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Sunday, September 29, 2013

Why Choose a Christian School?

I’ll begin with a little bit of my family’s story. I was educated in a private school first through fifth grades. It was not exactly a Christian school, although the principal-founder and his wife were religious people. In the morning, our teachers would read a portion of the Bible or a devotional thought, there was prayer, and we recited the Pledge of Allegiance. In sixth grade, I transferred to a public school and remained in public schools until college. My brother is two years younger, and his schooling was much the same. Our sister is quite a bit younger than we are, and she had the opportunity to go to two different Christian schools in grade school, and another for high school. This was back in the 1970s, when the Christian school movement was in its infancy. All three of us studied at a Christian university.

My mother taught in public schools all her life, except for when I was very small when she taught in a school for the blind. My brother taught in a Christian school. My sister is a public school teacher. She has taught in Christian schools and in private academies as well. Our daughter is teaching in her second Christian school. Our son teaches in a Christian college. I homeschooled both of our children, using Christian materials.

Some of the best teachers I ever had were my public high school teachers. One was a born-again Christian. Most were not. They were gifted teachers who genuinely cared about their students. Even today, I think of them often. I believe a Christian teacher in a public school can make a huge impact on his students for good. I do, though, know that a teacher today is limited in what he is allowed to say about religion of any kind. He has to be very careful how he broaches certain subjects. Science teachers, especially, are having a hard time in public schools. If they introduce the option of Intelligent Design (that there has to be a Creator, since the world is so intricate and so obviously designed) they are persecuted. Other Christian teachers might face challenges like the required reading or some of the new, altered history textbooks. I believe it is a difficult place to work, but a Christian teacher can truly make a difference. For those who are called to do just that, you have my respect.

Let me share some of our thought processes in choosing Christian schooling for our children and why I believe Christians should pray about and consider Christian schooling for their own children. 
  1. The most important thing we can teach our children is the Bible. A school that teaches the Bible and the core subjects from a biblical viewpoint will help our children learn the practicality of Bible principles. Most private, charter, and public schools do not teach any Bible.
  2. A biblical worldview is an essential foundation. When we see history as God’s plan, math as logic and design, language as a means to communicate Truth, and science as the study of God’s magnificent creation, we have a biblical worldview. When we recognize God’s eternal existence, His moral standards of right and wrong, and that our purpose in life is to glorify God in all that we say and do, then we have a biblical foundation for life and faith. Unfortunately, in public schools, children are taught that Truth is relative, the Big Bang actually happened, and that humans are nothing more than a series of chance mutations. Public schools teach tolerance for every kind of thought and act, without considering moral absolutes. Public schools teach children that they are animals.
  3. Children are vulnerable. They are not yet mature, and their thought processes are in their formative years. They need an education based on Truth so that they understand absolutes and their life purpose—to glorify God. When some little children are exposed to false teachings at school and Truth at home and church, they become confused and begin to question the Bible.
  4. Our children needed a good English education. (We live in Spain, so English isn’t available in many places besides at home.) Another “language” reason was this: our children would hear only clean language in our homeschool. Whether you choose homeschooling or a Christian school, your children have the advantage of having only clean speech around them. That includes clean teaching, clean jokes, clean-speaking friends, and all the rest that comes with Christian surroundings.

Back when I was in public high school, it was a good school. It was conservative. I never heard a curse  word from any teacher but one, and all the teachers were dedicated to teaching. I never was required to read a dirty book, and life was good. Three years later, my brother experienced a different story. (This was back in the 1970s.) I’m very aware of the changes in public schools since then. Today, I can’t imagine kids reading the required books and coming away unscathed.

If you are a born-again Christian, you highly value the Bible and a biblical worldview. I know you want your children to know the Lord themselves and to be brought up to be able to discern between Truth and falsehood. Deuteronomy 6:5-7 tell how you can do this: And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. This sounds like an all-day teaching assignment to me!

How can we instill biblical teaching in our children? A Christian education is a good way to do this. If you have school-age children and have never given Christian schooling a thought, please consider praying about this option for your child.

Come, ye children, hearken unto me:
I will teach you the fear of the LORD.
(Psalm 34:11)

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom:
and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.
(Proverbios 9:10)

Friday, September 27, 2013

How to Teach Manners to Children and Why We Should Care

This series on parenting has opened my eyes to several things. One is that young mothers like seeing goals written down in black and white. Another is that even though each household is different and each child is different, there are many common goals that we have as Christians. I believe strongly that character training is very important, and as you know, I believe that both boys and girls should be prepared for adulthood by knowing life skills and being trained for jobs. Now, we’ll address one more thing:

Teach your children good manners. It will give them polish—and help people to enjoy being around them.

It’s great if you can start with your toddlers. They grow up with automatic responses. But, even middle schoolers and teens can be taught quickly as well. Here’s an example. At our summer camp, the kids are there for five days. My husband’s job was to man the drink and candy shack. We put a sign up that said something like: “This man can only hear if you say 'please'.” Within about two days, the kids automatically said please, and they were also saying thank you. They can be taught!

If you have small children, each time you give them a toy, say “thank you.” Your toddlers will copy, and soon they’ll say “thank you” whenever someone gives them something. When your child wants something and can talk, have him always say “please.” No please means he doesn’t get what he wants. “Please” means he gets it with a smile.

Then, there are the “Southern manners.” I understand that these are optional, depending on where you live, but I still highly recommend them. These are “yes, ma’am” and “yes, sir” and “no ma’am” and “no, sir.” The reason I recommend them is that they give a young man or woman that something extra. When he says “yes ma’am” to a future boss, it makes a favorable impression. When he treats customers with a “yes, sir” and “yes, ma’am” it adds that charming bit of courtesy that people love. When a young man or woman speaks to his pastor or his professor using Southern manners, he sounds like a respectful person. Teach them from small on, and they become automatic. When your child answers any adult, he automatically says, “yes, sir” or “yes ma’am.”

Table manners are very important. Have you ever been across the table from a child with no manners? He stuffs food in his face, not waiting for the hostess or the blessing. He talks while his mouth is full and reaches across the table for more. He says, “I don’t like broccoli” and “I don’t like peach cobbler.” He is loud and boorish, and you only want to escape. Teach your children how to hold a fork, how to cut their food, how to eat smaller bites and keep their mouths closed while chewing. Teach him not to be loud at the table and to let the adults at the table speak, not interrupting. Teach him to ask for something to be passed, instead of reaching over anyone and anything for it. Teach him not to slurp his soup, and never, ever to say, “I don’t like _______________.” He can always say “No, thank you,” or just pass the broccoli on to the next person. It is never nice to be gross at the table.

By the way, I am not for (unless the kids are older than 9 or so) a “children’s table” in a restaurant (or at church). I believe that parents can best supervise their child’s manners if the children are seated near Mama and Daddy. I believe in helping our children understand acceptable behavior in public.

Good manners are, after all, consideration for others. The Bible says we’re to value others better than ourselves, and also we’re to eat or drink with others in mind. (Philippians 2:3-4; 1 Corinthians 10:31-33)

Teach your sons to treat women like ladies and to be gentlemen. Have them open a car door for you, when they are teens. Have them show you courtesy all of their growing up. Teach them how to act in restaurants, concerts, and plays. Expose your older children to social settings where they dress up a little and act like ladies and gentlemen.

A lot of our teaching—especially manners—is caught as much as taught. If Daddy acts like a gentleman and treats Mama like a queen, the kids notice. If Mama dresses like a lady, takes care of her personal appearance, and walks and acts ladylike, the kids notice. Statistics show that sons usually look for a wife something like their mother and that daughters keep their eyes open for someone like Daddy. What are you modeling for your kids?

Do you say please and thank you? Do you treat your elders with respect? Do you have good table manners?

Our ministry is in a city of about 38,000 people. We are right next to a city of 150,000.  The larger city is known for its culture and beaches, and it is very expensive. We’ve noticed there’s a huge difference in the children from the small city and the larger city. One thing is that the children from the larger city are dressed nicely. (Well, yes, their parents have more money, but they also care deeply about how their children look.) Another thing is the small courtesies. They’re non-existent in the smaller city. Almost every child (as young as eight) in the larger city greets us with “Good morning,” lets us walk first through the door, and holds the door for us. Why the difference? Rich people want their children to succeed. They know that courtesy gives them an edge. They know that good manners are an indication of good breeding.

We are children of the King. Let’s teach our children to be courteous, mannerly, and classy.

Children in whom was no blemish, but well favoured, and skilful in all wisdom, 
and cunning in knowledge, and understanding science, 
and such as had ability in them to stand in the king’s palace, 
and whom they might teach . . . . (Daniel 1:4)

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Why Both Boys and Girls Need Life Skills and Paying Jobs

Many people believe that girls should be taught to cook, sew, keep house, care for children, decorate, garden, and do other life skills under the “homemaking label.” I couldn’t agree more. I would go one step farther. I think boys should have these skills, too.

Both boys and girls should be taught to clean up, cook, wash clothes, and keep their rooms decent, making their beds daily. I believe they should watch their parents perform projects around the home, and they should learn how to cut the grass, do weeding, drill holes in walls, and to do basic car maintenance.

Let’s be practical. We don’t know how long our son or daughter will need to be self-sufficient. It might be for the rest of his life.

When our son was six years old, he and his five-year-old buddy were riding in the back seat of our car. The five-year-old asked our son if he wanted to get married someday. Our son said “no.” Then, the five-year-old said, “then who would make your breakfast?" Our son decided there and then he’d learn to cook.

Even if your son marries young, wouldn’t his wife be thankful that he makes his bed, hangs up his clothes, washes dishes, and cooks or grills from time to time? Even if your daughter marries young, wouldn’t it be nice if she knew how to cut the grass on a weekend when her husband isn’t able to or change a flat tire, if necessary?

Here’s where I might differ with others. (Now, it’s okay if you don’t agree with me. I’m expressing my personal opinion.) I believe that a young men and young women should be prepared to support themselves financially. He should have whatever preparation is necessary to do a job that actually pays him enough to live on.

These are my reasons:
  • You don’t know what the future holds. For example: a young lady can’t be sure her Prince Charming will appear—and marry her—at any definite point in her life. She cannot be sure, even if she marries young, that her husband will never have any debilitating or life-changing sickness or accident. She cannot be sure he will live all of her lifetime. She cannot be sure her husband will always be mentally or physically able to provide for her and their children. 
  • You don’t know if you will marry. You may be single for a while, or forever. (By the way, it is perfectly okay to be single. The Bible says so in 1 Corinthians 7:8, 32, 34.)
  • If you do marry, your husband’s salary might not pay enough to support your family. In many places, it’s almost impossible to buy a house—even a modest one—have two cars, and pay for health care on one salary, even if the job is a good one. In that case, which is very common these days, it is helpful for the lady of the house to have an income, even if working from home or part-time. There’s nothing wrong with helping out.
  • Some people believe that a woman should not be paid for her work—only a man. I disagree. (See Proverbs 31:10-31. The Virtuous Woman excels them all, and she worked several jobs outside her home and was paid for them. God highly praises her.)
  • A young adult should become independent and not continue to live under his parents’ roof forever. (There are exceptions to this, of course, especially when aging or disabled parents need care or the child himself has special needs. I’m talking about a general rule.) A young adult should become independent, forming his own home and being financially independent. It’s sad to see so many “children” thirty-five years old still living jobless under their parents’ roofs. You see it happening a lot in Europe, and I’m afraid, in other places as well. Young adults need to do their best to be prepared to make a living, even in these dire financial times. (See my post “Encouraging Our Young People Toward Jobs,” here.)

We want our children to be able to live independently.

My husband and I did it.

When we married, we had absolutely nothing. (In fact, we took “and all my earthly goods I thee endow” out of our marriage vows, because it would have been such a joke.) My husband had a 1970 Volkswagen beetle he’d rebuilt, and we married on love and wedding gifts. My husband had a job, but I didn’t yet. We rented a modest apartment and started a lifetime of adventures together.

Do we want anything less for our children?

Of course not.

My son, hear the instruction of thy father,
and forsake not the law of thy mother:
For they shall be an ornament of grace unto thy head,
and chains about thy neck.
(Proverbs 1:8-9)

Monday, September 23, 2013

Encouraging Our Young People Toward Jobs

Perhaps I am stepping out on a limb here, but it’s a limb I’m very comfortable with. (If you don’t agree with me, it’s perfectly okay.) Drum roll . . . . . . I believe that both sons and daughters should be steered by their parents to prepare for a job that will actually provide for their basic needs—food, clothing, and housing.

How can we do this? There are lots of ways. To begin with, we need to understand our child’s strengths and weaknesses. We encourage his strengths while working on his weaknesses. Is your child arty and creative? Does he like science? Is he a math brain? Does he excel in music? Is your child a writer? Encourage those gifts. Enable him to develop them while he is small. Some of your child’s interests will perhaps fall by the wayside with time, but you will— when he’s age fifteen or so—begin to see where he might go in life.

Not all children need a college education. You only have to think a little to know that those who excelled in technology—like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and Michael Dell—didn’t have college degrees. (Their brains were far ahead of colleges at the time!) Now, I’m not saying our kids are as bright as those three, but there are lots of jobs out there that require experience over degrees. Especially in manufacturing, it’s advisable to do apprenticeships and learn the process from the ground up. Food is another field where a little bit of ingenuity and a lot of hard work pays off. Invent the next great salad dressing or bacon-flavored dessert, and you’re there! (It helps to have some marketing savvy and financial backing, too!) There are specialized schools for: carpentry, mechanics, cosmetology, electrician training, etc. that would better prepare your child for these fields than a college would.

If your child needs a college education, encourage him to apply himself and take it seriously. College isn’t a four-year party scene. College is preparation for life and should be viewed that way. It’s fine to have some fun, too, of course, but the purpose—and all the money—should be taken seriously. If your child needs a degree (or two, three, or four) to do his calling, make sure his major will actually take him towards that goal. (How many times have people graduated from college with a degree that qualifies them for exactly zero jobs? Too many to count. Even if the degree might help, he further handicaps himself by having no experience under his belt. No one will hire him without experience.)

By the college student’s second or third year, he should be actively working toward a job goal.

Make sure your child (male or female) is majoring in something that will actually prepare him to make enough money to be able to live on after his graduation. There are so many cool majors out there. Each has merit, but not every one is practical. How many history education majors are now not in history nor in education? How many counseling majors don’t have a job? (I’d like to take counseling myself, but I couldn’t feed myself with it.) How many Christian ministries majors (especially girls, here) find themselves out beating the streets to find any job—any job—because they failed to think that maybe they wouldn’t marry their Prince Charming Dream Preacher right out of college? (In fact, they don’t even have a boyfriend.)

Encourage your child to go into a field he likes and to get a degree that will actually qualify him to do something that will feed him, clothe him, and put a roof over his head. If he is arty and creative, why not major in design or education or advertising? Then, make sure he gets hands-on experience in the summers. If he is musical, is he ready for Carnegie Hall? If he has an exceptional talent, yes, encourage him in majoring in voice or in his instrument—with additional study and apprenticeships in view. But, if you have a normally talented child, maybe encourage music education, pedagogy, or a minor in music. If you have a science or math-inclined child, make sure he specializes. He needs to be thinking about where he wants to end up, and what will qualify him for a science or math real job. Does he want to be an actuarial, a laboratory researcher, or an astrophysicist? Help steer him. Is your child a natural born teacher? Help him choose an education program in a school where he ends up with certification. Will he need a master’s degree? Encourage him to go ahead and get his master's right after his first four years. Does your child want to be in medicine? Help him visualize his long-term goal: doctor, nurse, radiologist, cancer specialist, or physical therapist. Does your child want to coach or be a social worker? Help him get the education he needs as well as experience in the community, working with children or with needy people. Help your child to study with an actual job goal in mind.

We want our children to eventually be independent adults. They can only be independent if they have a job that pays enough to live on. I believe both young men and women need to be qualified to do some kind of a paying job. I’m also a great believer in Christian schooling. (More about these topics in future posts. Stay tuned!)

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Goals for Character Building for Our Kids

What character traits would you like to teach your children? Make them your goals. You can work on one at a time. You’ll probably have to re-teach them, but your instruction will finally stick. Here are a few examples:

Compassion—A parent teaches this best through his own non-critical, non-judgmental example. He also teaches it best through actually showing compassion and helping those who have needs. If you laugh at people who have problems, scorn the homeless, and are stingy about giving help, your children, sadly, will follow. But, if you treat handicapped and troubled people with equity and are generous with money and other practical helps, your kids will follow your good example.

Contentment—I’m sure you’ve seen a child in a store who asks for everything! “Mama, I want this,” and “Mama I want that.” (He might possibly have been yours.) There’s an easy cure. Never give him what he asks for, when he demands it with an “I want” statement. (Don’t steer kids certain ages down a toy aisle, ever!) Whisk him away from the tempting item and ignore the request. When you like, give him a gift—one he hasn’t squawked for, and when he’s not expecting anything. Eventually, you won’t have to battle a scene in stores. You’ll have a child who understands contentment.

Dependability—I can’t overemphasize this one. When children learn to be responsible in the little things, they will learn to eventually be dependable in the workplace, in marriage, and in all walks of life. Make a child accountable to you. When he is little, have him fold washcloths and make his bed. You may have to help him learn, but at about age four, he should be able to do these things passably. Bed making should be daily, and you should check to make sure it’s done. (It doesn’t have to be perfect, just done.) As the child matures, he should be depended on to do more things around the house. Obedience should be expected. When he is a teen, make sure you give him limits (like being home before dark). Make sure he obeys them. When you start when he is young, it is easy later.

Femininity and Masculinity—I’ve read that the key to a girl’s femininity and a boy’s masculinity is their father. If your child doesn’t have an involved father, make sure he has another male role model (uncle, grandfather, etc.) who spends time with him. It will make a difference!

Forgiveness—God forgave us, therefore we forgive others. Be the example. Forgive those who do you wrong, whatever the offense. When your kids have spats, ask the guilty party to ask for forgiveness, and ask the offended party to give forgiveness. It’s important for children to learn how to ask for forgiveness and receive it.

Gratitude—Make sure your kids always say “thank you” for anything given to them. This habit, which is so easy to teach, develops into thankfulness.

Honesty—We need to teach our kids to be truthful. Help them understand the difference between lying and telling the truth. As they get older, talk to them about the difficult ethical choices, like if it’s ever okay to tell a lie. (It isn’t!) Honesty is also about cheating (including in games) and ethics in business. As your children mature, talk to them naturally about news items or situations that come up. Help them to understand honest, ethical conduct.

Humility—I believe each child needs your encouragement, to know that Mom and Dad believe in him and love him. But, as children get older, some get cocky and begin to act like the world revolves around them. These are the kids that need a dose of reality. I do not think that it’s our business as parents to take them down a peg or to be critical. It is better if they’re enabled to see themselves as they are—a part of a whole. An accurate perspective comes from seeing God as great and self as small. Help your child by exposing him to teamwork—in the family, on a sports team, or as part of a youth group that helps others. When he sees himself as one piece rather than the whole thing, he will have a more realistic and healthy attitude.

Kindness—The Bible says, And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you (Ephesians 4:32). I used to quote my own “Mommy’s Version” which was, according to the situation, “And be ye kind one to your brother (or mother, sister . . .) tenderhearted, forgiving your brother (or mother, sister . . .) even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” My kids used to laugh at the misquoting, but they got the message. The Bible also says we should be kind to animals. A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast: but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel (Proverbs 12:10). Children should be taught to be kind to their pets and any other animals they find—lizards, snakes, and insects included—and not intentionally inflict pain on them. (I’m talking about torturing animals for fun, like pulling the wings off of flies, cutting lizards’ tails off, tormenting cats and dogs, etc. I’m not talking about never killing an animal in order to eat it or in self-defense. God gave us meat to eat ever since the Flood, and it’s just plain stupid not to shoot an attacking grizzly! It’s okay to swat flies and kill mosquitos, too!)

Respect—Insist on respectful talk to everyone. Teach good table manners and other etiquette. Show children how to respect their parents, brothers, sisters, and classmates. You teach respect for authorities (police, government, teachers, pastor) by example. Never let a child get away with sassing or contradicting his parents or other adults. Make sure you don’t allow them to make fun of someone who is different. (That might include someone who is obese, handicapped, a dwarf, dirty, a different skin color from them, or uniquely dressed.) Teach your children to respect those who have obvious difficulties. Expose your children to nursing homes where they can meet people in wheelchairs and using walkers. (Elderly people love to see children; your kids will brighten their day.)

Self-Discipline—Teaching self-discipline starts at home and very young, around three years old. Children should have age-appropriate responsibilities in your home and should be expected to carry them out. They should do their homework on time and well. They shouldn’t be allowed to get away with temper tantrums—at any age. They should be encouraged to have their own personal devotions when they are old enough to do so. Also, when children are older, they should obey your limits to the letter. This is how they will learn to discipline themselves.

  • Ask the Lord for help as you teach your children to have godly character. (More on how a parent prays in a post to come.)

*Most of these character traits are found in my book, His Ways, Your Walk.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Christian Goals for Child Rearing

What are some Christian goals for rearing children?

1. To know the Lord as his Savior—The most important thing you can do for your child is to introduce him to Jesus. Read to him about Jesus from the time he is small. Be part of a church that preaches the gospel—that Jesus died for our sins, was buried, and rose again—and that we can receive His gift of salvation. (1 Corinthians 15:1-4; Romans 6:23; John 1:12) Help your child understand that sin includes lying, stealing, and being disobedient to parents. Make sure your child hears the simple plan of salvation over and over again. Do not push him into any kind of a decision. Let the Holy Spirit deal with his heart so that when your child is convicted of his sin and he responds, it will be his own genuine decision.

2. For the child to read the Bible and pray on his own—Your child’s quiet time habits should be encouraged, once he knows the Lord. It is wonderful when your children see that Bible reading, study, and prayer are a priority in your life. You can encourage daily Bible reading by giving them a specific time during their day. Once they start—maybe at first with devotions for children—it will become a habit that feeds them spiritually.

3. To have godly character—Deuteronomy 6:5-7 is a great outline for teaching godly character to our children. And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. Notice that this teaching begins with the parents. First, we love the Lord with all of our heart, soul, and might. Then, we teach these values in a natural way when we are with our children. (A future post will be on godly character traits to teach your children.) Notice from Deuteronomy 6:6, that Christian character comes from knowing God’s Word.

4. To be active in ministry—The future of our churches depends on passing more than our faith on to the next generation. We also need to share our love for Christian service. Help your child enjoy doing things at church. The best way is to involve children from very small on up. To do that, find a ministry to do with them as a family.

Here are some ideas for ministry you might consider doing with your children:
  • Tract distribution
  • Helping to clean the church (or organize hymn books, fold bulletins, etc.—anything that physically helps out in your church)
  • Music—children’s choir, instrumental, orchestra, piano
  • Gardening around the church
  • Helping to decorate for banquets and other special occasions. Any child can help set the table or help blow up balloons.
  • Volunteering to help in a nursing home or residence ministry
  • Car washes, bake sales, or any other fund raiser for mission teams
  • Go as a family for short-term foreign missions trip. (Not for babies, but even children as small as six will catch the vision.)
  • Older children can help in nursery, day care, Christian camps, and Sunday school classes.
  • If you don’t know what needs to be done, ask your pastor. I’m sure he will have an idea for your family.

5. To have genuine faith and trust in the Lord’s power, guidance, and sovereignty. Have your children memorize Proverbs 3:5-6, Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Be transparent about praying and seeing God answer. Show by example how you trust God to do His will. Verse 6 says to acknowledge (trust) God in everything, and He will direct us. This is very important: that young people learn to yield their will to God’s.

6. To seek God’s will (or calling) for his life. God has a purpose for every Christian. It is important for a young person to consider what God might want him to do when he makes the choices about studying, apprenticeships, and life calling. God usually reveals these things step by step, not all at once. (If you had told me when I graduated from high school that I would be a missionary wife in Europe, I probably would have been thrilled, but I never would have dreamed of such a thing! I did, however, know without a doubt that God had guided my choice of university, and each college year, I realized how God was confirming me in my chosen major. I was called to surrender my will completely to the Lord my freshman year. I actually asked God to send me (Isaiah 6:8). At the time, I had no idea I was being called to missions; I only knew I needed to be willing to be sent anywhere.) Make sure your child understands that whatever God wants him to do is a sacred calling. Also, teach him that God always wants what’s best for us. Your child will be happiest in God’s will.

7. To prepare himself for service. I believe strongly that both young men and women should be educated, well-read, and prepared to do what God has called them to do. God will guide as to where, when, and what to study or prepare for. God uses people in all walks of life, and each Christian touches the lives of those around them in a different way. Your child needs to be ready to do the job God wants him to do. (I plan to elaborate on this in a future post.) A prepared Christian relying on the Lord is an effective Christian.

I’m sure you have probably thought of something I haven’t. Please comment and share! Stay tuned for more posts on preparing our children for adulthood.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Goals for Preparing Children for Adulthood

Schools have begun, and teachers are doing their best to evaluate their students, plan their year, and get on with the task at hand. They include homeschool teachers, private tutors, and those super modern teachers who teach by Skype.

There are so many philosophies about education today. I’d like to pose some ideas for your consideration.

What are your goals for your children? Of course, every child is different, and each one may require a different approach to learning. Many children have learning issues, different learning styles, or special needs. So, you may need to pick and choose from these suggestions, based on the individual abilities of each child. (You’ll notice a lot of these educational goals aren’t “book learning.”)

Here are some goals to consider.

I want my child to: 
  1. Enjoy books and reading.—Read to your children from the time they are very small. Experts say that this is the one best thing you can do to educate your child. Read them fun stories, Bible stories, and animal stories. Tiny people enjoy cuddling on your lap and looking at the pictures in simple, age-appropriate books. Later, take turns reading with your child. You can read to your children until they’re enjoying books for themselves.
  2. Know how to do things at home.—Encourage your children to help you in the kitchen, cleaning the house, folding laundry, doing car mechanics, home repairs, etc. Take the kids grocery shopping with you and show them how you choose your food (quality and pricing). Let your children be part of your everyday life.
  3. Have good manners and pleasant social skills.—Your kids can learn to say please, thank you, yes ma’am, yes sir, to help others, and to be courteous. Teach them at home to speak in a respectful and appropriate way.
  4. Know how to express himself well verbally.—As your children get older, have them speak, even if briefly, in public. They can participate in school and church programs. They can also be encouraged to give/read oral reports. His effective speaking will help him to succeed in life.
  5. Know how to write clearly and in an organized manner.—Your child can be encouraged to write short themes. It’s great to encourage journaling and vacation travelogues, for example. After a family day, the children can be encouraged to write a paragraph about what they liked best. Let your children make up the wording themselves. This should be a non-pressure activity with no grade given. Writing should be fun! (Don’t criticize handwriting either. This is idea writing.)
  6. Swim and play sports.—I’ve heard that one of the most important preventative lifesavers is to teach a child to swim. Help him to get used to water little by little, gently, even if he’s afraid of water. It’s important for his safety. Let your child play sports. They certainly don’t need to be organized or expensive. Let him play kick ball, croquet, badminton, skating, softball, soccer (football), or basketball. Let him have fun running and jumping and climbing.
  7. Appreciate beauty and music.—From the time your child is small, let him listen to beautiful music, especially classical and hymns. They can go with you to orchestral performances from age six or so. Listening will foment a love for quality music. Help your child appreciate art. Take him to galleries of the old masters, if possible. Your major museums carry wonderful collections. Visit from time to time after age eight or nine. They will learn something about appreciation, the famous artists, and something about design. Another great idea is to take kids to places where local artists show their work. You get everything from fun art to very serious pieces.
  8. Enjoy and conserve nature.—Take your family out on nature trails. Buy or borrow from the library books about flora and fauna in your area. Work on identifying leaves, trees, fruit, flowers, insects, animals, and birds, as well as rock and land formations. Go camping away from any city. Paddle a canoe or kayak, so that you can see water creatures. Take the kids fishing. Encourage the responsible use of nature.
  9. Learn a foreign language.—Enable your children to hear and learn a different language from the time they are small. Please read my blog post about why it’s important to learn a foreign language, here
  10. Love God with all his heart and have a desire for Christian service.—A heart for ministry is caught more than taught. Have a ministry you do as a family, together. They will enjoy growing up evangelizing and serving. If you want your child to love God genuinely, you must be real. Love God with all your heart and live godly. Be in a Bible preaching and teaching church. Be in the Word yourself. When children see a living, breathing example in front of their eyes, they desire to live like your model. (When parents provide an inconsistent, critical, and hypocritical witness in front of their children, the children will have a model they don’t want to follow.) Have family devotions. They need not be long and drawn out, but they put the right values before your family. Pray together. Let the children read the Bible aloud when they are able to take part.

Ultimately, I want my child to be an independent adult.

I want him to be able to:
  • Manage money.—Manage a bank account and pay off credit cards completely each month. Establish credit. Understand how to make a budget and keep to it. Learn how to use money responsibly.
  • Make enough money to live on.—Have some skill or formal degree that will enable him to get a job that will supply his own needs and the needs of any dependents he might have.
  • Be the husband/wife/single who would glorify God with his/her lifestyle.—Teach values at home that will help your child understand how to please the Lord in each of these roles.
  • Have spiritual discernment.—This is gleaned from his own personal Bible study, the preaching he gets in church, and from years growing and learning. It is wonderful when we see young men and women who discern right from wrong and adhere to biblical values.

Stay tuned for more about preparing children for adulthood, in my next post.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Great Commission

Image courtesy of Kanate,

Matthew 28:19-20 are probably some of the best-known verses in all of the Bible.
Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, 
and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 
Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: 
and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

And, many times, we don’t stop to think about the context, what these verses really mean. There’s some rich stuff here! 
  • Who said these verses? We know it was Jesus. (16)
  • To whom? The eleven disciples. Why eleven? Judas had hanged himself, and there wasn’t a replacement as yet. (18)
  • Where? On a mountain in Galilee. (16)
  • Go ye therefore. (19) What’s the therefore there for? What goes before it? Immediately before it is verse 18, And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Jesus is speaking to His disciples and tells them first that He has been given all power. The word for power means authority. So Jesus has been given all authority from whom? The obvious answer is God the Father. Why is this so important? It is the whole backdrop for the Great Commission. Because God gave Jesus all authority, Go ye therefore. This is a reminder about whose work we’re doing, who we rely on, who we answer to. He is Jesus, God in flesh, resurrected.
  • and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost (19). This part of the verse is talking about teaching the gospel of Jesus Christ—his death, burial and resurrection—because people are very obviously believing and getting baptized. In the early church, there were no unbaptized believers. They believed and then were immediately baptized. Also, we see something important here. Who’s supposed to be taught the gospel? All nations. This is the cause for missions. Reach the world—all the world—every country, tongue, and people. The gospel is for everyone, everywhere.
  • Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you (20). This is what is commonly called discipleship. It is teaching God’s Word—all of it, Old and New Testaments—to new Christians. Jesus says to teach people to observe everything He had commanded His disciples. Well, we don’t exactly have a record of everything that He said to them on hillsides, along the road, and in upper rooms. But, we do have the assurance that His Word—all of the Bible—is what He wants us to know. The Bible says Jesus is the Word. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men (John 1:1-4). All of the Bible is inspired. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16). So, when we teach the Word, it needs to be all of the Bible.
  • and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world (20). The Great Commission begins with the authority of Christ and ends with the promise of His presence. He is with us always, forever. The phrase unto the end of the world means forever. It’s ongoing. What a blessing! Jesus Himself promises to be with us forever!
  • Amen. = So be it.

Practically speaking, the Great Commission commands us to:
  • Go under Jesus’ authority.
  • Go to all nations—everyone on the earth.
  • Teach them the gospel and baptize new believers.
  • Disciple believers. Teach the Bible.
  • Be conscious that Jesus is with us always. 

This is the outline for missions, and it’s the outline for our life purpose as believers.

If you are not a Christian, you need to know the gospel: that Jesus died on the cross as a substitute for you—for your sins. That he died, was buried, and rose again three days later.

If you are a new Christian, you need to get Bible teaching. Get grounded in the Word.

If you are a more mature Christian, you need to be discipling others.

And, there’s always the need for missions. Go into all the world. All the world. Reach the unreached.


Thursday, September 12, 2013

Thoughts On September 11 and Anniversaries of Death

On September 11, we automatically think of that day two planes crashed into the World Trade Center towers, another into the ground in Pennsylvania, and one into the Pentagon. Each year since, there’s a somber service at Ground Zero, in Shanksville, PA, and at the Pentagon. The names of those who perished are read out. It takes almost an hour to read all the names. And, every year, I cry.

I didn’t know anyone who perished, but the September 11 observance is still deeply moving and sad. I think about those who lost family members in such a horrible way. I mourn for the lost and for those left behind.

Those who relive their personal tragedy every single year.

I live in Spain, which is considered a Roman Catholic country. The people “celebrate” the anniversaries of deaths by repeating their death notice in the newspaper. Each year, the date of death is remembered. Sometimes an anniversary funeral mass is done every single year.

A widow trudges to the cemetery on November 1st—All Saints Day—to leave flowers, clean the stone, and sit there for a few hours to remember. Hundreds of thousands of dollars are spent on November 1 flowers. Many, many people visit the country’s cemeteries.

Some years ago, our family stopped at a particularly ancient church in the middle of nowhere. While we were walking around it, a man came up to us and introduced himself as the parish priest. He asked if we would like to see inside. Of course! He led us on a tour, answered our questions, and let us take pictures of everything. He even showed us the basement. There, we saw various processional pieces being stored. One that especially intrigued me was a carrying platform with a real human skull and crossed leg bones on it, similar to those on a pirate flag. I asked the priest what that was for. He answered, “so that the people can meditate on death.”

Immediately, I thought about what the Bible says we’re to think about. Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things (Philippians 4:8).

When we’ve lost a loved one, we will never forget him. There’s a time to mourn (Eccl. 3:4). Depending on how close we were to the person, we will mourn more or less. This is normal, and this is good.

But, I am wondering if it is helpful to relive that terrible grieving every year. Some of the September 11th families have attended the remembrance ceremony every year since the attack. They have listened to all of those names year after year after year. To some, it may be cathartic—to know that the whole nation shares their grief. But, to others, it must be like opening the wound again, and again, and again. Twelve years now.

No, we should never forget our loved ones. As Americans, we should never forget the attack, and we should do everything we can to make sure it never happens again.

But, I think it’s healthiest to remember the happy times. Remember our loved one’s beautiful smile, his sense of humor, the things we did with him. Remember his stories and his voice, how he moved his hands, what kind of a person he was. We might celebrate his birthday rather than the date of his death. Celebrate life!

. . . if there be any praise, think on these things.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Bible Study Review: A Woman of Prayer

I just finished working A Woman of Prayer by Betty Henderson. What a wonderful study! (Some years ago, I did my own study on prayer. It took me months! I got a lot from it, especially a practical definition of prayer.) But, this study transported me much further. It is rich!

Ms. Henderson divides this study into three parts: Principles, Practice, and Portraits. In the first part, there are no new revelations, but it is wonderful to concentrate on the facts that we can pray always, than God hears, and that God always answers. Then she talks about faith, fervency, and a new concept for me: not fainting. All were excellent and challenging. The end of the book explores praying people: the early church, Moses, Daniel, Paul, and David. These were great! I especially enjoyed studying Paul’s praying, which I had never quite looked at in the way she presents his prayers.

My only criticism is that the lessons are quite long, if you want to do a lesson a day. I ended up dividing them into two. (There are 12 lessons in all, and there’s a lot packed into each one. Even doing them “fast,” I think it would take at least an hour to do one lesson. I found them very profound, with concepts I needed to think through, digest, and pray about, and so, I would say I spent about 45 minutes on half a lesson—to give you an idea, especially if you plan to do this in a group.)

This Bible study is very, very good. Without being hard to find the answers, it is both deep and inspiring. I loved its emphasis on God, on His faithfulness, and on how He answers. I always appreciate Ms. Henderson’s lovely quotes and hymn lyrics, so carefully chosen to complement the lessons. I also loved her short, inspirational bios of Frances Havergal, George Mueller, John Hyde, Rosalind Goforth, Charles Spurgeon, E. M. Bounds, John Bunyan, Hudson Taylor, D. L. Moody, and David Brainerd. I believe I had read biographies of all except two, but these cameos really helped me to understand some interesting facets about their prayer life.

I believe that you will find this study to be one of the richest you ever do. I think it would be best in your personal quiet time, but it could be easily broken up into shorter lessons and used in ladies’ groups as well. A great study with great rewards!

Monday, September 9, 2013

I Believe

“I believe that a life lived for music is an existence spent wonderfully, and this is what I have dedicated my life to.” (Luciano Pavarotti, great tenor opera singer)

I remember a popular song called “I Believe.” The words were:
I believe for every drop of rain that falls a flower grows,
I believe that somewhere in the darkest night a candle glows.
I believe for everyone who goes astray, someone will come to show the way.
I believe, Oh, I believe.
I believe above the storm the smallest prayer, will still be heard.
I believe that someone in that great somewhere hears every word.
Every time I hear a newborn baby cry, or touch a leaf or see the sky,
Then I know why I believe.*

The actress Audrey Hepburn famously said, “I believe in pink. I believe that laughing is the best calorie burner. . . . I believe in being strong when everything seems to be going wrong. I believe that happy girls are the prettiest girls. I believe that tomorrow is another day and I believe in miracles.”
There are also all kinds of religious creeds out there.

You can believe what you want to. 

But . . .

What is really worth believing? What outlives flowers, music, candles, and pink? What really and truly is something you can build your life on?

This is what I believe and some of the Scriptures that tell why:
  • I believe in the divine inspiration of the Bible. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
  • I believe that God created the world. In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth (Genesis 1:1). I believe God created the world and everything in it in six twenty-four hour days. Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the sabbath, to observe the sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant. It is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever: for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed (Exodus 31:16-17).
  • I believe that God made man and woman in His image and equal in value, though different in roles. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them (Genesis 1:27). And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him (Genesis 2:18).
  • I believe that Jesus Christ was born of the virgin Mary, became flesh and lived on earth. And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God (Luke 1:35). And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth (John 1:14).
  • I believe that Jesus was sinless and that He paid the price for the sins of mankind by the shedding of His blood on the cross. Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed (1 Peter 2:24). For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit (1 Peter 3:18).
  • I believe that Jesus was buried and rose bodily from the tomb on the third day after His crucifixion. And as they (the women) were afraid, and bowed down their faces to the earth, they (the angels) said unto them, Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here (in the tomb), but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee, Saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.(Luke 24:5-7)
  • I believe only Jesus Christ can save souls from sin. Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me (John 14:6).
  • I believe people are born again by the Holy Spirit when they accept Jesus as their Savior. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name (John 1:12).
  • I believe that Jesus came for everyone and that He wants everyone to be saved. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved (John 3:16-17). The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).
  • I believe in eternal salvation by the grace of God. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast (Ephesians 2:8-9). And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand (John 10:28).
  • I believe that every born-again Christian has a life purpose. It is to glorify God in all he does. Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31).

“I know why I believe.” Do you?
*“I Believe” was written in 1953 by Ervin Drake, Irvin Graham, Jimmy Shirl and Al Stillman.