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La Théologie de Minuit

A l’église hier soir, le pasteur a introduit un passage des Ecritures sur lequel il va prêcher pour quelques semaines. J’ai emprunté son titre pour cet article parce que ces mots ont vraiment aidé à souligner pour moi ce qu’il voulait dire. Il a parlé du seizième chapitre d’Actes où Paul et Silas avaient été battus et jetés en prison à cause de prêcher l’Évangile. Le pasteur a demandé, « Quelle devrait être notre réaction quand tout va mal, ces temps quand le christianisme ne semble pas si facile ? » Ce verset a attiré mon attention :

« Vers le milieu de la nuit, Paul et Silas priaient et chantaient les louanges de Dieu, et les prisonniers les entendaient. » (v.25)

Quel est minuit ? Eh bien, en plus du sens évident du milieu de la nuit, si nous voulons évaluer quand notre réponse devrait être comme celui-là de Paul et Silas, nous pourrions considérer que « minuit » veut dire les ténèbres, la dépression, le deuil, les problèmes, un temps de craintes et de doutes.

Leur réponse était en deux parties. Tout d’abord, ils ont prié. On prie en criant à Dieu le Père. Paul et Silas ne pouvaient rien faire pour changer leur situation. Ils ne pouvaient rien faire pour aider les uns les autres. Donc, ils ont crié au Seul qui est tout-puissant, et Il les a délivré puissamment.

Et ensuite ils ont chanté ! Quand, la dernière chose dans le monde que la chair aurait envie de faire en prison est chanter, ils ont chanté quand même. Pas juste de chansons, mais les louanges à Dieu au milieu de la persécution – une persécution ils ne pourraient pas com-prendre. Ils essaient d’aider les gens en partageant l’Evangile du Christ. Ils n’ont pas fait des actes répréhensibles. Ils n’ont pas mérité ce qui se passait. Mais plutôt que de laisser le diable les décourager, ils ont concentré leur attention sur Dieu, et pas sur eux-mêmes. Quand tout en eux a dû avoir envie de pleurer et gémir, au lieu de cela ils ont chanté.

Et regardez le reste du verset ! Dieu n’a pas été le seul qui les a entendu. Ça dit, « et les prisonniers les entendaient. » Paul et Silas prêchaient ouvertement dans la ville pour plusieurs jours, et nous connaissons que la plupart de la foule ne s’est pas soucié du message, parce que c’était la foule qui les avait battus et jetés en prison. Mais ici, les prisonniers sont dans la rangée de devant pour voir ce que le Dieu fait dans les ténèbres. La réponse normale à une raclée n’est pas de prier ou de chanter ! Les prisonniers sont en train de voir et entendre une chose surnaturelle. Et ensuite, quand les chaînes de tout le monde sont relâchés, ces hommes ne se lèvent pas ! Ils ne courent pas ! Pourquoi pas ? Le passage ne dis pas ouvertement, mais est-ce que c’est possible que leurs vies ont été changées par le témoignage de deux chrétiens en endurant adversité ? Est-ce que c’est possible qu’ils ont vu un miracle et désirent savoir plus ?

Le témoignage de Paul et Silas à la lumière du jour n’a pas touché autant de gens qu’ils espéraient. En fait, la plupart des gens étaient endurcie à leur message. Mais le témoignage de Paul et Silas à minuit avaient tant d’un effet que tous les prisonniers libres restaient assis comme s’ils étaient encore en chaînes ! Pas seulement quelques prisonniers – tous les prisonniers !

Que serait notre témoignage si nous nous souviendrions d’appeler au Dieu pour l’aide pendant les temps difficiles ? Si nous chantions à Lui pendant les temps difficiles ? Est-ce que cela pourrait avoir le même effet sur les gens autour de nous comme les prières et les louanges que Paul et Silas avaient ?

Si, la prochaine fois que nous sommes attaqués, nos réactions seraient comme ceux-ci (Mettez votre propre nom dans les phrases ci-dessous ) :

« Et dans les ténèbres, ________________ priait et chantait les louanges de Dieu… »
« Et pendant la dépression, ________________ priait et chantait les louanges de Dieu… »
« Et à travers le deuil, les problèmes, les craintes, et les doutes ________________ priait et chantait les louanges de Dieu… »

Donc peut-être le fin serait :

« …et sa famille, ses amis, ses frères et ses sœurs en Christ, et tous les gens de sa ville l’a entendue. »

Que Dieu aide qu’il en soit ainsi.

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Copyright © 2015

*L’auteure remercie J. Ramsay pour son aide en vérifiant la traduction.

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Entendez la Parole/ Tenez Compte de la Parole

Nous pouvons lire les Écritures avec nos enfants, mais si nous ne leur enseignons pas à tenir compte de l’instruction de la Parole, elle produira peu de fruits dans leurs vies. La Bible dit, “Mettez en pratique la parole, et ne vous bornez pas à l’écouter, en vous trompant vous-mêmes par de faux raisonnements.” (Jacques 1.22)

La seule manière pour enseigner nos enfants à suivre la Parole est pour nous de marcher en accord avec ses préceptes nous-mêmes. Si nous ne permettons pas la Parole de s’infiltrer et de diriger nos vies, nous ne pouvons pas s’attendre à ce que nos enfants s’en intéressent non plus. Ils nous regardent comme si nous sommes des hypocrites; et ils vont avoir raison. Nous ne pouvons pas les dire que la Parole est importante et ignorer complètement ses vérités. Au lieu de cela, les passages que nous lisons et apprenons dans la Parole doivent influencer nos pensées, nos avis, nos actions, nos décisions, nos achats, notre apparence, notre façon de parler, et l’emploi de notre temps. La Bible doit devenir notre guide quotidien, pas un accessoire religieux.

Nous devons expliquer aussi à nos enfants que la vie chrétienne est comme un voyage. C’est un processus de la croissance et de la sanctification. Nous devons être constamment plus comme le Christ. Ça veut dire, il y aura des livres que nous aurions eu chez nous il y a dix ans que nous n’aurons pas maintenant. Il y aura des programmes que nous aurions écouté il y a dix ans que nous n’écouterons pas maintentant. Il y aura des activités nous aurions permis il y a dix ans que nous ne permettrons pas maintentant. Et ainsi de suite. Ce n’est pas l’hypocrisie – c’est la croissance. Nous devons partager avec nos enfants les choses que le Seigneur nous enseignons de la Parole et leur montrer comment nous nous efforçons de Lui faire plaisir dans notre maison.

Dans ce même chapitre de Jacques mentionné ci-dessus, la Bible continue à dire qu’un homme qui écoute la Parole mais ne répond pas à ses instructions – il est comme un homme qui se regarde dans la miroir et reconnaît qu’il a un problème, mais il s’en va sans le réparer. Si nous nous regardons dans le miroir de la Parole et nous reconnaissons que nous sommes coupables d’un péché, mais nous refusons de se repentir et de changer, nos aurons des coeurs de pierre et n’écouterons pas la voix du Saint-Esprit. Nous ne repondrons pas à ses conseils et nous manquerons la volonté de Dieu pour nos vies.

Beaucoup de parents qui font l’école à la maison prennent plaisir à chapitre six de Deutéronome comme une belle image de la vie de famille parce-qu’il dirige les parents á marcher a coté de leurs enfants, parler avec leurs enfants, et ensiegner leurs enfants tôt le matin jusqu’au se coucher le soir. Le même passage commence par ce rappel important: “Voici les commandements, les lois et les ordonnances que l’Eternel, votre Dieu, a commandé de vous enseigner, afin que vous les mettiez en pratique dans le pays dont vous allez prendre possession.” En d’autres termes, Dieu ne s’intéresse pas seulement que les familles savent les Écritures; Il veut qu’ils les obéissent aussi!

Entendez la Parole.
Tenez compte de la Parole.
Cachez la parole dans votre coeur.

Parlez la Parole.
Partagez la Parole.
Envoyez la Parole autour du monde.

Aimez la Parole.
Apprenez la Parole.
Vivez la Parole tous les jours.

“Ne vous y trompez pas.”

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Copyright © 2015

*L’auteure remercie J. Ramsay pour son aide en vérifiant la traduction.

Pour lire d’autres articles en français, cliquez ici.

Ten Emphases of Our Family’s Homeschool, Part 2

If you missed Part 1, see it here.

6. Local Outreach

“As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.” (Galatians 6:10)

One main focus of our family is ministering to the needs of those around us, especially our brothers and sisters in Christ. This may mean cooking and delivering a meal for a widow, making cards for someone in the hospital or nursing home, extending hospitality to friends from church, or filling a box of groceries for a family who is going through a hard time. Dad and Mom regularly involve us children in outreach.
They have taught us that those in our area of Maine are just as important to God and just as much in need of Christ as are those in Africa, Asia, or anywhere else in the world. God has called us to be a light, a testimony, and a blessing right where He has placed us. Especially since I finished my formal homeschooling and so have more flexibility with my schedule, Dad and Mom have encouraged me to be alert to the needs around me and to seek God as to how He would use me to help meet them.

7. Separation from the World

“Who shall ascend into the hill of the LORD? or who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully. He shall receive the blessing from the LORD, and righteousness from the God of his salvation.” (Psalm 24:3-5)

We serve the LORD, who commands us, “Be ye holy; for I am holy” (I Peter 1:16b). The culture around us is the opposite of holy—it is largely profane, vile, unclean, and dangerous. If we truly want to follow Christ, we cannot live the way everyone else is living.
We must be separate, pure, peculiar. We must hold everything up against God’s pure Word and make that our touchstone and guide in all areas, including: Where will our family attend church? What should we focus on in our homeschool? What types of clothing will we wear? What styles of music will we listen to? In what activities will we be involved? How will we use the television and the computer? How will the children get to know their future spouses? What types of higher education are Biblical and worthwhile?
Most of my peers have grown up through government schools and have been taught to think according to a Marxist, humanistic, atheistic worldview. They have been taught that, to be good citizens, they must blindly obey the government and be “tolerant” of anything except Biblical Christianity. We must be different, for we have been ransomed. Christ “gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works” (Titus 2:14).

8. Sheltering

“I am as a wonder unto many; but thou art my strong refuge. Let my mouth be filled with thy praise and with thy honour all the day.” (Psalm 71:7-8)

Many people look down on parents who shelter their children. I don’t. I grew up as a sheltered child, and I am so thankful my parents chose and worked to do this for me. We live in a wicked world, full of sin, sorrow, death, hatred, crime, and suffering. But my parents worked hard to protect me from bad language, lustful or violent images and media, salacious accounts of cultural wrongs, discussions of certain modern social issues, and graphic accounts of suffering and death. By God’s grace, they allowed me an innocent childhood.
When a baby is born prematurely, it often does not have as good health as a child who is in the protection of the womb for the full nine months. God designed for infants to be sheltered for this time for their benefit, as they are still developing. Parents really have no say over whether a baby will arrive before, on, or after the due date, but parents do have a say over when their children will be exposed to certain types of knowledge.
If children are exposed prematurely to the evils of the world, it can result in fear and impure thoughts. If the exposure is habitual, it can produce callousness to sin and to human suffering. God shelters us as His children, and I believe it is the duty of parents to shelter their sons and daughters as they develop physically, mentally, and spiritually.

9. Excellent Books

“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” (Philippians 4:8)

Our family loves books. Biographies, poetry, picture books, encyclopedias, ASL manuals, cookbooks, homeschool magazines, science and nature books and magazines, music books, Bible commentaries and references, carefully selected fiction, allegories, dictionaries, photo albums, family albums, and the Scriptures…we love to fill our minds with knowledge and wisdom.
There are many books available today, but only a limited number of them are worthwhile. Therefore, we must be discerning. Some are excellent and will edify us and our families, but some are either subtly or openly detrimental to our spiritual walks and our family relationships. The latter must be vigilantly avoided. It is better to have a few quality books that have been screened for wholesomeness than to have a huge library full of drivel or danger. My parents have read a variety of material aloud to us through the years, and they have also screened books for us to read ourselves. Good books nourish the mind and soul and help us “grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (II Peter 3:18).

10. Sound Speech and Communication

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

My parents have emphasized the importance of excellent communication. Most of all, it is vital that we and our children be able to read and understand the Word of God. And secondly, we must be able to share it with others, both in conversation and in writing. The multitudes who listened to Jesus were astonished at the graciousness and authority of His words.
James 3 describes the dangerous power of the tongue. Lies, gossip, blasphemy, idle words, coarse language, quarreling, disrespectful speech, whining, complaining, worldly songs, hurtful or angry words—all these are uses for the tongue that have hurt people’s souls since the beginning of time. But none of these are ways our Creator intended for us to communicate.
A soft answer, discretion, sound speech, praise, thanksgiving, encouraging words, the teaching of God’s principles, comfort, songs that honor God, the reading and recitation of Scripture, Biblical rebuke, exhortation, evangelism— all these are good and acceptable ways to employ our tongues, ones that will bless us and those who hear us.
God wants to help each of His children to continually grow more like Christ, to lead them on a path of continual reformation and sanctification. Since words are so powerful, the sanctification of our speech will very likely be part of this journey. It is important to immerse ourselves in Scripture and listen to our Father’s voice. Jesus made clear that our words are important. We will give account for the words we speak and write…the words our children hear us use and grow to use themselves.
“A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things. But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.” (Matthew 12:35-37)
I am thankful for this opportunity to share. Thank you for your time. May God use the words I have written to bless and encourage you and your family.

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Copyright © 2014

Ten Emphases of Our Family’s Homeschool, Part 1

I am an extremely blessed young woman. I was homeschooled from infancy and taught in the ways of the Lord. Around the time I graduated, my parents asked me to write an article giving my thoughts on the homeschool experience to parents who may be just beginning this journey or considering doing so. I would like to share ten emphases of our family’s home discipleship that have done much to positively shape me into who I am today.

1. Daily Family Devotions

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments: his praise endureth for ever.” (Psalm 111:10)

The first part of our homeschool day is spent in reading the Scriptures together, memorizing passages from them, reviewing passages we have already learned, and praying for family members, local friends, and people across the world.
Our relationship with God is the most important thing in life. We learn to know Him by studying and meditating on His Word, and we commune with Him in prayer. My parents have emphasized that our time in the Scriptures—and the application of them throughout the day—“is not a vain thing for you; because it is your life” (see Deuteronomy 32:46-47).

2. Justice and Mercy

“Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;) That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth. And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:1-4)

God is just. He punishes sin because He is holy and cannot abide iniquity and because He wants His rebellious creation to repent and turn back to Him.
God is also merciful. He sent Christ to die so that our sins could be forgiven if we would accept Him as Lord and “the propitiation for our sins” (I John 2:2).
God longs to become the Heavenly Father of all the people He made in His image. One way the Heavenly Father tries to show us what He is like is by giving us earthly fathers and mothers, whom He instructs to train their children in His way.
Without just admonition, a child will truly be spoiled. He will think selfishly and believe that he should be allowed to do as he pleases, and this is especially dangerous as he passes into his teenage years and adulthood. Eli’s house was judged forever because “his sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them not” (I Samuel 3:13b).
But without merciful nurturing, a child will become discouraged and lose hope. There must be a balance in the home.

3. Kindness and Unity

“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1)

The first commandment is to love God with all our hearts, souls, and might. The second is to love our neighbor as ourselves. This must begin at home with learning to love Dad, Mom, brothers, and sisters as oneself; to give deference to them; and to treat them—one’s immediate family members—as one would like them to treat him. God created families to work together for the advancement of His kingdom. Being human, children are naturally prone to selfishness, anger, strife, mockery, and unkindness toward others. It is the duty of their parents to work to train them out of these evil and dangerous paths and into the good and wholesome paths of unselfishness, self-control, peace, gentleness, and kindness.
When a family is working together to serve the Lord, He will bless in wonderful ways. No family will ever be perfect, but God knows the hearts. If He sees a father and mother who love Him and are trying to please Him in the way they train their children, He is willing to work with them and help them lead their family in His path.
Kindness and consideration between brothers and sisters is a good testimony, a blessing in the home, and a foundation for relationships throughout the rest of the children’s lives. Sibling rivalry can turn into bitterness, feuding, and even inheritance squabbles later on, while good relationships can be an invaluable blessing and resource now and for decades and generations to come. This part of home discipleship is far too important to neglect (John 13:34-35).

4. Comprehensive Scriptural Worldview

“And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7)

At the table or in the living room, as a family or one-on-one, Dad and Mom are constantly teaching us how to have a Biblical worldview—how to apply the Word of God to every area of life. From Genesis to Revelation, the Scripture is completely true and must be the foundation on which we build our lives. Almost anything can provide an opportunity for teaching through a family discussion: a church service, a recorded sermon, a book or article, a news story or tidbit, news from a friend, a telephone call, or a Bible passage.
The culture around us is full of evil. There is a definite need for Christian parents who are willing to take the time and effort to bring up their children in the Deuteronomy 6 discipleship model, walking with them and talking with them about how to apply the Word to everything.

5. Family Time and Family Projects

“See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:15-16)

Of all the blessings and resources God gives us, time is unquestionably one of the most valuable. God has endowed each of us with a limited amount of it, generally about seventy or eighty years (Psalm 90:10). Our parents have taught us that after an hour, a day, or a year is gone, it is truly gone. It cannot be regained or called back and used more conscientiously. Therefore, it is extremely important that we invest all our time in a way that pleases the One who entrusted it to us.
Dad and Mom are investing their lives in us, their children. While many set their hearts on their careers, favorite sports, or material success, my parents have chosen to pour their time, effort, and energy into the eternally valuable work of training their children to be ambassadors and warriors for the cause of Christ.
So they spend their time with us. God blesses each member of a family with special interests and talents, but this is not just for the benefit of the individual. It is for the glory of God and the benefit of His Kingdom…and, specifically, the family in the Kingdom into which this child has been placed. The omniscient, omnipotent God puts families together in such a way that they can work together—each contributing in his or her unique way—to accomplish His plans for the household.
We love to work on projects together. At Roots by the River, Dad and Mom try to especially choose products to develop that we can all work on together. The goal of our business is not making large sums of money. It is discipleship, working as a family to produce materials that will glorify God and edify the body of Christ.
Our parents have also taught us the importance of time with our grandparents, whom we are thankful to have living nearby. Eating with them, visiting them, serving them, asking for their stories, listening to their wisdom—these are pleasures for me.

Continue with Ten Emphases of Our Family’s Homeschool, Part 2

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Schooling at Home or Homeschooling?

It is early in the morning, Mother’s Day. I woke up this morning with the burden on my heart to put down some thoughts for mothers who are new to this whole idea of homeschooling and who perhaps could benefit from a word of encouragement from someone who has walked this road a long while. This is after all what Scripture says. The older women must teach the younger women. Of course I am still learning myself from those who are older and wiser than me. We are all on a journey together, and though our eyes should be focused ahead and our vision must be cast forward, we must not forget to reach back our hands to help those sisters who come behind.

When we first begin home educating, we begin by doing what we know. A disciple is not greater than his master. As we were taught, so will we teach. If we sat in desks in rows and raised our hands to speak and did five independent subjects a day and had recess every two hours…we are likely to try to set up a system that mirrors that in our home. Why? Because we think that is what school is. We want our children to have a good education, so we set about to mirror what we believe gave us a good education. After all, we can read, and write, and communicate, or we wouldn’t be attempting this.

But something happens once you begin homeschooling. You begin to question why your son must learn sitting at a desk and struggling to read to himself if he learns better sprawled on the floor listening to you read to him. You begin to wonder why your daughter must complete so many textbooks…one for every subject every year…when they all seem to say the same thing. And you notice that much of the same material can be found in living books that don’t look like textbooks at all, and are much more interesting to read. You begin to question why your ten-year-old should take a standardized test to see if his knowledge “equates” to the ten-year-olds in the local elementary school…when you can see any time you’re around other ten-year-olds that he’s not even learning the same things. And then you begin to wonder who needs tests and grades anyway? After all, a mother lives with her children, hears them talking and asking questions and narrating material all the time – there’s very little question in a mother’s mind as to what they know or don’t know and as to where each one’s strengths and weaknesses and gifts and interests lie.

So you find that things in your little homeschool begin to change. You don’t understand what’s happening until you hear someone who’s been there speak on it, or you come across it in a good homeschooling book. But your little homeschool is slowly turning from the Greek model of education – the only thing you had ever known — to the Hebraic model of education, the model spoken of in the Scriptures where you instruct your children when you rise up, when you lie down, when you walk together in the way. Whereas before you saw yourself having at least two distinct jobs in the home – one as mother, one as teacher – now you begin to see that mother and teacher are one in the same. All day, every day is a learning opportunity. You walk with your children outside and you show them the glory of the Creator. You read the Scriptures to your children in the morning and you teach them to apply the principles to their lives so that they do not become “whited sepulchres” like the Pharisees. You learn new things together in history, science, and literature – not in distinct “classes” with seven children reading twenty-one different books and completing twenty-one assignments on them separately, but one family enjoying and discussing and evaluating a few wonderful books together. You are with them in the evening and Daddy is home and hears all they have learned and can open the Scriptures to them again, and the whole family can enjoy a sit-down meal and conversation and then work on something together – maybe just getting the dishes done and the floors swept up to be ready for a new day, or perhaps gardening, or extending hospitality, or checking in on a widow, or singing , or visiting someone in the hospital, or working on a family enterprise together – whatever it is God has given your family to do at a particular season.

But just when you begin to enjoy your freedom with this “new” way of education, you can be sure the tempter will be there to bring you doubts and fears and questions. After all, God said to educate this way. God wants parents investing their lives in their children and teaching them His precepts and His commandments, and protecting them and sheltering them, yet at the same time teaching them about his wide and wonderful world and the amazing gifts he has bestowed upon it – such as light, electricity, oxygen, photosynthesis, the cardiovascular system, and the water cycle. And we all know Satan is the arch-enemy of God and His Truth. So late at night, when the children are asleep and your husband is asleep and you have finally collapsed in bed … and most likely on a day when things have not gone so well in your little homeschool … or maybe after several days have not gone so well, and you are weary and disheartened… then he will whisper in your ear: “You are going to ruin your children.”

“They are not going to know the same things everybody else knows. They will be misfits. They will be persecuted. You are wasting your life and you’re setting them up to fail.” Friends, do not listen. He will be persistent. He will come to you again and again. But do not hearken to the voice of the tempter. Listen instead to the voice of the Shepherd. He promises gently to lead and guide mothers and their little lambs. Never mind if your children are misfits. Pray that they are! Deep down inside do you really want your children to look like the rest of society? We are a people who have forgotten how to think for ourselves. We have forgotten how to evaluate life in the light of Scripture. We have forgotten to be grateful to God for our liberties and we have lost most of them. We have forgotten what is right and good and instead have embraced all that is wicked. Is this the kind of children we want to raise? Of course not. We want our children to be wise, fearing the Lord, departing from evil. We want them to walk with God and be called his friend as Abraham was. We want them to know true liberty and appreciate it.

So when you hear that voice, do not be swayed. Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Remember how He taught. He walked with His disciples, day in and day out. He talked with His disciples. He gave them the Word that they would know how to evaluate the world around them. He broke bread with His disciples. He gave them hope. And, ultimately, He loved them. Enough to lay down His very life. Are we willing to do the same for these little lives entrusted to our care?

It is not enough just to be home with our children. We must intentionally lay aside every distraction that the world will offer and focus on what it is God wants us to accomplish. He says the beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord. Do not make academics the focus of your lives. Make loving your children and imparting to them the fear of the Lord the ultimate goals of your home education program and in doing this – in seeking first the Kingdom of God – He will add those things unto you that He desires. And, if you can persevere, you will look around you and find that even in the midst of a perverse and crooked generation, you have been greatly blessed. For “the Lord is a rewarder of those that diligently seek Him”.

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Midnight Theology

Last night at church Pastor introduced a section of Scripture he’s going to be preaching on for a few weeks and I borrowed his title for this email because it really helped underline the point for me. He was talking about Acts 16 where Paul and Silas have been beaten and thrown in prison for preaching the Gospel. He was asking what the response should be when everything is going wrong, those times when Christianity doesn’t seem so easy. This verse really stood out to me:

“And at MIDNIGHT Paul and Silas PRAYED, and SANG PRAISES UNTO GOD: and the prisoners heard them.” (v. 25)

What is midnight? Well, beyond the obvious meaning of 12 o’clock at night that it is referring to here, if we want to evaluate when our response should be like theirs, we could consider it to mean darkness, depression, grief, troubles, or being overcome by fears or doubts.

Their response was two-fold. First they prayed. Prayer is crying out to God the Father. They could do nothing to change their situation. They could do nothing to heal themselves. So they cried out to the One with power and He delivered them mightily.

And they sang. When the last thing in the world that the flesh would feel like doing is singing, they sang anyway. Not just any song — but praise to God in the midst of a persecution they couldn’t in their own minds understand. They were trying to help people by sharing the Gospel of Christ. They hadn’t done anything wrong. They didn’t deserve what was happening to them. But rather than allowing Satan to get at them, they turned their focus off themselves and onto God, and when everything in them must have wanted to weep and groan, they sang instead.

And look at the rest of the verse! God wasn’t the only one that heard them. It says “and the prisoners HEARD them.” Paul and Silas had been preaching openly in the city for days, and we know that most of the multitude didn’t care about the message, because they had them beaten and thrown in prison. But here, the prisoners get a front row seat at what God does in the darkness. The normal response to a beating is not to pray and sing. They are seeing and hearing a supernatural thing. And when everyone’s chains are loosed, these men do not get up and run! Why not? The passage doesn’t expressly say, but could it be that their lives have been changed by the testimony of two Christians bearing up under heavy trial? Could it be that they have seen a miracle and they want to know more?

The testimony of Paul and Silas in the daylight did not reach as many people as they would have hoped, as a matter of fact most of the people were hardened against their message. But the testimony of Paul and Silas at midnight was of such effect that it caused prisoners who had been freed to sit still as though they were bound! Not just some of them — ALL of them.

What would our testimony be if we remembered to cry out to God in the hard times? If we sang to Him in the hard times? Might it have the same effect on those around us as the prayers and praises of Paul and Silas?

The next time we are under attack, what if our response were this (fill your own name in the example sentences):

“And IN DARKNESS, __________ PRAYED and SANG PRAISES UNTO GOD….”
“And IN DEPRESSION, ___________ PRAYED and SANG PRAISES UNTO GOD….”
“And IN TROUBLES, GRIEFS, DOUBTS, and FEARS, _________ PRAYED and SANG PRAISES UNTO GOD….”

Then perhaps the ending would be:

“…and her FAMILY, her FRIENDS, her BROTHERS and SISTERS IN THE LORD, and all her TOWNSPEOPLE heard her.”

May God help it to be so.
Love,

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Copyright © 2014

Our Duty as the Next Generation (eldercare)

     The seasons of life pass quickly.  We are in desperate need of Moses’ prayer, “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12)

     Only with God’s help may we hope to be prepared for what the different seasons bring.  An inevitable season for most is old age.  This season is one in which we cannot do as much by ourselves.  We need more physical help from others than was necessary in youth and middle age.

     In most cases, however, before we reach that season, our parents do.  It rests on us, their children, to make some decisions about how and where our dear parents’ time will be spent.  These issues are not always pleasant to think about; nevertheless, as mature men and women, we have a duty before God that we dare not neglect until the eleventh hour.  Part of that duty concerns the care of elderly parents.

     From birth, a child’s duty to his parents is summarized in the Fifth Commandment: “Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.” (Exodus 20:12)

     If we honor our parents, we will have long life.  (This does not mean that a deceased twenty-five-year-old was necessarily a dishonoring son.  He might have been.  Or he might have been a godly, honorable, upright young man whom God called home to eternal rest and glory sooner than most of his peers.  Perhaps twenty-five years was already a lengthening of his days.)

     The Golden Rule also applies.  “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 7:12) How do we want to be treated in old age?  Do we want to be treated the way most older people are in twenty-first-century America?

      In America today, the elderly are generally seen as a burden or a bother—a hindrance in the worship of the beloved idols Self, Pleasure, Mammon, and “Good of Society”.  Grandparents are neglected as many of the next generation scatter and settle in different states.  It is expected that the government will take care of their needs, whether through federal programs such as Social Security and Medicare or locally-subsidized programs.

     When the parents are unable to live alone any longer, they are placed in a nursing home or assisted living facility.  Whether they are working through physical, mental, or emotional problems, they are left to fend for themselves with the aid of caregivers, nurses, and doctors.  The children may be called upon to make crucial decisions or may be disposed to pay an occasional visit.  Generally, however, the generations turn to their own ways—like sheep (Isaiah 53:6)—and have as little to do with the preceding ones as possible.  What a sad state of affairs!

     Why should we not do as the world does?  Why should we care for our parents?  Can we really offer them better care than what they would receive from professional workers in a nursing home?

     Yes, I believe we can.  We may not be professional nurses or therapists, but we are their children.  We should know their specific needs, personalities, and idiosyncrasies.  We can really give them cause to rejoice in the Lord when they see their children and grandchildren walking faithfully with Him.  Possibly, we could lengthen their lives.

     How can this be?  Of course, God has ultimate control over health and illness, life and death.  However, the conditions in which a human lives do affect the length of his life.  For example, most rural Americans live longer than most rural Africans because of the availability of clean water, nutritious food, medical care, safe and warm housing, and sanitary facilities.

     Likewise, if Grandfather lives with the next generation instead of alone, his son or grandson will do the outdoor work and lifting.  He will not become fatigued as quickly, but have more energy to spend time investing in future generations. 

     If Grandmother lives with the family instead of in a nursing home, she will be surrounded and cared for by people who really love her.  She is not one of fifty they have to serve.  Her family has time to listen to her and show her their affection.  Seasons of long idleness or being neglected much of the time in a nursing home could occasion despondency or discouragement, which could shorten her days.  “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine; but a broken spirit drieth the bones.” (Proverbs 17:22) Encouragement from family could help prolong her health.  We must take care of family as long as we possibly can.

     When Christ was on the cross, He showed Divine compassion on every human but Himself.  He pitied His murderers and interceded for their forgiveness before the Father.  He showed mercy on us all through His passion, making a way for us to renew fellowship with God.  And He ensured that His mother would be well taken care of after His death.

              When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son!  Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home.” (John 19:26-27)

               Life holds many challenges and painful times for each of us.  Caring for older parents will not be easy, just as most of life.  But none of us will ever have to go through what Jesus did—bearing the sins of the whole world, being forsaken for a time by the holy God, hanging on a cross in solitary darkness.  In His agony, He remembered His mother and made sure she had a physical home and provider, just as He was even then providing a way for her and us to have a home in Heaven.

                 As we consider the sacrifice full-time care of our parents will require, we must also consider the full-time care they sacrificed to give us in our childhood.  Feeding us, clothing us, caring for us when we were sick, teaching us basic skills such as combing our hair and dressing…these would make up the minimum most babies and toddlers would hopefully receive from their parents.

                Unfortunately, in the socialistic America we have today, the government strives to make itself both god and family to citizens.  About half the population is on one government  program or another.  The majority of children are educated in government schools; and, if both parents work outside the home, the children likely spend most of their first few years in daycare.  

                A given daycare may not be directly subsidized by tax dollars, but the culture at large does encourage and pressure parents to pursue money and forsake time with their children as much as possible.  Thus some children of the modern and crazed era may not have had the privilege of as much time with their parents as others.

                In any case, according to the Bible, we must support our parents.  We exist today, to some extent, because our parents accepted God’s gift of a child and the challenges (and joys) that accompany this gift.

                We have seen the Scriptural mandate restated in Proverbs 23:22, which says, “Hearken unto thy father that begat thee, and despise not thy mother when she is old.”  Parents and grandparents are precious treasures from the Lord.  Let us not forsake them!  Let us love them, take care of them, hearken unto them, honor them, thank God for them, and show our gratitude in as many ways as possible.

                “The hoary head is a crown of glory, if it be found in the way of righteousness.” (Proverbs 16:31) “Children’s children are the crown of old men;  and the glory of children are their fathers.” (Proverbs 17:6)  Our parents are our glory, and our children are their crown.  Generations together serving the Lord—what a beautiful but rare thing!  For any of us who are blessed with living parents and grandparents, striving towards this is a sure part of our holy calling.

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Copyright © 2014

Battling Pride

Pride.  Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.  (Proverbs 16:18)  When pride cometh, then cometh shame:  but with the lowly is wisdom.  (Proverbs 11:2)  Much of my life has been a struggle with pride, with years spent building it and decades spent tearing it down.  Pride was likely not the goal of my parents in raising me, but it was the end result.  I was very sick when I was small and was miraculously healed, and I was reminded throughout childhood that God must have preserved me for a particular purpose.  While true, that has a way of building grandiose notions in a person, when not carefully moderated by doses of humility and reminders that, indeed, God calls everyone for a particular purpose.  As a result, my teen years and young adulthood were spent being puffed up and proud of accomplishments that were only the result of God’s blessing.  And my adulthood has been a work at tearing down the layers of pride and seeking humility, yet punctuated by times of looking for “big” things to do.

While some are specially called by God for a big, visible, public, groundbreaking, world-changing purpose (think of Washington, of Wycliffe, of Bunyan, of Luther, and such), for the vast majority of people, our biggest purpose is to be faithful in the sphere where God puts us.  The Westminster Catechism states that the chief purpose of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.  That speaks of living out His will in a way that directs others to Him, that diverts praise and glory from us to Him, that ensures our eternal destiny to be a life with Him by salvation through Christ.  And scripture speaks often of the importance of raising succeeding generations for God, reminding them of His works of providence, and instructing them in His ways.  (Deuteronomy 6, Psalm 78)  We are called as well to serve others, doing good to all men, especially to those who are of the household of faith.  (Galatians 6:10)  While it sounds obvious, it has been a progression for me to realize that the world is changed – one life, one family, one community at a time – by preparing the next generation to serve Christ faithfully locally.  Truly, I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.  (3 John 1:4)  If by the end of my life I can see a fruitful walk in each of my children and preparation for that walk in their children, then I will go to be with the Lord thankful for His blessing of my well-intentioned – yet inadequate – efforts and satisfied that my race was well run.  (2 Timothy 4:7)

God has a purpose for each of us, and work for all of us to do, and there is an immense beauty that appears as one begins to understand that our world now has six billion people on it, all created in the image of God, and each with a particular work to do, if only they would repent, come to salvation, and embrace their place in God’s kingdom and the life He wills for them.  What a marvelous Creator who could easily fit six billion moving parts – each with his own free will to be conformed over time to the mind of Christ – into a cohesive, integrated whole as His church working for Him here and as the bride of Christ in eternity.  There is no need for pride in man when one gets even a tiny glimpse of the glory of God.  (Psalm 8)

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Copyright © 2013

Turning Off the Television

My emancipation from television…  It might seem a strong phrase, since the word emancipation is usually connected with Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.  In comparison, yes, the phrase is strong.  The plight of the slaves should not be minimized, and the intent of my phrasing is not to diminish the slaves but to emphasize the bondage that is possible to the television.

I grew up with television.  On Saturday mornings, I was the first person awake in the house and would be in the living room shortly before 5:30 a.m., watching the test pattern and waiting for the Woody Woodpecker cartoon to begin.  I would be sitting there continuously until about noon when the various cartoons ended.  Weekdays after school, I would arrive home and turn on the television for old comedy movies or for re-runs of old half-hour sitcoms.  I would watch the news with my parents starting at 6:00, and then at 7:00 would be game shows like Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy.  After that, we usually watched sports.  When I went to college, I would go to sleep with the television on ESPN and would wake up in the morning with it still on.  I remember back in the mid-1980’s that a visiting minister spoke at church and challenged the people to give up television for a week.  It was a completely foreign notion for me.  We didn’t take the challenge, but I still remember it because it seemed so strange.

So given that history, how did we become a family without television?  My wife had a lot to do with it.  When our oldest daughter was a toddler, I was still spending Sunday afternoons watching the New England Patriots’ football games.  We decided that wasn’t an honorable way to spend the Lord’s Day, so we tried going television-free on Sundays, unless we were watching a recorded sermon or Gaither Homecoming concert.  It was hard.  I was so used to having the television on, and so used to my nearly twenty years of Sunday afternoon football, that I really had difficulty giving it up.  But I knew it was the right thing to do, so we stuck it out and it eventually became easier.  From there my wife and I began to question other television fare that we had previously considered harmless and concluded that it really wasn’t worth watching.  We thought it was mindless entertainment – simply a chance to relax and unwind – but, in fact, it was filled with subtle messages that were intended to reshape viewers’ convictions and weaken any sense of a Christian’s life, beliefs, and service.  It also was taking up valuable time that should have been spent more profitably.  And so, we unhooked the antenna and moved the television out of the living room.  We still have it available to watch messages or pre-screened educational programs, but we haven’t had access to regular programming for close to a decade.

The freedom that comes from not being glued to the television and from not being dependent on it for filling time or for finding entertainment is substantial.  When our children are grown and raising families of their own, I hope they will continue to live TV-free and to redeem the time God gives them each day.  Anything less is a step backward and will leave them (and their descendents) needing to someday re-win a battle that has already been won, all while accumulating mental and spiritual scars.

There are Christian leaders who say you must embrace the culture – whether that is expressed in video, in sports, in music, in art, in books or magazines, in style of dress, or in any other expression of thought or belief – in order to win to Christ those who are in the culture.  I have difficulty finding support for that in Scripture.  In his second letter to believers in Corinth – a city full of pagans – Paul advised them to seek holiness and to avoid compromise with the wicked culture around them.  The first of these verses is used in modern churches to note that believers should not marry unbelievers (which is undoubtedly true), but its original intent applies in a much wider context:

Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?  And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?  And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.  Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you,  And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty. ~ II Corinthians 6:14-18

In Jesus’ prayer before His betrayal by Judas, He noted the distinction between the world and those who make up His bride:

I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.  I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.  They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.  Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.  As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. ~ John 17:14-18

Notably, He did not ask the Father to remove them from the world, but that they might be kept pure from its evils.  And, He pointed out that He sends His children out into the world for the same purpose that He was sent into the world – to be a shining light for God.  In His sermon on the mount, Jesus instructed His followers to “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”  (Matthew 5:16)

In his first epistle, Peter noted the distinctiveness of God’s people.  To be distinct – to be recognized as being peculiar – one must be different.  Otherwise, there is no peculiarity, and with no peculiarity, there is no sanctification, as sanctification literally means “to be set apart for a sacred purpose”.

But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:  Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.  Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul;  Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation. ~ I Peter 2:9-12

 Finally, in John’s first epistle, he very aptly describes the enticements of the world.  In consideration of modern media, one cannot come up with a more appropriate description:

Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.  And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever. ~ I John 2:15-17

And so, if Scripture confirms repeatedly that God’s people are to be set apart in thought and in action, that must be our standard – not modern preachers who water down the gospel to try to get more bodies in the pews, more sales of their books, and more accolades from the rich and famous.  Leave the television behind, take up your cross and follow Christ.

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Copyright © 2013

All Play and No Work Makes Jack a Slothful Boy

When I was a boy, I loved to play.  I was a high-energy child and loved to run and climb.  I was involved on various sports teams from about age eight up through high school.  I played with Fisher Price little people, grew into action figures, and later on enjoyed several early video games.  In the summers, I would almost daily ride my bicycle two miles to a friend’s house to play.  (It was so common that his older brother asked me, “Don’t you ever stay home?”  That one stung, but it was accurate.  That trip was my last visit, and I never went back.  I apparently needed a lesson from Proverbs 25:17.)

What’s missing from the above?  Work.  Oh, I did work some.  I helped with the gardens, and pitched in working summers in the local fishery with my father.  I helped mow the lawn once I was old enough and occasionally umpired baseball games.  Work was never a focus, though.  It was just something to get through quickly to get back to play, or it was simply a way to earn enough money to buy the latest toy or video game.  I still regret the few days each summer I woke up late and missed going out on the boat with Dad — especially because I was happy to be able to play the whole day away.

Looking back, I think I had a fairly typical childhood for the time, and sadly I think it is pretty much reflective of my generation of adults today.  The training we had when young shaped the men and women we became.  I have thirty-five to forty year-old coworkers who have their poker nights, their paintball games, and their networked video game parties.  I have former classmates who spend their free time with ATVs or snowmobiles or goin’ muddin’ in their four wheel drive trucks.  Theirs is a very different perspective on life, but it’s the one in which my generation was trained.

The World War II generation had its long struggle against facism and communism, persevering under extremely difficult conditions.  The baby boom generation followed and capitalized on the success of their parents, working hard and reaping financial prosperity.  Then came my generation, resting on our laurels, content to enjoy the prosperity earned by our parents, yet expecting to have it handed to us rather than to work for it.  Our mindset is one of entitlement:  equality of outcome rather than equality of opportunity.  We are largely a generation of perpetual adolescents, content to work just enough so that we can “play hard”, as one sneaker manufacturer told us when we were growing up.

What’s missing here?  Responsibility.  Family leadership.  Child-raising and training.  Taking dominion over the earth.  The nobility of work.  Six days of labor each week followed by a Sabbath rest.  Stewardship over time, treasure, and talent.  Appreciation for the past.  Vision for the future.  Maturity.  Continual reformation in ourselves, our families, our communities, our states, and our nation.

It is not easy, but it is possible to change direction, to refocus, to truly repent of the sins of the past — including slothfulness — and to go forward purposing to make ourselves ready and available for the Master’s use.  We live in a lost and fallen world that is sliding farther from Christ each decade; it is our duty to help slow and reverse that descent, not to hop on a sled and ride the avalanche just because it is easier than turning our face to the wind and struggling back up the hill.

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Copyright © 2013