELIGHT in you! And He is eager to quiet your soul and bring peace into your hurting heart. As I pondered the goodness of God to put that shawl in front of my face in that particular moment, I then looked up to the wooden Cross which had been lit red.
That Cross was the cost of Zephaniah 3:17. In an act of sweet tenderness, God flooded my heart with gratitude and worship for the undeserved love expressed on that Cross. That love is too great to comprehend. And as we celebrate this Good Friday, we can be confident that the power of the Cross has made Zephaniah 3:17 a reality for all of us. Amazing!
I pray that God gives you all a very peaceful and worship-filled Easter break!
Love you all,

Sunday, February 17, 2013

A Remarkable Medical Breakthrough?

I recently read an article in Forbes magazine revealing that the American people spend roughly $2.5 trillion on healthcare each year — almost $8,000 for every man, woman, and child.

How would you respond if someone claimed that they had discovered a brand new treatment that could radically change the face of medicine in America? The person then assured you that this same treatment had already radically changed his own life, and he wanted you to share in it. If you’re like me, every cynical instinct in your brain would launch into hyper-drive. You would assume that this treatment must be a financial scam or a worthless remedy. Suppose you then learned that several major universities, government agencies, and other institutions endeavored to examine its effects on people, and the researchers were stunned by their positive findings!

  • Researchers from Florida State University, the University of Colorado, and the University of Texas found that this treatment extended a person’s life expectancy by an average of 7.6 years. Upon further research, you discover that a study conducted by researchers at Duke University produced similar results. Even WebMD affirmed the veracity of these incredible findings.
  • The International Journal of Psychiatry in Medicine reported that this particular treatment is associated with dramatically reduced blood pressure.
  • Duke University Medical Center published a study revealing that recipients of this treatment typically had superior immune systems.
  • The University of Manitoba found that people who take this treatment are far less likely to commit suicide.
  • One article in U.S. News & World Report explained that this treatment “benefits health in ways that science hasn’t fully explained.” The article added that these treatments “appear to lengthen life expectancy, strengthen immunity, improve the body’s response to stress, and boost other measures of physical health.”
  • The University of North Carolina discovered that high school seniors taking this treatment were less likely to drink, struggle with addictions, face depression, engage in violence, receive traffic tickets, be combative with parents, skip school, steal, trespass, and suffer from in-school disciplinary actions. They were also more likely to have a positive outlook on life, receive higher grades, exercise, experience happier home lives, participate in extracurricular activities, graduate high school, and find stable relationships with their peers.
  • USA Today published an article verifying that this treatment had impressive effects upon the nation’s college students. According to the article, these students “have better emotional and mental health…. In addition, the students [who did not take this treatment] are more than twice as likely to report poor mental health or depression.”

In a society that spends $2.5 trillion on healthcare, how much would our culture be willing to invest to secure such a remarkable treatment? The good news is that this treatment is available to you as a free gift of grace! The truth is that the benefits highlighted in each of the above studies are associated with regular church attendance and a life of faith. While the Christian faith offers and requires far more than a recipe for a healthy and balanced life, it's interesting to find that a life centered around God's Word is baffling many of the same scientists who have claimed that faith ignores science. Indeed, this is further evidence that the Designer of life knows what He is doing.

The Proverbs instruct: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones” (Proverbs 3:5-8).

Referenced Articles:
  1. Christine Larson, “Health Prayer: Should Religion and Faith Have Roles in Medicine?” U.S. News & World Report, December 22, 2008.
  2. Sarah Hofius, “A Spiritually Inclined Student is a Happier Student,” USA Today, October 26, 2004.
  3. “Religious 12th Graders Hold More Positive Attitudes About Life,” UNC News, December 2002.
  4. “Duke Study: Attending Religious Service May Improve Immune Status,” Duke Medicine News & Communications, November 3, 2004.
  5. “Can Prayer Lower High Blood Pressure,” Jet magazine, August 31, 1998.
  6. “Research Shows Religion Plays A Major Role In Health, Longevity.” Science Daily, May 17, 1999.
  7. “Attend Religious Services, Live Longer,” WebMD, November 25, 2008.

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Monday, February 4, 2013

Hey Dads.... You Matter!

Hey dads!

Your investment in the lives of your kids matters… a lot more than you may think!

Over the course of the past several years, I have reviewed a lot of research regarding the ideal circumstances for optimal childhood development and education. In light of this research, I have grown increasingly convinced that the collapse of America’s educational system has far less to do with funding or teaching philosophies than it does with the collapse of the family.

As we all know, the days of Father Knows Best are long gone. Instead, the prevailing cultural and legal sentiment is that the father is little more than a source of financial security for the family. In a recent article published in Psychology Today, Dr. Ditta M. Oliker lamented:

The world began to radically change with the social, economic and technical changes of the 20th Century and, with those changes, came a basic change in the structure and function of the family — with a consequent shift in the authority of the father. His influence was increasingly seen as minor, even negligible, and his importance was defined by how well he provided for the family.

Maureen Dowd, a columnist for The New York Times, has even written a best-selling book titled: "Are Men Necessary?" Sadly, as a result of this broadly embraced shift in perspective, our culture began to denigrate the role of fatherhood in the home. And far too many men have bought the lie. In 1960, only 11% of American children lived in fatherless households. In that era, fathers were still seen as essential pillars for the general health and wellbeing of a family. Only five decades later, this percentage has more than tripled, and the rapid growth in the number of disengaged fathers has shown no signs of slowing.

As our nation buckles beneath the tidal wave of absent or unengaged fathers, all of the latest research is now pointing to an undeniable conclusion: society was dead wrong! A father’s involvement (or lack thereof) has an enormous impact on the future development of his children.

You are so much more than a paycheck. You are shaping and forming your children in ways that you may have never imagined. I would like to share just a small sampling of this research. The evidence now reveals that the children of involved fathers are typically more likely...

  • To enjoy school.
  • To have positive attitudes toward school.
  • To participate in extracurricular activities.
  • To graduate from high school.
  • To demonstrate a greater tolerance for stress and frustration.
  • To have superior problem-solving and adaptive skills.
  • To be more playful, resourceful, skillful, and attentive.
  • To manage their emotions and impulses in an appropriate manner.
  • To demonstrate more advanced verbal skills.
  • To perform at a higher level on achievement tests.
  • To excel in mathematics.
  • To show an increased level of curiosity.
  • To confidently explore the world around them.
  • To confidently approach problem-solving exercises.
  • To demonstrate heightened mental dexterity, empathy, and self-control.
  • To receive straight A’s on report cards.
  • To have higher grade point averages.
  • To have advanced language skills and literacy development.
  • To show better communicative skills concerning the world around them.
  • To demonstrate higher cognitive competence on standardized tests.
  • To achieve higher levels of educational and economic success.
  • To achieve higher levels of career success and occupational competency.
  • To have higher expectations for educational performance.
  • To exhibit better physical health conditions.
  • To work above their grade level.
  • To exhibit superior psychological well-being.

Sadly, the inverse is true for children with fathers who are disengaged.

I will be the first to tell you that fatherhood can be extremely difficult and tiresome. I will also be the first to tell you that I often stumble in my responsibilities as a husband and a father. Too often! To be a good dad requires a huge commitment of time, energy, resources, and emotion. But there is nothing more rewarding than the knowledge that God is using this investment to shape the life of your precious son or daughter.

The following scene was taken from the movie “Courageous.” I would encourage you to watch the short clip and consider making this pledge (or something like it) your own.

There is only one perfect Father, but He is our perfect Father. Thankfully, our Father is gracious and loving. He watches over our families even when we drop the ball. And because of Christ, we can rest assured that all of our shortcomings as dads have been forgiven. We can also be confident that He has equipped us to become the dads that He has called us to be. One of the gifts that God has given to each of us in this journey is one another. He has created us to be part of a thriving community of friendship, encouragement and support. No man was created to walk alone. So I would encourage you to get plugged into life at Bethany. Get to know the families of your child's friends. Invest in each other. Help each other. Pray for each other. And pray that God would continue to do amazing things in the lives of Bethany's families!

“Behold, children are a gift of the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them; they will not be ashamed when they speak with their enemies in the gate” (Psalm 127:3-5). 

Referenced Articles:
Dr. Ditta M. Oliker, “The Long Reach of Childhood: How Early Experiences Shape You Forever,” Psychology Today, June 23, 2011.

“The Importance of Fathers in the Healthy Development of Children,” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Administration for Children and Families, 2006.

Dr. Sarah Allen and Dr. Kerry Daly, “The Effects of Father Involvement: An Updated Research Summary of the Evidence,” Father Involvement Research Alliance, May 2007.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

From the Mouth of a Child...

Have you ever been to a chapel service at Bethany? If you haven’t had the opportunity, I would strongly urge you to come and participate in one of our Wednesday morning chapel services.

Since joining the team at Bethany Christian School, one of my very favorite surprises came at my first chapel service. There is nothing so wonderful as hearing our students — both young and old — excitedly singing and praising the Lord.

Prior to coming to Bethany, I had the privilege of teaching many wonderful middle and high school classes. I have been to more than one-hundred chapel services. But I have never seen a chapel service that reaches the level of enthusiasm like the one that I witnessed at my first Wednesday chapel at Bethany! While I loved to see the students’ excitement in worship, I was even more excited to know that my two sons were being exposed to this passion for worship.

My Son Caleb
On the evening after our first chapel service, I asked my four-year-old son Caleb to tell me his favorite thing about God. He responded, “I love God, because God will never tell me, ‘You’re not my friend.’” As a dad who knows how hard life can be, I am thrilled to know that my son is learning such precious truths at Bethany Christian School.

To the best of our ability, Laura and I are training our two boys to choose the right path, yet we realize our boys will never reach perfection — as their teachers can verify. But we are so grateful that our school is training up our boys to live in the confidence of the gospel. With this confidence, we know that no matter how far they fall… no matter how much they stumble… no matter how far they may stray from the right path… our boys will know that the Lord will never turn His back on them. Jesus has promised that He takes delight when His wayward sheep are brought back into the fold of God.

Jesus said, “What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost” (Matthew 18:12-14).

I am so grateful that our God loves my children far more than I could ever love them, and He can do so because His wellspring of love is infinite in measure. Bethany is training up our boys to know that our God is a Good Shepherd who will never give up on His wayward sheep. And this is good news for all of us. As the prophet Isaiah proclaimed, “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6).

At times, life in this world can be absolutely wonderful and blessed. In other seasons, life can seem difficult and lonely. No matter where you might find yourself today, take comfort in the truth grasped by my son — “Jesus will NEVER say, ‘You’re not my friend.’”