Education And The Bible


student-peter-hersheyFor weeks a number of people have picketed and posted against President Trump’s choice for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos. People have mocked her, belittled her, and cast insinuations that she’s corrupt. Take, for example, the meme that found its way on Facebook, comparing Ms. DeVos to the fictitious Dolores Umbridge who abused her students and her power in one of J. K. Rawling’s Harry Potter books.

The great cry from those who actually say something intelligent on the subject is that Ms. DeVos will be bad for public education here in the US. First she has no experience in the field of education, and second, she’s been a supporter of charter schools—also funded publicly and therefore, also part of the public education system.

There are reasons for the friction between traditionally public and public charter schools. Generally those can be broken down into two categories: who gets the money and who has the power? Some chafe at the idea that “school factories” run by corporations might get their hands on education. I get that. I’m not particularly happy about it either, especially when I watch some of the self-serving twaddle that passes as “news” or “pre-game coverage” (here’s looking at you, Fox).

Will our kids’ schools start selling naming rights for their mascot? Wearing advertisement slogans on the sports jerseys? Ugh. The possibilities are a bit frightening.

But, the schools here in California are a mess as it is. We may not get the corporate party line, but we do get the welfare state party line. Meanwhile, kids in the inner cities fall further and further behind. Further, they’re exposed to gang violence and threats, drug abuse, sexual promiscuity, and all kinds of other activities that anywhere else would be labeled, Not age appropriate.

But they can’t get out. Their parents don’t have the money to send them to a private school or the wherewithal to get them to a charter school or the time and expertise to homeschool them. So in the public school system they stay.

What, if anything, does the Bible say about education?

Not a lot. Some mention is made of groups of prophets—the New English Translation (NET) calls them prophetic guilds—which might be thought of as training grounds for prophets.

Although no specific mention is made of education, we know that Moses was schooled in the courts of Pharaoh because Pharaoh’s daughter took him to be her son. He would therefore have received whatever training any of the other royal children received.

In various passages in the Old Testament, God commanded His people to instruct their children in the way of the Lord. Here are a few:

“what great nation is there that has statutes and judgments as righteous as this whole law which I am setting before you today?

“Only give heed to yourself and keep your soul diligently, so that you do not forget the things which your eyes have seen and they do not depart from your heart all the days of your life; but make them known to your sons and your grandsons. (Deut. 5:8-9; emphasis added here and in the following verses).

These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. (Deut. 6:6-7)

Psalm 78 is a little more specific:

We will not conceal them [the things “we have heard and known”] from their children,
But tell to the generation to come the praises of the LORD,
And His strength and His wondrous works that He has done.
For He established a testimony in Jacob
And appointed a law in Israel,
Which He commanded our fathers
That they should teach them to their children,
That the generation to come might know, even the children yet to be born,
That they may arise and tell them to their children,
That they should put their confidence in God
And not forget the works of God,
But keep His commandments, (vv 4-7a)

In short, God’s instruction was for the parents to teach their children the Law and the history of Israel—God’s work of redemption that brought them to the Promised Land.

Other references to education in the Bible include Daniel and his friends who were taken into the Babylonian court. The king instructed his chief of officials “to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans.” Which he did, though Scripture credits God for their accomplishments: “As for these four youths, God gave them knowledge and intelligence in every branch of literature and wisdom” (see Daniel 1 for this and the previous quote).

In summary, a few individuals had the opportunity for what we might consider a formal education, but God put parents in charge of the spiritual education of every child.

I say, spiritual education, but God’s work in the history of Israel was foundational, and it was their history that parents were to pass on to their children, along with the Law and the commandments.

This parental instruction is reinforced in many verses in Proverbs. Parents are instructed to train up a child in the way he should go, and children are admonished to heed the instruction of their fathers.

In the New Testament, we see this idea continued. Paul commends Timothy’s mother and grandmother, for instance, for their example of faith which Timothy shared. Timothy, who had a Greek dad, saw the faith of his mom and his grandma, and Paul saw this same faith in this young man. Paul doesn’t come right and say these women taught him spiritual things, but the implication is plain.

Paul also instructed the dads in the church in Ephesus to “not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4).

Discipline and instruction. The two go hand in hand. So in Hebrews 12:4ff the writer compares God’s disciple of His people with a father’s discipline of his son. Though it may seem sorrowful for a moment, the end game is “the peaceful fruit of righteousness.”

In some ways homeschooling seems to more closely mirror the kind of instruction people in the Bible received, but God did not endorse a particular educational style. He did put parents in charge of what their children were to learn. Whether that means they are to take a hands on approach in all matters or only in spiritual matters, they are to be a part of the process.

But does this involvement in education extend beyond the things of God? Again, Scripture doesn’t prescribe what or how the rest of their education was to take place.

We know that Paul, a strict, traditional Jew, sat under the instruction of Gamaliel. In fact scribes likely had places of learning where they penned the many copies of the Torah. On the other hand, the Pharisees referred to Peter as an unlearned man. He clearly did learn, but not in a formal setting. He learned largely at the feet of Jesus.

Not a bad place to start. Scripture tells us the fear of the Lord is the beginning both of wisdom and knowledge. And Scripture tells us parents are to instruct, train, discipline, all with the goal to bring up children in the way of the Lord.

In the end we can argue about the different educational programs and systems, but if parents neglect their responsibility, the programs and systems won’t matter. First the parents must own their responsibility and take whatever role they need to take to give oversight to their child’s learning.

There’s more I can say on the subject, but I’ll leave it here for now: Parents, part of parenting is doing the “passing down to your sons and daughters the things they need to know” work—that’s a long way of saying, teach your kids what is right. 😉

Where Are We Going?


I_love_my_trans_child_I have serious concerns for America, for the human race, and even for the Church. Where are we headed?

In the western world we’ve discovered eastern thought, and in the East, Christianity is growing by leaps and bounds. That gives me hope, it really does. But what I see in my own country, not so much.

There’s the political mess we’re in this election cycle. Please God, by His mercy, we might still have a candidate who will not make the mess worse, but if things continue to go as they are, the likelihood is that we’ll have either a fascist, a socialist or a possible felon for President. Happy days.

Of course, what’s dominating our thought—other than music and TV and movies and movie stars and sports, is bathrooms! Behind the issue is the acceptance of the transgender community which is a niche in the whole LGBT coalition.

The really troubling aspect, to me, is not that men will be in women’s bathrooms or women in men’s (though I tend to think not so many women-changed-to men will actually be a problem in the men’s bathrooms since they aren’t going to be shoulder to shoulder with guys at the urinal). Rather it’s the randomness of our rational for these “I feel like a woman, therefore I am a woman” identity issues.

Some of the same people who cry loudly that a person’s gender identity is how they feel inside will also cry loudly that evolution is real science and that supporting creation is “junk science.” They’ll also cry loudly that global warming is a Real Thing, with Scientific Proof! And that God does not exist (because we can’t see him).

The randomness comes from the selective use of physical evidence. Is not a person’s genitalia scientific evidence of gender? Why do some people trust in science when it comes to an unprovable theory like evolution but completely ignore it when it comes to gender identity?

The gender identity issue is not a small thing. It attacks the fundamentals of humanity. Scripture tells us that God created humans, male and female. But we, in our superior, I’m-better-than-god mindset think we can improve on what he made, if we don’t like it. Instead of teaching young people that God “don’t make no junk,” we have been sending out the word that girls have to be skinnier, men more muscular, white people tanner, nobody with gray hair (unless you’re eighty, and then only if you want to stop the hassle and expense of coloring your hair) or bald, and on and on. In other words, accepting who we are as we came out of the womb is pretty much unheard of.

That same kind of thinking has simply expanded. First, we did plastic surgery to fix the features we didn’t like, and now it’s hormone therapy and sex-transformation surgery.

This is not solving a problem. It’s creating a bigger one. Kids don’t know who they are, to the point that they no longer know what bathroom to use. And we give them the answer that we’ll simply let them choose or we’ll make a neutral bathroom for those who don’t feel like they fit in the silly binary bathrooms we have now.

My heart breaks for kids today who don’t know who they are. Their gender identity search is simply a symptom of their larger confusion. They don’t know where they belong or if they belong.

Kids—people—have always needed to belong, needed to feel secure and loved, needed to have purpose. Parents ought to be the first place where children have those needs met, but because parents aren’t perfect, they won’t be met perfectly. Friends meet those needs to a lesser degree, and spouses perhaps more so. But none can do so perfectly, and many a marriage goes through rocky times simply because one spouse or the other had expectations that their needs would be perfectly met, only to wake up to reality.

As a result of all the confusion, kids today seem to be growing up like weeds. Well, honey, what do you want to wear today to preschool? Well, honey, what gender do you want to be when you go to middle school?

Really, parents?

Where are you?

Parents don’t parent any more because they’ve been brainwashed into believing that there are no absolutes. So if Johnny doesn’t want to share his toys, well, they are his and we can’t violate what he wants to do (because apparently one of the few absolutes is that we are to allow everyone to do what they want, unless they’re bent on harming others physically; emotionally has yet to be determined).

So instead of Johnny learning to think of others and not just himself, he has parents who validate his selfishness. He never learns impulse control or empathy for others. He simply buys into the philosophy of bullies everywhere: if I want it, I take it.

We are a confused people because we have lost our moral compass. God said, do this one thing I’m telling you to do, and we can’t even manage that. Why? Because we want to be the boss. We don’t want to be second, even to God. We want what we want when we want it, and God isn’t going to stop us. We’ll simply believe him out of existence.

If things were left up to us, it would be hopeless. But praise God, He has come to rescue us from the dominion of darkness.

But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:4-7, emphasis mine)

So where are we going? God has made the way for us through Jesus Christ our Savior to have eternal life. But to claim the gift of salvation we have to be clear about our identity: we are sinners coming to God, not on the basis of anything we’ve done but completely dependent upon what Christ has done for us. When we get that part of our identity cleared up, the rest will start to fall into place.

New Clothes


Some years ago we had a guest speaker at our church—Tim Coulombe, who happens to be the son of one of our pastors. He told a true story that illustrates a critical point that we Christians need to grasp.

Tim and his wife adopted a little girl named Tsion from Ethiopia, and went to pick her up. This little seven year old walked away from her orphanage with a small Ziplock bag containing the pictures and letters Tim and his family had sent her and the clothes on her back. Nothing more.

They went to the guest house where they were staying and where the Coulombes had a suitcase full of new clothes they’d bought for their new daughter, all just her size. Under the guidance of her new sister, Tsion bathed and shampooed her hair while Tim unpacked the new clothes and lay them out for her to choose from.

To the Coulombes’ shock, instead of picking out any of the new things, Tsion pulled on her old, tattered, dirty clothes. That’s all she knew, all she identified with as being hers.

What a picture of a Christian adopted by our Heavenly Father, laying out for us the new clothes He wants us to wear. Put aside all malice, Peter says, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all slander (see I Peter 2:1).

Put aside anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech, Paul says in Colossians (see 3:8).

These and other rags are our old clothes, the things God wants us to get rid of because He has brand new clothes for us to put on, beautiful things that will mark us as His children: compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, love, unity, forgiveness.

See, for example, what Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus:

Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Eph 4:1-3)

But here’s the reason why:

we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ,

Because we’re no longer orphans, we can put on the new clothes God has for us:

in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. (Eph 4:22-24)

The question is, will we? From now on, I suspect I’ll think of Tsion when I read verses like these in Scripture. Her choice is my choice. Do I want to wear the new clothes provided for me by my Heavenly Father or the filthy rags of my self-righteousness and sin?

This post first appeared here in July 2012.

Published in: on March 31, 2016 at 7:13 pm  Comments (3)  
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Love Without Standards


daddy-loves-me-648389-mThe word “love” and the word “hate” have been bandied about a great deal of late. The Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage is supposedly a triumph for “love,” while those who call homosexual activity sin are said to “hate.” But what do people mean by these words? Once I would have thought the meanings self-evident, but not any more. Blogger Matt Walsh pointed this out in a recent post which he started by quoting from recent comments he’d received:

    Bella: the Supreme Court matters more than some bigot with a sh*tty blog and ugly kids. Try again
    Anthony: Oh Matt, you are a perfect assh*le… Take your worthless version of the bible, and set yourself on fire. That would make my Sunday:)
    Marc: Matt Walsh is a F**king MORON!
    Steven: F**k you, you f**king worthless douche.
    Maria: Matt you really are a piece of sh*t.
    Brian: The world would be so much better off with you.
    Matthew: Go f**k yourself, Walsh. You not only are a bigot, but you ignore facts and twist and distort truths to make your false point. It’s a common tactic I see from people like you. Equality wins out, bigot.

    Remember, #LoveWins.

There’s nothing like being called a bigoted pile of garbage in the first sentence and being told in the next that love has won. Indeed, you know love has emerged victorious when a bunch of liberals are screaming in your face, calling your children ugly, and urging you to kill yourself.

O-o-o-k-k-ay! Whatever else you think of Matt Walsh, or if you’ve never heard of him before, he has a point here.

Saying “love” in the context of calling someone names and wishing them a painful death does not convince me that any of those commenters understands what love actually is. Rather, the way people seem to be using the term, I’m more reminded of the way toddler-type children behave than of true love. You know, it’s the I-see-it-and-want-it-so-I-should-have-it syndrome. But now society agrees because “love” is involved.

But love without standards is simply selfishness.

Parents, of course, are the best example of love. When their infant cries in the middle of the night, one parent gets up to feed the little helpless bundle. There’s no return for this sacrifice. The baby doesn’t thank the parent and undoubtedly won’t even remember that it ever happened. But a parent who doesn’t care for such basic necessities is guilty of neglect. There are no feelings here. Only other-needs and sacrifice.

No parent will get away with saying, I didn’t feel like getting up and feeding my baby so I stuck a sock in his mouth to keep him from waking me up with his crying.

In the same way, it’s not OK for a parent to say, I want my child to experience life, so there are no rules. If the toddler wants to stuff rocks up his nose, he can. If he wants to flush his sister’s stuffed pony down the toilet, he can. If he wants to jump into the backyard swimming pool, he can.

In actual fact, a loving parent will say no to these things. It is not loving to let a child handle dangerous things in a dangerous way or to do dangerous activities. True love means setting loving standards.

This principle works for husbands and wives as well. A loving husband won’t disappear with his buddies for a week or two, then show up at home as if nothing had happened. A loving wife doesn’t say she wants to have a second husband along with the first one. Husbands and wives may not always “feel the love,” but that doesn’t give them the license to act as if they are not married. If either of them acts as if they’re single, the other one is bound to conclude, you don’t love me. No one would be surprised if divorce followed.

Love has standards.

Sometimes those standards are for the good of the relationship and sometimes they are for the good of the other person. A husband who loves his wife won’t want to see her keep smoking. He knows she’s putting her health at risk, and he wants to see her get rid of the habit.

Of course, when it comes to adults, no one can make another grownup behave in a responsible, sensible way. But love has standards: if you love me, you won’t ignore me; if you love me, you won’t leave me if I get fired; if you love me, you’ll get help with your gambling problem.

Most of these standards are clearly understood, though some couples have standards certain people think are strange while others are so lax with their standards, those same certain people are left shaking their heads. In other words, the standards aren’t universally set. What is universal, however, is that standards exist.

People have some benchmark that shows their love, and often this benchmark puts limits on the other person. Without limits, there really is no love. No one says, I love you, so you can do whatever you want. You want to rob a bank? Sure, go for it. You want to jump out of a plane without a parachute? Hey, I love you too much to stop you. You want to sleep with prostitutes night after night, with no condom and still sleep with me? Well, I love you, so of course I’m fine with that.

Love without standards is no love at all!

And yet any number of people are horrified that Christians believe God loves us any other way. Your god is hateful, they say, because he tells you who you can or can’t love. Well, yes, He does, not because He’s hateful, but because He loves us.

He knows that letting us do whatever is not healthy. He wants the best for us, and out of His love gives us guidance so that we can find what is good and right and best. He not only gives us guidance, He gives us help and strength to say no when we need to—though we still manage to go our own way too often, and suffer the consequences He warned us about.

Slowly, as we mature, we accept God’s standards as evidence of His love for us. He’s actually pretty clear about those standards:

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. (1 Cor. 13:4-8a, ESV)

Peace And Blue Christmas


christmas-background-2-1408232-mMy church is holding a special service to address the needs of those who enter the Christmas season with heavy hearts. I understand that our culture can project unrealistic expectations which may cause some to be aware more keenly that they will never have a Hallmark Christmas.

The truth is, we’re all in that predicament. I mean which of us has 2.5 perfect children? 😉

Because we live in an imperfect world with other imperfect humans, we have to expect conflict and things not going our way. We have to expect some sadness, maybe loneliness, and disappointment.

Grown children don’t visit enough or call as often as their parents wish. Grown children watch their parents grow feeble and die, and wish they had called more or visited more.

We have wonderful things to enjoy in this world—it really is a beautiful, majestic place—and yet there are atheist sponsored billboards with a message about children wishing they didn’t have to go to church. And there are actual children wishing they didn’t have to go to church. I was one of those more often than I like to admit.

We have a host of people who will be dissatisfied with their Christmas celebration and another host dissatisfied that their Christmas break isn’t longer or that they have to wait 364 days before Christmas rolls around again.

Blue. It’s more a wonder that we aren’t all blue and in need of a special service teaching us how to get through this merry season. The thing is, the more we talk about how understandable it is that some are sad or lonely or needy or discouraged, and Merry Christmas is hard for them, the more I think we’re creating blue Christmas.

Christmas, after all, isn’t supposed to be a celebration of family—as wonderful as family is—or a season of bright lights and evergreen trees, of carols and bells, of eggnog and candy canes. All those are fun, beautiful, tasty. Traditions are great! But none of those things are what Christmas is about.

Or, let’s say, it’s not what Christmas has to be. For the Christian, Christmas is a day that gives us a chance to celebrate Christ’s first coming. If you think about it, there has never been anything so long anticipated than Christ’s coming.

So celebrate we should! I mean, the celebration of a follower of Jesus Christ should be filled with hilarity.

The long-expectant One came, as God promised. He who brought healing and hope and restoration made it here! It’s a done deal—the great move to abolish all the reasons for a blue Christmas has happened in the most unexpected, surprising way imaginable.

And by coming once, He gives us assurance that He will come again, as He said.

The peace, then, which we all can enjoy is that found only in the Prince of Peace. He is our peace.

So here’s what that means. Jews, Gentiles, men, women, those with an eastern thought pattern and those with a western one—we believers in Jesus Christ have been reconciled with God and now are part of His family. We have a new relationship with God, we’ve been renewed ourselves, and we have this new connection with all other believers.

Here’s how Paul explains it:

Now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility . . . So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. (Eph. 2: 13-14; 19-22, ESV, emphasis added)

So no matter what our individual external circumstances look like, we’re not alone, we have a forever family, we have a unique unity and purpose, we belong and are secure—all because Christ is our peace, the Christ who came as a child to the declaration of those angels—peace among men with whom He is pleased.

I’d say that’s cause for a Merry Christmas!

Kids Don’t Have To Rebel


brother-and-sisterSo much talk these days is about millennials leaving the church. I know of one individual raised in a Christian home who went off to high-profile university and came back after four years disavowing Christianity. I know of a number of others who went to Christian schools through high school only to choose a lifestyle in contradiction of what they’d been taught. One such person living with her boyfriend says she still loves Jesus. She just doesn’t have time for church. Or apparently the things of the Bible.

But is this kind of attrition inevitable? Are Christian parents raising kids with little more than a flip-of-the-coin certainty that what they’re teaching will stick?

I watched literally hundreds of kids march through the Christian schools where I taught, and I have to say, parents have much better odds that their kids will follow the faith they’ve been taught if two things can be avoided and two things established.

First, parents should NOT try to shelter their kids from the world. First, it’s nearly a futile effort. I grew up in a Christian home but attended public schools. I shied away from talking with my parents about a number of things because I didn’t want to shock THEM. Because of their standards, and the fact that they didn’t raise hard issues, I was naive enough to think they were naive.

I just saw a posting on Facebook about one of these movie rating sites, a spoof actually. But the reality is, there are sites that count the number of “questionable words,” detail every taste of alcohol, every puff of cigarette smoke, or whatever “unsafe” thing might be in the movie.

What a mistake! Kids know people drink, do drugs, have illicit sex, and much more. Or if they don’t, they will as soon as they go away to college. Then what? They’ll be on their own trying to make sense of the unsafe world they’ve been shielded from.

discussionFar better if parents would sit down with their kids and say, I know this movie shows a hero taking vengeance by killing the person he was supposed to arrest. What do you think about that? What do you think God’s word says about that? How would God want us to handle evil people?

Parents simply miss teaching moments because they’re too busy focusing on the peripherals and not addressing the why’s and wherefore’s.

In contrast, other parents take a hands-off approach, a “I’ll let them make up their own mind” attitude. It’s the spiritual equivalent of teaching kids to swim by throwing them into the pool.

There are some parents who don’t go quite that far. Rather, they turn their child’s spiritual education over to a church or Christian school. The truth is, however, kids learn a lot more from example than they do from didactic instruction.

They learn best where there is example with didactic instruction supporting it, from church and home and school.

So one of the things that parents can establish is a lifestyle they want their children to emulate. If they want them to read the Bible regularly, go to church on Sunday, be involved in a ministry, love their neighbors, forgive people who offend them, and more, then the first thing parents need to do is to model every single one of those.

Impossible, I know. But there’s an important part of this modeling: when parents blow it, they can teach as much to their children by admitting their sin and asking forgiveness. That speaks volumes about how seriously they take living what they profess.

The second thing parents can establish is regular pray with and for their children. Nothing is more powerful. Nothing. When we pray, we are not dropping our quarters into the God machine to get whatever we want. We’re not buying into the God-lotto either—sometimes with our numbers coming up and sometimes not.

No. Prayer is our admission that we are dependent people who need God. Not just as an add-on. We need Him like we need oxygen or functioning brainwaves or a heart that pumps blood. We actually need Him more, because when this life is over, He will still be there. And who else are we going to depend on then?

How critical that we learn to depend on Him completely now! How critical that we teach our children that we are not self-sufficient except for the few big things that seem out of our control, like a hurricane or cancer.

We’ve gotten away from asking God—really asking Him and meaning it—for our daily bread. We don’t need God for our daily bread, we think. We can always buy it from the grocery store.

Except there’s the matter of money, which we get from a job, which we get from the skills and abilities we have and perhaps the people we know and the openings we hear about and the interviews we successfully navigate, and . . . well, I hope you see the point. We think it’s all up to us, but there are so many more factors that God, in His great mercy engineers for us. And, walla! We have food on the table.

How important that kids see parents dependent upon God.

So, did I ever do the rebellion thing? I did not. I think my parents tried to shield me, so you might think I should have rebelled. But they did the other three pretty well.

Let’s face it. Kids still have to accept Christ and decide to follow Him with their whole hearts, no matter what parents do. But I am pretty confident that shielding kids and trying to create “safe” without the other three will probably push them into the rebellion the parents want to spare them.

If you think about the people that Jesus reached with the gospel, there weren’t a lot of people who’d been raised in a safe environment protected from the evils of the world. There were prostitutes, at least one thief, corrupt tax collectors, sick people considered unclean by society and the religious establishment, a militant terrorist, people who’d been demon-possessed. Christ Himself said He came to save the lost, so any safe, “found people” weren’t really in need of Him.

But that’s what we ought to be helping our kids realize: no matter what our outward circumstances, we are in need of a Savior. If, instead, we teach them they can control their own environment and make the world a better place, at least for themselves and their own, we will be pushing them out of the church.

The church is not a safe place. It’s a place where broken people congregate to swap stories of how they got rescued and patched up. It’s a place they can gush about the One who got them out of the kingdom of darkness and into the Light.

Time, I think, for parents to put to bed the notion that they can keep their kids safe. They can’t for one thing. But God can. So asking Him to do so seems like the first step, not the last recourse.

Blessings on those movie reviewers, but I also think it’s time to put them to bed and let parents engage their kids rather than outsourcing their application of Scripture to pop culture. Parents need to think through why they believe what they believe and articulate that to their children. Saying, “It got a 2 on moral values at XXX review site,” doesn’t train a child in the way he should go. Rather, it delays his engagement with the culture. And that state, like being freed from demon possession only to have seven other demons take up residence, is worse than before.

Do Good And Evil Exist?


ThroughthescopeI think people with a theistic worldview understand that good and evil exist–evil being the absence of good. However, in this present day and age, more and more people have bought into the idea that the concept of evil is the only real evil.

Everything else in human behavior which is undesirable simply needs to be bathed in education. Those who do horrific things, like shoot kindergartners in their classroom or plan to gun down their fellow students in college, simply haven’t benefited from a proper upbringing in which they’ve been given what they need.

Basic psychology, we’re told, or “common” sense says that children simply need to receive proper care and instruction at the proper time, and they will be happy and productive citizens.

Mind you, I’m not knocking proper care and instruction. Every parent should give his child love and security along with provision for their basic human needs. Every child should be instructed about the things that will make them safe and will, in turn, help them keep others safe.

As good as education is, however, kids still do things they know could seriously harm them. And the older they are, the more apt they are to do these harmful things.

That seems counter intuitive. With all the education, these older kids should know better than to do drugs, smoke, have unprotected sex. But guess what? A lot of well-parented kids who never lacked love or any of the good things in life still go against their education.

The “evil is a myth” folks answer this fact by saying children are naturally curious, so of course, if a parent says no to a toddler who wants to stick her finger in the electric outlet, we can expect her not to listen because she is curious.

Given that rationale, I don’t understand what the point of “education” is. I mean, if a person knows the child won’t listen and must discover on her own, why don’t we forgo the wearisome instruction and let kids find out the hard way that drunk driving kills, gangs aren’t beneficial groups, and drugs are addictive.

I suspect with people like Lindsey Lohan we should simply be understanding: she needs to discover what’s healthy for her and what’s not.

The thing is, those who hold to the view that those like Ms. Lohan who do anti-social things, such as steal or drive drunk, simply needed to be properly nurtured and cared for as children, have no explanation how this “bad parenting” process began.

If humans are good and only in need of proper parenting, what caused the first bad parents to improperly provide for their children? Because clearly the teetering domino effect had to start somewhere. In this way of thinking, perfect parents, parenting perfectly, can’t produce imperfect kids.

And yet, somewhere along the line, children started doing unwholesome, even harmful, things. Which suggests there’s something inside the child herself that responds imperfectly.

Of course the Bible gives the clear explanation:

At one time I lived without understanding the law. But when I learned the command not to covet, for instance, the power of sin came to life, and I died. So I discovered that the law’s commands, which were supposed to bring life, brought spiritual death instead. Sin took advantage of those commands and deceived me; it used the commands to kill me. But still, the law itself is holy, and its commands are holy and right and good. But how can that be? Did the law, which is good, cause my death? Of course not! Sin used what was good to bring about my condemnation to death. So we can see how terrible sin really is. It uses God’s good commands for its own evil purposes. (Romans 7:9-13, New Living Translation – emphasis mine)

It’s not a lack of empathy or proper nurturing or instruction or maturity that causes people to do hateful things. It’s sin, that thing in the human heart that makes us want to do the very thing we’re told not to do.

Of course, without recognizing our sin, we have no realization of our need for a Savior, so getting this good and evil issue right is pivotal.

Published in: on March 20, 2013 at 7:19 pm  Comments (9)  
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New Clothes


Sunday our guest speaker, Tim Coulombe, who happens to be the son of one of our pastors, told a true story that illustrates a critical point that Christians need to grasp.

Tim and his wife adopted a little girl named Tsion from Ethiopia, and back in April went to pick her up. This little seven year old walked away from her orphanage with a small Ziplock bag containing the pictures and letters Tim and his family had sent her and the clothes on her back. Nothing more.

They went to the guest house where they were staying and where the Coulombes had a suitcase full of new clothes they’d bought for their new daughter, all just her size. Under the guidance of her new sister, Tsion bathed and shampooed her hair while Tim unpacked the new clothes and lay them out for her to choose from.

To the Coulombes’ shock, instead of picking out any of the new things, Tsion pulled on her old, tattered, dirty clothes. That’s all she knew, all she identified with as being hers.

What a picture of a Christian adopted by our Heavenly Father, laying out for us the new clothes He wants us to wear. Put aside all malice, Peter says, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all slander (see I Peter 2:1).

Put aside anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech, Paul says in Colossians (see 3:8).

These and other rags are our old clothes, the things God wants us to get rid of because He has brand new clothes for us to put on, beautiful things that will mark us as His children: compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, love, unity, forgiveness.

See, for example, what Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus:

Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Eph 4:1-3)

But here’s the reason why:

we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ,

Because we’re no longer orphans, we can put on the new clothes God has for us:

in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. (Eph 4:22-24)

The question is, will we? From now on, I suspect I’ll think of Tsion when I read verses like these in Scripture. Her choice is my choice. Do I want to wear the new clothes provided for me by my Heavenly Father or the filthy rags of my self-righteousness and sin?

Published in: on July 12, 2012 at 6:14 pm  Comments Off on New Clothes  
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Super Nanny And Moral Instruction


One way the Christian worldview differs from many other perspectives is in the area of human nature. In today’s humanistic Western culture, Mankind is viewed as good. It is society that teaches individuals to do wrong things. As a corollary, we say children are innocent and their reactions, pure.

On another site, in a tangential discussion to yesterday’s post, “Thoughts On President Obama’s Evolving View Of Marriage,” one commenter, in support of this idea, made the point that small children have a natural aversion to seeing a dog mistreated.

I’m not convinced. I’ve seen too many children pull a dog’s tail, sit on his back, bounce up and down, and grab hold of his ears.

There isn’t something innate that tells a child when he’s hurting someone or something. He does what he wants because he wants it. We are born with a selfish nature that puts us over God. We are prideful. We want to rule and we want to take.

God has ordained parents to teach children His moral standard.

You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deut. 6:7-9)

Throughout Scripture — in books of the Law, poetry, and the epistles — parents are admonished to teach their children the way of the Lord. Here’s a sampling:

For I have chosen him, so that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice (Genesis 18:19a)

We will not conceal them from their children,
But tell to the generation to come the praises of the Lord,
And His strength and His wondrous works that He has done. (Psalm 78:4)

Train up a child in the way he should go,
Even when he is old he will not depart from it. (Pro. 22:6)

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. (Eph. 6:4)

How far Western culture has come from this idea that parents are to teach, train, instruct their children.

A few years ago there was a TV program called Super Nanny. A British woman who served as a nanny would go into homes with unruly children and teach the mom and dad parenting skills. I have to admit, it was fascinating and horrifying.

Horrifying because of the way some parents let their children rule their home. They would throw things, hit each other, sometimes hit and curse at their parents, and too often they received no correction. Sometimes the correction was inconsistent, sometimes accompanied with empty threats. And the children learned little by little that they were in charge.

The fascinating part of the show was to watch the transformation, first of the parents, then of the children. Some of the adults really struggled with the idea that they could and should tell their children what to do rather than letting them have free rein (or is that reign? 😉 ). Some felt as if it wasn’t loving to tell them what to do. Some feared their children’s anger and were sure they would lose their love forever.

How shocked they were when the techniques Super Nanny taught actually began to bring a change in behavior — the children became happier, more loving, and obedient people, all because someone instructed them and corrected them.

The writer to the Hebrews elaborates on the discipline of parents as a way for us to understand the discipline of God.

God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. (Hebrews 12:7b-10)

Parental discipline as an extension of love is almost treated as a given in this passage. Today’s phenomenon of letting children figure out their own moral standards would have been unheard of in that day.

The ironic thing is that in our culture children most often want to follow after others outside the home in making their moral choices — the very thing today’s philosophy believes is tainted (children are good; society is the problem). You don’t hear kids saying, I thought about this and have come to the conclusion that this is right. No, their argument to their parent is still, But Mom, everyone else is doing it.

I was fortunate to have parents that answered that argument with the proverbial, If everyone was jumping off a bridge, would you follow?

Today we have parents who answer, Well, if everyone is doing it, then I certainly don’t want you to feel left out, so sure, I’ll change my attitude. I’ll let my moral beliefs evolve. After all, there is no authoritative right and wrong.

I can picture God’s response: Really?

Books Of Note – When Sparrows Fall


Another noteworthy book I want to bring to your attention is When Sparrows Fall (Multnomah Books) by Meg Moseley.

The Story.
Miranda is a widow with six children, dependent in part on the kindness of her church, a small, conservative group with a domineering pastor. When Brother Chandler decides to move the church and all its members to a nearby state, Miranda sees her opportunity to break away.

Before she can carry through, however, she experiences a severe fall.

Enter Jack Hanford, her deceased husband’s half brother whom Miranda met once. Unbeknown to anyone else, she made Jack the legal guardian of her children should something happen to her. Though she survived her fall, she is in no position to care for the children, let alone homeschool them as she has been doing.

When Jack receives notice of the situation, he makes arrangements to look out for the brood on a short term basis. They quickly win his heart. Learning that Miranda will need some time to recuperate, he gives notice at work that he’ll be taking a leave of absence, and moves in to the rustic, backward cabin.

And so begins the relational adventure that involves blackmail and secrets and a lot of change.

Strengths.
This is Meg Moseley’s debut novel, and I suspect readers will be hearing a lot more from her in the future. She is a talented writer.

In When Sparrows Fall, the language is rich, the scenes are vivid, the characters are true. In addition Meg has something she wants to communicate and does so clearly through the context of the story. Consequently, the best part of the book, in my opinion, is that it makes the reader think.

It’s also a delightful story with interesting twists and surprising events and an unpredictable outcome.

Meg paints each of the characters so truthfully, it feels as if I know these people. Here’s a short sample from a scene right after Jack first met the children:

[Jack] jumped as the front door banged open and shut. Michael and Gabriel raced outside so fast they might as well have had wings.

“Boys,” he hollered to their backs. “Don’t go far. Stay away from the cliffs.”

“Yes sir,” the archangels answered as one. They vanished around the corner of the house without slowing.

Jack took a moment to sort them out. Michael was the older of the two. Sturdy, freckled, and a bit resistant to schoolwork. Gabriel, six years old, had fewer freckles. He was thin, restless, full of energy.

Martha trotted outside, wearing a hooded gray cape over her long denim dress. Jack half expected to see elf slippers with curled-up toes, but she still wore those clunky clodhoppers.

“What are you up to, Miss Martha?”

“Picking violets.” She hopped down the steps, making a racket.

“Don’t go far. Don’t go anywhere near the cliffs.”

“Yes sir.” She ran in the direction the boys took, her elf cape billowing after her.

Interesting children and a college professor unfamiliar with what to expect from them. Add in an environment that is more nearly Amish than average Americana, and you have the ingredients for constant conflict.

However the more serious issues are the internal ones the main characters must deal with. In other words, there are layers of intrigue from first to last.

Weaknesses.
My main problem with this and other stories that fall in the relational category, is that a good part of the conflict exists because the characters won’t talk to each other. Much of the friction could be reduced (and therefore the story wrapped up) if they would simply be truthful and trusting instead of secretive and independent.

I had an issue with events leading up to the climax. As I read, I understood the main character to be plotting something that involved a good many others. As it turned out, that was not the case. Perhaps I read more into the series of phone calls the character was making, but I was surprised when the time came for the others to become involved, and they were in the dark as much as I was.

Recommendation.
The minor issues I noted did not keep me from enjoying this story thoroughly. I’m glad to see Meg’s work available for the public and I trust she will establish a loyal following. I highly recommend this one to Christians who want to read a thought-provoking book involving relationships of all kinds.