Category Archives: homeschool character education

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

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

Servant Parenting

We then who are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak and not to please ourselves. — Romans 15:1

Being a parent can feel overwhelming, especially for those who have several small children to attend to. Sometimes it gets discouraging, as we deal with one need after another without much of a break to regain our personal tranquility.

I remember the discouragement I felt several months after having our second child. Recovering from a C-section this time around had not been nearly as easy as it had been with the first child, almost twelve years before. Furthermore, the doctors told me I had gone into this pregnancy not yet fully recovered from the chemo and radiation I had completed just five months previously. To top it off, our beloved miracle baby, my promise of a restored life from our Father in heaven, suffered stomach issues and cried incessantly.

In the midst of all my fatigue, I indulged in a small pity party, with me the only guest. Why could I not have a little peace and quiet? Why all the jumping up every few minutes to meet another demand? Why couldn’t I have a tiny bit more time for uninterrupted thoughts without another colic bout intruding? (You may snort your disdain, because I had only one small one to deal with, but the struggle was still real!)

The Lord quickly recalled to my mind an article I had once read in a homeschool magazine. The author had told of her own time of feeling overwhelmed by small children, and how the Holy Spirit had quickened to her heart Romans 15:1: “We then who are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak and not to please ourselves.” God had applied the verse to her parenting, encouraging her to serve her children, to bear with their neediness for so much help, and to set her wants for time to herself aside.

The Lord used that verse to bring me out of my own case of the blues, and to give me a new joy in serving both my children. I mulled it over often in the ensuing days: I can bear the frailties of my little girl. Jesus calls me to not please myself, but to do this for Him, and to do it with joy. From that point on, I really did find new joy and strength in serving her.

I remembered another story I had heard, of a mom who pictured herself as serving the Christ Child every time she dressed or fed her small children. It helped her to overcome impatience and to lavish love upon them. I took that story to heart and started applying it, too.

Our self-serving society constantly barrages us with the message that we’re supposed to indulge ourselves. We are told that the good life is all about us having our needs met, our desires gratified. In particular, women have been brainwashed into thinking that children are a hindrance to our fulfillment, so the sooner we get them out of our hair, the sooner we can accomplish “important” things. Meanwhile, we miss realizing that the little people we have been given to serve on a moment-by-moment basis are the genuinely important things.

Those of us who follow Jesus must continually push back against these selfish ideals. Intellectually, we know from the Bible that we are called to serve one another, to put others ahead of ourselves. That knowledge doesn’t make it easy, however. Perhaps one of the best, and yet often hardest, training grounds for learning to be a servant is within our own families. Jesus calls us to die to self. Paul even said, “I die daily” (1 Corinthians 15:31). It’s not a popular or frequently heard message in the Church today, but it is as valid as it ever was.

Jesus uses serving our family to build our character. For those of you who find caring for your children a great joy without much of a struggle, what a blessing! It is a special grace, which may be due to your God-given temperament or His unique plans for you. The Lord will find other means to build your character. But for those of us who are more challenged in this area, He uses it to mold us into the likeness of Himself.

… In lowliness of mind, let each of us esteem others as better than ourselves. Do not look every one on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus. — Philippians 2:3-5

Do it for Him, bear it for Him. He will receive your servant parenting as if you had ministered directly to Him. It is a fragrant offering.

 

Character Building for Families

 

 

Create an Atmosphere of Peace in Your Home (Part 3)

swan-pixabay-public-domainI mentioned in Part 1 of this series that the place to start in developing a peaceful atmosphere in our homes is by making prayer the first priority. In Part 2, I gave some practical tips for enhancing that peace. Let’s look at a few more ways to increase the level of peace in our homes.

Create an atmosphere of peace by playing worship music in the background. Keep the volume low enough so it is not distracting. Choose music which is somewhat serene. You don’t want Johnny and Susie’s adrenaline to kick into overdrive.

Love first, lessons second. Some days, hugs and snuggles are more needed than at other times. Take the time to dish them out. Accomplishing tasks may be temporarily delayed, but in the long run, they will get done more easily, if heart-needs have been met.

Be quick to ask forgiveness when you have not been Christ-like toward your children. You will be an example of humility to them which will last a lifetime. Also take the time to make sure they resolve conflict among themselves. Insist that they ask for and give forgiveness to each other. It takes time, as often they will resist doing this, but it is one of the most important lessons they will ever learn.

Recognize the difference between major and minor incidents. Sin should always be dealt with, but many times we parents tend to freak out about little non-sin things which really don’t matter all that much. They are simply irritations to us, caused by our children’s immaturity. As the saying goes, “Don’t sweat the small stuff.”

Rejuvenate peace by taking a ten-minute break when things get crazy. You might encourage them to take a timeout to read, play, or run around in the back yard. You will appreciate the break yourself.

When the children’s emotions are tail-spinning, pray with them. When our children were sad, discouraged, or upset, we asked the Holy Spirit together to take back control of their emotions. We taught them to pray for themselves this way, too. It really does change how they feel. Within minutes, we had a turnaround in their outlook. (This works for grownups too!)

Remember that you — not the children — are in control of whether peace reigns or not. Children have a way of quite naturally influencing the emotional atmosphere of the home. If we let this happen, it just frazzles and overwhelms us. We need to make sure we are the ones who set the tone for peace, and then pull the rest of the family back into line, if things start to get out of whack.

Finally, continually cover your family in prayer. As you do, and implement these other tips as well, you will find your home improving in its peacefulness.

Previous: Part 2 

 

All-Surpassing Peace in a Shaking World

 

 

Character Building for Families

Create an Atmosphere of Peace in Your Home (Part 2)

In our last post, we talked about laying the foundation for peace in our homes through prayer. Without a good foundation, a building will quickly crumble, and it’s the same in our homes. Begin with prayer.

Let’s look at some other elements which will help us in cultivating a peaceful home atmosphere.

Develop a healthy balance between structure and flexibility. Structure helps to provide security and peace. By structure, I mean things like

  • Having an overall plan or set of goals
  • Putting into place a schedule which sees to it that the plan is accomplished
  • A consistent routine, with known expectations
  • House rules of behavior, clearly understood and expected of everyone

When we have these things in place, our children tend to feel more peaceful. Surprises are nice for special occasions, but for day-by-day life, most of us do better when we have a good idea of what is supposed to happen next. God is a God of order, and He has built the need for order into us, because we are made in His image.

But, we should temper our structure with flexibility. Decide ahead of time that if something unusual comes up, which makes sticking with your schedule for the day difficult or impossible, it’s OK. Don’t let it rattle you or your kids. Plan on a few disruptions (even big ones) here and there, and don’t let structure be a god. A schedule should be something you rule, not something that rules you.

Ask God at the beginning of your day to be Lord of your time. If something comes up which might cause a delay in tasks being accomplished, ask Him to help you make up for lost time and catch up on any important work. He created time, and He knows how to help us master it.

Seize teachable moments as they happen. It is more important to stop and talk about questions your children have about the Lord, His ways, and how life is supposed to work, than it is to stay strictly on schedule. Those God-moments where the spiritual light bulb goes on inside of them are of eternal value.

Flowing back and forth between an established routine and dropping that routine for better things is part of living life according to the Spirit. “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2 Corinthians 3:17), and liberty mixed with orderliness makes life more enjoyable for the whole family — and more peaceful.

Discern between what is essential and what is not. When we first began homeschooling, I thought we had to do everything in the lesson books, or else my children would end up with gaping holes in their education. The truth is, in most of those workbooks, there is a lot of nonessential busywork. Your children don’t have to do all the crosswords and word searches or color all the pictures, especially if such activities are boring to them. These are not so much educational exercises as they are ways to fill out the workbook or keep the children busy so they don’t bother anybody for a while.

I also discovered that there is a lot of unnecessary review work. The program we started out with involved ten workbooks for each subject, and we struggled to get all ten done in a school year. But after the first year, I realized that the last workbook in the series was just review of the other nine … and then in the following school year, the same review was repeated again. So, we learned to skip those final workbooks. Curriculum companies are masters at providing repeat materials. It’s good to review to an extent, but too much is overkill, and it can stress your family out. So increase your peace by cutting out nonessential busywork.

Tidiness enhances peace. Because God has built a desire for order into us, a wreck of a home tends to contribute to chaotic emotions on our insides. It is OK to take some time as part of the school day to clean house and pick up clutter. Call it a “Life Skills” class. You will feel happier, and so will your children.

Next time, we’ll finish up with a few more ideas for how to bring about a greater level of peace to our homes.

Previous: Part 1
Next: Part 3

 

All-Surpassing Peace in a Shaking World

 

 

Character Building for Families