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All Lives Matter

Almost any child who has been to Sunday School or been raised in a Christian family will recognize these words:

Jesus loves the little children,
All the children of the world.
Red, brown, yellow, black, and white—
They are precious in His sight.
Jesus loves the little children of the world.

And Jesus doesn’t only love children. He died and rose again for grownups too. So by extrapolation we could also sing:

Jesus loves each and every grownup,
All the grownups of the world.
Red, brown, yellow, black, and white—
They are precious in His sight.
Jesus loves all the grownups of the world.

Now, we could stop and have a heated debate over the political correctness of referring to any people group nowadays as “red,” “yellow,” or “brown” (though for some reason “black” and “white” still fly), but let’s not get lost in minutia—clearly the song’s lyricist, preacher Clarence H. Woolston, was trying to be inclusive. And the point is this: even children used to understand something very basic that we have lost in our modern, “enlightened” society. Each of us—because we have been individually formed by an all-wise, all-loving Creator—has intrinsic value regardless of the color of our skin, because we are eternal souls created with an eternal purpose—to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

We in the church need to lead the way by proclaiming oneness in Christ and demonstrating unity with our brothers and sisters in the Lord. America used to be known as a melting pot—not because various groups lost their individuality by settling here but because they learned to live peaceably with those whose customs and cultures might differ from their own and because the majority of those who came here to enjoy America’s freedom realized their opportunity existed thanks to America’s godly heritage, so they were willing to pass that history down to their children as they became part of America’s story themselves.

We must not allow the Marxists to divide us—to turn us against one another, to destroy the progress that has been made since the time when Martin Luther King, Jr. dreamed that his children would “one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” We must not allow them to tear at the already fraying fabric of our society and rend us in two. And we mustn’t assume that fixing this is somebody else’s job. Americans have too long been leaving the work of the family and the church to the government. If each of us would just purpose to do what God has given us to do in our homes, in our churches, in our communities, we could begin to mend America’s fabric and restore some hope of a bright future to our children and our children’s children.

So get out there and love your neighbor—red, brown, yellow, black, or white—because Jesus does. Whether infant or aged, rich or poor, urban or rural, sick or well, Jew or Gentile, religious or not, God created that person and he bears His image. Or she bears His image. As do you. Forget about the externals; focus on what matters. Look past your neighbor’s skin color and see the heart. Because at heart we are all just sinners. We are either sinners in need of repentance or sinners saved by grace. That’s what matters.

Eternity is ahead of us, and our days and hours are numbered, but God is not willing that any should perish. When that trumpet sounds, God is not going to verify whether anyone is in a particular people group. Rather, Jesus is going to call His Bride from all the countries of the earth—every tribe and tongue. He is coming for every precious soul covered by the blood of the Lamb. And in that day of immediate transformation into Christlikeness, His followers will all get “race relations” right for the rest of eternity. But we don’t have to wait for the Rapture. Through the process of sanctification, we can have a tiny bit of Heaven on earth today by simply loving God, loving each other.

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Notes:

Third full paragraph—concerning Marxism, a quote from a 2015 video interview with Patrisse Cullors (co-founder of Black Lives Matter): “We actually do have an ideological frame, myself and Alicia [Garza] in particular are trained organizers. We are trained Marxists. We are super-versed on sort of ideological theories.” Cristian Laila, author of the article on Gateway Pundit where I first saw the video clip, writes: “Black Lives Matter is seeking to transform America by defunding the police, dismantling capitalism, ‘destroying the patriarchy,’ breaking down the nuclear family unit, emptying prisons, redistributing wealth in the form of reparations among other far left objectives.” And, “Their goal is to bring chaos where there is order, fan the flames of class warfare and demonize Christians and conservatives.”

Laila’s article did not include notation, so I did a little digging of my own and was able to both read and view statements which lend unfortunate credence to her summary by visiting the websites for Black Lives Matter and Dignity and Power Now (which was also founded by Cullors and was created to “end state violence and mass incarceration”) as well as viewing various videos featuring Cullors that are available on YouTube, including one from 2018 where she says, “Whenever people are not getting the things that they deserve, and we can see this across the world—look at Egypt—people are going to rise up.” [all italics mine]. Another from the 2015 video referenced above: “We wanted to call a new black liberation movement that centered on those most at the margin as a part of a political frame to challenge the current system that we live in.” And from the BLM website: “We disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement by supporting each other as extended families and “villages” that collectively care for one another…”

There are also many supporting statements in the document “A Vision for Black Lives: Policy Demands for Black Power, Freedom, and Justice,” which details various demands and recommendations from activist and advocacy groups working in coalition with Black Lives Matter. You can read it for yourself here: https://neweconomy.net/sites/default/files/resources/20160726-m4bl-Vision-Booklet-V3.pdf

Disturbingly, Americans are being told not only what they should or should not say (such as being dissuaded from altering the hashtag for BLM as I did for the title of this article) but also that what they do choose to say cannot mean what they want it to! Cullors (from the 2015 video) again: “When we use things like ‘all lives matter,’ or when we say things like ‘our lives matter’ we are actually negating black life, whether that’s intentionally or unintentionally.” I must respectfully disagree. And, to be clear, when I use the phrase “all lives matter,” what I actually mean to be understood by it is this: all lives matter.

Fourth full paragraph—in case “infant or aged” is too subtle in today’s society, let me be explicit. It is God who creates and sustains life, and God who has the right to determine when life is over. Those who wink at abortion and laugh at euthanasia will find in the end that God does neither.

“For thou art my hope, O Lord GOD: thou art my trust from my youth. By thee have I been holden up from the womb.” Psalm 71:5+6a

The LORD killeth, and maketh alive: he bringeth down to the grave, and bringeth up. I Samuel 2:6

Fifth full paragraph—I chose to use the term “race relations” here because it is widely recognized, but I include it in quotation marks because in reality, Scripture shows we are all one blood (all descended from Adam and Eve), one race—human. That is why the blood of Christ is able to cover any soul on earth from any tribe or nation if that person but asks Him for salvation. (See Acts 17:26-28, a part of Paul’s address at Athens.)

Open-Faced Chicken Sandwiches

This is a recipe that I concocted recently and that we’ve been using frequently, especially since finding limits on meat and many other items at the grocery store.  It’s budget-friendly, very filling, and tastes like Thanksgiving.  😊  This is a great recipe for involving multiple family members when it’s time to get it on the table as a couple people can work on the chicken while another makes up the stuffing, another toasts the muffins, another tends the gravy, and so on.  Serves 12.

Ingredients:

  • 6 chicken leg quarters
  • 4 boxes of stuffing (6 oz. each), chicken or turkey flavored
  • 12 English muffins
  • 3-4 tablespoons of butter, melted, used for toasting the muffins
  • 1 envelope of chicken or turkey gravy mix (approx. 0.88 oz.)
  • a splash of Gravy Master (optional browning seasoning)
  • a few spoonfuls of flour
  • 7-8 cups of water
  • 3 cans of your favorite vegetable as a side
  1. Rinse the chicken leg quarters and place them in a 7-quart crockpot.  Pour 6 cups of water over them and cover.  Cook on high for several hours and then turn back to low for several more hours until the meat is cooked through and falls easily from the bones.  Once the meat is done, use a slotted spoon to remove the meat to a plate for “picking off.”  Using a couple of forks, pick through the chicken to separate the pieces of meat from the bones and skin, etc.  Set the meat aside in a bowl, discard the rest (but not the stock!).
  2. Prepare the stuffing according to package directions.  [Note: we drastically cut the amount of butter called for in the stuffing directions as the stuffing will be covered in gravy and have plenty of flavor anyway.]  Lightly butter and toast the English muffins.  Heat a vegetable of your choice.
  3. Pour the chicken stock (from the crockpot) through a strainer and into a roasting pan and put it on a large burner on the stovetop.  Sprinkle the gravy mix over the top and use a whisk to stir it in.  Bring to a boil.  While you are waiting for it to boil, fill a small (clean) pickle jar 2/3 full with cold water.  Spoon several large spoonfuls of flour into the water, cover, and shake vigorously.  Once the stock comes to a boil, stop shaking the flour/water mixture and pour it slowly into the stock, stirring continually.   If the gravy is not thick enough, repeat the water/flour mixture using less water and more flour and again waiting for the gravy to come to a boil before whisking it in.  If you wish to add a splash of Gravy Master, it does give the gravy a nice color and a little extra flavor. Once the gravy is done, stir in the chicken you had set aside.
  4. Place two halves of an English muffin on each plate and put a large spoonful of stuffing on each half.  Use a ladle to cover them generously with the chicken gravy.  Serve each with a scoop of your favorite vegetable and enjoy!

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How to Win the Lottery Every Time

We were talking recently with our children about various financial matters, reading back through an older series of articles on money management with them and talking about the included principles (important ideas such as the 10-10-80 plan where you give ten percent to God, save ten percent so to build an emergency fund, and plan to live on the eighty percent remaining) when we got to talking about risky investments and gambling, and all this led to talking about the lottery.

Lotteries, of course, are designed to make money for those who run them.  (If you were thinking that they are beneficent organizations, think again!)  They gain this money by taking it directly from those who can be enticed to “play” with their hard-earned dollars.   We were reminding our children that it’s never a good idea to buy lottery tickets; they might as well rip their money up and throw it in the trash because it’s rigged to be a losing proposition longterm.  While we were talking though these things, it occurred to me that there is a way that someone can win the lottery every time.  So I told the children that if they’re ever standing in line in the grocery store and are tempted to buy a lottery or scratch-off ticket, they can take the five or ten dollars they would have spent on tickets out of their wallet or purse and move it to their own pocket, considering it “spent.”  Then take that money home, put it in an envelope and stash it in the back of a little-used drawer.  If they are ever tempted again, they should follow the exact same steps—as many times as it takes.  Eventually, someday, they will find that envelope tucked away in the back of the drawer, and they will be a winner twice over.  First, every dollar they ever spent on “the lottery” will still be theirs to spend again on something wiser, and second, they will have learned that a little can add up to a lot over time. 

Remember that even small purchases multiply.  If you buy just five dollars’ worth of scratch-off tickets a week, you will have spent $260.00 by the end of the year.  If you continued that same habit for five years, you would have spent $1,300.00!  Who among us couldn’t use $1,300.00 (or more as this is a very conservative example, given that many people spend much more than that on lottery tickets, and that for decades running)?  Do your children a big favor:  Talk with them about money while they are young…not just one conversation, but many conversations over time.  Teach them how to give back to God, how to save for a rainy day, and how to live within their means on what remains.   Teach them that money is a tool and that God expects them to use it wisely.  He calls us to be stewards, and we will give an answer to Him someday for how we used the talents (financial or otherwise) that He bestowed. 

“Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.”  I Corinthians 4:2

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Have You Thought About Your Children Lately?

A special word of exhortation for mothers this month; I want to remind each of you of the serious responsibility you have (alongside your husbands) to guard the doors of your homes.

I was reading an article early this morning about a young girl who completely lost her way in adolescence and strayed further and further from God’s design for her life.  She was lamenting that nobody approached her to tell her she was on the wrong path until years into her waywardness.  Finally, one day her grandfather sat her down and, with tears streaming down his face, spoke truth into her life and begged her to turn from the destructive path she was on.  That was the beginning of healing for this young woman.  Pray for this precious lady (her first name is Sydney) that she would come to know Jesus and fully embrace God’s best for her future.

This article disturbed me greatly on several fronts.  First, it troubled me that so many adults (including counselors and medical professionals) could watch a young person head down a path of destruction and not only refuse to offer a word of correction but even go so far as to encourage a young woman to continue in sinful and hurtful behaviors.  Oh, that the Lord would help us to be different!  If a young person in our lives needs to hear truth, may we be bold to speak it.

Second, it reminded me how we need to be so vigilant.  Satan wants our children.  He will use whatever means he can to get at them, be it books, magazines, television programs, movies, video games, i-phones, Internet sites, or poorly chosen friends.   Please take time this weekend to look to the state of your flocks, mothers.  Use the following questions as discussion starters or as food for thought so that you and your husband can make sure the hedge fences around your children are all in good repair.   

  • Do we hold the Word in high esteem in our home—reading it, memorizing it, discussing God’s precepts, lifting up the Bible as our final authority and our standard for all decisions?
  • Do our children spend the bulk of their time with us?  Do we know what they are doing?
  • Do we know what our children are reading?  Are there books that have crept in that are worldly or would be otherwise displeasing to the Lord?
  • Do we know what our children are watching and how often?  Are there better things they could be doing with their time?
  • Do we know our children’s friends?  Do we spend time together as families or are the children often alone unsupervised with other young people?  What kinds of games are we playing / allowing?
  • Do we have concerns about certain friends that we’ve been shrugging off rather than addressing?
  • Do our children have access to i-phones, texting, e-mail, Internet?  Why? 
  • Are we mindful of the content of our children’s conversations and correspondences with those outside the home?
  • Are there any magazines, newspapers, or other reading material coming into our home that we might need to cancel?
  • Are there things about our children’s appearance and moral / spiritual development that we should be keeping a better handle on?  (dress, manners, tone, responsibilities, etc.)
  • Are there things in our lives that make us inconsistent models of godliness?  How can we change that?
  • Have we made sure lately that our children know they can come to us anytime with questions and concerns?
  • Have we been taking seriously the duty we have to protect our children?  We make sure they have food to keep them from hunger, clothes to keep them from cold, medicines to keep them from illness . . . what have we been doing to keep them from loving the world?

This is not an exhaustive list, but it’s a place to start a conversation.  I’m not going to tell you which books, magazines, programs, activities, and technologies you should or shouldn’t allow; those are choices each couple must make for their own home, but I am going to encourage you to hold everything up to the Word and evaluate it again.  And I am going to urge you to guard the innocence of your children as long as you can.  Allow them to be children—to know stability, to know familial love, to know all that is good and lovely and pure, to know that Dad and Mom make decisions they believe to be best for the family—not just for today but to ensure (inasmuch as anyone is able to) a godly progeny as well.  Pray for your children, mothers.  Build hedge fences around them with Scripture’s precepts.  And tell them over and over again that God loves them, that He has a plan and a purpose for their lives, and that if they will only humble themselves and follow Him, they will be blessed.

“And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold,
Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat:
But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not.”
Luke 22:31-32a

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* Note of explanation for those who might misunderstand my meaning in saying we should keep our children from “loving the world.”  I am not referring to the people in the world.  God gave His only begotten Son to save people; and He wants us to love them every one.  But the world itself and the things that are in it are not to become stumbling blocks to Christians.  Rather we are called to pursue righteousness.  God says in I Peter 1:16, “Be ye holy, for I am holy.”  The fact that we can’t do that perfectly is no excuse for not trying!

Pass the Salt, Please

In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told the disciples, Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted?  It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.  (Matthew 5:13)

As Christians we often hear it said that we should be “salt and light,” and indeed, the statement “Ye are the light of the world” occurs directly after the Lord’s example describing believers as salt.  Let’s consider for a moment just what it means to be the “salt of the earth.”

First, and probably most commonly known, salt enhances flavor, making foods more pleasant and more palatable.  What are potato chips or French fries without salt?  Just pieces of potato.  What’s the secret ingredient in much Chinese food?  MSG, also known as monosodium glutamate; it is one of many types of salt.  Just as salt enhances the flavor of foods, a Christian’s walk with the Lord should enhance the beauty and the atmosphere of the culture around him or her.

Imagine that the clerks at a local store are not known for their sanctified speech.  Yet over the course of years of shopping there, acting kindly, and occasionally dropping off homemade treats with tracts, it becomes common for them to stop in midsentence when seeing members of your family, to warn one another to keep the language clean when you come into the store, or to offer an apology if one of them was cursing before seeing you standing there.  That would be encouraging because it would be an acknowledgement that something is different about your family.  Of course, that “something” is not you but rather the Holy Spirit working through you and your family to reach out and touch other lives for the glory of God.

Second, salt is a preservative, keeping deterioration at bay.  In years past, families would store heavily salted meat in the fall for use throughout the winter.  In my mother’s family when she was growing up, they would save eggs in a brine mixture to use during the months when the hens stopped laying.  Throughout my childhood, I can still remember my grandmother splitting fish, salting them, and hanging them out on the clothesline to dry.  In the days before refrigeration was common, salt helped preserve families’ foods for the long term, keeping it from spoiling.  Likewise, through the witness and walk of faithful Christians, the cultural rot of modern America can be halted. 

For example, we can avoid the ever-prevalent movies, television shows, and secular music that celebrate immorality and train us to think in ways opposed to the Lord and His Word.  Instead, we can produce and/or patronize that which is true, lovely, and virtuous; and by our daily walk and conversation, we can call others to remember how our towns, our churches, and our homes looked just a few decades ago – when walking with the Lord was not only respected but was encouraged and was far more common.

Third, salt can be healing.  I grew up working on a lobster boat in the summers.  With the work came all sorts of cuts and scrapes.  By working with my hands in the salty ocean water so much, though, the injuries healed well and remarkably fast.  That gives hope that America’s downhill slide can not only be halted but can, Lord willing, be reversed.  Though the task seems mountainous, take heart; a hundred years of decline cannot be cured in an instant.  Just as a mountain is not climbed in a few steps or even with a quick sprint, America’s cultural cesspool will require a multi-generational solution.  Not only must we be faithful in our day, but we must strive to ensure that future generations carry on the battle for liberty and righteousness as well.

Fourth, salt lowers the freezing point of water.  Anyone living in the northeastern U.S. knows that water freezes at 32o Fahrenheit.  Through the winter months we check the outside temperature, knowing that as it approaches that point, it greatly changes how we drive and how long it takes to get places.  Applying salt to icy roads, however, can cause the ice to melt.  Using a solution of 10% salt and 90% water lowers the freezing point from 32o to 20o.  Increasing the salt content to 20% lowers it further, all the way to 2o.  Just as applying salt to ice causes it to melt, consider how many rock-hard, ice-cold hearts could be softened by consistent, prayerful application of the love of Christ.  And as the number of committed Christians grew, that sort of witness would become harder and harder for unbelievers to ignore as the world changed around them.

And fifth, on the other end of the temperature spectrum, salt also raises the boiling point of water.  Sprinkling some salt in your pot of water means it will require a temperature of more than the usual 212o for it to boil.  We’ve all seen boiling water bubbling furiously, letting off steam, and occasionally boiling over.  As a believer walks with the Lord, the indwelling Holy Spirit can add peace, stability, and a resistance to the heat that comes in the tough times of life.  Just as salt can help keep hotter water under control, so too can a Christian’s quiet responses in the face of adversity point others to the Master.

Was the Lord aware of all these properties of salt when He made the comparison?  Of course!  He created not only salt and us, but anything and everything around us too.  And no doubt He has hidden many more mysteries for us to discover.  As we study His Word and His world, as we faithfully walk with Him day by day, as we share His love with others, then we can begin to see change—one life, one home, one town at a time.  May the Lord grant us the courage to be the salt that will help restore our nation’s faith in Him.

“Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time.  Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.”  (Colossians 4:5-6)

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So Liberty’s dying. (shrug) What do you want me to do about it?


Concept that Lisa drafted and our youngest daughter illustrated, showing how our influence for righteousness begins in the home and extends outward to our community, state, nation, and the world.   (c) 2019

Depiction of Lady Liberty

We hear a lot today about how if we’re not careful, America will someday slide into socialism.  Friends, we need to wake up.  America already slid.  We have a largely socialistic, humanistic system in place right now.  The education of the majority of our children is government-controlled.  Health care is being taken over by the federal government as well.   We have a glut of obligatory tax-funded programs that are socialistic in nature from Social Security to Medicare and Medicaid to federal housing to farm subsidies and so much more.  Any time the government takes money from the people to fund the responsibilities of the people “on behalf of” the people, that is socialism.  Someone other than you is taking your income and deciding what those monies will fund – even if you strongly disagree with what is being funded.  Take, for example, tax dollars – your tax dollars and my tax dollars – being used to fund abortion, the murder of the most defenseless and innocent among us.  Thomas Jefferson said, “To compel a man to subsidize with his taxes the propagation of ideas which he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.”  He was one of our founders who was willing to risk his life, liberty, and property to set the people free from the heavy hand of British rule, so he knew tyranny.  And he defined it for us, so we could recognize it when it came around again. 

Let me give you another personal example of how tyranny hits home for us.  We choose to homeschool our children because we believe it is the parents’ responsibility to teach the next generation about God and country.  The public education system in America has turned its back on God and no longer teaches America’s true history or founding principles.  My husband works hard to provide for us, but every time we cash his paycheck, we lose dollars that could have been funding the education of our own children to an educational system that is teaching other people’s children to one day attempt to oppress and persecute ours.  If you think that’s exaggeration, you need to follow the news more carefully.  Christians are being side-lined in America, being told they are mentally ill, being told they have no right to express their beliefs anywhere where someone might hear them, being told they have no right to hold public positions because they hold to basic biblical tenets.  And those are just a few examples.* 

As a nation we have raised up (and are continuing to raise up) generations who do not appreciate Christians and Christianity because they don’t know their own history.  They don’t recognize the gift that the Anglicans, the Puritans, and the Separatists sacrificed to give them in venturing everything to settle this once-wild land.  Nobody is reading them the charter of Jamestown, which refers to the “propagating of Christian religion to such people as yet live in darkness and miserable ignorance of the true knowledge and worship of God.”  Nobody is telling them that In Plymouth we find men and women and children whose voyage – as described in the Mayflower Compact — had been “undertaken for the glory of God and advancement of the Christian faith and Honor of our King and Country.”  Children are not being taught to appreciate the integrity of George Washington, who in his farewell address said, “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.  In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens.”  and ” [R]eason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”  They don’t know the words of John Adams who said “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people.  It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”  Nor is anybody teaching them the words of the patriot Patrick Henry — “It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ.  For this very reason, people of other faiths have been afforded asylum, prosperity, and freedom of worship.” 

Christians, we need to start living out our faith in America.  We need to stop being afraid, and start being free.  When people see us, we should stand out.  We should be leading, not cowering.  We should be brilliant lights in a darkening world, healing salt on a festering wound.  When others observe us, they should see and hear a difference.  We need to speak differently, dress differently, act differently, consume differently, read differently, and think differently than everyone else.  The only way for that to happen is for us to be in the Word and unplugged from popular culture.  We need to make the Scriptures the absolute guide for our lives.  We need to evaluate, and as often as necessary re-evaluate, everything about our homes, our careers, our past times, our finances, our dreams, our goals, our priorities.  We need to stop bemoaning the fact that we can’t change the world and do our best to lead in the domain we have been given.  Every one of us has a home, a church, a community.  Every one of us has family, friends, and neighbors whom we not only can but should influence for righteousness.  Every one of us has the ability to pray and turn. 

There is a verse in II Chronicles (7:14) that is widely used in encouraging Christians to pray for revival in our land.  I agree wholeheartedly that we need revival in our land.  Without question we need for God to do a mighty work.  But I think too often we get looking around at others and thinking God needs to do a revival work in them and we miss what these verses actually say.  The verses do not just say for us to pray.  They say “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from Heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”   God not only expects us to pray for our nation; he expects us to examine our own lives, clean out the garbage, and become models of virtue for others to follow.  The Scripture clearly says, “humble themselves” and “turn from their wicked ways.”  And it’s talking about us.  The first and most important thing I can do to bring back liberty in America is turn myself from sin and seek God.  And it’s the first and most important thing you can do too.   But if we’re going to skip the humbling and the turning, we might as well skip the praying.  Psalm 66:18 reminds us, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.”  

Proverbs 14:34 says, “Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people.”  Righteousness begins at home.  There are two verses that we have shared repeatedly over the years with our children.  Actually, there are many verses we have shared repeatedly, but I want to focus on these two this evening :  Psalm 101:2b and Matthew 5:16.  They work in tandem.  The first says:  “I will walk within my house with a perfect heart.”  Before I worry about the sins of the rest of the state and the nation, I need to ensure that my walk within my own house is right before God.  That touches everything – what I read, what I watch, what I say, where I’m willing to go, what I choose to do with my time, how I spend my money.  Everything.  Only after having removed the beam from my own eye am I ready to help remove the mote in another’s.**  Then the second says “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in Heaven.”  We were never meant to hide our light under a bushel.  If we know the Lord and love the Lord, we are instructed to shine.  Regardless of what we are hearing in America right now, it’s not only acceptable to talk about your faith, practice your faith, and allow it to permeate all of your dealings with others, it’s commanded!  And God is the Author of Liberty.  So, frankly, anything righteous done for Him can only benefit America.  Any good works done for Him strengthen our nation and benefit the cause of freedom. 

We may never know the effect that our homes and our humility and our obedience will have on our community, our state, and our nation.  God asks that we walk in faith.  That’s not easy.  There are so many other things we could do with our time, so many things that sound more important than being humble and making sure our own houses are in order.  So many projects that seem larger than loving our spouse and discipling our own children and reaching out to our neighbors.   But future generations will rise up and call us blessed if we will focus on doing what God has given us to do.  Strong homes, strong families, strong churches mean a strong America.  Washington D.C. may be our capital, but individual families and homes and churches have always been our heart. 

Sadly, America’s heart is diseased because her families are broken and her houses and churches are shells of what they once were.  Liberty is lying there on life support, unable to communicate but crying out inside for someone to care, to remember, to do something to save her.  Don’t be part of the crowd clamoring to pull the plug.  Be one of the faithful who will kneel at her side and repent for having a part in in her malady.  Be one who will pray for God to intervene and revive her.  Be one who not only believes that He can but that if we are obedient and do our part, He will.  Then, get up and go get Liberty a cup of life-giving Water, because when He answers – she’s going to need it.

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* For documentation of these particular examples, see Culture Jihad:  How to Stop the Left from Killing a Nation  (2019) by Todd Starnes (especially pages 93, 197, and 256).   One caution:  while I appreciate the work Mr. Starnes has done compiling ways that our freedoms are being eroded, I cannot wholeheartedly recommend the book because the Lord’s name is taken in vain repeatedly.   An older book with a similar focus is David Limbaugh’s Persecution:  How Liberals are Waging War Against Christianity (2003).  It has been longer since I have read the second title, but I do not remember the Lord’s name having been misused by the author.  A spot-check of various pages of that text this afternoon seems to indicate that that is correct.

** To clarify, a Christian should be always reforming, growing more like Christ.  While we will never reach perfection on this earth, we need to be continually holding ourselves to the mirror of the Word and fixing what sins we find there so that we are not hypocritical in our dealings with others.

Mixed-Media Painting: Simple Beach Scene

About a year ago I was visiting a French market in New Brunswick, Canada, with a sweet friend and several of my (also sweet) daughters.  We came across a stand where a local artist had created paintings using acrylics and a variety of found objects from nature, such as shells, bits of driftwood, tiny pebbles, and so on.  As soon as I saw those paintings, I thought of the children in the homeschool group and tucked the idea away in the back of my mind, planning to simplify and adapt the idea for a group craft.  Strangely enough, we arrived home from vacation to find that my grandmother was displaying all the shells she’s collected over the years before getting rid of them.  I asked her if the homeschool group might have the little ones when she was ready to pass them along, and – voilà – we were halfway to having a craft night.  

The scene depicted above was not copied from the artist at the market.  It is a scene I created, keeping in mind that I wanted it to work with a wide variety of ages (so it needed to be simple enough for the younger children but interesting enough for the older ones) and somehow incorporate shells and other media.  The supply list and directions given below name certain colors of Apple Barrel brand acrylic craft paint—which were on a very good sale the night we picked up supplies (Thank you, Lord!)—but you could substitute other colors or another brand or even different mixed media and still complete the project successfully.  Be creative and have fun!

Click here for PDF document containing supply list and directions.

A few samples of finished paintings by children in the homeschool group:

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The Church and the World

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” Romans 12:1-2

In the book Frost in Summer by Mrs. Samuel Huber, the character of Grandfather Miller is thinking about the state of Christ’s church at large:

“Grant will have little appreciation for the idea that perhaps the church is losing her vision of the Way.  That she has become too earthbound.  Too nearsighted.  Too wedded to the material things of life.  In the midst of today’s society, many members are coming too close to losing a grasp of the meaning of sacrifice.”

Is it really true that we as Christians might be becoming wedded to the world and the things of this world?  Unfortunately, it is only too true.  Many who profess to know Christ are discontent to live quiet lives simply following God.  Perhaps we feel that we must have everything that everyone else has and are unsatisfied until we have all the world has to offer.  We don’t want people to look down on us or think we might actually be different, so we talk, act, dress, and live just the same as unbelievers.  We are afraid of the world’s looks, comments, and attitudes, and rather than take a stand, we give in to what they want to see.  Instead of caring about what God says, we worry about what the rest of the world expects.

We began to let down our guard on the really important issues and have gone along with the world’s philosophy in life and death areas.  Just in the past few decades, parts of the church have accepted several of the sins of the day, being tolerant of any choice that others make, rather than offering godly counsel in love.  We have become ashamed that the Word of God does not allow for the immorality, sinful lifestyles, and destructive habits that are all around us today. 

We begin to ignore what the Bible has to say about these truly important topics.  We care less and less, until we have a heathy disrespect for the truth and often begin to fall into these sins ourselves.  We no longer know how to make these important decisions and understand Scriptural precepts ourselves.  Is divorce wrong?  Or marriage outside of God’s design of one man and one woman for life?  How about abortion?  Is it wrong, and should we protect the unborn?  We don’t know anymore, because we have shut our eyes to the truth.  The decisions and beliefs that we hold on these matters will not only affect us but our children and future generations.  In general, people have forgotten to seek the old paths. 

Jeremiah 6:16 and 19 say, “Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein. Hear, O earth: behold, I will bring evil upon this people, even the fruit of their thoughts, because they have not hearkened unto my words, nor to my law, but rejected it.”

When a nation forgets God, He will bring judgement.  When the Christian forgets his duty as a Christian, God will bring punishment.  “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten:  be zealous therefore, and repent.”  (Revelation 3:19) Get on your knees, Christian, and call out to God for His forgiveness.  He is faithful and just to forgive our iniquities.  If we as Christians will not stand up and show our light, how will others know? 

What is it that the Lord has for us, His Church, to be doing?  What did He leave his disciples to do here on earth once He had ascended up into Heaven? 

He left his disciples to spread the good news of the gospel all over the world, teaching men God’s laws and leading them in the path of righteousness.  God’s will for the Christian has not changed.  We are commanded to shine for Him.  And there is work for each one of us to do right where we live.  God does not expect or call us all to move elsewhere or go overseas to shine for Him in a foreign country.  He wants us to start right where He has placed us.  We are to be an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity, as stated in 1 Timothy 4:12.  The world will know that we are Christians by our actions.  They will wonder why we reject worldly standards, opinions, and philosophies.  They will see in us a willingness to stand up and be different.  And with the Lord’s help, they will see the higher, holier standard that we are called to and the Holy Spirit living within us.  The world needs this example.  In a world filled with darkness, our little light may shine forth more than we will ever know.  We simply need to obey and let the Lord use us.

As we are willing to share our faith, to speak boldly and accept the criticism we will receive for it, we will be seen as a shining beacon of light for our Heavenly Father.  People will have to know us as God’s children, for by our lives, it will be more than evident.  May we be a living, walking testimony of His amazing grace and love!

Rise up, O Church of God!
by William P. Merrill

Rise up, O Church of God!
Have done with lesser things;
Give heart and mind and soul and strength
To serve the King of kings.

Rise up, O Church of God!
His kingdom tarries long;
Bring in the day of brotherhood
And end the night of wrong.

Rise up, O sons of God!
The Church for you doth wait,
Her strength unequal to her task,
Rise up, and make her great!

Lift high the cross of Christ!
Tread where His feet have trod;
As followers of the Son of Man,
Rise up, O Church of God!

“Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord.”
“Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.”
(2 Timothy 1:8a and 4:2)

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It’s Never Too Late to Learn

My great-grandfather was a character.  He never owned a car, instead riding a bicycle everywhere he went – even into his eighties, and even with a roller full of clams hung from each handlebar.  By the time I came along, he was widowed, had outlived two of their children, and was living in a tiny one-room house decades before tiny houses became popular.  He did all sorts of hard physical labor through his life – grave digging, blasting, quarrying, running a lobster pound, and more – to the point that the first knuckle of every finger had been broken at one time or another and never properly set, so each fingertip leaned over at an angle.  He had survived multiple bouts of cancer on his lips; yet in all the times we visited him, I never heard him complain.  What we did hear were his stories – so many stories of the past – and sometimes for a special treat, we’d hear his music.  He played the fiddle, each one of those crooked fingers deftly holding the bow or pressing the strings.  And he played the harmonica beautifully in spite of the lasting damage from his cancer treatments.  He was a joy, and it came out as he played.

In contrast, I played clarinet in elementary school for two years, practicing little and wondering why I kept getting the third clarinet part.  I briefly tried to learn piano when we were first married, but it didn’t come easily and I didn’t stick with it.  After that whenever I was asked what I played, I jokingly shared of my expertise with the CD player’s “Play” button.

I never forgot Grampie Henry’s harmonica though.  It always had a soft spot in my heart.  And so this past summer, after having watched many members of the family branching out into numerous instruments over the years, I asked Lisa, “Do you think a harmonica would fit in?”  She said she thought it might if I wanted to try it.  So I took the plunge, buying an instructional book and DVD set plus a harmonica in the key of C major.* 

I worked through the first five or six lessons from the book and DVD, enough to get the basics, but then wanted to move from its folk music focus over to hymns and Gospel songs.  I’ve learned a lot and had a lot of fun with it over the past several months.  And it’s been good to be learning something new and way outside my comfort zone, giving the children one more example that learning lasts a lifetime.

What have I learned so far?  The harmonica is a great starter instrument.  I’ve learned to sight-read notes in the treble staff from the B below middle C to the A above the staff.  Since a standard harmonica is in the key of C major, I’ve learned to transpose songs to the key of C.  (And I’ve compiled what I’ve learned about transposing into a printable Transposer tool, available here as a free PDF file.  I use it myself whenever I want to learn a new song.)  I’ve gone through our hymnbook, jotting down the hymns in each key that I’d like to learn how to play, so I’ve been able to identify the most common keys for the music I like.  That’s important because the number of hymns in each key helps me decide what key of harmonica to buy next. 

And the nice thing is that any song you can learn to play on a C harmonica, you can play in any other major key simply by using a harmonica in that key.  For example, a couple of our daughters were working on “I’d Rather Have Jesus” on guitar and mandolin.  I found some sheet music, transposed it down to C, then asked what key they were playing in.  Since they were playing in G, I could join them (after considerable practice) using my G harmonica, reading the C sheet music and playing just as if I was using a C harmonica.  The reed patterns in the different harmonica keys are designed so the player just uses the same pattern of notes for music in C, and the instrument plays the right notes for the desired key.  More advanced players can use a single harmonica for multiple keys using a technique called “bending,” but I’m not there yet.  I’m just enjoying playing music.

It’s good to keep learning.  I often say that I’ve learned more of history and geography since we started homeschooling than I ever learned through my years of public school and university.  Since getting married, I’ve had to learn about simple home maintenance, desktop publishing, graphic design, a touch of woodworking, a bit of appliance repair, and a lot more.  And with the harmonica, I’ve been taking baby steps toward playing an instrument.  I’d encourage you to continue learning and thereby cultivate a love of learning in your children.  If you or your children have ever considered exploring music but haven’t acted on it, picking up a low-cost introductory harmonica kit – many come with a C major harmonica, book, and DVD – can be fairly inexpensive (under $20) and could be a lot more fun than you’d ever expected.**

Finally, just to whet your appetite a bit for how a harmonica – often thought of as a blues, folk, or jazz instrument – can fit into Gospel music, here’s Buddy Greene playing a soulful rendition of “He Leadeth Me.” (warning: This links to YouTube.) And just to show that it is possible to pick up an instrument in adulthood, here is an audio recording of me playing “Just As I Am”:

* Some prefer Hohner brand harmonicas, but after a fair amount of research, Lee Oskar looked like the best choice for me.  His harmonicas have easily replaceable parts and plastic combs (rather than wood), so swelling from moisture shouldn’t be an issue.  Plus, there are many keys available.

** My wife mentioned that another good, inexpensive introductory instrument is the recorder.  It also gets players reading the treble staff and is simple to pick up and start learning.  We have enjoyed using the Yamaha Soprano Recorder (key of C) and The New Nine-Note Recorder Method by Penny Gardner, which is easy for children to follow.

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Give Your Children the World!

At the end of the gospel of Matthew, we have the words of the Lord, “Go ye therefore and teach all nations . . . to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.”  How do we teach our children to be world changers while spending the bulk of our time at home?  And how do we encourage them to be interested in the peoples and cultures of the world God has made without fostering worldliness?  Here are a few ways that we have found to constructively bring the world home:

1. Invest in maps, a globe, and an atlas. – Since our children were very young, we have always had a country map and a world map prominently displayed in the kitchen, a globe within reach in the living room, and a couple of atlases on the reference shelf (one a modern atlas of countries of the world, the other a historical atlas showing Bible lands).  When your children are young and you are talking about a people group, an event, a war, or a landmark, make it a habit to get up and point out the region you are talking about.  When they are old enough to read and have a little familiarity with the maps and globe, ask them to get up and locate a particular country or body of water and point it out to the rest of the family.  God has given children the gift of curiosity.  If you establish the habit of “looking it up” as a family, most children will assume this habit on their own in time.     

2.  Keep a current missions board. – This will cost you nothing but space and time (unless you choose to purchase a bulletin board or whiteboard for it, which would cost up front but would also last for years. We’ve had the same bulletin board and whiteboard in constant use for over twenty years actually!).  But it doesn’t have to be fancy.  Any space you can set aside for the purpose will work.  As you read news stories about missions work or world events or as you’re going through fundraising letters from various organizations or as you come across prayer needs overseas, keep an eye out for things that are particularly appropriate for and of interest to the age group of children that you have.  Print or clip these articles (with pictures when possible) and display them.  The key to keeping them interested in the missions board is to keep it fresh—as new things come in, post them.  From time to time, look over the board and take down things that have been hanging too long.  I like to put anything that I’m taking down with my Bible so that we can make sure to pray for those people or needs again before throwing the articles away or passing them on.        

3.  Travel or seek out local but “exotic” experiences. – Not everybody will be able to travel far.  We happen to live in a state that borders another country, so we’ve been blessed to be able to travel internationally just by spending a few hours in the car.  But even in a rural area, opportunities abound for coming into contact with other people groups and cultures if you are willing to look for them.  For example, within the last two years, we were able to visit another church to hear a missionary speak on Chinese culture and return another evening to hear a different missionary speak about life in the Netherlands; we hosted a language night for our homeschool group, where everyone was invited to come share something in a foreign language that they know or are learning; we invited missionaries from Ireland over for a meal, and they brought pictures and stories of their work in the UK; we tried a traditional Jewish dish (shakshuka) made by our eldest daughter from a recipe shared by her Hebrew tutor; we met retired missionaries at a church dinner and were able to hear a little about their previous work in South America and enjoy some handbell music they shared with the children; and we attended a community “Christmas Around the World” event. 

4.  Build a shoebox for Operation Christmas Child. – This has been and continues to be one of my favorite ways to teach our children to be world disciple makers.  Your family can pack a shoebox that has the potential to impact a child and family on the other side of the world.  Every child that receives a shoebox receives an introduction to the gospel of Jesus Christ (and where possible, the invitation is also given to enroll in The Greatest Journey discipleship program).   If you choose to get a tracking number for your box, Samaritan’s Purse will let you know what country your box was sent to, and your family can find out more about that country as you pray for that child and the needs of his or her community.

5.  Support a missionary. – If you are able, support a missionary or a mission work overseas.  Don’t just give money once a month, but undergird the family or work with your prayers.  Keep abreast of their needs and see how the Lord might be willing to use you to help them.  Some missionaries love to have short-term help from time to time (this can even be in the form of something done from home, such as stuffing envelopes with updates, helping them make other contacts locally for fundraising, etc.); others might be able to use specific supplies; all can use consistent support, prayer, and encouragement.  There is a Christian wife and mother we know whose children are grown and who has begun going to Kenya on short-term medical mission trips a couple times a year.  In her last newsletter she mentioned how they love to take pencils and stickers to give out to the children there.  This caught my attention, and I was able to write and ask if we could send her a few pencils and stickers for her next trip.   Will it be a large savings to her financially?  No—but it says, “Hey, somebody read my update and cares for these people like I do!  Somebody’s interested in the work the Lord has called me to do and will be praying for me!”  Another way to encourage your missionary is to have the children make cards.  Overseas postage can be significant for a package, but if what you are shipping is flat and fits in a standard envelope or a card-sized envelope, it is generally more reasonable.

6.  Keep a running prayer map. – Every month or two we print out a simple one-page outline of the world and use it to keep track of prayer needs.  When someone calls us for prayer or we learn about a request at church or from friends, we place it on the map.  Then every morning when we pray, we either assign requests from the map or let the children each choose a couple needs to pray for.  It’s a simple way to keep track of prayer requests, but it’s also a continual visual reminder that their prayers have the potential to literally change the world!

7.  Look for puzzles, games, coloring books, and projects with a world focus. – We’ve never used a formal geography curriculum but rather have explored geography through map puzzles, card and trivia games, coloring pages, and occasional mapwork printouts.  If you are willing to preview media, you can also find slideshows or documentaries that will add to your study of geography.  We recently enjoyed a slideshow together that featured beautiful landmarks of Africa, giving a short description of each and detailing in which country it is located.  A special geography project the children undertook this past year was to cover the walls of our fellowship room with maps and pictures representing each continent.   While their hands were busy coloring in borders and landmarks, I was reading aloud good literature so their minds would be occupied as well.  Some of the stories we read were from specific regions to go along with the continent we were currently studying, but much of the time, we just continued with the literature I had already planned to read this year.  The mind will make its own connections—we don’t have to stress as mothers about always having one subject “line up” with another.

8.  Read excellent biographies. – Biographies are exceptional tools for introducing your children to various lands and peoples in the world!  Not only does a child have opportunity to learn about another time, place, and culture, but (if you choose your person wisely) there will also be a compelling figure for them to associate this newfound knowledge with and be able to remember it better.  Investing in a series of individual country books designed for children (or borrowing a few at a time from the local library) can also be a way to discover some of the most important historical events, landmarks, customs, and holidays of another country.  These often include full-color photographs, which help to hold interest and bring the text to life.

9.  Learn a new language. – Learning a new language can give you the opportunity to meet new people, to speak into their lives and allow them to speak into yours, and to discover a culture different from your own.  I’ve been studying French for years myself, and we’ve also had times of studying it as a family.  God has allowed some amazing connections to stem from that.  My older girls have a sweet friend in Québec, our whole family has become friends with several families in an Acadian region of New Brunswick and has been allowed the opportunity to pray for and encourage the work God is doing to build an evangelical French-speaking church there, and I’ve had the opportunity in language-learning sessions to speak about faithful marriage, child training, and homeschooling with dozens of European tutors over time.   Even if your children don’t choose to pursue the same language that interests you (when they’re older), you will have given them the foundational skills for acquiring another language on their own.

10.  Sponsor a child in another country. – Over time we have had the privilege of sponsoring different children from places as diverse as Guatemala, India, and South Sudan.  While this is an obvious help to the child being sponsored, it is also an opportunity for spiritual growth in our children.  The fact that it is another child that is being sponsored can open your children’s eyes to the reality that not everybody has the benefits and blessings they take for granted.  One of our older sons has been particularly drawn to the child we are currently sponsoring and remembers consistently to pray for him and for his country.  It is a good thing when a child learns to look outside of himself and his own needs and wants and participates in bearing another’s burden.  For us, the most important things to know before beginning a sponsorship are these:  Is the agency that is running a program both Christ-centered and reputable?  How often will I receive updates on the child?  What contact will I be allowed with the child, if any?  and How long a commitment am I making? 

I hope you come away from this article with the spark of a new idea about how to raise your children to reach the world for Christ.  At its heart, homeschooling is not about academics—it’s about discipleship.  And well-trained disciples have the potential to become disciple makers in their own community and around the world.

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  recent missions board and map display