Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Having Equal Opportunity Doesn't Mean You Have To Take It

Illustration taken from the frontispiece
of The Young Lady's Guide.

Here is another astonishing quote from one of those "old books" I've been reading: "At least, till the female sex are more carefully instructed, this question will always remain as undecided as to the degree of difference between the masculine and feminine understanding, as the question between the understandings of blacks and whites; for, until men and women, and until Africans and Europeans, are put more nearly on a par in the cultivation of their minds, the shades of distinction, whatever they be, between their native abilities, can never be fairly ascertained." [1]

The fight for the right for equal education for women and minorities since the 128 years when this was published has indeed proven both men and women, blacks and whites, to be on equal par in their abilities to both acquire and use knowledge according to how God has gifted them individually.

Illustration taken from the title page
of The Young Lady's Guide

I believe, however, the question is no longer whether or not women have the ability to obtain knowledge as well as men but in how and when those acquired abilities may be utilized outside the home without compromising the responsibilities of wife, mother, and often daughter of aging parents. There is indeed a time and season for everything under the sun (Ecclesiastes 3:1).

Sometimes these responsibilities may be shared with others, but many times it will be women who will refrain from work outside the home in order to fill these roles. Yet, if a young mother must work out of necessity, she should have the utmost support and help of all others in the family with shared responsibilities. Women can no better "have it all" and "do it all" than men could if they were left with the same care of home, children, and aging parents.

Truly, it is no longer a matter of ability in most cases but in discernment.

I would encourage you to read Mrs. More's entire treatise on the education of women. You can find a free online copy by following the link below [2] to find an online copy of The Young Lady's Guide. This will take you to the first page before the index. Scroll down the index and click on the link titled "Female Knowledge -- View of the Sexes," and it will take you to Hannah More's excerpt.

[1] American Tract Society, The Young Lady's Guide, taken from Mrs. Hannah More's "Female Knowledge -- View of the Sexes" (American Tract Society: New York, 1870), p. 296.


Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Encouraging Parents In Their Authority

Though I cannot agree with everything in The Christian Family by Larry Christenson, he does share some sound, biblical wisdom here regarding the authority of parents over their children:

"The authority of parents is not their own authority, but one given them by God. When parents realize this, they will not be hesitant to admit their mistakes -- indeed, they will feel the necessity of it, for only thus can God continue fully to honor and back up their authority. On the other hand, the realization that God has invested them with authority will encourage a parent not to weaken that authority out of the false sense of unworthiness.

"All authority is from God, but it is given for the good of those under it. Since Christ came not to be served, but to serve, the character of authority has changed -- for all who enter into His mind. Now authority becomes a service, and subjection is submission to being served.

"No one may clothe himself with authority. But, whoever has received authority from God must hold it firmly. He must have faith in it and must maintain it, out of faithfulness to God, not for selfish reasons. It is granted him by God in order that he may use it, not in order to please himself.

"A parent may not withhold authority because of his own unworthiness. God has established that authority for the sake of the children, to attain certain ends. Nor can the parent set it aside through weakness and a morbid delicacy in sparing those set under him.

"Parents must maintain their ground upon the knowledge that they are in the right. They must demand obedience for what they know to be right.

"Willing obedience is based upon the inner foundation of reverence. It is not only a virtue; it is the only virtue of the child. It includes all good that can be required or expected of him."

(Though Pastor Christenson speaks the truth here, I regret I cannot recommend all of his works. As a Charismatic Lutheran, there are many extra-biblical philosophies he embraced with which I cannot agree. Take what's good and leave the rest.)

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Stir-Fry Chicken Soup Recipe

I came up with this recipe this week on a whim. I just had a-hankerin' for some homemade chicken soup. Considering all the different vegetables I had available, I decided to make it with an Asian flair and call it Stir-Fry Chicken Soup. You will notice several "SP" references. These are SmartPoint values for those following the Weight Watcher plan for weight loss.

First, I made homemade chicken broth out of the bones from a rotisserie chicken from which I had removed the meat, reserving the two breasts and saving the rest for another purpose. You could also use chicken broth from the store, but I wanted the heatlh benefits of bone broth. Instructions for making the broth are at the bottom if you'd like to make it yourself. It costs more in SmartPoints, but it was worth it for the health benefits.

In place of the stir-fry vegetables, I used what I had on hand: thinly shredded cabbage, onions, thin-sliced carrots, cauliflower, celery, peppers, and mushrooms.


1 Tbs. olive oil [4 SP]
1 Tbs. minced garlic [0 SP]
1 Tbs. ginger root paste [0 SP]
6 c. fresh or frozen stir-fry vegetables of choice [0 SP]
1 Tbs. sesame oil [4 SP]
6 c. chicken broth [homemade 16 SP; store bought 5 SP]
1 Tbs. Better Than Bouillon chicken soup base
2 small cooked chicken breasts, cubed [0 SP]
Salt and pepper to taste
Red pepper flakes to taste (optional)


Heat olive oil in soup pot over medium-high heat. Add garlic and ginger and stir a few minutes to flavor the oil. Add stir-fry vegetables of choice and stir-fry just until soft. Stir in sesame oil and stir-fry a few minutes longer. Add chicken broth and bring to a boil. Stir in Better Than Bouillon chicken soup base and cook and stir until it is completely dissolved. Stir in cubed cooked chicken and heat through. Taste and add salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes (optional) to your liking. Makes approximately six generous 2-cup servings [4 SP homemade stock]. Cooked rice may be added for a few more SmartPoints, or you could drizzle in some beaten eggs and boil gently until they are cooked for 0 SP.

(with bones from a rotisserie chicken):

Debone a rotisserie chicken and cover bones with water in a soup pot.

Add 1 Tbs. apple cider vinegar (adds no flavor). Let sit for half an hour so the vinegar can draw calcium from the bones into the water.

Bring to a boil adding a peeled, chunky-cut carrot, parsnip (or turnip), onion, celery stalk, and 1 Tbs. dried dill weed (optional). Reduce heat and simmer 2-12 hours on low, keeping an eye on the water level and adding only enough water to cover the contents of the pot.

Drain through a sieve or clander wtih small holes, reserving broth. Discard vegetables and bones. Cool completely and skim the fat off the top (some people use this fat to make different types of bread or to saute vegetables). Store broth in freezer containers or canning jars (leaving a 1/2-inch headspace) in the freezer for six months or in the refrigerator and use within a week or so.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Spiritually Sanitizing and Sterilizing Our Children's Environment

I saw this quote today on the Family Life Facebook page from a message by Crawford Loritts:
I’m terribly concerned about this movement among some of us that wants to hover over our kids—and pull them back and sanitize and sterilize their environments—in such a way that they don’t interact with the evil world, a dark world, in which they were born to redeem, and impact, and be salt and light in! - Crawford Loritts
Let's consider this for a minute.
First of all, this statement, taken from a longer message, could easily be taken out of context and be misconstrued to mean what he doesn't mean. Please take a minute to at least scan the transcript for more clarification.
Secondly, I think it should be understood that some people looking at our family from the outside over the years may have levied the accusation we were "sanitizing and sterilizing our children's environment" by educating them at home. But, we knew from the outset there is no sanitizing or sterilizing born sinners. We kept them home as much from the potential for them to nurture their own depravity than that they would be polluted from any influence from their peers from the outside. That is the mistake parents make regardless of where their children are educated. You can't protect them from the evil within.
And that brings me to my third point. I have to profoundly disagree that our children are born to redeem, impact, or be salt and light to anyone unless and until they have experienced the redemption, impact, and light of the Gospel of Christ themselves. Children born to Christian parents are not missionaries to their peers.
And until they know the Savior, they are wise parents who keep a watchful eye on their children by monitoring their exposure to influences which could potentially hijack what they are striving to teach them about God, their sin, and their need of Christ.
Furthermore, as a very wise parent once penned, "a child left to himself will bring his mother to shame." (Proverbs 29:15) Just as there are dangers in allowing your children to play in the toilet or the garbage, there are dangers in allowing them to watch garbage on the screen or read it in books and comics or let them hang out with children whose parents DO leave them to themselves.
There is no such thing as a sterile and sanitized environment in the world in which we live. Any parent who thinks they can perfectly keep their children from being influenced by the world is simply delusional. The reality is the cancer with which they were born is what is killing them, and the contaminants from the outside are not conducive to their health. Consequently, once parents recognize the disease of their children's hearts, they have a greater responsibility to be vigilant about their environment. Though it will never be sterile, it may at least give them a fighting chance spiritually through the ministry of the Word and the work of the Spirit.
We cannot save our children through a "sanitized and sterilized" environment, but we do have a responsibility to do what we can to protect them from killing themselves and forsaking their own mercy (Jonah 2:8) through their experiences in the world.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Book Review - Lost and Found

When I first heard of Lost and Found: Losing Religion, Finding Grace, I knew I had to read it. The first paragraph of the description on the back instantly got my attention:
The 'right' homeschooling philosophy. The 'right' brand of theology. Kendra Fletcher had it all, until it all fell apart. In eighteen months, Kendra found her baby in a coma, ran over her five-year-old, and nearly lost her eight-year-old to a ruptured appendix. Discover how God used those events to transform her family's self-righteous religion into freedom in Christ.
Kendra and her family evidently held to many of the beliefs we did while on our homeschool journey. I could easily identify with her fears and misconceptions about how God looks at us and what we think He expects because of that.

I didn't have to go through all the perils the Fletcher family did, nearly losing three of their precious young children, but our family did go through some very distressing dilemmas as a result of our own lost way in religion. Like Kendra, we thought we had it all figured out. Thankfully, as Kendra and her husband finally found, our family also left the "religion" of works-based family philosophy and embraced the grace walk of truly knowing Christ and who we are in Him.

I rejoiced to hear how Kendra saw the unfolding of God's love through all the tragedies they faced one after another. Through the doubts and fears there resonates a deep trust in God borne out of true faith and sustaining grace. It is encouraging to be reminded that God is at work FOR OUR GOOD through even the most trying episodes of life. You don't have to go through what the Fletchers did in order to see the work of God, but you can follow their journey of faith by reading this gripping account.

Lost and Found: Losing Religion, Finding Grace is published by New Growth Press and is available on and other fine book vendors.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Interview With A Veteran Homeschool Mom

I once did an interview online as a veteran homeschooler for the Suzy Homeschooler blog. A few things have changed in the four years since I made the responses to those questions, so I thought I'd bring my "veteran" information up to date.

Caitlyn first asked me to tell a bit about myself and our family. I responded that we completed 19 years of home educating our four children when our youngest son graduated in 2010.

Our oldest, Jonathan, is married to our lovely daughter-in-love Emily and has five of our nine grandchildren. He is currently a tile layer by profession and ministers in our local church.

Our second son, Sam, is currently studying to be a lawyer at the University of Alabama School of Law. He and his wife Hannah live near campus with two of our spunky little grandsons. Hannah is working as a nurse while Sam is finishing up his last few years of school. We are excited to see what the Lord has planned for them.

Our only daughter, Lydia, is married to our CPA son-in-love, Jake. They have two sweet, little daughters and live in Dallas. Weekly Skype sessions help us cope with being so far from one another, but we get together a few times a year along with Jake's family who live here, also.

Our youngest son, Andrew, lives in North Carolina and is studying to be an engineer. He is engaged to the lovely Julibeth Culp, and we are excited to attend their wedding at the end of this year and welcome yet another beloved daughter-in-love into the Wilwerding clan.

 I must add, also, that I have been married 32 years to the love of my life, Les Wilwerding. He works as a granite counter top fabricator and does lay preaching as the Lord provides the opportunities. My 78-year-old father, Robert Sablotzke, also lives with us now. We are excited to see what the Lord has in store for us as we approach our retirement years. Whatever that means.

Caitlyn also asked about our homeschooling. I had to admit my teaching style was both relaxed and eclectic. We began with a regimented schedule and curriculum guide from one primary source, but had to switch to a more blended, eclectic mix of curricula and scheduling after I burned out during our third or fourth year. The first way of teaching worked well until our third child was added, then it all fell apart. I found out it is well nigh impossible to run a one-teacher school like an institutional school. I had to find that out the hard way.

When she asked me how I responded when family, friends, or strangers made negative comments about us educating our children at home, I had to admit we had few problems with that. My step-mother had a few qualms about it, but I think some of it stemmed from a false assumption that we thought our children were better than her children and grandchildren because they attended public schools and we had chosen to separate our children from public education. Also, she had what she considered legitimate concerns that our kids would be behind their peers, especially in the area of what was then the up and coming world of computers. I tried to assure her that her fears were unjustified, and after a time, she began to see that was true.

Another issue Caitlyn wondered about was whether or not I felt isolated or lonely as a home educating stay-at-home mom. I had to admit there were some years, especially early on, when I struggled with thinking I could be doing something more productive and satisfying than caring for and educating my own children. I had been trained as an office secretary, so the pull to be doing that instead was always there, especially when finances were tight. Thankfully, I got past that wrong notion and eventually discovered the joy, beauty, wonder, and real satisfaction of being a mother to those little persons who would eventually become the awesome adults they are today. I realized they would hot be babies and toddlers for very long and that there were some splendid people growing up in our home under my tutelage.

Caitlyn also wondered if I ever struggled to want to take off my "teacher hat" and reconnect with my husband and children away from homeschooling. I must say I never felt the need to take of my "teacher hat," because I never put it on. Home education was not separate sphere in our home. It was part of our daily lives, part of our family dynamic. That meant we could not run it like an institution. (See my post entitled Being at HOME With Home Schooling.) We incorporated our school time into our daily home schedule, along with doing chores, meal times, nap time, having family worship, and bedtime routines. It was just what we did every day, five days a week. However, we tried to maintain a class time between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. with time off for lunch. I suppose you could say that, once all the books and school supplies were cleared off the dining table for dinner, we then connected "outside" of homeschooling.

In light of the fact that so many homeschool moms feel defeated after a bad day, Caitlyn asked if looking back it was worth it to educate our children at home. I gave her a resounding YES!

In fact, it was more worth it than I could have ever dreamed! My husband and I had a vision for our children. We knew what kind of adults we wanted them to be. We took personal responsibility for the outcome of our parenting. We made a decision even before we married that the public and private schools were not the best places to get those desired end results. We took the challenge into our own hands by faith and did what we had to do to make it work.

We had bad days, bad weeks, bad months, and even bad years here and there. But, it was all done by faith. Only God can see the end from the beginning, but we knew He had led us on this path and He would see us through. We just had to keep making adjustments through those hard times along the way, seeking counsel and praying for wisdom, until we found what worked for our own family. Only after we got to the end did we see the perfect way in which God led us through in fulfillment of His promises. Only then could we enjoy the fruits of our labors. And I can tell you from personal experience, that fruit is Sa-WEET!

Caitlyn ended the interview by asking me to sum up in one sentence what I would say to new homeschooling moms.

RELAX! and trust God.

Perhaps you have your own questions about homeschooling or our experience. I'd be happy to discuss it with you. You can leave your questions in the comments below or on Facebook:

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Serving God Through Faithful Child Rearing and Elder Care

My father who lives with us
and his youngest great-grandson

I read this today in Courtney Reissig's book, Glory in the Ordinary: Why Your Work In the Home Matters to God:

"If work is a means of loving God by loving your neighbor, then every act of faithful work that you do is accomplishing just that. You are loving God and the world by caring for the people in your home."

I think that is important to remember when you are primarily at home caring for your own children, your elderly family members, or others who cannot care for themselves. Sometimes the culture sets this type of work on the sidelines as being not important or of little value because it usually doesn't have a monetary compensation.

The stay-at-home mom or caregiver sometimes thinks there might be something else "out there" which would be a better use of her life force and time, but that just isn't true. In fact, we are doing God's work, especially if it is done in faith. I do not mean to elevate it above the work and callings of others, but it is important to at least view it with the honor it deserves in our society.

Our busy stay-at-home daughter with her two daughters:
"Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these,...
ye have done it unto me." Matthew 25:40 

Unfortunately, some people elevate church or ministry work above the care of their children and aging parents. This was the mistake of the Pharisees whom Christ openly rebuked for neglecting their parents in the name of service to God.

He said,

"Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?

"For God commanded, saying, 'Honor thy father and mother:' and, 'He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death.'

"But ye say, 'Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; and honor not his father or his mother, he shall be free.'

"Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition." (Matthew 15:3b-6)

What He was saying was that if someone dedicated to God the money or provisions they could have used to help their parents in need, then they would be free of the guilt of their neglect. But, what if we said they had dedicated their lives or their time to the service of God when they have parents who are in need of their care? Do you think they would be any less guilty? I believe this is something we need to seriously consider before heading off to Timbuktu to do "the Lord's work."

I was so blessed to hear Regan Martin, missionary to the Western Cape, South Africa, share with our church what his wife Mellie is planning to do once they get to the mission field. He made it a point to make it understood her primary ministry would be caring for and home educating their five children. I could have just jumped for joy!

Indeed, I believe one of the tragedies of foreign missions has been the felt need to ship the children of missionaries off to boarding school during their formative years so they won't be in the way of their parents' ministries. However, so much abuse, heartache, and emotional damage has been done to these children, it simply breaks my heart. The first responsibility of parents is to their children, and some well-meaning missionary parents have inadvertently neglected to love and care for the nearest neighbors given to them by God.

I am glad the Martins are able to see the true value of Mellie's work in their home, even on the mission field. No one needs her ministry more than her family does. Furthermore, what better example of the love of God could Mellie give her neighbors in South Africa than that which she ministers to her nearest neighbors, her husband and children?

Jesus said, "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples if ye have love one to another." (John 13:35)

Thursday, July 20, 2017

The Dirty Little Secret of the Proverbs 31 Woman

A man gave his testimony at our church the other night, sharing all the blessings he had received from God throughout his life, including the fact that his wife was a true "Proverbs 31 woman."

My initial reaction was one of guilt, mingled with admiration....and maybe a little envy. From experience, however, I had to stop and consider that this man's definition of the Proverbs 31 woman might be different from mine. (We'll call her P31W for short.) So what exactly did he mean by a P31W?

I can only figure he meant she conforms to the ideals of the Western culture for women who primarily stay at home and single-handedly take care of every need of their husbands and children. She "looks well to the ways of her household." Her house is continually spotless, there are punctual, homemade meals on the table three times a day (including pies, cakes, and other goodies for dessert), and when the drawers and closets are opened, there are clean, neat clothing there ready to choose from. They never run out of salt or pepper, toothpaste or toilet paper. In fact, the roll is always on the holder, never on the counter. Her grout is white and so are her teeth. You will never see her in her jammies, not because she wears a cotton or fleece gown (depending on the season), but because she is up and dressed immediately after making the bed. Of course.

Though your definition may be different and include or exclude some of these things, this is what I think of when I think of a true P31W. Yet, while reading Courtney Reissig's book Glory in the Ordinary, I was shocked to find I've had it all wrong. The P31W had a dirty little secret.

Courtney points out,

"We have done a great disservice to families in the Christian community as we have elevated the Proverbs 31 woman to saint status. She is praised for her tireless work, yet we forget to mention that she had servants."

Did you get that? She had servants!

Courtney goes on,

"She was no more a supermom than we are. Her place in Scripture is not to tell us how to be the mom of the century. Accepting help from our friends, our husbands, our parents, and anyone else who wants to lend a helping hand is not accepting defeat. It's God's gift of rest to you. Take it. Embrace it. And let the rest go."[1]


Now, I'm not saying we should make sacrifices in the budget for a cleaning lady and a chef. But I am saying that if you are unable -- not unwilling, mind you, but unable -- to keep up with the basic provisions of a reasonably clean environment, clean clothes, and nourishing food for our family, then something has to give. You need to ask for the help and accept it when it is offered.

First of all, however, I am a firm believer everyone living in a home should be contributing to the needs of that home, according to his or her ability. Even small children can be taught to clean up after themselves. If your child is three years old and you are still picking up her toys, you are not only not availing yourself of the help you need, you are also robbing your child of an important character trait. It takes time and patience to teach a toddler to pick up their things and put them away, but the reward of their assistance will bear even greater fruit as they mature. Children not only learn personal responsibility from this exercise, they also derive a feeling of satisfaction and purpose through it. The sooner they can help the better.

Our granddaughter Elsie helping set the table, age 3

And just let me say here, if you have teenage or adult children living at home who aren't helping with the laundry, dishes, and and other housework, then you missed the parenting boat a looooooong time ago. I've known more than one family whose adult children are home all day while their parents are out working. I don't know what they do all day, but I guarantee you, in that situation, mom and dad shouldn't have to do much of anything when they get home from work. If adult children aren't working outside the home, they had better get busy working IN it. It's never too late. Enlist their help now. And if they resist or refuse, I'll come over and help you move their stuff out to the curb. Seriously.

Even my 78-year-old father, whom I care for and who lives with us, does what he can around the house. He has been a tremendous blessing to me as he puts away the clean dishes, sweeps the kitchen floor, and puts away his own clothes. He can't always help me because of his health, but he certainly does what he can when he can. I resisted him at first. I felt like he was being critical of my failures to keep up with the housework (P31W guilt). But then I realized his own need for feeling significant and useful. His contributions, however small, help to fulfill his purpose in life. Now I swallow my P31W pride and accept his help with grace and gratefulness.

My husband also helps around the house. He pretty well has all of the garbage chores under his care, as well as all the yard work, gardening, and heavy lifting. Our washer and dryer are in the basement, so, though I do all the washing, drying, sorting, folding, and putting up, he takes the four baskets of laundry down to and up from the basement for me. He even does the dishes on Sunday afternoons to give me a break once a week from that responsibility. I appreciate it all so much.

I know some women live in isolation from their extended family, have husbands who refuse to help around the house, and have many little ones who cannot contribute to the household chores. Yet, perhaps there are others who could lend a hand at times. Are there friends at church to whom you could reach out, or maybe you could exchange help with other young mothers in your same situation? In Glory In the Ordinary, author Courtney Reissig offers advice on how to go about finding help in those situations as well.

However, for some women it may mean actually investing in hired help. If you can't afford a cleaning service or a chef, can you afford a teenager? I was blessed to help a woman from our church when I was a teenager. She had cancer and could not keep up with the housework. I went over once a week for two hours and did whatever she needed help with at the time. I mostly vacuumed, but I also washed her kitchen cabinets. She paid me a modest fee, and we were both happy. Our daughter also functioned as a mothers' helper to families with many children when she was a teenager. They couldn't pay her much, of course, but what she gained in on-the-job training was worth a fortune. I am so grateful for the contributions those mothers made to our daughter's development and character, and I am blessed to see the fruit of it as she guides her own home and rears her children.

Though it can be a challenge to rethink what it means to "look well to the ways of [your] household," it is important to understand clearly how the P31W narrative actually plays out in the time and culture in which we live. It will most certainly play out differently for me than it will for you as each woman and household are different. Yet, rather than beating ourselves up while comparing ourselves to others -- even the P31W --, let us pray for wisdom in how to direct our homes and to know how and when to get the "servants" we need in order to succeed.

[1] Courtney Reissig, Glory In the Ordinary: Why Your Work In the Home Matters To God (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2017), pp. 105, 106.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Reformation Women - Book Review

I have always enjoyed reading about the contributions of women in our Christian heritage, so I was excited to find Rebecca VanDoodewaard's Reformation Women: Sixteenth-Century Figures Who Shaped Christianity's Rebirth, which she wrote specifically to include those lesser known figures whose contributions were pivotal during the Reformation.

The twelve biographical sketches in this volume are rich with detail and intrigue. In it you will find women from many different walks of life, from those who lived in poverty, neglect, and banishment for the cause of Christ to queens who used their influence to further the cause of Christ and to protect believers from persecution.

Originally published as separate articles in the Reformed Church Magazine (1893-1895), they were then compiled into one volume, called Famous Women of the Reformed Church, by James Isaac Good. Rebecca has now further revised, expanded, and corrected his work in Reformation Women.

When Christian women today seem to be faltering about where they belong in the work of Christ's kingdom and church leaders are equally baffled with what to do about women who want to serve, the publication of this book couldn't have come at a better time. Younger and older women alike will benefit from reading it as they are challenged by the examples of others who lived through often perilous times. It encourages us to not be content with the status quo, but to seek ways to further the cause of Christ in our own sphere of influence, whatever that may be.

Furthermore, I appreciate how the author never elevates nor demeans women who worked alongside their husbands and children on the home front. Though often in obscurity, yet their works, as a light set on a hill, could not be hidden, and we are blessed and encouraged to follow in their footsteps with honor and dignity even if we never leave the sphere of our homes. Yet, those who are active in the workforce or in positions of leadership will also gain many insights into how to portray the love of Christ where they serve with those qualities unique to believing women. I would especially encourage high school aged women to read this book as they are seeking to discern God's plan for their lives, and it would make an excellent graduation gift.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Discovering the One Thing Needful

There are just some books and authors who stand out as making a huge difference in my walk with God. In addition to the Bible, reading Spurgeon's sermons has been one of them. But, I have recently been blessed by a little book called Disciplined By Grace: Studies in Christian Conduct by J.F. Strombeck which has completely opened my understanding concerning the work of grace in the believer.

You see, I always understood grace to be "the unmerited favor of God" -- and it is! --, but I never saw it also as the way by which God works His mighty power in us. It is the operation of God in salvation both in justification and sanctification. Perhaps all of you already knew that, but this is news to me!

The whole book so far has been very good, very enlightening, but after reading Chapter 13, "Devotion and Works," I am overwhelmed to my very core that I have been missing something vital in my walk with God. The Lord has been revealing it to me little by little over the course of about five years now, but this morning it all opened up for me. How could I have missed it for so long?

Loving devotion to Christ is the one thing most needful.

Strombeck explains:

"Devotion to Christ is most important. As important as are good works in the believer's life, there is that which in God's sight is even more important. While Christ desires and recognizes service, He far more desires and values love and devotion to Himself. In this day when service has become the keynote of Christianity, meditation on Christ, devotion to Him, and a desire for Him, purely because of what He is, have almost become a lost practice. These are, however, necessary and prerequisite to acceptable service for Him."*

He goes on to give examples of Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38-42), the dialogue between Christ and Peter in John 21:15-17, and Christ's letter to the church at Ephesus in Revelation 2:1-5.

A loving devotion for God in Christ is the one thing needful. Everything else flows from that. And that loving devotion is given by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5 and following). It all begins with the revelation that God really is love (1 John 4:8). I believe that knowing this is the key to understanding the seeming contradiction of justice and mercy.

God's laws are not a means of constraining us from something good and fulfilling. They are a means of restraining us from destroying ourselves and others. A loving God gave a loving Law in order to show us what living really is. Christ summed up the greatest commandment of the Law to be "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind." (Matthew 22:37)

While memorizing Deuteronomy 6:4-7, my brain kept wanting to skip over verse 5 and go straight to verse 6.

"4. Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD:

5. And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.

6. And these words which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart:"

However, omitting the verse about first loving God before embracing His commandments should be no surprise when you consider that this route around loving God first has marked nearly all of my Christian walk. I have not made the love relationship with God my main focus. I have made His law, keeping His commandments, and being a champion of "the truth," my whole force and ambition. I even thought doing these things was how I proved my love for God. Unfortunately, that was what I was taught growing up in the church.

But, "there is a way which seems right to a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death." (Proverbs 14:12), and I'm afraid this way has led me astray from the joy and beauty of life in Christ Jesus. The way I was going seemed right! I wanted to do what was right. I wanted sin to not have dominion over me. I wanted to please God. But, I was going about it in entirely the wrong way, by the works of the Law through the flesh. Disciplined By Grace has helped to bring the truth into focus for me.

God is love.

God's Law is given in love.

No other law or commandments from any other god can be trusted to be in our best interest; but every law of God is an extension of His pure love only with our highest good in mind.

The cry of the loving heart of God for even those who reject Him is "O that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children for ever!" (Deuteronomy 5:29)

The reason God desires us to keep His laws is because only His laws are truly just and will bring life and peace to those who keep them. It all flows from His love. Once we see this, we can begin to love Him in return. "We love him, because he first loved us." (1 John 4:19)

To only keep God's commandments because He's "the Boss" and will punish us if we don't is a twisted way of looking at the relationship God desires with mankind. It is a pagan god who will only draw near when their devotees cut themselves and cry out all the day long. 1 Kings 18 gives us this example. You can read the whole story in 1 Kings 18, but please note that it was the pagan god who didn't answer. Yet, God answered the prophet Elijah immediately when he offered the sacrifice.

I've heard a lot of preaching about how God will not save a man until he humbles himself in some sort of painful exercise and cries out to God continually until He gives an answer. But, this looks too much like how the god Baal operates. There are people who give examples of how they cried out to God to save them but never received an answer or were given an answer only after a time of extended contrition. But, I believe this is a grievous error.

Salvation is never given apart from faith in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ in the sacrifice of Himself on the cross. That faith comes not from our cries and prayers and humblings but by hearing and believing the truth of that good news! (Romans 10:13-15) The faith to believe that Gospel good news of Christ is given by God by His grace (the effectual operation of God on the soul).

Now, it's true that once you've had your eyes opened by the preaching of the word to see the ugliness of your sin against God and against others, there will be a natural agony of soul. If you see it rightly, there will be. But none of that avails anything apart from then believing on the finished work of Christ to forgive those sins and give new life. The Holy Spirit is only given to those who believe in Christ. And new life, hope, and peace with God are then given through the indwelling Spirit of God. Thus, Christ has made the way for man to be reconciled to God, both for now and eternity. Believe it, and be saved!

These are the things I am learning. I would appreciate any feedback or discussion anyone might have. Even if you disagree, that is good, too. I want to be sure what I am discovering isn't in error. I may be figuring things out, but that doesn't mean I have it all figured out.

I encourage you to get a copy of this little book and consider the things in it. It's not very long. The chapters are short and easy to read. But, it is deep in nature and pulls up living waters from the very depths of the well of the Word. So refreshing!

*J.F. Strombeck, Disciplined By Grace: Studies in Christian Conduct (Chicago: Moody Press, 1946), pp. 75-76.

Monday, May 22, 2017

When Children Go Astray, It May Not Be the Parents' Fault

It is a good and godly thing for Christian parents to strive to have a godly home and to raise their children under the restraints of God's Word. Though some parents go overboard at times in their fear that their children will be given over to the world, there should definitely be a difference between worldly homes and those of believers.

Yet, Christian parents may do all they can according to the best of their knowledge, ability, and the grace of God in giving them wisdom in child rearing and still have children who chuck it all out the window when they reach adulthood, sometimes even before then.

Those looking in from the outside will almost always shift the blame to the parents. They were too strict, they were naive, they didn't socialize them enough, and on and on. Whispers, gossip, and slander often abound even among their peer families in the church.

But, one of my favorite preachers of all time, Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892), says in his message "The Monster Dragged to Light,"

"Another strange thing I have often noticed — as a proof of sin's power to gather poison from the most healthful flowers — is that some transgress all the more because they have been placed under the happy restraints of godliness. Though trained to piety and virtue, they rush into the arms of vice as though it were their mother! As gnats fly at a candle as soon as ever they catch sight of it, so do these infatuated ones dash into evil! Young people who are placed in the Providence of God where no temptations ever assail them — in the midst of holy and quiet homes where the very name of evil scarcely comes — will often fret and worry themselves to get out into what they call 'life' and thrust their souls into the perils of bad company.

"The sons and daughters of Adam long to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Their very preservation from temptation grows irksome to them. They loathe the fold and long for the wolf! They think themselves deprived because they have not been born in the midst of licentiousness and tutored in crime. Strange infatuation! And yet many a parent's heart has been broken by this freak of depravity — this reckless lust for evil! The younger son had the best of fathers and yet he could never be quiet until he had gained his independence and had brought himself to beggary in a far country by spending his living with harlots." [emphasis mine]*

No parent is without sin — those who think they are let them cast the first stone! — but there are many Christian parents who have done all they can in good conscience to raise their children in the fear of the Lord only to have them jump ship as soon as they get sight of the shore. For those parents, I hope you will take comfort in Spurgeon's assessment of this reality and stop taking on the false guilt of the Accuser and his minions, both in the world and the church.

If you have a prodigal, never stop praying and looking for their return. If there have been errors or sins in your parenting, confess them to your children and ask their forgiveness. Love them and witness to them as the Lord gives you opportunities, always keeping in mind that the prodigal is actually running away from God and is ultimately accountable to Him. Yet, we are His ambassadors, begging them to be reconciled to Him. While there is life, there is hope.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Balanced Biblical Advice on Child Training From Melissa Kruger

Through the years, I have read stacks and stacks of books on child training. As a parent, I wanted with all my heart to "get it right" with our kids. However, though much of what I read was helpful and biblical, I often interpreted it through the lenses of my own experience.

You see, I was reared in a home where child discipline hinged on spanking. Those spankings which were, unfortunately, most often administered in anger, just as my parents' parents had taught them. I thought it worked for me, so it must be the way to do it.

Yet, I didn't want to do it in anger like my parents did, so I justified my angry discipline as righteous indignation, meting out justice in the name of the Lord. I was so confused and wrong. I am thankful that along the way somewhere the Lord changed my heart about that, and I was able to become more balanced in my child rearing.

Then I read this article on the Gospel Coalition website which finally brought it all into focus. In her post 5 Principles for Disciplining Your Children, I believe Melissa Kruger has indeed given some of the most helpful, balanced, and biblical advice on child rearing I have ever read. And I have read A LOT!

I have already commented on the article on the GO website and commented on, liked it, and shared it on Fabebook, but I thought I should also give my blog reader a heads up and get the word out about this fantastic post. I hope you will also pass it on to others who might benefit from its sound teaching.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Faith and Courage From the Sidelines

I saw something in church yesterday which I have rarely seen before. The text was Hebrews 4:14-16, which in itself is a charge worthy of any spiritual battle the believer may face, but it was the pastor's response to the preaching of it which blessed my heart.

You've seen how teammates on the sidelines will lean forward ready to jump to their feet for joy as they witness their comrades gaining ground on the opposing team. That was the pastor's posture yesterday as he listened intently to another lay minister delivering the message. He simply could not hide the inner excitement of hearing once again the truth of the exaltation of Christ who opened the way for needy sinners to come boldly before the throne of grace and find mercy. To say the least, by the close of the service, he was pumped for the communion celebration!

That's how it should be among ministers of the Word, and it is one thing I truly appreciate about Ventura Baptist Church​. The humility of the men who lead there and the love they have for Christ and one another is such a breath of fresh air! There is no vying for the pulpit; the pulpit belongs to Christ. There is no vying for the love and loyalty of the congregation; the congregation belongs to Christ. The men who teach and preach there are on the same team in the battle against sin and Satan. And that is as it should be.

Truly, the battles we face every day against the devil, the world, and our own flesh (indeed our strongest foe!) are much better fought and won when we've been challenged to remember who our Conquering Savior is and who we are in Him. I rarely leave a service at Ventura without feeling ready "to charge Hell with a water pistol," as the old timers used to say. Indeed, I, too, felt the anticipation of the win as I came home with a renewed vision and courage to fight the sins which so easily beset me.

The pastor's excitement during the sermon reminded me also of a scene from Kenneth Branagh's Henry V (1989). If you choose to view the clip I've included with this post, take note of how the posture of the men changes as they are encouraged by King Henry and how they look on one another with a light in their eyes with renewed courage by the power of his inspiring words. Though they knew not the outcome with the odds against them, yet they were ready to fight!

And, yet, we have a more sure outcome in our spiritual battles whereby we may gain courage. We have a Leader, a commander of the people (Isaiah 55:4), our mighty King Jesus, who encourages us by His Spirit through men of God called to that ministry. Truly, this is what the cowering, struggling church needs today.

However, the Spirit of God cannot move where there is pride in vying for position in leadership or bickering and infighting among the warriors. We need a new vision of who the enemy is, who our Leader is, and who we are in relation to one another if we are ever to see the conquests which our Commander has promised are possible. We must pray for it, pray for our pastors and leaders, pray for one another, put down our own pride, and then expect God's blessing on the battle.

"God be with you all!" Amen.