Friday, November 7, 2014

The Scriptures are not a replacement for God

The following is an excerpt from our book, "Rethinking the unthinkable in the light of Love"

There is a very real danger in replacing God with the Bible.  Instead of seeing God as speaking to us through the Bible, we honor and revere the Bible as having some sort of mystical power in and of itself.  For many Christians, the teaching of the Holy Spirit has been replaced with the Bible.  Many believe God does not speak to Christians personally today, but can only have their hearts “illuminated” as they read the scriptures.  In these circles(and we have been part of them in the past), God is not seen as active or involved personally and relationally in our reading of and application of the scripture.  God is seen as simply setting a ball rolling by having the scriptures written and now just sits back and watches from a distance.  In this type of mindset, a close communion type of relationship with God is not attainable. Christians are taught all they need to do is read their bibles and do what it says (in their own strength and with much striving of course).

 A parable of three families
To illustrate three different approaches to the scriptures, we would like to illustrate with a parable of three families and how they responded to a letter the Father wrote to them before embarking on a long business trip.  The families each live on small farms, and there are many areas of responsibility, including feeding animals, bringing in crops, tending a garden, and maintaining the beauty of the property.  In the letter were specific things the Father wanted his family to do in his absence, and many reminders of how much he loves them and looks forward to seeing them upon his return. 

The studious family
As the Father is nearing his home after the completion of the business trip, he is excitedly anticipating the time he will be spending with his family very soon.  Oh, how he is longing to wrap his wife and children in his loving arms and hear about everything that has happened since he left.  However, as he nears his home, he begins to discover that his household and farm are in shambles.  Most of the animals are dead, and the garden is full of weeds from neglect.  Not a single member of his family hears him arriving as he enters the driveway in his car.  In fact, it almost seems his family has forgotten about him.  Sadly, the father hears unkind words being spoken in the house as he walks up to the door.  After coming into his home and greeting his family, the Father sits down in a chair to spend some quality time with them.  However, no-one seems to be interested in him.  They are all too busy studying pieces of paper.  The Father asks his son, Paul, “What are you examining?”  Paul responds, “I am studying part of your letter, of course!  Isn’t that what you wanted us to do!  It says right here, ‘Study to show yourself approved’…”   As the day proceeds, he realizes that not one member of his family is interested in spending time with him, either to hear how his trip went, or to share with him about their lives.  As evening approaches, the Father realizes he must have a family meeting.  As the Father sits down with his family to talk to them, first and foremost he asks, “Why haven’t you been doing the things I wrote to you in the letter”?  His oldest daughter, Sally, pipes up, “But Father, we have been studying the letter every day very diligently.  In fact, mother brought out your letter each morning and read it aloud to us before we started each day.”  The youngest son, Billy, chimes in, “Yeah, and mother has been having us memorize sections of the letter.  In fact, we can even recite some of it to for you now if you would like”.  The Father begins to respond, “I don’t think that will be necessary right now…”, when Sally interrupts, blurting out, “oh yes, and we also have been doing some in-depth, inductive studies of your letter. We have been analyzing carefully the words you chose, and how the sentences are structured.”  The Father interrupts his daughter, responding.  “Yes, that is all very interesting, but my main question is, why didn’t you do any of the things I wrote to you?!?” “If you really knew me, you would have done the things I asked, and you would have known that the purpose of the letter was not just for study, but to encourage you to be the family I want us to be.  To love one another, to steward what has been given to us, and to be a light to the world.  Most importantly, I wanted you to get to know me better so the letter would make more sense.  I see that I will need to do some more training to help you understand the original purpose for what I wrote.” He paused and then continued, “Didn’t my friend come to you as I promised in the letter.  I told you he would come and help you, and teach you many things.”  His wife responds, “Oh, yes, we did see a man who came to the door and introduced himself as your friend, but we did not recognize him and he spoke strangely so we sent him away.”

The industrious, meticulous family
This family is well-known in their town as a very industrious and hard-working family.  When the father returns from his business trip, he finds that certain areas of his farm are prospering and there is an appearance of beauty, but he realizes something is dreadfully wrong as he gets out of his car and begins walking up the sidewalk toward his home.  He is surprised and saddened that not a single member of his family greets him.  He had been looking forward to spending time with them, and had missed them so very much while he was away.  Although he attempts to call them by name and ask how they are doing, each of them is hard at work, heads down, focusing very diligently upon their tasks.  Sadly, they don’t even seem to realize he is there.  As the father proceeds up the sidewalk, he stops to talk to his second oldest son, Jimmy, who is hard at work cutting the lawn with a pair of scissors.  The father asks him what he is doing, and Jimmy explains, “I am mowing the lawn, of course.  In fact, I have hardly taken a break to even eat or sleep since you left, father.  All I have done is cut this lawn since you left.  Doesn’t it look beautiful, aren’t you proud of the great job I’m doing?”  The Father responds, “Um, yes, I am proud of you, son, but there is an easier way, and you could have done so much more if you had understood my instructions better…”  Jimmy’s eyes glaze over, he stops listening, and returns to his work, so the father proceeds toward the garden.  Upon arriving at the garden, he finds his oldest daughter, Jill, hard at work pulling weeds.  He asks what she is doing, and she replies, “I am pulling weeds, Father.”  The father responds, “Yes, I can see that, but why aren’t there any vegetables planted in the garden?”  Jill exclaims in surprise, “I didn’t know you wanted vegetables in the garden, I just thought it was supposed to be kept weed-free.”  By this point, not much would surprise the father, but he was about to be shocked.  He hears a small engine sound coming from the back field, so when he walks behind the barn, he is surprised to see his middle son, John, mowing the back 40 acres with a push-mower!  It appears that he has been working on it for a very long time, and only a small portion of the field had been mown.  Shaking his head, the father walks back to his house to see how his wife is doing, who is in the middle of cleaning the kitchen with a toothbrush.  His heart aches to spend time with his family, but they are all too busy working. As he sits down to ponder the situation, he can’t help but notice that even though much of the farm appears to be beautiful, there is no fruit!  Later, he discovers that all the animals had to be sold because no wheat or corn had been harvested for them to be fed.  His bank account is in ruins and debt is piling up rather quickly.  That evening, the Father sits down to talk with his family about what he is observing. He starts out by saying, “Much of what you have been doing has produced somewhat of an outward appearance of beauty, but you are working much too hard on the wrong things, with very little fruit or life.  The things I wrote to you in the letter were not meant to be kept meticulously, it wasn’t meant to be a set of rules for you to keep in order to maintain a polished appearance on the outside.  Besides, you only did certain things I wrote to you about, and completely ignored other parts. Did you not ask help from my friend I had promised would come in the letter.”  His wife responds,  “Yes, your friend did come, but we were too busy trying to do what you had written.  We didn’t think we needed any help, we thought we could figure it out, so we sent him away.  We thought you would be so proud of us, but we realize now how much we missed.”  “Yes”, the Father sadly responds, “Things would have been much different if you had received help from my friend and let him teach you what I really wanted. You did some good things, but you missed my heart.”

 The Spirit led family
As the father of this family arrives at the driveway to his home, he exclaims to himself, “Wow, this farm is so much more beautiful than when I left it.  It looks like the garden of Eden!  The crops have just been harvested, the animals look fat and happy, and the fruit trees are filled with fruit.”  He didn’t have much time to observe though, because his wife and children were all running down the road to greet him!  He couldn’t even finish driving up the driveway.  As he opened the door of his car,  he was greeted warmly with hugs and kisses from his children, eager to welcome their father home.  “Oh, how we missed you, daddy!”, they exclaimed.  As he takes his wife in his arms and gives her a big kiss, he exclaims, “It is so good to be home!!  Oh how I missed you! My family looks healthier and more beautiful than when I left!  And what an amazing job you have done with the farm, it is truly prospering and overflowing with love and life!”  That evening, when the father sits down with his family to spend time with them, he starts out by saying,  “I assume you met my friend, Yloh Tirips, from Japan, whom I sent to you to teach you and help you understand the things I wrote to you in my letter.”  The oldest son, Jack, responds, “Oh yes, it would have been impossible to take care of this farm without him.  When Yloh Tirips introduced himself to us, we at first couldn’t understand him very well since he spoke a strange language to us, but we could see that he was very earnest and appeared trustworthy. Also, since you had promised he would come in your letter, we believed you since you have never led us astray in the past.”  The oldest daughter, Jane, spoke up, “After we began to understand the language Yloh Tirips was speaking, he taught us how to see the things you had written in the letter from the perspective of your heart of love, Father.  We didn’t see the things you wrote as burdensome, but we found great joy as we worked alongside Yloh Tirips and he taught us.  One of the first things he showed us were all the tools you had left us to do jobs around the farm.  No sense working harder than we have to, right?”  Jane proceeded, “We found instructions for using the riding lawn-mower to cut the lawn, the roto-tiller to weed the garden, and the tractor to help us plant and harvest the fields.  If we had to do all that by hand, we would be burned out by now!” “We also learned that what you truly want are overflowing love and fruitfulness, not just keeping the farm looking good.”  The youngest child, Billy, piped up, “We were also excited about the cell-phone you left us, Father.” Yloh Tirips showed us where it was and how to turn it on so we could talk to you and discover exactly how you wanted certain things done, or to help us solve problems we encountered.”  “Oh, Yes,” the Father replied, “I enjoyed receiving those phone calls, spending time talking with you, and responding to your questions.  I was never far from you since we could communicate anytime you wanted.  I am so proud of you all, well done!  Let’s celebrate by killing one of those fattened calves I saw in the field!”

 Only the third family knew what the Father really wanted, and only with the help of Yloh Tirips(Holy Spirit), did they discover how to do what he wanted done and how to interpret and apply the letter properly.  You see, we can’t get to know the Father and understand his heart by simply reading the scriptures, studying them, and trying to do all the things contained in them in our own strength.  The Father wants us to grow in a relationship with him personally.  We can’t know the Father by just reading about him.  We must come to know him through the Holy Spirit, by spending time with him, and by growing in relationship with other believers who also know him.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Learn to laugh at yourself

Yesterday, I woke up sort of grouchy.  Someone in my family was sort of jesting about how I had wiped my hands on the back of my pants and there were blueberry stains there.   Now, I know they meant absolutely no harm, and it was all in good fun, but since I wasn't in a very good mood, I was feeling a bit resentful about the comments, but didn't say anything. A little while later, I went to spend some time in prayer and decided to pick up the "Jesus Calling" devotional book, which I haven't actually looked at for about 3 months.  The first two sentences of the next reading I opened up to in the book said, "Learn to laugh at yourself more.  Refuse to take yourself or your circumstances so seriously."  I couldn't help but receive some of the Joy of the Lord after reading that, and it completely changed my attitude.

The devotional went on to say that God loves it when his children laugh.  Just like we get delight out of seeing our own children care-free, laughing, and enjoying life.  Our Father loves it when we are free enough to laugh because that means we are trusting in him rather than trying to control our circumstances.

God has quite a sense of humor.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The High priority of Relationship

The question came up with a brother as to what is God's highest priority and what does he care about above all else.   An article by Heidi and Rolland Baker made the bold statement that Jesus only cares about relationship.  Article entitled Relationship in the Kingdom While I am not prepared to defend that assertion completely, I do believe that Jesus cares about relationship deeply.  It is difficult to discern what he cares about most - but I would state that much of what God prioritizes stems back to some form of relational connection between himself and Man.  This brother I was communicating with stated that God also cares about Truth, justice, righteousness, and destroying the devil.  I agree, but I also see the high priority of relationship woven throughout all these concepts as well.  This kind of an exchange, when it doesn't spiral into a debate, can be very healthy and constructive - helping us see more clearly and deepening our understanding of God and his heart.  We need each other's viewpoints to see the bigger picture.  Here are some of my thoughts about relationship that I shared with him.

Truth, Justice, righteousness, and destroying the devil all have restoration of relationship at their core. I see the heart of God expressed in his desire to form relationship with man upon his creation. I see a beautiful relationship enjoyed eternally between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit displayed in the way Jesus spoke about his relationship with Father and his dependence upon the Holy Spirit. I see sin breaking that fellowship between God and man, and then God restoring that relationship through Jesus' sacrifice.  Jesus tore the veil in two so we can enjoy fellowship/communion with him the way he intended in the garden of eden with Adam. I see God passionately pursuing relationship with a people through Abraham and the nation of Israel and then I see him grieved, many times in terms reserved for marriage(Hosea) when they were adulterous(another relational term). God loves to call people who know his heart friends, and he now calls us his friends, even calling us his bride and his children - all relational terms. I see love as the main thing since God IS Love - and Love's best expression occurs within mutual relationship. God's love for a rock is limited since it can't love him back freely. We have to ask, why did God create man if not because he desired relationship with him? Yes, God could have created robots who did everything he told them, but he desires those who will freely love him back. God does not need this love, but he enjoys it because of who he is.  God is love, and he chose to include us in the fellowship circle of love he has been enjoying for eternity within the Trinity.
Relationship in Truth
As God removes lies that the devil and the world has told us, usually about Him, we can enter deeper relationship with him. As we see Him more clearly, the tree of life, we learn to depend less upon the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. We understand that the world doesn't need us to be "right" about everything, but it needs us to be more "alive". The world needs Christians who are able to share the indwelling life and love of Christ, the living water, not just tell them how wrong their behavior is. It's like telling a dog it is wrong to bark,  people are going to live out of their nature and they need to be shown a better way.  Yes, Jesus told people the truth, but he also lived it out relationally with his disciples. Personally, my desire is becoming to know Jesus more personally and deeply so that his life oozes out of my life - not just in words, but in actions and in truth.
It is interesting to note that the word "know" when Jesus' said, "You shall know the truth and the truth will set you free" is a relational term. The greek word for "know" is Ginosko, sometimes used as a Jewish idiom for sexual intercourse between a man and a woman. When Matthew says, "Joseph knew not Mary"(Matt. 1:25), he was using the word Ginosko. When we come into a right relationship with Jesus, the truth, then we can really say we "know" the truth. We don't just know about Jesus, we actually know Jesus relationally. Don't take the analogy of intercourse too far, I only use it to illustrate the depth and richness of the Greek language, and the depth of what Jesus was saying in relational terms.
1 John 1:1 - "What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life." John the apostle had a relationship with a real person, Jesus Christ,  he saw him, touched him, and lived life with him. We can have a similar relationship with him because he lives in us. We can commune with him, hear his voice, and speak to him in the same way.

Spiritual Truth is found in a person, Jesus Christ, not just an ideal.  Truth administered apart from a right relationship with God becomes dead, pharisaical religion. We are products of western thinking that values facts and research over anything spiritual or experiential.  We need both to know the truth accurately.
Relationship in Righteousness
Righteousness is not so much about doing all the "right" things, but is more about restoring a "right" relationship with God and this includes the removal of sin so we can see clearly and enjoy relationship with him again. In the parable of the prodigal son,  I love how the Father wrapped his arms around his son and loved him unconditionally, even though he had just come from the pig-pen. I realized at one point in my Christian life that I was just like the older brother, and all my righteousness was just filthy rags. True righteousness is relational because it can only be accomplished through abiding in Him. Those who abide in him will bear much fruit.  Those who don't abide in him(another relational term), can bear NO lasting fruit.  As Heidi and Rolland Baker say in the book There is always enough, "Fruitfulness flows from intimacy".

Relationship restored in destroying the works of the devil and justice
What the first Adam lost, the second Adam has paid the price to restore and has poured out his spirit into a people through whom he is destroying the works of the Devil. What was lost at the fall is being restored through the sons of God, filled with his heart and his spirit, in close relationship with him. As God administers justice and the works of satan are destroyed through a people who are in union with him, right relationship is restored throughout the earth and "the" Truth (Jesus Christ) is revealed.

As truth, righteousness, and life with God is lived out relationally, it moves from our head into our heart.  I believe some may have trouble with the concept of relationship because the church in general has done a poor job of being relational and is uncomfortable with it.  It is easier to give people a list of rules, offer them some self-help, throw in a few programs and bible studies, and call it Christianity.  Christianity without a relationship with Christ and his body is not really the Christian life at all,  it is just another religious system.


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

From Christendom to Kingdom

I was very blessed by the 3rd article in the open heaven newsletter this week.  Here is the direct link to the author's blog entry.
This article spurred a hunger in me and a remembrance of times when God has worked in my life for a season. Mountain-top experiences are awesome, when we are soaring on wings like an eagle and our vision/clarity increases. I appreciate seasons of personal revival/renewal because it reminds me of what is really important and draws my attention back to God. However, we aren't meant to go through the revival cycle like the Israelites in the book of Judges. We are meant to walk with God constantly, abiding in him. If we are in need of revival, it is because we have forgotten he is present with us and have allowed idols to replace him. I have found myself in that state many times, especially during the busy summer months where many responsibilities and tasks can become immense and overwhelming. However, when I am brought back to the simplicity of relationship and his overwhelming love for me, the mountains become small and are easily moved.
Seems the experience the woman in the article is having is happening to many. Many are becoming hungry for more of God and to know him more deeply, becoming dissatisfied with the shallow. Call it baptism in the Spirit, a second, third, or fourth work of grace, whatever - God is calling his people into deeper fellowship and surrender to him. For some, it may look like this - for others, it may be more slow and gentle as the Lord strips away the layers of selfishness and pride in our lives - exposing us to his perfect love that casts out all fear. The point is, the Lord works differently in all our lives - we aren't meant to copy the experience of others - however, we can be encouraged about how he is working in them and it can encourage us and spark hunger.

Monday, April 7, 2014

True Fellowship

The Lord led my wife and I to study the meaning of true Fellowship this weekend, and we ended up sharing what we learned with the group of believers we relate to in our home on Saturday night.   I can honestly say, we enjoyed true fellowship that night, and we were truly encouraged by what we are seeing.  The Lord is opening our eyes to so many things, and this issue of Fellowship is just one of them. 

I had been pondering a statement made by Bryon Wiebold of Forerunner Ministries in Texas.  He said, "we don't gather for fellowship, we gather because we already have Fellowship".  This statement prompted my wife and I to study out the word "fellowship" as it is used in the Bible.  My wife and I love to re-think and re-discover what the Bible really says about many words or subjects that many times have lost their meaning since we have been in "church" for a while.  Religious thinking, or familiarity sets in and we can stop thinking about what we are saying or hearing.  We learned that true Fellowship is much more than just getting together to discuss life, religion, sports, or politics.  Fellowship is also more than getting together to "do" religious things like prayer, worship, bible study, etc.

The greek word for Fellowship is Koinonia, and it is used in several ways throughout the New Testament.  It means to partake, participate in, have in common, and can also be translated as the  word "communion".  We discovered from 1 John 1:3-7 that before we can enjoy fellowship with others, we must first have fellowship with the Father and the Son, Jesus Christ. It is impossible to have Christian fellowship with someone who does not have true fellowship with God first!! 

1 John 1:3
We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.

1 John 1:6,7
 6 If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

Our fellowship with God will be manifested in whether we are walking in the light of God's love.  Then, our fellowship with each other will be manifested in our love for each other!

1 John 2:9
Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness.

In 1 Corinthians, the word "Koinonia" sheds further light on how we see and relate to the body of Christ.

1 Corinthians 10:16,17
16 Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? 17 Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all share the one loaf.

The word for "participation" used in this passage is, you guessed it: Koinonia.  As believers, we enjoy true fellowship because we have each been baptized into the body of Christ.  We are participants of being part of the body of Christ because we have each eaten of his flesh and drank of his blood.  In a spiritual manner, we have allowed the very essence of Christ to enter into us and he has made each of us members of his body. 

Our fellowship with the Head(Christ) determines our fellowship with the rest of the body.  We are each participants(Koinonia) in the body and blood of Christ.

The last instance of the word Koinonia I want to share is in 2 Peter 1:3,4
3 His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

The word "participate" here is of course the grk. word Koinonia.  This is perhaps the greatest revelation of all I discovered when doing this study.  Not only do we have fellowship with God because we are in the light of his love, and because we are now members of his body.  We have fellowship with God and each other because we now have his very nature imparted to us!!  We love  each other because it is now our nature to love!  We share gifts of the spirit with one another because his Spirit is now one with our Spirit!  We now share the same Father!  We are members of the same family!  We are sons of God, just like Christ, the firstborn son!  Does this mean we "are" God?  No, but it does mean we are now "like" God in the sense that he has imparted his very nature and essence into us.  We are no longer of Adam, we are of Christ.  We no longer have a dead Spirit, our Spirit is alive to God, energized and full of the Life of God.  Our life-source and nature no longer comes from the Tree of the knowledge of good and evil(Adam), our life-source is now the tree of Life(Christ)!

This is what forms the basis of our fellowship with other believers.  Our fellowship is not based around believing the same doctrines, praying the same way, worshiping the same songs, attending the same "church".  Our fellowship is based on our new nature and our new relational position with the Father.  We are new creations - the old has passed away and the new has come!  Our fellowship(Koinonia) is based around "who" we have become and who we have relationship with(the Father), not based around what we "do".  What we do as the Church flows out of who we now are, and the direct connection we have with the head.  We are no longer "sinners", we are "saints".  We no longer have a "sinful" nature, we have God's divine nature of pure, spotless, holy, Love.  As Bryon Wiebold says in this blog post, we are no longer "Apples", we are "Oranges".  Apples vs Oranges

Do we still struggle with the flesh?  Of course. In our Soul, the mind, will, and emotions we still struggle with ingrained patterns of behavior, fears, and areas of our heart that need to be surrendered to Jesus Christ daily.  We can still allow sin into our soul and practice sin, but it is now a foreign invader that has no right to be there.  We are not defined by that sin any longer, we are defined by what God says about us. We are now Sons of God, members of Christ's body, new creation Spirit-men(and women), free from the law of sin and death. 

This is what Jesus died for - this is what his body is all about - this is what true fellowship is based upon.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Spiritual Growth

Just like a book needs revising as an author looks back and sees what he wrote years ago, so we felt the need to revise some things in this blog.  As we looked back on the things we wrote when we started the blog 3 years ago, we realized how many things God has shown us since then.  We realized our "vision" had changed, and we aren't really as excited about farming as we used to be.  Yes, we still enjoy it, but it isn't where we get our life from anymore.  We also realized much of our terminology was kind of funny - things like wanting more of the presence of God.  We know that God is with us everywhere we go.  Yes, we understand that God does manifest his presence in different ways at different times, but we aren't so much longing for a goosebumps experience anymore.  Its more about love, and out of that flows an awareness of God's presence.  We have realized that much of our focus was on self, "fulfill our destiny and discover God's love for us".  Yes, those things are all very important - but for what purpose???  If the purpose isn't also to share God's love with others, then we're nothing more than clanging cymbals.  We make a lot of noise, but that's about it.

In another 3 years, we will probably look back on this season and wonder, "what were we thinking back then?"  When I look back on where we were 4-5 years ago, I am in shock.  My wife and daughters could only wear skirts, we were "patriarchal", we thought raising good Christian kids meant conforming to the outward traditions of men. We thought your measure of spiritually hinged on how many "arrows" were in your quiver and if you could grind your own wheat.  My wife and I had no real relationship, we were just fulfilling our "roles".  We weren't listening to God's voice, we were just doing what seemed the right thing to do.  The list goes on and on.

Spiritual Growth involves change, and if we can't look back on our lives and see where God has adjusted or changed us in some way, something is wrong.  There were certainly seasons where I didn't change in my Christian journey.  Times where I was stuck.  That is a miserable place to be.  Some call it a desert season, some call it the wilderness.  Those are times where not much growth is happening.  If you are there, don't give up, keep going.  Turn to God and ask him to deliver you and restore your faith.  Cry out to him for help.  If you are relationally dry, ask Jesus to show you how to relate to him as head properly first, then ask him what to do so you can grow in those relationships in your immediate sphere.  Don't ask God where to go to church, ask him how you can be the church with whoever he connects you with relationally.  Allow the Cross to be applied to those areas of your life you haven't wanted God or others to touch.  John 12:24

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Why we homeschool

When my wife and I started this homeschooling journey 11-12 years ago, we started out with many "good" reasons for homeschooling our children, and I am thankful for them.  When considering homeschooling, I remember a pastor at the church we attended giving us some wisdom out of the Bible.  He said,  "If you want your children to become fools, let them spend most of their time with fools.  If you want your children to be wise, let them spend most of their time with wise people".  That made good sense to me, and it still does.  Also, since most of the people in this church were homeschooling, it made it easier for us to decide to homeschool.   Furthermore, since the public schools are a haven for foolishness, bad behavior, bullying, etc. we wanted to protect our children, shelter them, and provide a Christian worldview for them to follow.  We wanted to be able to influence them more than their peers and protect them from the public school agendas of evolutionism, gay rights, sex ed, etc. 

A few years later, our family joined a very traditional, “family-integrated” church group. Our reasons for homeschooling stayed the same in some ways, but we became more legalistic and behavior-focused.  We wanted our children to grow up to be "good" people, who attend a "good" church, find a "good" spouse, get a "good" job(only if they are men :) ), be good citizens, have many children, dress nice, and do all the things we thought were best for them. We wanted our children to stay true to the faith so we would look like great parents, and our children would turn out to be model Christians who dress, talk, and act like a Christian. We figured that by sheltering them and keeping out all evil influences, we could achieve this goal. Our goal was to only allow them to associate with others who were "like-minded".  We have since left that church and many of the ideals they represented.

What we have been considering lately is this:  Are these reasons for homeschooling enough?  What are the main reasons why we homeschool?

After looking at the first three websites that popped up on Google search, I am convinced that most people are excluding God and any spiritual reasons from their decision-making process. Although practical reasons are good, they are not enough.
Reasons to homeschool web site 1
Reasons to homeschool web site 2
Reasons to homeschool web site 3

My wife was looking at a facebook post the other day that asked for a vote on reasons for homeschooling. She was amazed that out of 120 responses, only two of them said that God had led them to homeschool.  Most of the responses involve some sort of a criticism of the public school system, and the need to protect their children from it.  Other responses involved the superior education their children were able to receive at home.

Even though I happen to agree with many of these good reasons for homeschooling, they aren't the primary goal any more for us.  If our goal is to shelter, protect, and produce good behaving people who are well-educated, we haven't really gained much.  Yes, good character and being different from the world is good, but why?  If that's all we have, we are only going to produce Pharisees who look down their noses at those who are different or don't measure up to their standards. 

Philippians 3:4-9
4 though I myself have reasons for such confidence. If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless. 7 But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in[a] Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.

So, what is our goal now?  My wife wrote this last week, and I think it sums it up very well.

The world is and has been changing, the tide has/is turning….. It is time to rethink “Christianity” in our country. Who are we called to be? Why are we doing what we do as far as homeschooling/raising our children/discipling others?  Why has God called us to raise our children this way? Live this way?  Is it to protect? Shelter? NO! God is asking us to be and raise up a people that KNOW and LOVE Him in such a way that they will be able and willing to stand ALONE with Him in adverse circumstances. Yes, as Christians, we are a blessing to one another but the world needs Christians that won’t back down individually or in small groups, a people that don’t need or rely on a mediator and 100’s or even 1000’s of other likeminded people standing with them.  There is a time coming and has come in some countries, when there will no longer be the possibility of crowd following and still walking with God.  Our children and families may not have “beautiful” lives and futures by our homeschooling, “Christian” standards…they will need to have an intimate relationship with God to walk through adverse circumstances with Him. Our goal in homeschooling is not and cannot be to “protect, instill, groom, etc”. It is to raise up godly men and women that are willing to walk with God in a Holy Army that will require everything of them.

To summarize, we homeschool because we believe God has called us to raise our children up as disciples of Jesus:
1. We believe God has called us to this task of homeschooling(discipleship).
2. We want our children to know Jesus relationally, and love him with all their heart.
3. We want our children to love others and be a light to them, not judge them harshly.
4. We desire our children to have the ability to think for themselves so they won't follow the crowd.
5. We desire our children to be strong in the face of adversity, willing to follow God no matter what the cost.
6. We desire our children to be among those who do not love their lives even unto death.  Rev. 12

To wrap this up, let me share with you something I learned from watching the new Hobbit movie: The Desolation of Smaug.  In the movie, the wood elves are hearing reports about the evil rising in middle-earth.  They argue amongst themselves about whether they should just continue hiding in their safe place, ignore the suffering of others around them, and try to wait for the evil to pass.  Here is a quote.

Tauriel (female elf): When did we allow evil to become stronger than us?
Legolas (male elf): It is not our fight.
Tauriel (female elf): It is our fight.

Tauriel ends up defying the wishes of the leader of the elves(Thranduil), leaves the safety of their home, and helps those who need help.  First, by healing a dwarf, and second, by giving her assistance in the fight against evil.

I ask you this same question - When did we Christians allow evil to become stronger than us?