Category Archives: homeschool character training

Why Character Studies Are Important for Your Family

Bible character training“I don’t see the need to ‘teach’ character to my children. They will naturally learn good character through my example and through everyday situations as they happen.”

I’ve heard the comment numerous times from well-meaning parents. The problem is, such an approach is naïve. Furthermore, it does not follow the model God gave us in the Bible.

Modeling good character for our children is an important part of the picture, of course. If we tell them how they ought to behave, but then do not follow through by living out the example of what we preach, our children will see through our hypocrisy. They are more likely to do as Mom and Dad do, than live only by what we say.

But, good character doesn’t automatically rub off on our children as we set the example for them. It needs to be presented systematically, “precept upon precept … line upon line” (Isaiah 28:10, 13). Teaching the concepts of Christ-like character within an organized framework, in companionship with modeling it by example, will bring about the best results in shaping our children in the image of  Jesus.

The Old Testament speaks of making a concentrated effort to bring up our children in the ways of the Lord. No doubt you are familiar with Proverbs 22:6‘s exhortation, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”

Consider also Deuteronomy 6:5-9:

And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. And these words, which I command you this day, shall be in your heart, and you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise up. And you shall bind them for a sign upon your hand, and they shall be like frontlets between your eyes. And you shall write them upon the posts of your house and on your gates.

Notice that we are to teach the Lord’s commands diligently to our children, to talk of them when sitting and walking together, before bedtime, and in the morning when we arise. The Israelites were to bind them upon their hands (figuratively speaking of their actions) and on their foreheads (speaking of the mind), and to write them upon their gates and homes. That sounds like a pretty intense plan for training up children in the way they should go, doesn’t it? Nothing haphazard there!

What about in the New Testament? Well, Jesus was the perfect example of godly character to His disciples. They lived with Him day and night, continually seeing Him portray how to live a life of love toward God and  their fellow man. Yet, Jesus did not merely teach them by His example. In the gospels, we see that He spent many hours instructing His disciples in the specifics of how to think, speak, and live. Apparently, He knew they would not “catch” good character only by watching Him live it. They needed the reinforcement of solid expounding on the Scriptures and how to apply them.

The same is true of the apostle Paul. In 1 Corinthians 11:1, he encouraged the believers, “Be followers of me, even as I also am of Christ” (teaching by example). Yet, as we read through the letters he wrote to the churches, we see much detailed written instruction in how to walk out holy lives.

Well-rounded character education is a bit like biology or chemistry: we present information through textbooks and lectures to put a framework of scientific concepts in place, and then we apply that knowledge in hands-on lab situations. In the same way, we should teach character systematically, through a character curriculum or series of character-oriented Bible studies, and then apply that knowledge in everyday life through example and practice.

Without some kind of consistent plan in place for teaching character, we can easily miss important areas of character development in our children. Because we have blind spots, we don’t always see areas of weakness in our children or ourselves, even though those weaknesses may be glaringly obvious to others. By using character training materials, we make sure we touch the areas we could otherwise so easily miss.

In my next post, I will share some ideas of how to do our best at developing Christ-like character in our children.

 

Character Building for Families,
by Lee Ann Rubsam

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Foundations and Walls

mason laying bricksI often hear God speak to me through dreams. In fact, one of the ways I serve in the body of Christ is by teaching others how to understand what God is saying to them through their dreams.

Recently, I dreamed that I had been reading Tales of the Kingdom, a much-beloved children’s book in our family while our girls were growing up. In the dream, I noticed there were many silver objects and references to silver in the book. Then, an old, silver-haired man approached me. Pointing his finger for emphasis, he explained that the silver symbolism was present because older people are going to have an important role to play in God’s kingdom in the days ahead.

I believe this role will primarily be one of re-laying the foundations of our Christian faith in those around us and rebuilding the walls which have crumbled, much like Nehemiah led the Jewish people to do in Old Testament times. My sense is that this is something the Lord will be emphasizing to His Church a great deal in the near future.

While my dream was specifically about those of us who are in the grandparenting age group, this does not mean younger generations are without responsibility. If you still have children growing up in your home, you can do your part by building solid foundations and kingdom walls in your children. To them, you are the older generation!

What are the foundations I’m speaking of? They are the pure and simple gospel (what 2 Corinthians 11:3 calls “the simplicity which is in Christ”) and the nonnegotiable beliefs of Christianity, which were firmly laid in place by the original New Testament apostles.

The apostle John said of these, “Let that therefore abide in you, which you have heard from the beginning. If what you have heard from the beginning remains in you, you also shall continue in the Son and in the Father” (1 John 2:24).

The apostle Paul likewise exhorted Timothy, “The things which you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit those same things to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2).

The “walls” we are to build are more about discipleship, how to live out godly lives in keeping with Christ — in essence, character education.

Paul gave a few specifics of what that should look like, in Titus 2:1-8:

You, however, must teach what is appropriate to sound doctrine. Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance.

Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.

Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.

NIV – Bible Gateway

Homeschooling parents have a powerful opportunity to lay the foundations and build the walls in our children’s lives, so that they will grow up to be mighty men and women of God.

I encourage each of you, you can do this! You may not know everything there is to know about the Bible, but you have the Holy Spirit to teach you, and He can also bring resources to your attention to assist you. My series, A Well-Grounded Faith,  and Character Building for Families can help you get started.

Take the time to pray with your children. Read the Bible with them. Instruct them in the foundations of our faith. It’s even more important than getting all the academic stuff accomplished. Raise up those mighty warriors for the Lord.

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Character Building for Families

 

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The Homeschool Guide to Raising Prayer-Filled Kids,
by Lee Ann Rubsam

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Character Building for Families

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Pass the word to friends and homeschool / parenting support groups.

Character Building for Families

 

Protecting Our Children from Supernatural Evil (Part 3)

Christian parentingIn our last two posts, we talked about activities which can lead to harassment from evil spirits. We also discussed principles to help our children grow in spiritual discernment, so that they will know what to avoid. And, I shared a simple process for gaining freedom if you or your children are already experiencing various forms of spiritual affliction, such as nightmares.

Today, we’ll talk about teaching the beginning principles of personal spiritual warfare to  our children. This is a subject which they should become familiar with even in their early years. We want them to know what to do if spiritual attack comes their way. Here are concepts even young children should be informed of:

1.) There is a God, and there is a devil — but God is WAY bigger.

Explain that God is the Creator of everything, His power and knowledge are unlimited, and He is able to be everywhere all at the same time.

Tell them the devil is one of God’s created beings. He was once an angel of great power in heaven, but he and other angels with him rebelled against God. So, the Lord threw them out of heaven. These evil angels now want to ruin God’s plans.

Assure them that, unlike God, the devil and his evil angels are limited in their power. They do not know everything, nor can they be in more than one place at a time.

Learn 1 John 4:4 together: “You belong to God, little children, and have overcome them [evil spirits]: because greater is He [God] Who is in you than he [the devil] who is in the world.”

2.) God will always take care of them.

Assure them that angels are always guarding them. Psalm 91:11“For He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways.”

 Each person has a special guardian angel all his own. Matthew 18:10“Take care that you do not despise one of these little ones, for … in heaven their angels always behold the face of My Father Who is in heaven.”

Tell them there are many promises in the Bible that God will keep them safe from evil. (Psalm 4:8, Psalm 91, and Psalm 121 are just a few. I recommend memorizing these psalms with your children.)

3.) The devil tries to fool us with lies — but God always tells us the truth.

Assure them that God speaks good and loving things into our minds, which are in keeping with the Bible. Any thought which questions God’s goodness, or tears down ourselves or other people, is not from God.

Help them understand that the devil and his helpers will insert thoughts or temptations in their minds which are wrong. Explain that they should resist those thoughts.

Tell them that they can make those thoughts stop by commanding the evil spirit to be quiet and leave, in Jesus’ name.

Explain that if they have Jesus living in their hearts, they have the power to command evil spirits to go in Jesus’ name, and they must obey. (This is a great opportunity to lead them to Jesus, if they have not already given their hearts to Him.)

Verses to memorize, which go with this idea:

1 John 4:4“You belong to God, little children, and have overcome them [evil spirits]: because greater is He [God] Who is in you than he [the devil] who is in the world.”

James 4:7 “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”

4.) What if they see evil spirits? Don’t be surprised if your children say odd things about invisible people or creatures. Children often see into the spirit realm more easily than many adults. It is not always imaginary. They may see angels; they may see evil spirits.

Teach them that if they see monsters or other scary beings, they do not have to be afraid. Tell them to command the scary creatures to leave, in the name of Jesus — just like if they are tempted with bad thoughts.

5.) What if they have scary dreams? Again, tell them that Jesus and His angels are always there to protect them, so they don’t have to be afraid. And instruct them again that they can command the devil to leave them alone in Jesus’ name.

6.) Jesus has given us spiritual armor.

Memorize together Ephesians 6:10-18. You can do it one verse at a time. Explain the significance of each piece. I have written an article on this, if you need help — Jesus Is the Armor!

Have fun with it by making a paper doll soldier with pieces of the armor. Here are some links to help you:

http://www.dltk-bible.com/crafts/armor/mpaperarmor.htm

https://ministry-to-children.com/armor-of-god-coloring-pages/

http://www.supercoloring.com/coloring-pages/armour-of-god (coloring page)

7.) They are overcomers, because God says they are.

Assure them that even when they feel weak, Jesus is strong, and He fights our battles for us.

Remind them that they have angels to protect them, too.

Tell them the Word of God promises that they will always win their spiritual battles, if they trust Jesus to help them.

Verses to learn:

1 Corinthians 15:57“But thanks be to God, Who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

2 Corinthians 2:14 “Now thanks be to God, Who always causes us to triumph in Christ….”

If you teach these spiritual warfare principles to your children, they will be well equipped from an early age to deal confidently and victoriously with evil spirits.

Previous: Part 2 (Teaching children to discern good from evil)

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Character Building for Families

 

Protecting Our Children from Supernatural Evil (Part 2)

homeschoolingLast time, I gave you a list of ways occult influences can gain entrance to our children’s lives. Lists can be useful as eye openers and general guidelines. However, the enemy of our souls is skilled in subtly changing his tactics for ensnaring people. If we only depend upon lists which are relevant today, we may not know how to detect evil which has been repackaged in the latest fad tomorrow. We must teach our children how to discern less obvious evil, so that they don’t get sucked into it.

Discernment can begin with some basic questions:

1.) Is the activity forbidden in the Bible?

2.) Does it promise power apart from depending on God?

3.) Does it promise peace apart from God?

4.) Does it try to control others — or even ourselves? (“Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom”2 Corinthians 3:17.)

5.) Where does it look to for wisdom, revelation, or inspiration — the Holy Spirit, or some other source? (“In [Christ] are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge … and you are complete in Him….”Colossians 2:3, 10)

6.) Does it have the feeling of darkness or light?

7.) Would Jesus play / watch / read it with you? (Be honest now!)

8.) What do born again believers in Jesus, who came out of false religion or the occult, have to say about that activity?

9.) Do I have complete inner peace about participating in this, or do I have to convince myself that it is harmless? (“And let the peace of God rule in your hearts….” — Colossians 3:15. “Rule” in this verse means to act as an umpire.)

We should train our children to apply these questions as a “litmus test” for whether an activity is safe and appropriate for them as a follower of Jesus.

If you or your children are already having nightmares, great fear, panic attacks, or unexplained chronic health issues, here are a few simple steps you can take to be free:

Stop, repent, and renounce. Decide that you and your family will no longer entertain yourself with evil or compromising things. Ask the Lord to forgive you. But a third step is needed for full freedom: renunciation. To renounce something means to cut all ties with it and the spirits connected to it.

Here is a sample prayer for how to close the entranceways to evil spirits through renouncing them and their activity. You can lead your children through such a prayer, too, simplifying the wording for the younger ones:

Father, I ask You to forgive me for engaging in occult practices or influences in the past. I now renounce those activities completely. I break the ties between myself and all occult spirits. I command them to let go of me and leave my life forever, in Jesus’ name. Now, I shut the door of my life to all occult spirits. I claim Jesus as my Deliverer, and I put the blood of Jesus between myself and these things, in Jesus’ name.

Cleanse your home of any items which may have ties to evil.  Look for reading materials, DVDs, CDs, video games, or artwork which might be entrance points for evil spirits. Souvenirs from a nation or culture where witchcraft is prevalent can be the source of a problem. Ask God to highlight to your attention objects which don’t feel “right.” If you feel uncomfortable with an item, that is the Holy Spirit prompting you to throw it out. (No matter what its value, do not sell it or give it away. Why pass problems on to others?)

Then, in the name of Jesus, command any evil spirits which have been present because of those objects to depart from your home. Declare that the blood of Jesus now stands as protection throughout and around your home, and that all entrances back in are now closed to the enemy.

What if you don’t have any articles of concern in your home? Even if you have had nothing to do with the occult, and you don’t find any questionable objects, there could be evil spirits still hanging around from a previous owner or tenant. This would be most noticeable if you have recently moved in, or if you have been having nightmares or other spiritual problems for the duration of the time you have lived there.

Take the same steps of commanding evil spirits to leave and applying the blood of Jesus, as I’ve shared in the previous section. Create an atmosphere of the Lord’s Presence through immersing your home in worship music and prayer. Evil spirits don’t like to hang around in such an atmosphere.

Next time, we will talk about how to teach our children, even  at young ages, the principles of spiritual warfare, so that they know how to protect themselves. I promise you it won’t be dark or scary. We’ll keep the light of Jesus shining.

Previous: Part 1 (A list of activities to avoid)
Next: Part 3 (Basic spiritual warfare for children)

 

Character Building for Families

 

Leading Them to Water

You are no doubt familiar with the saying, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.”

Sometimes, our children are like that horse when it comes to spiritual things. They may not be as enthusiastic about Jesus as we would like them to be. Perhaps you have tried teaching them to pray. You have read the Bible to them and encouraged them to read it for themselves. But you see in their eyes and their body language that they really could not care less.

It is worrisome, isn’t it? What is a parent to do? Maybe you have given up trying. Don’t do that. Or, if you already have given up, try again. Continue to “lead them to water,” so to speak — the water of God’s Word, the water of His Presence. Give the opportunity, time and again, whether they respond in their hearts or not. Because, if you keep on presenting the water to them, the day may come when they will suddenly want to drink. But if you give up on leading them to the watering trough too quickly, it may not happen.

I don’t mean browbeat them, or try to force them to say the sinner’s prayer. Don’t nag at them about their spiritual coldness. None of that will do any good. It’s not up to you to save them; only the Holy Spirit can work the needed change in their hearts. Your job is to bring them to the water, and that’s all.

Do make it part of your daily routine to pray and read the Bible aloud together with them. This is important, even if they don’t seem hugely interested. If they refuse to actively participate, they should still know that they are expected to be present with you in it. Just don’t stop giving the opportunity.

For prayer, ask them questions which may engage them, such as, “Do you want me to pray for you about anything?” “Do you know of anyone who might be in need of prayer?” Even if they don’t wish to pray themselves, they may still appreciate your offer to pray for them or the things they are concerned about.

When you read the Bible, try to draw them into discussion.

  • “What did you think about the story we read today?”
  • “Did you have a favorite character?”
  • “What thoughts or pictures came to mind as we read?”
  • “What would you have done in that Bible character’s shoes?”

If they don’t respond very much, volunteer what you got out of the story, or your favorite character, or how you think you would have felt in that character’s place. Keep their thinking wheels engaged.

Don’t stop talking to your children about Jesus. Keep expressing to them throughout the day how good Jesus is. You might have to practice at first to make this a natural habit, but after a while, it will become second nature. Tell them about answers to prayer you have received. Frequently share with them what the Lord has spoken to you about, or things He is currently showing you personally for your life. These are informal ways you can keep leading them to Jesus, the living water.

Talk about Jesus more than church life. It is easy to expend more of our speech on our horizontal relationships with people in the church than on the Lord. If our children hear us saying negative things about church or church people, it can harden their hearts toward God. Refrain from gossip and critical comments. Avoid speaking in front of them about how people have offended you. This is hard to do consistently, so when you realize you have failed at it, be transparent and humble before your children. Tell them you messed up, and ask them to forgive you for speaking wrongly.

Respect their thoughts and feelings. With good reason the apostle Paul wrote, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, lest they become discouraged” (Colossians 3:21). Our children’s hearts can become hardened if we are harsh or too authoritarian with them, or if we do not ask their forgiveness for hurting them. Asking their forgiveness goes a long way toward healing wounds and softening their hearts toward the Lord.

If you have failed in these and other areas in the past, all is not lost. Ask the Lord to repair the damage already done, and He will certainly do that for you. He is a God of restoration, redemption, and miracles. Bringing the broken pieces to Him is all He requires in order to begin the process of restoring that which has been marred.

Keep praying for your children, that God will open their hearts toward Him. The prayers of a parent for that wayward child are powerful. In fact, prayer is the most powerful tool we have for getting our children in right relationship with the Lord and keeping them there. God hears and eagerly responds to your prayers for your children. You will have to wait patiently for Him to work in His perfect timing, but be expectant that He will.

The bottom line is to persevere — in prayer for them and in leading them gently back to the water. If you will do that, you will see the day come when they are ready to drink.

 

River Life: Entering into the Character of Jesus,
by Lee Ann Rubsam

 

 

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