Category Archives: Christian Homeschooling

A Well-Grounded Faith (Part 6)

In this last post in our A Well-Grounded Faith series, we’ll look at a few more items you may want to include in your children’s education in the foundations of the faith:

What were the criteria for determining which books ended up in the Bible? (And how do we know they really belong there?) This is a question many people have at some point in their Christian life.

Assure your children that God’s Word is precious to Him, and that He had a personal hand in guiding the leaders of the early church to discern which books were truly His inspired revelation. Besides that, the early church fathers used strict criteria which writings had to live up to, in order to be considered authentic. Answers in Genesis gives an easy-to-understand and thorough explanation of the process. You may wish to use other sources as well. We can be assured that the Bible we have today is indeed the inspired Word of God.

Make sure your children are thoroughly certain what the gospel message is. Our children should be very clear on what we mean by “the gospel.” Unfortunately, there are many voices out there trying to complicate this. The apostle Paul dealt with this same problem, and wrote in 2 Corinthians 11:3, But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity which is in Christ.”

Here is the gospel message in a nutshell:

God sent His Son, Jesus, to pay the price for our salvation. Jesus took all our sin upon Himself, died in our place, and rose again from the dead. Every person who believes on Jesus for salvation, and acknowledges Him as Lord, is accepted by the Father and has eternal life. There is no way to God except through Jesus.

That is the simple gospel in my words — but don’t spoon-feed it to your children. Study the message of salvation in the Bible, and then ask your children to write a summary of the gospel in a short paragraph. Three to six sentences should do it. By requiring them to think it through and then write it down for themselves, you will help to solidify the message in their hearts.

Here are some Bible references to help you as you study together:
John 14:6
Romans 10:9, 10
1 Corinthians 15:1-4
Ephesians 2:8, 9 1 John 5:11, 12

Play “The Bible Answer Mom (or Dad)” — Set aside a special time once a week to field your children’s questions about God and the Bible. This doesn’t mean that they have to hold their questions during the rest of the week. They should be able to ask you things they wonder about as they come to mind. But when you set aside a special time and encourage them to be prepared with questions they would like to ask during that time, it builds an anticipation. This can become one of the highlights of your family’s school week.

If you like, make a game of it, where the kids try to stump you. Get the children involved in searching out the answers with you. (It’s OK to say, “I don’t know. Let’s find that out together.”) This could be a great way to teach them how to find answers for themselves in a concordance and at various online Bible study sites.

Here are a few websites I like to use when I need answers:

Answers in Genesis (not only for questions about creation)

Got Questions?

Christian Answers.net

A couple of final thoughts:

Remind them often that knowing God is about being led by His Spirit, moment-by-moment, rather than merely presenting an outward appearance of obeying a set of expectations or rules. It is about a living, breathing relationship with Him, anchored in His Word.

The most effective way to teach the foundations of our faith to our children is through repetition. Once is not enough. They need to hear these truths again and again, through frequent review. Make talking about the things of God a priority. As our children grow, we can increase the depth of what we teach, according to how their understanding has increased.

Deuteronomy 11:16-22 gives us a pattern to follow:

Take heed to yourselves, so that your heart is not deceived and you turn aside and serve other gods and worship them…. Therefore, you shall lay up these my words in your heart and in your soul….

And you shall teach them to your children, speaking of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. And you shalt write them upon the doorposts of your house, and upon your gates, so that your days may be multiplied, and the days of your children, in the land which the LORD swore to your fathers to give them, as the days of heaven upon the earth…. Diligently keep all these commandments which I command you, to do them, to love the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways, and to cleave to Him.

Establishing our children as solid Christians, who can withstand the temptations and deceptions of the world around us, is not for wimps. We must be steadfast and persevering in the task. However, we can be confident that the Lord Himself will help us, as we depend upon Him. He is more interested in seeing our children develop into strong believers than we are. All of heaven’s aid is at our disposal.

Previous — Part 5  

 

Character Building for Families

A Well-Grounded Faith (Part 5)

In our previous posts, we talked about teaching our children the Ten Commandments and the core beliefs of all true Christians. Having a clear understanding of God’s character is still another essential part of possessing a well-grounded faith. If we understand His unchangeable nature, we are less likely to fall for the deceptions which are so prevalent in our world.

In the Bible, God reveals much about Himself through His names:

  • The LORD our Sovereign
  • The Everlasting God
  • The LORD our Provider
  • The LORD our Healer
  • The LORD our Peace
  • The LORD our Righteousness
  • The LORD our Shepherd
  • The All-Sufficient One

The Names of God, by Lee Ann RubsamThere are hundreds of  names and titles for God in the Bible, and they are a wonderful way to discover Who He is. My website has a free list of most of the names of God, if you are interested in studying them further. (We also offer a low-cost e-book or print booklet which includes Bible references for His names.)

While conversing with God right after the terrible golden calf experience, Moses asked Him, “If I have found grace in Your sight, show me now Your way, so that I may know You. … I beseech You, show me Your glory” (Exodus 33:13, 18). In essence, Moses was asking the Lord to reveal His nature to him, and God granted his request. He placed Moses in a cleft of rock (v. 22), and allowed him to see a portion of His glory as He passed by, proclaiming, “The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty…” (Exodus 34:5-7).

We see in this passage seven character qualities of God:

  • His mercy
  • Graciousness
  • Patience
  • Goodness
  • Truthfulness
  • Desire to forgive
  • His justice (fairness)

Others clearly outlined in the Bible are:

  • His holiness
  • Faithfulness
  • Desire to be our Provider
  • Unconditional love
  • His sovereignty

“God IS love,” according to 1 John 4:16. Teach your children that whatever God does stems from His absolute love for them, whether they are feeling it in the moment or not. He does not love some more than others (“God is no respecter of persons” Acts 10:34). He does not love us based on how “good” we are. Many of us who are adults struggle with feeling loved by God. One of the devil’s most successful lies is that God doesn’t love us. We must start early and be persistent in establishing the truth of God’s love in our children’s hearts.

One of God’s names is “My Goodness” (Psalm 144:2). His absolutely good nature ensures that He will never lie to us and that He will always be faithful to keep His promises. Because of His goodness, we can be assured that He will provide for us. In Exodus 3:14, God calls Himself “I AM THAT I AM.” In essence, He is saying, “I AM whatever you need.” Study the I AMs of God with your children. You will be blessed with a greater appreciation of how much God loves to provide for us. You will find a list of the I AMs at my The Names of God webpage and also in The Names of God book I mentioned earlier.

God’s sovereignty is not whimsical or capricious. We can count on Him never to violate the promises He has given us in His Word. Nor will He ever negate other facets of His character. While He is all-powerful, He cannot do things which go against His own pure nature.

Before Whom We Stand, by Lee Ann RubsamIf you would like help in teaching the nature of God to your children, my book, Before Whom We Stand: The Everyman’s Guide to the Nature of God may be helpful to you. In it, I first explain characteristics common to the three Persons of the Trinity, and then give a breakdown of the unique roles of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It can be used as a springboard for discussion for the entire family, or as a text for junior high-age children and older.

You may also find the Encouragement from God’s Word section of my website helpful in teaching God’s nature. It topically lists many Scripture verses which you can use as supporting evidence as you teach the character qualities of God.

In our wrap-up post in this series, I will present a couple more ideas for building a well-grounded faith in our children, as well as a few final pointers.

Previous — Part 4 (Ten Commandments, cont.)

Next — Part 6 (Series Wrap-Up)

A Well-Grounded Faith (Part 4)

In Matthew 5:17-19, Jesus said, “Do not think that I have come to destroy the law or the prophets: I have not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, until all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men to do so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”

We see that the Commandments were not abolished, but fulfilled by Jesus to perfection. We are called to be “conformed to His image” (Romans 8:29) — to be little imitators of Christ, which means we love and do the same things He would do. In addition, Jesus says in this passage to actively teach His commandments.

Jesus was asked which was the greatest commandment of all. He responded, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: you shall love your neighbor as you love yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matthew 22:37-40).

If we can help our children understand that the whole basis for following the Ten Commandments is because we love God wholeheartedly, we won’t have to worry too much about them becoming legalists. We must bring home to them that disobedience to what God has clearly said hurts our heavenly Father’s heart. We don’t want to hurt Him. And one of the things which hurts His heart the most is when we don’t love other people like He loves them. We demonstrate love for the Lord by loving people.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus pointed out in great detail that the Commandments are about heart attitude first. (See Matthew 5:21-48 in particular.) This is also what Paul was talking about when he said, “… The letter [of the law] kills, but the Spirit gives life” (2 Corinthians 3:6).

While the Ten Commandments give details of how to walk out the two great commandments Jesus spoke of in Matthew 22:37-40, they are still only a bare outline of what God intends. In teaching the Commandments to our children, we can flesh them out by giving concrete examples of how they should be lived (and loved) out.

For instance, “You shall have no other gods before me” doesn’t mean that as long as God is at the head of the line, it’s OK to have secondary gods pulling at our heartstrings. God does not want to be first among many: He wants to be our all. Anything which distracts us from Him is an offense to Him. Obviously, we can’t even begin to live Commandment #1 in our own strength. It requires continual dependence on Him.

“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain” is more than avoiding using His name as a loose exclamation. It is about living reverently toward Him in every way possible, realizing that His name is holy and precious. Using His name is invoking His aid, His authority, His power, and His nature. I personally believe that ritualistic prayer, done without thought or sincerity of heart, could be a violation of this commandment, as could tacking on “in Jesus’ name” at the end as a mere formality.

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” is, again, about an attitude of reverence. Do we attend church out of duty, or because we can’t wait to worship the Lord, learn from His Word, and live out Christ-love together with other believers?

“Honor your father and mother” is more than avoiding overt disrespect or disobedience. It involves heart-felt reverence for parents. They are representatives of the heavenly Father to their children. Honoring one’s parents does not end when we reach adulthood. Even if we do not agree with some of the ways we were raised, or if our elderly parents become physically or mentally weak, we are to continue to honor them.

Jesus addresses “You shall not kill” and “You shall not commit adultery” thoroughly in Matthew 5:21-32, so I won’t do that here.

Besides its obvious meaning, “You shall not steal” includes any defrauding or taking advantage of others. Jesus said that the thief (the devil) comes to kill, steal, and destroy, but that He has come to bring abundant life (John 10:10). We can encourage our children to bring life to others, rather than being like the devil, who is a thief. Philippians 2:3, 4 (NLT) gives us practical ways to bring abundant life and avoid “thieving” from others: “… thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.”

“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” speaks of lies such as perjury, slander, and libel, but also includes any attempt to cast a bad light on someone’s character. Gossip, with its malicious delight in exposing someone’s failings, falls under this category. Telling partial truths to make ourselves look good and others look bad does as well. The devil is “the accuser of our brethren” (Revelation 12:10). We shouldn’t be.

“You shall not covet” addresses the selfish desire to have what belongs to someone else. It is closely tied to bitter envy — secretly wishing that what we cannot have, our neighbor would not have either. Coveting can lead to stealing material goods or relationships. We must teach our children to be happy for others when they receive blessings. There is more than enough to go around in God’s kingdom, so He will give them special gifts too, at the right time. While we can assure them that God desires to bless each of them abundantly, we should also continually shift their gaze from the “stuff” of earth to the higher things of God. (Memorizing verses such as James 1:17 and 1 John 2:15-17 helps reinforce these ideas.)

In summary, memorize the Commandments, but study them from the perspective of desiring to bless others and to make our Father’s heart happy. Encourage your children to seek the Holy Spirit’s help in living them out as Jesus would. Being led by the Spirit in the ways of God is our goal, and the Ten Commandments are a tool to aid us.

Previous: Part 3 (The Ten Commandments)
Next: Part 5 (The Nature of God)  

 

Character Building for Families

Right in the Middle of My Series …

I hate to break up a teaching series with unrelated posts. However, I wanted to let you know about my newest book before it’s too late to take advantage of our 1/2 price sale!

Pre-order the e-book edition now through 3-20-17, and get it for $2.99 —
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All of us long for peace: for the world, in our relationships, and most importantly, inside ourselves. Why is peace so elusive, even for those of us who are Christians? How do we manage to achieve true peace — and then hang onto it?

In All-Surpassing Peace in a Shaking World, I explain why peace is the covenant right of every child of God and how to access it. I share practical keys from Scripture and personal experience to help you enter into a greater peace than you have known before.

Learn:
~ How to enter into a covenant of peace with God
~ What obstacles stand in the way of peace and how to overcome them
~ How to have peace govern and guide your life
~ How to be God’s agent of peace to others
~ Ways to maintain or restore your peace in times of turmoil

All-Surpassing Peace is available through your favorite online bookstore:

Read Sample Now

Thank you! And I’ll be back with the series on A Well-Grounded Faith soon!

A Well-Grounded Faith (Part 3)

The Ten Commandments have become rather unpopular among Christians in recent years. Somewhere along the line, we seem to have developed a phobia for any kind of Thou shalts or Thou shalt nots. We hear reasoning such as:

“We’ve got to be culturally relevant — and the Commandments, um, aren’t.”

“The Bible doesn’t really mean those things. Because, I was born with these issues, you know? And God wants me to be free to be me, just the way I am.”

“I’m under grace, not the law, so the Commandments aren’t necessary anymore.”

“The Ten Commandments? You’ve got to be kidding me! You must be one of those religious-spirit legalists!”

“If we talk about do’s and don’ts, they won’t come back to our church, and then they won’t ever slip into being Christians.” (Never mind that they never will anyway.)

I am not advocating legalism. That’s a mess unto itself. The apostle Paul, who is often called “the apostle of grace,” said we are to minister Christ to others “not of the letter [of the law], but of the Spirit: for the letter [of the law] kills, but the Spirit gives life” (2 Corinthians 3:6). Yet, this same apostle of grace reiterated the Commandments frequently throughout his epistles to the New Testament believers. He exhorted them to live holy lives worthy of Christ, citing the Commandments as examples of how to do that. So did the other apostles.

Clearly, there must be a right way and a wrong way for New Testament believers to approach the Ten Commandments, and we’ve got to find the balance. It doesn’t do to ignore them. We must simply learn to use them wisely, so that our children grow up walking out godly, pure lives by the power of the Spirit, rather than being morally upright, yet unconverted in their hearts.

We don’t want them to become like the Pharisees Jesus denounced in Matthew 23:25, 26: cups which are clean on the outside, but inwardly full of filth. Equally, we don’t want them looking down their noses at people who don’t adhere to the same standards. (You may think neither of these problems could ever happen in your family. However, both have happened to many homeschooling families. A superior attitude over our “goodness” is an ever-present temptation.)

What good are the Commandments? What can they do for us?

They show us how far we fall short in our natural ability to please God. We know that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Natural conscience witnesses to the truth of this statement, but, should any of us have a dull sensitivity to conscience, God’s Word (summarized in the Ten Commandments) leaves us without doubt or excuse.

Paul tells us in Galatians 3:21, … If there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness would have been by the law.” The Israelites tried and failed miserably. That’s the point God wanted to make: we need our God-Savior to do it for us, because we are incapable by our own efforts. Paul explained it, “Wherefore, the law was our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith” (Galatians 3:24).

So far, so good. We can use the Commandments to help our children see that they cannot please God on their own, so they need Jesus to do it for them. But, if the kids have already prayed the sinner’s prayer, do we still need to teach them the Commandments? Yes, because they keep us in a place of remembering that we must continually depend on Jesus.

Putting them into our children’s hearts and minds stores them up for later use by the Holy Spirit to convict and correct as needed. The more Bible we get into ourselves, the more the Spirit has to work with, to “bring all things to your remembrance, whatever I [Jesus] have said to you” (John 14:26). The Ten Commandments are, in a nutshell, what God says about holy living. By planting them securely in our children’s memory, we provide the raw material for the Holy Spirit to remind them what to do when they are faced with choices.

They give our children concrete, practical guidelines for how to follow Jesus as His disciples. Frankly, the modern-day church as a whole has neglected the concept of discipleship. We’ve talked a lot about Jesus being our Savior and Friend, but not much about being His disciples.

A disciple is one who learns at the feet of his master and then puts into practice what he has been taught. Disciples follow their teacher’s example. They imitate what he does. And when the master gives an instruction, they don’t debate with him; they do what he says.

Jesus said, “If you continue in My word, then you are My disciples indeed.” (John 8:31). But, isn’t relating to Jesus as Savior and Friend enough? Jesus addressed the friend issue, too: “You are my friends, if you do whatever I command you” (John 15:14). If you want to be His friend, you have to be willing to be His disciple, doing whatever He commands, as well.

In our next post, we’ll talk about how to teach the Ten Commandments to our children without being legalistic.

Previous: Part 2 (Core Christian Beliefs)
Next: Part 4 (10 Commandments continued)

 

Character Building for Families

A Well-Grounded Faith (Part 2)

In my last post, I mentioned that it is important for us as parents to ensure that our children are familiar with the core beliefs of all Christians. We must also help them to understand what being a disciple of Christ entails. This involves knowing not only what God desires to do for us, but also what He expects of us in return.

Let’s start with Christianity’s core beliefs.

These are the foundational teachings of the first apostles. Paul told Timothy, “And the things which you have heard of me among many witnesses, commit the same to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2). The apostle John exhorted, “Let that therefore abide in you, which you have heard from the beginning. If that which you have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, you also shall continue in the Son and in the Father” (1 John 2:24).

Core Christian beliefs:

  • The infallibility / inerrancy of the Bible
  • God is eternal, having no beginning and no ending.
  • God is three distinct Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He is one God, not three, with all three Persons having existed from eternity, without a beginning.
  • God is omnipotent (all-powerful), omniscient (all-knowing), and omnipresent (everywhere present at the same time).
  • Jesus is fully God and fully man. He existed eternally as God the Son before He became man, but now He is both.
  • Jesus was miraculously born of a virgin into a fully human body.
  • Jesus lived a perfect, sinless life here on earth.
  • He died on the cross of His own free will, to atone for our sins. There is no other way to God or to heaven, aside from trusting in Jesus as our only means of salvation.
  • We are saved by grace alone (God’s gift of righteousness to us, through Jesus’ death for us) rather than by any help of our own good deeds. At the same time, those who are true believers desire to live holy lives, modeling our Savior, Jesus.
  • Jesus physically rose from the dead.
  • He ascended into heaven, and is currently seated at the right hand of God the Father.
  • He has sent the Holy Spirit to indwell all believers.
  • Upon death, the spirits and souls of all believers are immediately taken to heaven.
  • Jesus will come again to receive His Church to Himself. There will be a resurrection of the physical bodies of all believers into new, glorified bodies at that time.
  • Jesus will physically return to earth to rule and reign over all.
  • Upon death, those who have refused to believe on Jesus will suffer everlasting torment and separation from God. Their physical bodies will also experience a final resurrection, when they will be judged before God’s throne and assigned to eternal damnation in the lake of fire, along with the devil and his angels.

The Creeds:

One of the most effective ways to teach these core beliefs is by studying the creeds of the Church with your children. You might want to commit one or two of them to memory. In the early centuries of the Church, creeds were formed by men of God in order to unite believers around the essential doctrines of the Faith. They were also formulated to combat various errors which had crept in. Here are the main creeds:

The Apostles’ Creed

The Nicene Creed

The Athanasian Creed

Statements of Faith:

Still another way to instruct our children in the core beliefs of Christianity is by studying trusted statements of faith or catechisms. Your denomination or fellowship may have a clear statement of faith. If that is not the case, here are a few which may be helpful to you:

The Assemblies of God Statement of Faith (Pentecostal / Charismatic believers)

The Westminster Shorter Catechism (Reformed)

The Westminster Catechism for Young Children

Christian Missionary Alliance Statement of Faith (Evangelical)

In our next post, we will talk about teaching the Ten Commandments as a means to help our children enter into life led by the Holy Spirit.

Previous: Part 1
Next: Part 3 (The Ten Commandments)

Resources by Lee Ann:


Teach Your Kids to Hear God!


The Homeschool Guide to Raising Prayer-Filled Kids

A Well-Grounded Faith (Part 1)

Some years ago, a friend of mine shared with me her philosophy for raising her children to know Jesus. Rather than teaching them about the Lord and how to know Him personally, she felt that they would somehow end up desiring Him automatically because of her example. She hoped that by observing her prayer life, worship, and daily living for Jesus, they would catch on and want the same for themselves — that they would somehow naturally absorb a life in Christ, without instruction. Unfortunately, her plan did not work, and her grown children are not following the Lord.

Of course it’s important for our faith to be exhibited before our children on a daily basis. Seeing us engage in intimate relationship with God should whet their appetites to know Him themselves. That is certainly part of the picture.

But we must also give them tools so that they will have a clear idea how to develop relationship with the Lord. There are practical steps we can walk them through to help them form habits of prayer and Bible reading, or to learn to hear God speak to them. While there are exceptions, most children won’t figure these things out on their own. They need to be given the skills, and encouraged in them repeatedly, while they gradually mature in their young faith.

So, discipling our children to seek God for themselves is important. But there’s something else we need to do as well. We must instill in our children a framework of the foundations of biblical faith — core beliefs which all true Christians should be aware of and adhere to.

While some church fellowships are doing an excellent job, a large portion of the Church seems to have been missing this part of discipleship for the last few decades. Consequently, we now have many, many people attending our evangelical / charismatic churches who are clueless about basic beliefs and don’t even realize it. They live by their soulish instincts, rather than being led by the Word of God and the Holy Spirit — because they don’t know any better.

Because some in the Church are very afraid of promoting legalism (and rightfully so), we’ve gone to another extreme, where we don’t speak about God’s expectations upon His people at all. We’ve neglected to give people an elementary knowledge of the nature of God and how He operates because of it. We’ve adopted a feel-good, just-follow-your-heart, everything-is-conditional-on-the-circumstances approach. In some cases, we’ve even said from our pulpits, “Doctrine doesn’t matter. All you need to do is love Jesus.” As a result, many people are ignorant of the truth. They have ended up worshiping a God made in their own image, a false Jesus, who benevolently panders to their every whim, requiring no commitment in return.

We’ve got to start changing this, and the perfect place to begin is in the home. No longer can we depend on the local church to do it for us through Children’s Church or Sunday School programs — because, in many cases, it’s not happening there. Often, it’s not happening in adult church either. Fragments of truth are being taught here and there, but no cohesive framework is presented to help people become established solidly in their faith.

If your local fellowship is doing a great job already, that’s wonderful! You are blessed! For those who do not enjoy such blessing, in the next few posts, I will be sharing some ideas of how to impart systematic, foundational teaching to help your children pursue after God to the fullest.

Part 2 

Resources by Lee Ann:


Teach Your Kids to Hear God!


The Homeschool Guide to Raising Prayer-Filled Kids