He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Psalm 40:3a

Monday, June 29, 2015

Teaching The Children

          I met a young family the other day with two small boys.  The oldest is about to begin Kindergarten.  I asked him, “Are you ready to start school?”  He looked at me, not sure how to respond when mom chimed in and said, “We’re going to homeschool!”  I was elated!  Now that may sound kind of odd, but as I see our public school system decline every year, it seems more and more logical, and likely, that we’ll see a greater trend of this!

           As parents we are commanded in the Bible to teach our children.  Home is where they learn values, behaviors, and manners, honesty, justice, determination, consideration, and love.  It is in this environment learning is easiest and most productive.  We can build on what they already know and deepen the values they need to learn. 

            Children supply us with unique opportunities to teach all day long.  God teaches us to teach our children His truths.  Jewish families often recited Deuteronomy 6:1-9 in the form of prayer twice daily, which provided the means where children could memorize the scripture which serves as the groundwork for all other learning. 1

            There are many reasons to consider homeschooling.  As parents who take sole responsibility of their children’s education, many believe a home environment provides for a better education than one obtained in public school, given student behavioral problems, tradition, and religious objections to what is being taught, while given the freedom to instruct in the way of religious beliefs.  Additionally, there are times when family issues, transportation or even a child who has a special needs, can be dealt with more effectively in a home environment, than if in a public classroom.  And sometimes a classroom environment does not adequately challenge a child and here again, home schooling offers another option!

Our first three children, all daughters, were enrolled and graduated from a public school system and did very well.  Our boys also began in this environment, and while also doing very well academically, actually asked to be homeschooled!  About a year later, we finally took the challenge when our oldest son was entering tenth grade and youngest son entered seventh. 

I will admit to being somewhat intimidated by the adventure but forged ahead after prayerful consideration.  It turned out to be an incredibly wonderful experience!  During the second year of homeschooling, my husband ended up retiring and we were able to add the benefit of traveling to our son’s education. This was fabulous!  Not only were we able to focus their education on their interests, but literally take them to the places they were studying!  This completely enhanced the learning experience.

I understand not everyone can be in the situation we were in, but the door is open to so many other interesting opportunities, which creates interested participants, in this kind of learning environment.  While teaching our children the basics and necessary fundamentals required for a solid educational background, we were also able to teach our children what we believe is important in our faith, to our country and society, in communication and values which will serve them the rest of their lives. 

Now all that said, I also recognize not everyone or family is suited for homeschooling.  But I encourage you to at least look at the option.  Our public school system, in many ways is failing our children, as laws are passed regarding what they must learn, as well as laws for those subjects they cannot learn, or even be discussed. 

Monday, June 22, 2015

Remembering The "Address" of Scripture!

         It seems the older I get the more I seem to forget things!  I forget where I’ve put my keys, what was on my list, the name of the person I met just this morning, or if I’ve taken something out for dinner tonight!  While it’s true age seems to have some affect on our memory skills for daily chores or even living, there is one area where remembering, if we allow it to be, can be huge gift; remembering the Word of God!

          I am the first to admit memorizing scripture is as difficult as it seems to get, for my brain!  It seems no matter how hard I try, remembering the “address” of scripture just seems to allude me.  That said, it doesn’t mean I don’t know the scriptures.  I just seem unable to quote it verbatim and know where to find it!  That frustrates me!

            But what is really important for us to remember?  God wants us to remember what he has done for us, and tells us so in Deuteronomy 6.  A friend shares the story of how he was waiting for surgery not real long ago and, like for most of us, waiting was not an easy or pleasant task.  His mind contemplated the very idea of being put “under,” and raced with all kinds of questions like what will happen on the operating table? What happens if the doctor makes a mistake? And what happens if something goes wrong? Still, while his mind toyed with his stomach, God provided on the table beside him a Gideon Bible.  He opened it to Paul’s prayer about being relieved of “the thorn in his side.”  God told Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you.”  God told my friend “While you’re asleep, I will be awake!”

            God tells us to be careful to not forget His words and commands.  It’s safe to say, however,  as a society, we are forgetting God as the events of our world lean more and more away from God and to materialism, Satanism and ugliness like I've never seen!  The Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey said, “Christianity is one generation away from extinction.”  That may sound unlikely, but think of it.  The Bible shares the story in 2 Kings where Josiah worked to change the mindset of the people, rebuilt the temple and the people remembered God.  Yet the story continues to describe one generation after his death, “no one remembered the Lord.”  This was only fifty-five years!

            Can you imagine what our world would be like if in fifty-five years no one spoke the Word of God, read His Word, worshipped and fellowshipped together? The years from Adam to Noah only left eight souls who believed.  We need to be like Josiah in 2 Kings and create a "Josiah generation" ....now!  It’s our responsibility to remember, rebuild and share the word.  We need to remember what God did and be excited about what He is going to do in the future.  We should never be content with where we are now, but be filled with the desire to do more and move forward.

          Like those great Biblical heroes we know and love who did the work God gave them to do, we need to recognize we are also called to do a work.  Everyone has something of value and worth to share with a neighbor, a friend, relative, or a stranger.  Even if we can’t remember the “address” of the scripture, God promises to put the words in our mind and mouths when we depend on Him as we share His Gospel.   It is what we are commanded to do.  Do you hear God calling?  Are you the beginning of a "Josiah Generation?"

Monday, June 15, 2015

Down A Bad Road

 Joash became king when he was just seven years old; a child with much to learn!  He had been hidden for his first six years.  The mother of the previous king, who was angry because of her son’s death, threatened his life.  She became vindictive and revengeful, wanting nothing more than destroy the “seed of Judah.”  But God had a plan.  He had promised the Messiah would be from “the seed of David.” 

 Because of this forced seclusion, Joash grew under the competent tutelage of the Priest Jehoiada who loved the Lord!  This became a very positive influence on Joash that enabled him to lead in the way of The Lord all the years Jehoida lived.  But something happened after the Priest died.  Satan used the princes to distort what Joash had learned, causing Joash to execute the man who would have become the next king.  He let his guard down, turned his back on the God he had served and chose to go down a bad road.

            I know a young woman who years ago made the decision to go down a road her parents cautioned against.  The road brought a whirlwind of pain, sorrow, discontent, tears, and upheaval on several fronts and just plain misery to all parties involved.  Even now, those choices still haunt her family.

No one deliberately makes bad choices.  At decision time, the person is often caught up in themselves so they become self-serving or angered about something so they become vindictive. Sometimes they or confused because they’ve been given bad advice.  Satan is really good at putting people in our paths to give bad advice.  He places his “demon angels” in strategic places when he knows our vulnerability.  This vulnerability is very apparent when we hedge a little on the truth, doubt God’s Word, allow peer pressure to alter what we know is right, or make us desire things or people we are not supposed to have!

Now the idea of having someone killed seems very dramatic.  Yet, King David did the very same thing when he wanted Bathsheba!  And David was considered “a man after God’s own heart!”  He was a noble man who loved God, served and worshipped him, yet even he made a bad choice.  He paid the price, as well, as we all do when we sin.  It’s inevitable.  David was repentant, but he still had to deal with the consequences.

          Sarah made a bad choice when she told Abraham to go to Hagar when she doubted she could have a child.  Lot chose the land of Sodom and Gomorrah, Aaron allowed the people to bring all their gold and make a golden calf, Jonah chose to not go to Ninevah, the Prodigal son chose to collect his inheritance and go to another land, Judas chose thirty pieces of silver to betray Jesus, and there are others; godly people who made bad choices. 

        Do you think this could never happen to you?  Are you certain you would never do anything so horrible as any of the mentioned bad choices?  Satan is all around us and has many guises and ways to tempt us in ways we might never imagine.  What road will you take?  To whom will you listen?

Monday, June 8, 2015

The Road To Service

           The Pastor gave the invitation to the congregation.  Several young people made their way to the altar.  Giving their hearts to The Lord, one of the young women looked at the Pastor and said, “I want to become a missionary.” 

            “I believe I would like to become a Pastor, said another.”

            And a third said,  “I would like to start a tutoring project for unprivileged children in the area.

            This scene is hard to imagine, yet years ago, this was not an uncommon occurrence when people came into the fold.  They realized accepting Christ also meant accepting responsibility to minister.

            After Jesus met with his disciples and other believers on the shore He prepared breakfast for the disciples who were out fishing.  There before the other disciples Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved him.  Peter was “grieved” that Jesus asked the question more than once, especially after Peter assured Jesus he did.  Jesus was sharing about agape love, a love which sacrifices and loves an enemy even when our humanness tells us that is wrong.  Jesus wanted Peter to recognize if he accepted the commission before him, his journey was going to rough and rugged and would need a man who knew exactly where he stood with the Lord and committed to obedience.

            We go to church every Sunday, maybe Sunday night and even on Wednesday night, but if we just attend services are we being a participant or non-committed observer?  Just as Jesus commissioned the disciples to “go out and minister,” so we are commissioned. 

            We can reject this commission, but we lose.  We lose the relationship we could have had with Christ. We miss the blessings that come with obedience.  We lose the opportunity to plant seeds, or lead someone to salvation and we cheat ourselves of rewards when we finally see Jesus.

            Abraham was a man of faith.  After God gave him and Sarah a son, Isaac, God asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac.  As Abraham led Isaac up the mountain, surely he had questions, yet he pressed on.  The very idea of imparting harm to your child is enough to make a parent shudder.  When asked to take the life of your child, from a human perspective, it’s unthinkable.  Still he climbed the mountain.  God provided the sacrifice in Isaac's place, because Abraham believed.  God also asked Abraham to pack up and leave the country where he was born and all he had ever known.  Yet, without hesitation, Abraham packed up and journeyed to a country unknown to him. Abraham was called to a specific mission and he obeyed, and because of his obedience was rewarded beyond measure.

            We are all called to some kind of mission.  It may be as simple as praying for the sick, taking the shut in to the doctor, singing in the choir, or leading a specific ministry.  It may be more demanding like teaching a class, pastoring a church or even becoming a missionary. 

            What is important, however is that we recognize when Jesus calls us, listening to His instruction and then stepping out on faith in obedience and follow where He leads us.  We will never be disappointed when we do this.  It doesn’t mean there won’t be trials or tests along the way.  But if God brings us to it, He will get us through it and the blessings waiting for us will be greater than any inconvenience or problems we could ever encounter.

            I challenge you to be still, listen for His voice, obey His calling and know that He will never, never lead you down a road where He will not be right beside you.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Look Past Your Handicaps And See!

At a campground church service out West, we were treated to music led by a family that played lots of musical instruments.  They sounded like they could be from Tennessee, using fiddles, dobro, acoustic guitar and accordion.  The message was about being thankful for your “handicaps” and making the best of it.  They focused, as musicians on the hymn-song writer, Fannie Crosby (1820-1915), who wrote over 8,000 hymns, who had become blind when just little baby through a series of events beginning with an eye infection. 
There’s a story about a minister who in conversation with Ms. Crosby, shared he sympathized with her condition.  Her response must have surprised him:  "Do you know that if at birth I had been able to make one petition, it would have been that I should be born blind?"  When the minister asked why, her response: "Because when I get to heaven, the first face that shall ever gladden my sight will be that of my Savior!"1
            So what is a handicap, really?   Is it just a physical symptom, or can it be something we create, that works in the pit, where we find ourselves?  Can it be an abuse situation where one partner continually puts the other one down?  Can it be pride so intense and destructive, it gets in the way of doing what is good and right and trusting God for the situations in our lives?
            Restricted eyesight for the human is a handicap most would choose not to have, yet Fannie Crosby considered it a blessing.  Frogs also have a unique perception to vision.  The frog’s optical ability allows for only images that directly affect him, (like a natural enemy) or for food necessary for survival.  Their “optical power” eliminates distractions of any other kind.2 
            We get so distracted by the material things of this world, our drive for success, our particular circumstance and what we consider “handicaps,” we often lose sight of what is important.  We become like the frog, with restricted eyesight, and unable to see past what is right in front of us.
           Fannie Crosby rose above her “handicap” and served in an incredible capacity.  It is entirely possible you are in a situation where you believe your “gift” cannot be used because it is unimportant, or you haven’t had the education to do it well.  Or perhaps you simply feel unworthy of using the gift God’s given you. 
            We all have excuses!  Our world has nurtured a society who finds it easy to blame someone else for our failures.  There are troubled childhoods, financial difficulties, relationship problems, substance abuse, living in the wrong geographical area or a hundred others!  The truth of the matter is no one has a perfect life!  There is no perfect body, home, mind, relationship, childhood, or work environment!  We live in a world of challenges.  It’s how you choose to respond to the challenges that is important!
I challenge you to reconsider, without excuses!  Fannie Crosby was able to use her handicap to see past what most people can see and become an amazing song writer!  She saw with her heart a God who was real and personal.  Can you also see with your heart?  What great gift has God given you?  Look past your handicaps and see!

2 http://odb.org/2004/10/28/the-frogs-blackboard