When Your Marriage is in Trouble

marriage trouble

Have you ever sat with a wife sobbing uncontrollably because her husband just walked out? Have you ever counseled with a man whose wife left him for another? Have you ever talked to a young person who is broken over their parent’s divorce? Have you ever comforted a friend who is living with past regrets? Have you witnessed the devastation that a broken marriage has brought to a family?

I have…

Marriage troubles are devastating. In fact, recently I posted an online marriage survey and the responses would break your heart.  People are hurting. Men and women are giving up. And, every month or two I hear of another marriage ripped apart.

Ripped apart by sin.

Ripped apart by selfishness.

Ripped apart by worldly influences.

Perhaps, you are in the middle of marriage heartache right now and in need of a friend and biblical encouragement. Let me be that friend who points you to the One with all the answers.

Call out to the Lord

Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not. (Jeremiah 33:3)

 

Cast your cares on Him

Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. (1Peter 5:7)

 

Cease from anger

Cease from anger, and forsake wrath: fret not thyself in any wise to do evil. (Psalms 37:8)

 

Cling to His mercies

Hear me, O LORD; for thy lovingkindness is good: turn unto me according to the multitude of thy tender mercies. (Psams 69:16)

 

Commit your ways

Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass. (Psalms 37:5)

I don’t know what you are going through right now. But, I do know that life gets extremely difficult when your marriage is in trouble. You are not alone. The Lord knows what you are going through. He cares about your marriage. He wants to do a work in your life for His glory. Go to His Word. Seek out His answers and trust in Him, dear friend. He cares for you and He will never fail you.

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If you haven’t already, click here to fill out my simple, 8 question survey on marriage. It is completely anonymous and just takes a few minutes.  My next book (and first one co-authored with my husband) is called The Eden Concept: Marriage God’s Way. Be watching for announcements on a coming launch!

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Puffed-Up Christians

puffed up

Social Media is exhausting! Most of the time I scroll on by. Every now and then I stop and interject. It’s probably pointless, but I’ll never know. The other day I wasn’t feeling well, so curled up in my recliner with a blanket and that 2nd cup of coffee, I lingered on Facebook a little longer than usual. (Honestly, I should have gotten up and cleaned the toilets. It probably would have been more edifying.) A controversial topic was posted and what followed was rather disheartening. Seriously, do we really think that name-calling and bashing one another is appropriate as professing Christians? Does the bickering back and forth help the cause of Christ? Or, does standing for truth on Facebook make a difference. I’m not being condescending. I seriously want to know. We are called as Christians to speak truth. And even when done in love it sometimes inflames others, hence the “you’re arrogant” remarks. Other times, Christians are truly being arrogant.

Let’s talk about that for a moment.

Have you ever met one of those Christians? A better question…Have you ever been one?

Toward the end of His ministry, Jesus and His disciples were on their way to Jerusalem and wanted to pass through the village of the Samaritans (Luke 9:52-56). However, the Samaritans would not receive Christ. Burned with anger, The Sons of Thunder asked, “Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, even as Elias did?” In other words, just destroy them! How dare they spurn the Living Son of God! How dare they reject Him! They don’t deserve mercy. James and John should have checked their motive behind their “zeal” for God. Knowing their hearts, Jesus rebuked them. “Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.” Too many times I’ve seen professing Christians with that same arrogant, prideful, puffed-up “zeal”. If I were to be honest, I’d have to admit that I’ve had this same attitude at times.

It’s shameful.

It hurts the church.

It harms the cause of Christ.

But, this isn’t the only type of arrogant, prideful, puffed-up attitude that Christian’s sometimes carry. One particular church struggled with it. The Corinthian church was a mess.  They were rather worldly and known in the community for their divisions. Another known issue that had to be dealt with was the sexual immortality of one member. “It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife. And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you.” (1Co 5:1-2)

Church, you are puffed-up! You’re prideful. You’re arrogant.

I didn’t use to understand that. How could a church of professing Christians be arrogant about such a grievous sin? What’s there to be prideful about? Were they seriously puffed-up about this situation?

However, I’m starting to understand. The worldlier the churches are becoming along with faster access to information via the internet, it’s becoming clear. It looks like this.

We’re non-judgmental!

Who are we to speak out against their sin?

Everyone sins. At least we’re not hypocritical like some Christians!

And, in their pride and arrogance they proclaim to be tolerant and loving. The truth is that they are so puffed-up that they don’t even mourn over the sin in their brother’s life. The harder truth is that they don’t love him enough to speak hard truth to him. If they truly cared for his soul they would remind him of what God’s word says about adulterers. (And yes, Christians are commanded to make judgments, but that’s another post.)

Christians can be puffed-up with a holy, self-righteous indignation, or they can be puffed-up with a non-judgmental, too-tolerant attitude. Regardless of what end you stand on, extremes are usually dangerous.

By the way, do you think that social media has hindered or enhanced our ability to communicate with one another? Here’s my take.

Leave a comment. I’d like to hear your thoughts.

The C+ Marriage

c+ marriage

A couple of years ago, while visiting with friends, my husband made the comment that we have been married 15 glorious years.  They knew we had just celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary, so seeing their confused expression he clarified, “The first five were not so glorious.” It’s true.  We didn’t have a horrible marriage by any stretch, but it certainly wasn’t all it could be. Early on we made mistakes that (had it not been for God’s grace) should have destroyed us. But, about 5 years into our marriage God intervened. He began to place people into our lives that made a drastic impact. We changed churches and sat under a pastor who preached expository messages. We began to grow toward God and toward one another. His Word became precious to us and we started living out precepts that would bind our hearts and strengthen our marriage. Fortunately, our oldest was born during that first 5 years. By the time our children were old enough to learn about marriage, we had a C+ Marriage to model.

One of the most important lessons you will ever teach your children is on marriage. Dad and Mom, whether you realize it or not, every day you are teaching a Marriage Course. The adage is true; more is caught than taught. Your children are watching and learning and they will build their ideologies about marriage based on what you teach them. The core curriculum for marriage consists of 4 C’s that you teach every day.

Communication

We often take communication for granted. I know this because of how we use our words. The Bible states that death and life are in the power of the tongue (Proverbs 18:21). Words can build up or tear down. They can heal or destroy. They can be seasoned with salt (Colossians 4:6) or corrupt (Ephesians 4:19). Jesus said, “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh,” Mat 12:34. A person who speaks ugly, hurtful words does not have a mouth problem; they have a heart problem. Their speech is a measurement of their spiritual condition. It is a monitor of the inner heart that is revealed for everyone (including our children) to see.

Children learn communication skills from us. They watch and learn how to talk to one another, treat their spouse, and work out disagreements. They can also learn how to argue, yell, and fight. It is no wonder that David prayed, “Set a watch, O LORD, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips” (Psalm 141:3). Communication affects every aspect of a person’s life including their future marriage, parenting, and work.

Character

Character is defined by what we do when we think no one is watching. But, guess what? Someone is always watching. In other words, character develops in darkness, but it manifests in light. As parents, we have just a few short years to help develop our children’s character. No one has a greater impact on them. When my children were little I read to them a book that taught a different character trait each week. One week we would focus on joy; another week on humility. It was a sweet little book with stories and Bible verses to go along. But, here is the bottom line. I can teach character traits every day of their childhood and still fail in teaching them true character.

We know that the scriptures teach us to not just love in word, but in deed and truth (1 John 3:18). We can talk about love all we want, but it must be shown. Likewise, we can teach our children about compassion, but they will embrace it when they see us being compassionate toward one another. They will truly learn about forgiveness when they see their dad and mom practicing forgiveness. Mom, they will learn patience when they witness you demonstrate patience with your husband. Father, they will learn gentleness and kindness when they see you treat your wife in this manner.

Commitment

Commitment is a big part of our character.  Statistics range, but most say that around 50% of marriages end in divorce. A lot of men, women, children and families have been drastically affected by it. I hesitate to make sweeping statements, but in many cases a lack of commitment plays a role. Marriage is hard. Everyone has problems. Life events and circumstances can overtake a couple. The enemy whispers give up and move on, but commitment shouts never!

Commitment is not something that can be taught in a classroom. However, it is something that can be demonstrated daily and passed on to our children. One of the most beautiful promises God gives His children is “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee,” Hebrews 13:5.  Are you exhibiting similar commitment for the sake of your children? No matter where you are in life and no matter your past, you can begin today being fully committed.

Conviction

In his book The Conviction to Lead, Albert Mohler articulates the heart of conviction. He states, “Convictions are not merely beliefs we hold; they are those beliefs that hold us in their grip.” We can let go of convictions we hold, but those that hold us will never be relinquished. What convictions do you and your spouse embrace? Are they grounded in faith? Do they lead to action?

Marriage is a testimony, shaped by convictions. In Ephesians 5:22-33 God lays out the beautiful picture of a godly marriage.  It looks like this:

  • Wife submit to your husband (verse 22).
  • Husband love your wife (verse 25).
  • You are no longer two, but one flesh (verse 31).

Then God gives the motivation behind marriage.  “This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church,” Ephesians 5:32.  Your marriage here on earth is a picture of the heavenly marriage between the Lord and His bride. This is a conviction that holds me – my marriage is a testimony for my Lord! When Christian couples have unhealthy marriages, they are depicting to the world a distorted picture of Christ and His church.  However, marriages built on healthy communication, godly character traits, unwavering commitment and lasting conviction portray a beautiful picture to the world and testimony to our children.

Are you teaching your children how to have a C+ Marriage?  Are you teaching: Communication, Character, Commitment, and Conviction? My husband and I will be the first to admit we don’t have a perfect score, but it is God’s grace in which we stand. And, we’re both looking forward to many more glorious years.

Would you like to learn more about marriage? My husband and I are finishing up our newest book, The Eden Concept: Marriage God’s Way. You can read about it here and make sure you are signed up to follow this blog to receive updates! 

Dealing with Criticism

criticism

Zig Ziglar jokes that some people find fault like there is a reward for it. You know these people, the Negative Nancy’s and Pessimistic Paul’s of the world. They are your neighbors, co-workers, family members and sometimes even church members. These people have nothing positive or nice to say about anyone. You smile when they approach and secretly whisper a prayer of thanksgiving for this “thorn in the flesh”. You do this because you know that learning to deal with them grows you. Yet, you wonder just what in life has made them so miserable and your frustration by them is overshadowed with your pity for them.

Aristotle said, “Criticism is something you can easily avoid by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.” Dale Carnegie expressed it in a slight different manner. In How to Stop Worrying and Start Living he said, “Remember that no one kicks a dead dog.”  He reminds his readers that unjust criticism is often a disguised compliment. When you are criticized you are accomplishing something worthy of attention. Does this resonate with you? Then let’s learn how to properly define criticism, practically deal with it, and then permanently defeat it.

Defining Criticism

The first step in defining criticism is to identify what it is not. Criticism is not the same as biblical exhortation.  I realize that the idea of accountability (i.e. exhortation, looking out for one another, discipleship, admonishment, and being answerable to one another) comes across as archaic. However, as we read the Bible we see a theme of accountability to one another.  We are to love one another, honor one another, edify one another, admonish one another, care for one another, serve one another, restore one another, bear one another’s burdens, and be kind, tenderhearted, and forgiving toward one another.  We are to teach one another, comfort one another, exhort one another, and consider one another.  The Bible says we are to confess our sins to one another, have compassion with one another, be hospitable to one another, minister to one another, and fellowship with one another.

God designed us for accountability. He does not intend for the believer to be an island to themselves. In the Bible, coming to the faith always meant coming to a local fellowship of believers (the church or assembly).  Salvation is personal, but the Christian life is not.  When we are born into this world we are born to a family; when we are “born again” we should be joined with a family of believers.  In this family, the older are to teach the younger (Titus 2).  The strong in the faith should help to restore those overtaken in faults (Galatians 6:1).  The brethren exhorts the unruly (I Thessalonians 5:14).  We are called to encourage one another daily so that sin will not harden our hearts (Hebrews 3:12-13).  And we are to love those in sin enough to have compassion and make a difference in their life. (Jude 22-23) This is biblical exhortation.

Second, criticism is not making a judgment. It is here Matthew 7:1 is quoted, “judge not that ye be not judged.”  This is the problem that arises when Scripture is taken out of context.  The Bible does not say we cannot judge the sins of others, but we are to first cast the beam out of our own eye “and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye,” Matthew 7:5.  We are not to be hypocritical in our judgment, but do so in love and compassion.

There are things we cannot judge. We absolutely cannot judge the heart or inner motives of others. Only God knows the heart (I Samuel 16:7). However, this does not mean that we are to be undiscerning Christians; for we are commanded to make righteous judgments. For example, 1 Corinthians 6:1-8 states that when disputes arise between believers it should be settled in the church. A judgment has to be made. The church is to judge serious sins of its members and take action. We see this in Matthew 18:17 and 1 Corinthians 5:9-13. Those in the church must judge which men have qualifications necessary for elders and deacons (1 Timothy 3:1-13). As believers we are to judge the teaching of preachers by the Word of God (1 John 4:1). Jesus told us in Matthew 7:15-20 that we are to make judgments based on fruits in these men’s lives. Christians have to discern or make a judgment concerning the salvation of others to obey God’s command in 2 Corinthians 6:14 about not being unequally yoked. And according to 1 Thessalonians 5:14 we are to judge which people are unruly, fainthearted, and weak in that we can warn them. Making a judgment based on God’s Word is not the same as being critical of them.

So, if criticism is not biblical exhortation or righteous judgment, what is it? Simply put, criticism is an opinion with a negative connotation. (Notice exhortation and judgment has nothing to do with opinion. Both are based on God’s Word.) However, opinions in themselves are not bad. Everyone has them. Opinions can be given in love, but criticism is often associated with animosity. It is a condition of the heart with the intent to destroy and discourage. It tears down instead of builds up. (Proverbs 14:1) It brings death instead of life. (Proverbs 18:21)  It obsesses with flaws and imperfections instead of letting love cover them. (1 Peter 4:8) Criticism is a heart issue.

Dealing with Criticism

Now that criticism is defined, how do we deal with it when it comes our way? A peek into the life of David can give insight into how to handle critical attitudes in a very practical way. No matter what position in life you are in, you will receive criticism. David was criticized as an insignificant shepherd boy and as the prominent king of Israel. He received criticism from the world and from those near him. David was criticized in his youth and in his old age. He was criticized often even though he is considered a man after God’s own heart. So how did David deal with criticism? Let’s look at two specific incidences in his life.

“Who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?”  Can you see young David asking this question?  Righteous anger burns within him.  Will no one take a stand? The strongest and bravest of the Israelites surrounded David, yet none dare battle the giant. King Saul, the one chosen to lead the people, sits in fear doing nothing.  So, the young lad, willing to fight for the Lord, speaks out. Outside vilification is expected, but these words come from a brother. “I know thy pride, and the naughtiness of thine heart,” he says.  David, criticized by one closest to him, addresses the matter. “What have I now done? Is there not a cause?” I Samuel 17:29.

Much later in David’s life he is again verbally attacked. King Saul is now dead and David reigns as king.  He is weary, worn, and fleeing from his son Absalom.  As David approaches Bahurim a relative of Saul named Shimei comes out cursing and hurling accusations toward him.  (Pay attention. It is often a technique of the enemy to attack when we are tired and exhausted.) “Then said Abishai the son of Zeruiah unto the king, Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? let me go over, I pray thee, and take off his head,” 2 Samuel 16:9. David had the authority to stop his accuser’s tongue, but this time he chose to respond in quiet humility. “…let him alone, and let him curse; for the LORD hath bidden him,” 2 Samuel 6:11.

There are several lessons we can learn from David on how to deal with criticism. The first is to determine how to respond. There is, “a time to keep silence,” Ecclesiastes 3:7. In the case of Shimei’s attack, David was silent. His response was consistent with a verse he later wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. “I said, I will take heed to my ways, that I sin not with my tongue: I will keep my mouth with a bridle, while the wicked is before me,” Psalm 39:1. There are plenty to times to hold our tongues when faced with criticism. But in that moment we should be careful to not hold our prayers. David’s prayer was that, “the LORD will look on mine affliction, and that the LORD will requite me good for his cursing this day,” 2 Samuel 16:12. He knew God could do much more for him than his enemy could do against him.

We also need to recognize there is, “a time to speak,” Ecclesiastes 3:7. David addressed his brother when criticized about his motives in facing Goliath. We also see him speaking out when criticized at other times in his life. (See 2 Samuel 6.) When we reply, we should do so in love and remember that a soft answer turns away wrath. When it comes to responding to our critics, remember that there is, “a time to keep silence, and a time to speak.” Let us seek wisdom to be able to discern which is appropriate.

The second aspect of dealing with criticism is to not let it affect your plans. Even though David’s brother came against him, he still became victorious over Goliath and the Philistines. Even thought Shimei came against him, David still continued on the path set before him. God was leading him in both incidences and he would not be deterred. Have you faced criticism in the way you raise your children or live your life? Do not give the enemy victory by letting it throw you off course. Has a friend criticized you for teaching your children at home? Follow God’s plan for your life even in the face of opposition.  As we later see with David and Shimei, sometimes those that oppose us come back seeking forgiveness. (See 2 Samuel 19:15-23.)

Finally, do not let criticism steal your joy. How easy is it to get discouraged when faced with just one critical person! Notice what David did after Shimei’s vile attack. “And the king, and all the people that were with him, came weary, and refreshed themselves there,” 2 Samuel 16:14. David wasn’t alone and neither are you.  For every one person who opposes you, chances are many more support you. David and all the people that were with him came and refreshed themselves. They would not let the hostility of one take away their joy.

To practically deal with criticism you must first know how to respond. Do not let it affect your plans or steal your joy. Then you must learn how to defeat it once and for all.

Defeating Criticism

Criticism is a two-headed beast that must be defeated from within and without. We cannot stop others from responding with criticism, but we can defeat it by stopping its intended purpose of tearing down. When it rears its ugly head, we have power over how it influences us by overcoming it with good. “Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good,” Romans 12:21.

But what if criticism is a problem that comes from within? We have addressed being on the receiving end, but to truly overcome it we must look within ourselves. Critical words tear down and we are all guilty of being critical at times. As Christians, we are to build up others through encouraging and positive words. There are two verses I go to when I find myself needing encouragement.

Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers, Ephesians 4:29.

Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man. Colossians 4:6.

Notice that both verses refer to grace. When it comes to permanently defeating criticism we do it with goodness and with grace. But, there is one more weapon used to defeat this monster. It is love, the most powerful of all. We are told in Proverbs 10:12 that, “love covereth all sins.”

Let us not think that we have power within ourselves to overcome the nature of our tongue. “For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind: But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison,” James 3:7-8.  As we see here, no man tames his tongue. It takes something more. In Mark 7 we see a deaf man who could not speak clearly. Just as it took a touch on the tongue to heal him, we too must be touched by the Lord. Only through the power of God can we subdue our words. It takes His goodness, grace and love working in us to control our words and defeat criticism.

Thank God that through Him we have the capability to overcome evil with good, turn negative into positive, and criticism into encouragement.

Gossip

gossip

Have you heard?

Please don’t repeat this to anyone.

Let’s just keep this between you and me, shall we?

I’ve said each of these phrases before. At times, they have been perfectly acceptable. And yes, other times I’ve said them to my shame. Gossip is an ugly sin.  It breaks hearts, hurts marriages, ruins friendship, ends careers, destroys ministries, generates grief, and tarnish reputations. It is no respecter of persons and the more it’s repeated the more it’s believed.

If you’ve ever been hurt by gossiping words, you understand how painful it can be. And, if you’ve ever been gossiped to, be prepared to be gossiped about. That’s the nature of this beast.

The scriptures warn us about the use of our tongues.

  • Whoso keepeth his mouth and his tongue keepeth his soul from troubles. (Pro 21:23)
  • In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips is wise. (Pro 10:19)
  • A talebearer revealeth secrets: but he that is of a faithful spirit concealeth the matter. (Pro 11:13)
  • If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain. (Jas 1:26)
  • But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. (Jas 3:8)

The more we talk, the more we risk sinning with our words. That is why the Bible speaks of wisdom through silence. But, I like to talk. I especially like to get together with my friends to visit, share stories, communicate and bond through our words. So, where does talking cross the line and become gossip?

I’m glad you asked.

When you share privileged information with others, it is gossip. Simply put, some information is private and not intended for everyone to hear. If the information is not yours to share, don’t share it.

When you repeat negative rumors about others, it is gossip. This line of gossip is often accompanied with the intent of tearing others down to build others up. It’s the nastiest form of gossip.

When a negative is discussed with anyone who cannot solve the problem, it is gossip. Sometimes negative information must be shared. If you are in leadership or ministry of any sort this is especially true. However, when you share negatives with people who have no authority to intervene or offer valuable insight into the issue, it becomes nothing short of gossip.

The list is not inclusive, but it’s a good start. David prayed, “Set a watch, O LORD, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips,” Psalms 141:3. Christian friend, let this be our prayer!

Have you personally seen the negative effects of gossip? Leave a comment and share your thoughts.

Blessings!

A Letter to My Daughter

 

I wrote this letter when my daughter was 10 years old. Now that she is just a few days away from turning 18 I thought it was time to repost. I’m so proud of the young lady she has become. She shines with the love of Christ and she has my heart!

Dearmother and daugtherest Daughter,

 

 One of the highest callings in life is that of a mother.  It comes with great joy and incredible responsibilities.  When God gave you to me, He gave me a most precious gift.  You are a joy and delight.  When you smile your sweet countenance spreads light throughout the room.  You can laugh and turn sorrow into joy.  You are a treasure and your calm disposition brings peace to our home.  I realize that I only have a few years in which to teach and train you to become a virtuous young lady of highest character but that is my desire. 

 

 Daughter, there are many things I want you to know.  First of all, know that I love your father.  Next to Christ he is my dearest friend.  Every night as I pray for you, my prayer is that someday God will bring a godly young man into your life that mightily loves the Lord and deeply cherishes his wife, just like your father.   I pray you discover early on in your marriage your God given role as wife and that you will embrace it with joy. 

 

I want you to know that children are a blessing from God.  Today children seem to be nothing more than a burden to many in which to cast off on someone else.  You and your brothers are a joy and I thank God daily for each of you.  I praise Him for the opportunity that He has given your father and me to raise you.  I want you to know that we will do our best to raise you not by the world’s standards but by God’s standards alone.  The world says you must be beautiful on the outside and that your value is based on how you look and dress.  God says that your value is based on who you are.  True beauty comes from within and God’s standard is one of purity. 

 

 Never forget that the most important thing in this life are relationships. Your relationship with God is first and foremost.  Only in Christ will you find complete fulfillment.  Your life will be void if you look to any other.  Second is your relationship with others.  Never miss opportunities to love your family, to build and cultivate friendships, and to reach out with kindness to strangers.  For it is in loving and serving others that Christ will be glorified. 

 

 Finally, I want you to know that no matter what stage of life you are in and no matter what you find yourself doing, make sure that it is for God’s glory.  If you’re being educated, learn with the desire to use your gifts to please God.  If you’re working, whatsoever your hands find to do, do all for the glory of God.  If you’re serving others, do it to point others to Christ.  Remember, you have purpose; no matter your age or station in life God has a plan for you.  Seek Him with your whole heart and your life will be complete.  You will have joy unspeakable.   Know that I will make mistakes and sometimes fail you, but I pray with all my heart that my words and actions as your mother are that in which you can look to as a godly example.

 

 I love you sweet daughter.

 

I’m Dying

graveIn his book, Joy in Your Life, Charles Spurgeon recalls a story of an elderly woman who when asked about the fear of dying replies, “Afraid to die, sir?  I have dipped my foot in Jordan every morning before breakfast, for the last fifty years, and do you think I am afraid to die now?”  In speaking to believers, Spurgeon says, “We die hundreds of times.  We ‘die daily’.   We die every morning; we die each night when we sleep; by faith we die.  And so, dying will be old work when we come to it.  We will say, ‘Ah, death, you and I have been old acquaintances.  I have had you in my bedroom every night.  I have talked with you each day.  I have had the skull upon my dressing table.  I have often thought of you.  Death, you have come at last, but you are a welcome guest.  You are an angel of light and the best friend I have had.’  Why dread death since there is no fear of God leaving you when you come to die?”

It’s easy to say that as a believer I welcome death. It’s another thing entirely to live it out daily. We live in such a self-focused, self-absorbed, self-centered world. Our very nature is selfish. Our very sin nature, that is. I know the struggle well. In an attempt to elevate self my own flesh, the world around me, and the great enemy cries out. Focus on you. Put yourself first. Look out for number one. Do what is best for you. Don’t worry about others. Think of yourself. Do whatever it takes to make you happy. These are the lies whispered in my ear.

Self.

Self.

Self.

Because of the infatuation with self. I want the easy life – not the one that is best.

I want happiness – not true joy.

I want to be without pain – not growing.

I want to be free of all troubles and trials – not be a witness.

But something within me recognizes the lies. My spirit is quenched. And in that fleeting moment of clarity I run back to the source of all truth. I pick up God’s Word and dwell in the reality of death – death to self.

As Paul addresses the Corinthians he says, “I die daily.”  In Colossians he exhorts us to put to death the old man and put on the new man.  For we are dead and our life is hid with Christ in God.  Like the dear saint in the story I should every day wake to die; die to myself, die to my flesh, die to my desires, die to my wishes, die to my wants.  There is victory over death; therefore there is a death that is welcome. And in that death, I live.  Life. Everlasting life.  Victorious life. Abundant life! This is my prayer. This is my desire. Die to self and live for Christ, a selfless life of sacrifice putting others first. To serve and love in the name of my Lord. To truly live.

“Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin. Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.”(Rom 6:6-11)

Salt & Light, Our Children & Public Schools

SaltAndLightChristians1Ephesians chapter 5 tells the believer to have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. It goes on to say wake up; redeem the time, because the days are evil.  I believe a lot of Christian parents are beginning to wake up to the truths of public education. In the past decade the number of homeschooled children has increased by 62%. With the Supreme Court’s decision to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide, the force of Common Core, humanistic and atheistic teaching, and safety concerns across the nation, homeschool organizations are anticipating even further growth.

A few weeks ago I ran into a pastor who has been taking a stand on the LBGT within our local school board. He mentioned that he didn’t know what he and his wife were going to do about their children being in public school. He’s concerned, and rightly so. In light of society, I’m concerned for Christian parents who are not concerned.

There is a humanistic agenda within the system – from the top down.  For years US Education Secretary Arne Duncan has been speaking out about this agenda. Then last week after the Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage the Department of Education flaunted its support by changing their Facebook profile page to the gay rainbow. And it is only going to get worse.

Because our government schools have become such a dark place I am so very thankful for our Christian teachers and leaders who are there being salt and light day in and day out. God bless each of them. They are fighting a battle right on the front lines. They need our support and prayers. But what about the Christian youth? Our innocent children? Shouldn’t they be salt and light in our public schools as well? My friend, Jonathan Lewis, one of the founders of Home School Enrichment Magazine has agreed to share his thoughts on this very issue.

Salt & Light

Taking a look at the #1 Christian argument against homeschooling

By Jonathan Lewis

Throughout the years of the modern homeschooling movement, a number of arguments have been raised against home education. Doubtless you’ve heard many of them. “How can an untrained mother teach her children? What about socialization? How are you going to teach higher math? How will your kids get into college?”

In Christian circles, there’s another argument that’s frequently brought up by parents who have opted to send their kids to public school. Perhaps you’ve heard it from parents in your church: “I’m sending my kids to public school to be salt and light,” they say. “If all the Christian kids leave the schools, who will reach the students left behind?”

This argument, because of its spiritual overtones and scriptural reference, often seems more difficult to answer than other arguments against homeschooling. After all, how can we argue against being salt and light? Wouldn’t that mean we don’t care about kids and teachers who don’t know Christ?

This argument has left many current or would-be homeschooling parents feeling torn and conflicted, unsure of how to weigh their responsibility toward their own children against their sense of responsibility to further the Great Commission—to reach the world with the gospel of Christ. Somehow it seems unchristian to leave the schools without a godly influence, and yet . . . should I risk my child’s spiritual well-being by sending him away to school? No wonder parents are feeling torn!

Is there an answer to this argument? Can Scripture be used to justify sending our children to public school? Should we send our children out as missionaries, or should we keep them at home? What is the scriptural answer to this conflicting sense of responsibility parents are feeling?

 The Source of the Argument

The salt and light argument finds its source in Matthew 5:13–16, where Jesus tells His disciples that they are the “salt of the earth” and the “light of the world,” and that they should let their light “so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”

Thus, the argument says that Christian kids should attend public school to be a witness for Christ. They further argue that if all Christian kids are removed from the public schools, the students and teachers left behind will be stranded without a voice of truth or the opportunity to see a positive Christian witness.

 First Things First

Before looking at possible responses, it’s important for us to realize something fundamental right from the beginning. The salt and light argument itself inherently acknowledges that our schools are largely godless. No one uses this argument to justify sending kids to a Christian school, because presumably the students there either already know Christ or at least have opportunity to hear about Him in ways other than through Christian students.

In other words, we only send missionaries where they’re needed—where there is a sufficient lack of truth and godly influence to give them room and opportunity to work. Thus, the argument itself acknowledges the largely godless condition of our public education system, and the parents who use this argument are as much as admitting that the overall environment at school is more or less hostile to the Christian faith. Some would attempt to maintain that the schools are not hostile to our faith, but are instead religiously neutral; this, however, is a difficult case to support, especially in view of Christ’s declaration in Matthew 12:30 that “He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad.” Christ doesn’t leave neutrality as an option.

In this context then, the salt and light argument assumes two things:

First, that the potential good a Christian student can do in the public school system outweighs the personal spiritual risk of sitting under humanistic teaching and spending hours every day in an admittedly ungodly environment.

Second, it assumes that being salt and light is a child’s top priority, as opposed to, for example, receiving a distinctively Christian education. In other words, it’s more important for children to be missionaries—while simultaneously receiving a humanistic education—than to be taught from a Christian worldview, protected from overtly negative peer influences, and so on.

With these basic presuppositions in mind, let’s progress now to looking at possible responses to this classic Christian argument against homeschooling.

 The Context of “Salt and Light”

First, we should look at the context of the salt and light passage. Whom is Jesus speaking to? At the beginning of Matthew 5, we see clearly that Christ is speaking to His disciples. Verses 1–2 read, “And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: and he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying . . . ”

As we can see, Jesus was speaking to a specific group of individuals: His disciples—adult men. Thus, in the original context, the salt and light passage was addressed to adults, not children.

That doesn’t mean children shouldn’t be a positive witness if and when they encounter those in the world around them. But it’s quite a leap from there to say that they should be deliberately placed in a spiritually hostile environment at young ages where they will be actively taught in ways contrary to the Word of God. Being salt and light is one thing. Sending our children to the training camp of the enemy is quite another—and we only need look around us to see the failure of this tactic.

We should also note that Christ’s disciples spent approximately three years with Jesus before He gave them the Great Commission and sent them out into all the world. In other words, they experienced three years of intense, hands-on training and preparation with the perfect, faultless, infallible Son of God before He deemed them ready to go out on their own. How much more preparation will our children need before they can stand on their own? After all, they have fallen, fallible, sinful parents responsible for their training—not the perfect Son of God in the flesh.

Looking further at the context, we see that Jesus was instructing His disciples to be salt and light while they were still in His presence, under His direct teaching and influence. Thus, we can see that it’s possible to fulfill this command even without being sent out alone, away from the protection and influence of one’s God-given teacher or mentor. If parents, biblically speaking, are the appropriate teachers and mentors of their children (more on this later), it’s possible for children to fulfill the salt and light mandate within that framework, rather than having to be sent away.

In view of these contextual considerations, it’s difficult to make the case that this passage directly applies to children in the way in which our critics suggest. Since it doesn’t specifically mention or command sending children to a spiritually hostile environment to be salt and light, it certainly doesn’t constitute the final word on the matter, and therefore we should look to other biblical passages and principles for more clarification.

 Training Ground, Not Mission Field

One consideration which the proponents of the salt and light argument often seem to overlook is the reality that they are not simply sending their children to a mission field, but a training ground. In other words, these Christian kids are not being sent out to reach other students and teachers while being isolated from the humanistic teaching that occurs in the schools. The teaching is an unavoidable part of the package. Thus, in order to justify sending his or her child to public school as a missionary, a parent needs to simultaneously justify sending his or her child away to receive an education based on humanistic philosophy instead of one that is built on Scripture and a Christian worldview.

Those proponents of “salt and light” who do recognize the educational aspect of the situation apparently maintain the assumption that their children can withstand whatever humanistic teaching they will encounter and escape unscathed. In other words, they assume that their children can sit under hours of teaching from a perspective other than the Bible, surrounded by peer influences that tempt them in the wrong direction, and not be negatively influenced by any of it.

In addition to being dangerously naive, this view contradicts such Scriptures as Luke 6:40 (“The disciple is not above his master [teacher]: but every one that is perfect shall be as his master”), Proverbs 13:20 (“He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed”), and 1 Corinthians 15:33 (“Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners”).

I would challenge anyone to search the Scriptures and find one verse advising parents to hand the teaching of their children over to those who don’t know God or uphold His truth. As Paul declares in 2 Corinthians 6:14, “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?” And in verse 17, “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord.”

We are to be distinct from the world. There should be a separation between the world’s philosophies and methods and our own. We are not to mingle ourselves in their practices or partake in their way of life.

The command to not be unequally yoked with unbelievers is also worth noting. When Christian children are placed under the authority of unbelieving teachers, principals, and other school administrators, we would do well to ask if they are in fact unequally yoked. Certainly they often do not have the freedom to fully express their identity as followers of Christ; in that sense, they are “yoked” to those who do not share their faith, and their activity, at least in some measure, is dictated by unbelievers who are in authority over them.

Proverbs 1:7 says that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,” and Colossians 2:3 tells us that in Christ “are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” In Proverbs 9:10 we again see that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.”

It’s no small matter to give the education of our children to those who remove the foundation of wisdom and knowledge. Unless the proponents of “salt and light” can make a convincing scriptural case that it doesn’t matter if we allow our children to be taught from a worldview contrary to the Bible, we are already beginning to see major cracks in the foundation of their argument.

 Peer Influences

Children—indeed, all of us—have a natural propensity to do wrong. That comes naturally to us. Doing right, on the other hand, is contrary to our natural inclinations and tendencies.

When children are sent to public school as “missionaries,” they are surrounded by other young people who, by and large, are following their natural desires, thus creating the negative peer pressure we so often discuss. And since our children have a natural propensity toward wrongdoing—even if they already have their own walk with the Lord—placing them amidst this negative peer pressure for hours every day is questionable at best.

We can examine Scripture to see what the Bible says about this.

We have already noted Proverbs 13:20 (“He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed”) and 1 Corinthians 15:33 (“Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners”). Both of these passages give strong warning to those who would willingly and knowingly allow their children to be surrounded by negative peer influences.

The influences surrounding our kids make a difference. They’re going to be impacted. We all know that in a typical scenario, kids generally tend to pull each other down, not lift each other up. Let’s go back to Proverbs 13:20 for a moment: when we pair its warning to the companion of fools with Proverbs 22:15, which tells us that “foolishness is bound in the heart of a child,” it’s easy to see why extensive peer-based socialization can be so destructive. Foolishness is bound in the hearts of children, and the companion of fools will be destroyed. Is it any wonder that we so often see children and young people making destructive life choices as a result of peer pressure?

Children are impressionable. When they are sent out alone to confront the world and interact all day with those who have a different system of values, they are placed at high risk of adopting those different values. Scripture warns us of this, and it shouldn’t be surprising when we see it occurring around us.

 Seasons of Purpose

Different seasons of life bring different opportunities, activities, and purposes. One helpful question to ask, as we examine the salt and light argument, is this: what is the purpose of childhood?

Is it to fulfill some kind of mission for the cause of Christ, or is it instead a season of preparation for later work and ministry?

Throughout the Bible, we find numerous commands and references to parents training and teaching their children (Deuteronomy 6:6–7, Deuteronomy 32:46, Proverbs 1:8, Isaiah 38:19, Joel 1:3, Ephesians 6:4). Put together, these passages form a consistent pattern throughout the whole of Scripture, emphasizing again and again the importance of parents raising their children in the ways of the Lord. The biblical model of education is always God-centered, faith-driven, and parent-directed.

At the same time, we see a profound lack of passages suggesting that children have a specific mission or calling to go outside the discipleship of their parents to reach the outside world.

Most of those who use the salt and light argument seem to assume either that their children don’t need any preparation to be missionaries in the schools, or that a few hours in church each week and perhaps a little time with Dad and Mom in the evening will be adequate to not only counteract the secular teaching in the schools, but also prepare them to be bold witnesses for Christ. And of course, children need preparation for the rest of life as well—not just their childhood years. In other words, it’s no small undertaking to raise a child in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

The reality is that the preparation must be adequate to the task at hand. The greater the task, the greater the need for adequate preparation. And is there any greater task than sending out the next generation ready and equipped to do God’s work?

God lays out for us a model in Deuteronomy 6:6–7 when He instructs parents to teach their children His commands. “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.”

In his article “The Christian Education Manifesto,” Israel Wayne observes of this passage, “This describes a 24/7/365 discipleship paradigm, centered on the commandments of God.”

Precisely. God apparently didn’t think an hour of Sunday School and a few minutes in the evening with Dad and Mom was adequate to prepare children to live righteous, holy lives. He commands parents here to teach their children with a diligence and constancy that most parents never come close to reaching.

We can gain more insight into this issue by considering the words of Christ Himself in relation to adults and children. Consider this contrast between two messages: Christ commanded His adult disciples to be salt and light, and sent them out to do His work. But what did He say of children? “But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:14). For adults, His word was “Go.” For children, His words were “Let them come.”

These words of Christ create a compelling picture and clearly illustrate the concept of different seasons of life. During the early, formative years, children are to be brought to Christ—taught about Him, nurtured in His ways, and discipled to live for Him. As adults, they are then able to go out and make a difference for Christ after that first season of preparation. Childhood is the time for coming, adulthood the time for going.

 Right Priorities

As a parent, you must ask yourself, “What is my top priority? Is it to reach someone else’s children for Christ by placing my own children’s spiritual well-being at risk, or is it to raise my children in the ways of God, discipling them to the point that they are solid, well-grounded young adults who can stand on their own?”

God didn’t give you someone else’s children. He gave you your own. That doesn’t mean we should never seek to reach out to others, but it does suggest a hierarchy of priorities. Generally speaking, our top priorities are those that are closest to us. We find this principle illustrated for us in 1 Timothy 5:8 where Paul says, “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.” When it comes to physical provision, a man’s immediate household is his top priority. Those closest to him should command his first attention.

Similarly, Paul stipulated that a man must be able to “rule his own house” (1 Timothy 3:4–5) in order to be considered for the position of bishop or deacon in the church. Thus, before a man’s ministry could expand to include one of these positions of leadership, he first had to show the capacity to lead in his own family. Here again we see the hierarchy of priorities: attention to your own family first, expanded ministry second.

We see the same principle in the Old Testament in Genesis 18:17–19 where God is about to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah and decides to share His plans with Abraham. In that passage we read, “And the Lord said, Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do; seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment; that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him.”

Here we see that Abraham’s ability to raise and train his children was a key factor that brought greater confidence from God, and was apparently even a factor in God’s promises and blessings to him. Thus, we again see that proper attention to the closest priorities came before increased responsibility and opportunity outside.

None of this means that we shouldn’t reach out beyond our own families. I’m not saying your family should be your sole focus, but your first focus. Parents who use the salt and light argument, however, are essentially saying that the needs of students in the public schools come ahead of their own children’s need for a Christian education, the intensive discipleship of their parents, and appropriate protection from negative peer influences. Biblically speaking, however, parents should place the greater emphasis on their own children’s needs and only thereafter look beyond their family to the needs around them. That is the biblical order.

 Wishful Thinking

We’ve already seen multiple reasons why the salt and light argument is contrary to biblical principles. We can also look outside Scripture to find an additional compelling reason why this argument doesn’t withstand scrutiny: generally speaking, the idea that children can be effective as salt and light in a hostile, secular environment is simply wishful thinking.

Lee Duncan, Dean of Administration for The Master’s College, wrote in his article “A Case for Christian High Education”:

Why would we expect Christian young people who are in their most impressionable time of growth to challenge mature teachers who will attack their faith? In reality, most Christian students in public schools challenge no one; they simply stay quiet and try to avoid any confrontation.

And in her article “Culture of Answers,” Jill Carattini of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, wrote the following:

A recent study on the faith and belief of today’s youth laments the growing inarticulacy of students when it comes to talking about what they believe . . . The researchers were troubled as they realized how seldom teens found opportunity to practice talking about their faith. They were astonished by the number of kids who reported that this was the first time they had been asked by an adult what they believed. One replied as if he was caught off guard, “I don’t know. No one has ever asked me that before.” (emphasis in the original)

In other words, by and large, students aren’t talking about their faith at school. It’s not happening. And as Lee Duncan points out, why would we expect them to? Why would we expect them—at such an impressionable age—to draw attention to themselves and challenge those around them when in school the supreme virtue is to do as you’re told and not cause disruption?

Consider it in another way: if the salt and light argument were solid and Christian kids were really making a difference in their schools, why have we not seen a great spiritual awakening in our public education system? Why do we instead see our church pews increasingly empty as young people continue their mass exodus from the faith? It’s not our Christian youth who are winning the world, but the world who is winning our Christian youth.

Research indicates that up to 85 percent of young people from Christian homes who attend public school end up walking away from the church by the time they graduate high school. Many parents will insist that their kids are the exception—that they can handle the unbiblical worldview and negative peer pressure and remain true to their God and strong in their faith. But is that a chance we should take? Do we want to risk that our kids will be among the 15 percent instead of the 85 percent? Sure, we’d all like to think that our kids can stand strong—that they’ll defy the norms, beat the odds, and emerge victorious on the other side. But is that really rational?

Imagine yourself the unexpected owner of a ten-million-dollar inheritance. Your financial adviser gives you the opportunity to invest the money and earn enormous dividends, but the opportunity comes with a risk. “I have to tell you,” he says, “there’s an 85 percent chance you’ll lose every penny in this investment.” Then he smiles and says, “But there’s a 15 percent chance you’ll double your money and walk away with twenty million!”

What would you decide? My guess is that you’d turn it down with a flat no and tell your broker that someone would have to be crazy to take a risk like that. And you’d be right. Why would you risk such an incredible treasure when the odds are stacked so heavily against you?

Why should it be any different with our children? God has entrusted every parent with a treasure worth far more than ten million dollars—and we’re going to invest that treasure in a risky venture, hoping we’ll be in the 15 percent instead of the 85 percent? Not with my kids. The risk must be weighed, and with the stakes so high, shouldn’t a godly caution guide our steps?

The numbers for homeschooled students are radically different. According to Dr. Brian Ray’s 2003 report “Homeschooling Grows Up,” more than 90 percent of homeschool graduates report that their religious beliefs are essentially the same as their parents’, and more than 90 percent continue to attend church on a regular basis.

Why the difference? Because Christian home education and public school are as different as night and day. When we follow a radically different process, it’s predictable that we’ll end up with a radically different result. And that’s exactly what we’re seeing.

If “salt and light” were really working as well as its proponents wish, we wouldn’t have these unfortunate statistics. We’d have churches overflowing with crowds of young people brought in by our Christian kids who are in the schools. It’s not happening.

In discussing all of this, we should also heed Jesus’s strong denunciation of those who offend children who believe in Him: “But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matthew 18:6).

Considering the rate at which children from Christian homes are leaving the church after attending public schools, we are forced to wonder if our school system is guilty of offending untold numbers of these “little ones” who believed in Him. And what of the parents who voluntarily send their children there when valid alternatives are available? My intention is not to be judgmental, but to help us to think about what we’re doing. The risk must be weighed, and again I ask: with the stakes so high, shouldn’t a godly caution guide our steps?

We would also do well to note that the very same verse that instructs us to be salt and light also warns us that if the salt loses its saltiness, it’s good for nothing but to be thrown in the streets and trampled underfoot. Thus, we have a command and a warning given together. The warning portion, however, seems largely overlooked by the salt and light proponents. The significance of the warning is intensified when we realize again that the large majority of children from Christian homes are in fact losing their saltiness in the public schools. If parents would pay as much heed to the warning as they do the command, their perspective might change.

 Wrong Becomes Right?

One reason so many parents have difficulty answering the salt and light argument is because it appeals to Scripture. On the surface, it can look like a scriptural justification for sending Christian kids to public school. But there’s more to it than that.

We all know that we must use Scripture appropriately—that we shouldn’t take verses out of context, twist their meaning, or seek to use Scripture to justify something unscriptural. Wrong actions are still wrong actions, even if we can pull an isolated verse out of the Bible that seems to justify what we’re doing.

Let’s take an obvious example. God instructed Adam and Eve in Genesis 1:28 to “be fruitful, and multiply.” He gave Noah and his sons the same command in Genesis 9:1 and repeated it six verses later in Genesis 9:7. Additionally, Psalm 127:3–5 tells us that “Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them.”

Thus, from these verses we see that it’s good and appropriate for us to desire children and to consider each child a blessing from God. Now, imagine you meet a man who is pursuing numerous immoral relationships outside of marriage and who uses these Scriptures as justification. Imagine he tells you, “The Bible says to be fruitful and multiply, and that children are a reward from God. I realized that I can have more children if I don’t limit myself to only one woman. I know some people would frown on what I’m doing, but I’m just trying follow the Bible’s command to multiply and get all of God’s blessings that I can.”

Would we say that what this man is doing is fine and good because he was able to give us a few Bible verses that appear, at a quick glance, to support his case? I hardly think so. Why? Is being fruitful and multiplying suddenly wrong? Are children not a blessing? Quite the contrary. Yet we would recognize this man’s profligate lifestyle as wrong and displeasing to God, even though he gave us some Bible verses. His motives (theoretically, at least) could be perfect: he desires the blessing of more children, consistent with the Bible’s teachings. Yet his actions are still wrong because they are contrary to the message of Scripture taken as a whole, which commands moral purity.

Trying to justify sending our children to a godless environment to be educated on the basis of “salt and light” is akin to the man justifying his immoral lifestyle on the basis of being fruitful and multiplying. In either case, a biblical reason is used to justify something that contradicts the overall thrust of scriptural teaching. I repeat: the biblical model for education is always God-centered, faith-driven, and parent-directed. Remove one of those elements, and you’ve fundamentally altered the model God has given us in Scripture.

Being salt and light isn’t wrong. Exactly the opposite. But that doesn’t mean that every possible idea we could think of to allow us to be salt and light is acceptable and good in the sight of God. The message of Scripture is clear: children are to be taught and nurtured in the ways of the Lord, not the ways of the world. If a particular approach to being salt and light violates this truth, then we must reject that approach as unscriptural. Our motives may be pure, but that doesn’t make our actions right.

In short, we can’t justify doing something wrong for a “good” reason. Sending our children to a godless environment for their training and education is wrong. Plain and simple. There is absolutely no biblical basis on which to say it’s fine. To justify it with the claim that our children can be salt and light is to say that wrong has become right because something good might come from the wrong action.

 We’re in a Battle

Perhaps one of our problems is that we fail to see life as it really is—as a battleground between light and darkness, righteousness and unrighteousness, good and evil. If our goal is to simply raise children who can get a well-paying job and enjoy “the good life,” then we are likely to be far less concerned about how and what they are taught. But if we realize that our goal is to raise soldiers for Christ who can go out and make a difference in the world, the issue of our children’s training and preparation becomes far more important.

What army would send their troops to be trained in the camp of their greatest enemy? No, the people in the public schools aren’t our enemies. We don’t wrestle against flesh and blood, “but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12). We do have a spiritual foe, and he is alive and well in our secular educational system of today.

In the realm of nations and governments, we would consider it reckless beyond belief to send our troops to be trained by the enemy. In World War II, Winston Churchill would never have considered sending the troops of England to be trained by Hitler. In the days of the Cold War, America wouldn’t have sent her soldiers to be trained by the Communists. Yet that’s exactly what we’re doing when we send our children to be taught in schools where God is excluded and a biblical worldview is ignored. The next generation of Christian soldiers is being trained, but not in the right camp.

 Whatever Remains

Sherlock Holmes, in The Sign of the Four, neatly summed up a simple reality: “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”

Some say we have no scriptural command to home educate—in other words, there’s no chapter and verse we can point to that says public or private school is wrong and that we must teach our children at home. However, I would contend that if all the biblical principles and passages that discuss the training of children consistently uphold one model, then all other approaches are excluded—if not explicitly, then by clear implication.

In other words, if God has instructed us that children should be taught in the fear of the Lord, then we don’t need a specific command telling us that they shouldn’t be taught without the fear of the Lord—we already know how they should be taught.

If God has commanded parents to be the diligent, day-in, day-out teachers of their children, then we don’t need an explicit command not to send kids away for hours every day to be taught by someone else—we already know who their teachers are supposed to be.

If God tells us that negative peer influences are destructive, we don’t need a command telling us to give appropriate protection to our children—we already know they should be protected.

Let’s illustrate it this way. If you were to tell your children, “Be nice to the kids next door,” you wouldn’t have to explicitly and specifically forbid all of the potentially unkind things your children could do. You don’t have to tell your son not to punch the neighbor boy in the nose. You don’t have to tell your kids not to steal the neighbors’ toys, make fun of them, throw rocks at them, or any number of things they could conceivably do. All of that is excluded with the single command, “Be nice to the kids next door.”

Similarly, when God told parents to teach their children diligently in His ways, He didn’t need to specifically outline all of the ways they shouldn’t be taught. All of that was taken care of by telling us how they should be taught.

 What About the Success Stories?

There are those who will listen to all these arguments against the salt and light proposition and still maintain that children ought to be sent away to school as missionaries. In some cases, they may have seen (or even been) a Christian young person who successfully navigated the turbulent waters of the secular schools and emerged on the other side relatively unscathed. They maintained their Christian testimony, were outspoken for their faith, and perhaps even succeeded in winning classmates for Christ. These students may even argue that their experiences in a secular school strengthened them in their faith. Some then use this as justification that “salt and light” really does work after all.

Arguments from experience, however, should not be elevated to the level of Scripture. We have clear teaching from the Bible about how children should be taught. The general rule we’re seeing is that the faith of kids from Christian homes is being decimated in public school. If we encounter an occasional exception to this rule, that can hardly be considered justification for others following in their path.

If we look hard enough, we can find people willing to justify virtually anything based on their experience. There are those who argue, for example, that God led them to divorce their spouse—and that their life was better because of it—despite God’s clear declaration in Malachi 2 that He hates divorce and Jesus’s warning in Matthew 19:6 and Mark 10:9 that “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” We cannot argue against Scripture based on our experience. Just because we see someone else ignore the warning signs, jump in the alligator-infested river, and swim successfully to the other side doesn’t mean we should follow suit. Did someone else survive? Yes. Does that make it right for us—or, for that matter, even for them? No. We must heed the instruction of Scripture more than the voices of those who would tell us of their experiences.

 Conclusion

The purpose of this article has not been to criticize or judge the motives of those who advance the salt and light argument, some of whom are sincere, godly Christian parents. Rather, my intent has been to provide a much-needed alternative perspective—one that looks at the issue not just in light of one or two Scripture verses, but that examines the overall message and thrust of the Bible as it relates to education and children.

The bottom line is this: the concept of voluntarily sending God’s children away—for any reason—to be educated in institutions where He is rejected, is utterly foreign to Scripture. If the God-centered, faith-driven, parent-directed model of education found in Scripture means anything at all, then the concept of subjecting children to secular, God-absent education is beyond any rational biblical justification. Search for a lifetime, and you will still fail to find the smallest piece of evidence that God approves of sending the children of His kingdom to the halls of humanistic learning.

It was Christ who declared that anyone who offends one of these little ones would be better off drowned in the depths of the sea. Would He now be in favor of education that leaves Him out? It was the apostle Paul who boldly asked, “What communion hath light with darkness?” and “What part hath he that believeth with an infidel?” Would he now stand up and say it doesn’t matter if the children of God are taught in darkness and educated by unbelievers?

Let’s make sure we’re taking care of our first priorities first. Let’s give our children a God-centered, parent-directed education as outlined in Scripture, and then, as God leads, we can reach out to others. Just because we’re homeschoolers doesn’t mean we can’t be salt and light. And our children will be more effective in God’s service for a lifetime if they don’t lose their saltiness in their youth.

 Jonathan Lewis is a homeschool graduate, husband to Linnea, and daddy to Patrick, Timothy, and another on the way. He is one of the founders of Home School Enrichment Magazine and enjoys writing and speaking from his perspective as a homeschool graduate. If you would like to invite Jonathan to speak to your group—or to get in touch with him for any other reason—drop him a note at jonathan@HomeSchoolEnrichment.com.

Copyright 2015, Jonathan Lewis; reprinted with permission.

Christians – It’s Time to Stand

white houseLast Thursday Seattle, Mayor Ed Murray unveiled new rainbow crosswalks at several Capitol Hill intersections costing $66,000. The crosswalks are expected to last three to five years, but the city said it plans to maintain them for years to come.

On Friday in a long sought out victory for the gay rights movement the SCOTUS ruled that what God sees as an abomination the Constitution guarantees as a right. That evening the White House of the United States was illuminated in rainbow colors as an offense and cost to tax payers across the country.

Over the weekend businesses across the nation begin to show support for the LBGT community on social media. The Department of Education changes their picture to reflect their long time agenda.

Monday local judges and clerks across the nation stood and said they will not go against their deep-rooted conviction and conscience by issuing marriage licenses to gay couples. Some have resigned. Others brace for persecution.

On Tuesday the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled that a Ten Commandments monument (paid for by private money) placed on State Capitol grounds must be removed because the Oklahoma Constitution bans the use of state property for the benefit of a religion.

Today….

What is happening in our country?

Let me submit that it is the same thing that has been happening for decades just now at an accelerated pace. Monday night I attended with many others from our community to an event to hear David Barton speak out on these issues. Below (posted with permission) is a summary of the event from two of my dear friends. Please take the time to read this. If the gay rights activists have not yet bombarded your local government they will. Christians need to be informed and prepared. It’s time to stand!

David Barton Encourages Fayetteville Activists – a Summary of Last Nights Meeting. Written by Angela Lathrum

David Barton, internationally known public speaker, author and historian, visited Fayetteville last night to encourage the grassroots effort to combat the effects of the radical sexual revolution on our local government.  Barton is the president of Wallbuilders, a pro-family organization, which holds a large private collection of original source American historical documents.  In the fall of 2014, Barton and others in Wallbuilders worked with activists in Fayetteville to repeal Ordinance 119, a dangerous law that forced business to allow members of either sex to enter both men and women’s bathrooms and locker rooms.  Now a new, but frustratingly similar, ordinance is on the September 8 ballot in Fayetteville.  Motivated to see a similar victory over Ordinance 5781, several hundred citizens gathered last night to hear what Barton had to say.

Many of those in attendance were encouraged to see such a prominent figure engage with citizens over a local issue.  The shift in culture, and the hijacking of Americans’ ethics, is impacting every level of society: our nation, our communities, and our individual consciences.  So, a call to action on the local level is crucial for a stand on a national level.  The Wallbuilders team aimed to rally support for the counter-initiative in local communities.

Barton drew some interesting parallels between the Genesis account of Lot’s confrontation with the culture of Sodom and today’s confrontation with the radical sexual revolution. Evil is not content with the position of “live and let live”.  It demands that we come and participate with it, just as the Sodomites sought Lot’s consent and participation in their assault on the visiting angels.  Barton presented nearly a dozen examples of cases around the country in which courts ruled that an individual did not have a right to act according to his own conscience, by not participating in objectionable activities.  Evil will have us participate, or seek to destroy us.

Just as Lot offered his virgin daughters to appease the Sodomites, Christians will often offer a compromise to appease those pushing their “progressive” cultural shift.  Churches have accommodated, families have looked the other way, schools have indoctrinated our youth in an effort to make them more “tolerant”.  Our compromises, have only strengthened the opposition.  Our middle ground is crumbling.

Evil is unappeased with compromise.  False accusations follow, usually without merit.  Lot was falsely accused of judging the men of Sodom.  “Bigot” and “discrimination” have been spewed at Christians who have tried to reserve their right to refuse service when it violated their conscience.  But radical sexual revolutionaries insist that love means tolerance and even affirmation.  God’s holy Word says otherwise.

False accusations will usually turn to meanness.  Similarly, Lot was nearly overtaken by the men of Sodom with whom he was trying to reason.  Undeniable, The Survey of Hostility to Religion in America documents acts of aggression and intolerance toward Christians each year.  It recounts many cases in which Christians are accused of persecution and bigotry, while the same and far worse is perpetrated against us.  Threats, coerciveness and down-right meanness are the arsenal of Evil.

Barton continued by quoting Charles Finney.  “God will bless or curse this nation according to the course Christians take in politics.”  Proverbs tells us that “A wise man scales the city of the mighty and brings down the trusted stronghold.” (21:22)  As a historian, Barton likened the strategies of successful battles to the strategies that Christians need to use today in fighting the encroaching evil that would lay siege to our society and capture the minds of our children.   Christian political leaders must focus on the national strategy, and local leaders must engaged in the battle specifics, on the ground, in our local communities.  Defense is not a battle strategy, it is a time to pull back, regroup and prepare for the next offensive move.  And at every level, Christians need to be proactive, watching and seeking out faithful, tested, and humble leaders in our local businesses, churches and communities.

Wallbuilders made a clear call for religious leaders to take an active role in encouraging Christians to participate in the political process.  Pastors and ministry leaders can learn more about this strategy through the revitalized organization, National Black Robe Regiment, at  www.nationalblackroberegiment.com.

David Barton’s message was a clear message to stand.  We have turned over our country to immoral extremists, simply because they are louder.  Passivity has been our weakness.  Instead, Christians must be proactive and organized.  Satan has used lies and confusion to incite the lost.   Clearly, anyone who believes that there are 82 different sexual identities and orientations is deceived, confused, and lost.   Christians’ greatest weapon is faithfulness to truth and love.

Above all, the movement to restore America to its Christian heritage must be covered in prayer and carried out in love.  What the lost, confused and deceived members of our culture need most of all, is Jesus!  Thankfully, we know love does win in the end through the sacrificial blood of the cross.

To learn more about the Fayetteville ordinance that strips business owners of their right to act in accordance with their own conscience and how you can get involved in its repeal visit  www.repeal119.com.

In response my friend Deedra Branscum writes:

It was encouraging to see so many pastors and community leaders attending last night. I am always so encouraged as many of them are homeschool families/parents and I am so glad to be part of this community.  Another interesting and true perspective Barton gave was that Christians are too quick to give up a compromise and giving away things we should not -like Lot offering his virgin daughter-when we should not compromise and give things up at all. Lot was attempting to not go as far as they wanted to in having homosexual acts by giving his daughter but he shouldn’t have ever offered a compromise in the first place and we should not either.  The evil men Lot dealt with wanted forced participation and not ” live and let live ” and that is the same group we are facing in this battle today. They want to force Christians to participate by baking then a cake for their event etc.

David Barton and other speakers also referred to the Bentonville school policy issue we have been discussing and actively opposing. It is another piece to the puzzle in this culture war. Thanks for all the encouragement and support of friends in this community. It has been a time consuming and at times seemingly endless battle but we know who has the final word in the end.!! I pray God is pleased in all we do and say despite what naysayers may say from the peanut gallery. It has been a great group to work with and we have seen Christ shared and I believe God would be pleased at how this group had handled it.

There are also some encouraging stories of people who have turned from this lifestyle, repented and are now right were God wants them to be.  Those sweet testimonies encourage us too. There are several dimensions to this culture war. There are those that are militant to complete their agenda and silence Christians and further persecute them for disagreeing wanting to force participation in their activities and then there are those who are not militant about it.  Here is a link to the testimony of a man we have become friends with during this battle.   https://flames2fire.wordpress.com/jasons-testimony/ He has spoken at several of the board meetings. He lived a gay life with a partner 11 years and then turned his life over to Christ. He has an awesome testimony and now has a sweet wife and several children and they are expecting a baby soon!!

Keep praying and doing what you can because it will take prayer and action, not silence, to stop the indoctrination of children and encourage people towards Christ.  Love and Godspeed in all your endeavors for Christ!!

Friends, Now is the time to stand. In the words of Paul be followers of God, as dear children.  “And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour. But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks. For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. Be not ye therefore partakers with them. For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light: (For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;) Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret. But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make manifest is light. Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light. See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” (Eph 5:1-16) It’ time to stand!

When Leaders Repent . . . and what we can learn from them

repentance2

Just under a year ago I wrote a piece amidst another homeschool scandal called When Leaders Fall.. and what we can learn from them. I encourage you to go read it HERE and share it with your children, family and church. We live in a fallen world and how we respond to these issues can be vital to our Christian witness and influential to the spiritual development of our children.

This week past news of Josh Duggar and his resignation at Family Research Council has been in the forefront of headlines. Everyone has an opinion. I’ve read some pretty incredible responses against this sweet family. I’ve also seen support, grace and love extended toward everyone involved. Matt Walsh (The Duggars Aren’t Hypocrites) and Todd Friel (The Duggar Disaster)  both have great insight to this issue. And quite frankly, I didn’t believe there was much that could be added to the discussion.

There has been plenty of talk on sin and judgment. I have heard biblical phrases like “he who is without sin cast the first stone” and “be sure your sins will find you out” touted all over the internet by Christians and non-Christians alike.  But I haven’t read a lot on repentance. So let me offer a perspective that perhaps you haven’t considered.

First off, what happened this week to the Duggar family has nothing to do with a Christian man falling into sin. Josh was a young boy whose past was exceeding sinful and yet he found God’s grace and mercy. He repented, confessed, sought forgiveness and moved on with his life. This story is really about the people who sought after and dug up news in an effort to destroy the witness and gospel message that this family has long stood for.  Those that oppose the gospel message will always seek to destroy the messengers.  Those that oppose Christ will always seek to destroy His followers. None of this is surprising. It is certainly sad … but not surprising.

So nothing further can really be said to those who are blind to God’s grace.  They do not understand it. Christ said he came, “to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.” (Act 26:18). Until that happens they will always oppose truth and truth bearers.

While the Duggar story really is a separate issue, let me speak to Christians – Christ-followers -The Church who is the pillar and ground of the truth. If we do not respond correctly to repentance, we are not following Christ’s example. Let me repeat that for emphasis.

If we (as believers) fail to respond correctly to those who repent, we are not following Christ’s example.

Think about the vast references on repentance throughout God’s Word.

  • The prophets proclaimed it.  (Ezek 14:6,18:30)
  • John the Baptist preached it.  (Matt 3:2, 3:8)
  • Jesus’ first message was repent.  (Matt 4:17, Luke 13:3)
  • He told the disciples to preach repentance.  (Mark 6:12)
  • God commands man everywhere to repent.  (Acts 17:30)
  • And He warns the churches to repent. (Rev 2:5, 2:16, 2:21-22, 3:3, 3:19)

Can I make a point that really shouldn’t have to be made? There would be no need for repentance if we were all perfect.  This sinful, fallen world needs a Savior. This is the reason the prophets proclaimed it and Christ preached it. It is also the reason that those who have already received it tell others about it.

Even after we are saved and become new creatures, (redeemed and imputed with His righteousness) there is still a need for daily repentance. We do not repent unto salvation for that is no longer necessary (Hebrews 6:1-6).  But true believers do repent when we sin and seek the Lords forgiveness as a part of our sanctification. Those who walk in the light cannot continue to walk in darkness (1 John 3:7-9). They can , however, fall into darkness. But note that they do not stay there.

 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. ..My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. (1Jn 1:9, 2:1-2)

This brings up a valid point of what to do when Christian men or women fall into sin. After all, believers will fall. We are sinful creatures. Yes, we strive. Yes, we have the spirit of God working in our lives. Yes, we are called to be holy, but until we are glorified and one day become just like Him (1 John 3:2) we will always fight sin. The Apostle Paul was transparent about his sin nature. He wrote, “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me” (Rom 7:18-20).

Understanding this sinful state that even believers find themselves dealing with, he states, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? (Rom 7:24) And then boldly proclaims, “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” I can state as Paul, I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord! Without Him and His love, mercy and forgiveness where would we all be?

So what then? What happens when a Christian repents? Let’s look to King David, a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14) who as leader fell into great sin.  If you are unfamiliar with the story you can read about it in 2 Samuel 11 and 12. David sinned against God by committing adultery with Bathsheba and attempting to cover it up by having her husband killed. God sent the prophet Nathan to confront David and he repented. As you read the story you find that even after he repented, he still faced the consequences of his sins. He sons died. His kingdom was torn away from him. His family was shattered. People were hurt. This is what sin does – it destroys lives and brings death. And every one is prone to it.  But that is not the end of the story. David’s kingdom was restored. God was exalted. David’s second son with Bathsheba replaced his father as king and is used to build God’s temple.  How does God respond to true repentance? He forgives and uses it for His glory!

God uses our sins, mistakes, failures and ugly past for His glory. David understood that. David was going to make sure that he used his past to teach others. Don’t miss this! He used his past for God’s glory. Read David’s repentant prayer recorded in Psalm 51.

 To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet came unto him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba. Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest. Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me. Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice. Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.

But David does not stop there. In verse 13 he said, Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee. (Psa 51:13)  Did you catch that? David was saying that after he fell into sin and repented, God forgave him.  Now he was going to use his testimony to teach others about the dangers of sin. When we are right before God, our hearts desire is to teach others. Why? Because we are filled with such love from God’s mercy and forgiveness that we greatly desire for others to experience the same.

When leaders humbly repent we can learn from them.

  • Let it serve as a reminder of our great need for a Saviour.
  • Let is serve as a reminder of the dangers and consequences of sin.
  • Let it serve as a reminder to respond as Christ responds to those who truly repent.

On a personal note: I thank God daily for my salvation, but let me tell you that I’m in the process of being sanctified and it is a process.  My Lord is constantly working on me, changing me, molding me and shaping me into His image.  I have a long way to go, but I press on nevertheless.  I believe the key is striving – striving to be like Him. Of course I fall into sin on occasion, but my heart’s desire is to run from sin and to cling to my Lord. May we all be constantly pursuing holiness in spite of this sinful flesh and dark, dark world we live in.