why Francis Chan is radically wrong

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I’m not sure there is anything more “risk-taking” than having 8 of your grandchildren at Hoover Dam at once!

In a recent interview, Francis Chan, favorite pastor to many millennials, was asked to give a “warning to the church.” Echoing his previous teaching that “Christians are making an idol out of the family,” Chan believes too many couples are not taking risks and are endangering the spiritual health of their children by homeschooling or placing their children in Christian schools. He called for parents to “seek first the Kingdom” and practice what he calls “radical, adventurous, Holy-Spirit filled” living.

I have often warned families who are committed to the family integrated church movement’s agenda for family life to not become isolationists and to be careful to not idolize a paradigm. After listening to Chan’s comments, I think many of his ideas are exactly why some homeschooling families have abandoned traditional churches for the family integrated model. Chan has totally missed the mark of what it actually means to be a Christian family! Here is my admonition to Chan and those who found this article appealing:

Scripture tells us that married couples are not free to pursue other ministries in the same way single people do. It is a fact. “But I want you to be free from concern. One who is unmarried is concerned about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord; but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how he may please his wife, and his interests are divided. The woman who is unmarried, and the virgin, is concerned about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and spirit; but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how she may please her husband. This I say for your own benefit; not to put a restraint upon you, but to promote what is appropriate and to secure undistracted devotion to the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 7:32-35) Those who feel called to “risk-taking” need to examine whether or not they are actually called to marriage and family life. Raising a family requires commitment and stability.

Reconsider what it means to “be radical” and whether or not Chan’s definition is really a goal we ought to have as Christians. Chan says the church “has almost squashed the desire of young people to be radical.” He then defines radical as going overseas, moving into the inner city, and not “living in a bubble.” In reality, the most radical thing a Christian mother and father can do in the 21st century is to be in a committed, faithful marriage to each other for life and to raise children in an environment that loves and adores children and nurtures them in a Biblical worldview. As we demonstrate the one anothers to those in our homes and then to others we welcome into our family circle, hearts and lives are changed by the power of the Holy Spirit. Maybe diapers, dishes, and daily devotions aren’t exciting, but, as parents, it is our calling. Living faithfully is the true adventure!

We must identify our true mission field. Just before Jesus ascended into heaven, He said “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) Our commission begins in our “Jerusalem,” in our homes. Jesus also warned us “Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matthew 19:14) If we have been given children to mentor and disciple, we cannot overlook them in lieu of a different, more action-packed mission field.

Years ago we knew a man whose parents were foreign missionaries. He described how, at the end of each summer, his parents loaded him and his siblings on a boat that traveled up-river to a boarding school. He vividly remembered being a little boy of 5, crying and waving good-bye as his parents told him God had called them to sacrifice their children for the Kingdom, that this separation was God’s will. Decades later, two of those children had committed suicide and the others were not believers. This story has played itself out over and over again as Christians practiced a skewed view of their true mission field.

“Jesus was going through all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness. Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.’” (Matthew 9:35-38) For parents, the harvest is our precious children who are, in this growing culture of relativism and death, in desperate need of shepherds to watch over them. In this application, the few workers Jesus talks about are the parents who have neglected their first mission field.

God placed us in families. This is one of the most powerful truths we will ever know and experience. Family is the training ground for adult life. Everything important we learn about loving Jesus and loving others we first learned in our homes, for good or for bad. It is to be the place of comfort and rest and sanctuary for each member who struggles. It is where we practice confrontation and argument and debate. It Is where we give and receive forgiveness. It has been God’s design since the Garden and though many social experiments have attempted to replace it, none have been successful. It is God’s first, best plan. Choosing to give it top priority does not make us slackers in the Kingdom, it makes it obedient and faithful stewards of God’s most valuable gifts.

God expects parents to *mentor their own children. The one another verses of Scripture are God’s commands to us in order to build the body of Christ for His glory. It is in the moment by moment of living those verses that we mentor the children God has given to us. The fruits of living faithfully are multiplied exponentially through future generations as our children mature and grow and begin their own family adventures.

Faithful family life opens the door to evangelism. Those who are called to foreign missions and include their children in the work know how powerful their example of family faithfulness can be. One of my missionary friends told me that she is often reticent about meeting new people but that her small son, who is a lively and energetic people person, has opened doors for sharing the Gospel many times. Being the one family on the block where mom and dad are always available and who actually enjoy being with kids will draw neighbor children from near and far! Involving children in service and ministry to others along with us while maintaining the necessary protection they need and deserve prepares them with confidence!

One of the disturbing trends among Christian celebrities is an agenda of challenging others to pursue “more” in their relationship with Jesus. When asked to define “more” it is often described in nebulous ways or nonsensical terms that result in feelings of defeat and inadequacy for those who are already overwhelmed with daily family life. Often they call Christians to be “radical,” but the “radical” stuff is dangerous for children, neglects them, or even expects them to make choices well beyond what should be expected of children. Sometimes “more” is even heretical. But Jesus called us to faithfulness and He is the one who asks “more” of us in the process.

“From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more. (Luke 12:28)

 

*For a more detailed explanation of what family mentoring requires, see Chapter 2 of The Joy of Relationship Homeschooling ~ when the one anothers come home.

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usefulness and practical Christianity

love thy neighbor

 

“Practical Christianity, then is the active operation of Christian principles. It means keeping watch for occasions to exemplify these principles. It is “exercising ourselves unto godliness.” ( 1 Timothy 4:7) We cannot tell in the morning what opportunities we may have of doing good during the day; but if we are sincere, we will try to keep our hearts open, our minds prepared, and our affections alive to do whatever may occur in the way of duty. We will, as it were, stand in the way to receive the orders of Providence. Doing good is our vocation. We reject no duty that comes within the sphere of our calling , nor do we think the work we are employed on a good one if we might be doing a better one.”  ~  Hannah More

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priorities

mom jugglers

“Miscalculating the relative value of things is one of the greatest errors of our moral life. We estimate them in an adverse proportion to their value as well as to their duration. We lavish earnest and durable thoughts on things so trifling that they deserve little regard, so brief that they perish with the using, while we bestow only slight attention only things of infinite worth, only transient thoughts on things of eternal duration.”

~ Hannah More

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helping our children find purpose in life

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Recently studying through the book of 2 Timothy, I have been considering the difference between instruction and exhortation. Paul, as the older, spiritual father to Timothy, has many words of wisdom for the younger man and offers his concerns, admonitions, and warnings. In some instances he states directly what he expects Timothy to do. In other verses he encourages Timothy to make wise decisions that come from an inward depth of character as he goes about fulfilling his role as the younger missionary.

I believe Paul’s relationship with Timothy is a good example for parenting as we seek to exhort and instruct our own children. One of the secrets of parenting by grace is to understand the difference between the two as we help them embrace their purpose in life as well as the individual callings the Lord gives to them.

From the very earliest days of toddlerhood, we must instill in our children the truth that they are created for one purpose alone, to bring glory to God. The children’s catechism states so sweetly, “Who made you? God made me. What else did God make? God made me and all things. Why did God make you and all things? For His own glory.”[1] These words should be on the lips of little ones early and often.

As our children become older and their understanding of God grows, it is our job to show them, both in word and in deed, what this means. We read to them Psalm 139:13, showing them how perfectly and mysteriously they were knit together in the womb: “For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” We remind them that God created them in His image: “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:27). We instill in them the truth that they were chosen to be His before the foundation of the world. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved” (Ephesians 1:3-6).

We take them through the pages of the Old Testament, introducing them to the heroes of the faith who were committed to bringing glory to God, not omitting their failures, but rather, instructing our children in God’s grace and mercy. And as we do this, how important it is to share with them our own failures and struggles along our own faith journey.

As we spend time with them reading the Gospels and the Epistles of the New Testament, we can begin to lead them into a deeper understanding of discipleship and what it means for them to love God and their neighbors, how their choices in life will reflect their one purpose of glorifying God. Our curriculum for this is Isaiah 46: 9-10; “Remember the former things long past,
For I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is no one like Me, Declaring the end from the beginning,
And from ancient times things which have not been done,
Saying, ‘My purpose will be established,
And I will accomplish all My good pleasure’” and Psalm 33:10-11: “The Lord nullifies the counsel of the nations;
He frustrates the plans of the peoples. The counsel of the Lord stands forever, The plans of His heart from generation to generation.” Our children can have the sure promise that God will accomplish that purpose!

When it comes to fulfilling your purpose in life, there are really only two choices: to follow Christ or not, to be Christians or not. Because our children are spiritual by nature, being created in God’s image, they will seek to serve someone or something. Kimmel again reminds us of the importance of being engaged with our children: “Children are spiritual…Yet some parents, through their ignorance or denial of its existence, (author’s note: I might add through bad theology or following manmade teachings) leave their children starved, illiterate, and unhealthy when it comes to spiritual matters. Instructing your children that their purpose is to spend their lives glorifying God is the first half of two sides of the coin. We also need to spur our children on in particular and individual ways and on a daily basis. “But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” (Hebrews 3:13).

thoughts from The Joy of Relationship Homeschooling ~ when the one anothers come home

 

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quick, simple, delicious supper

cuba

 

When our son married our wonderful Cuban daughter-in-law, Janell, our trip to the wedding in Miami plunged us into the delicious and amazing world of Cuban cooking. One afternoon we visited some of her family friends and the aroma of spicy beans and rice filled the whole house. I was later told this dish is served silky in most Cuban homes and I purposed then and there to learn how to make it. Here is my simple version of a dish I know your family will love.

 

Cuban Black Beans and Rice

1 red pepper, sliced

1 green pepper, sliced

1 large yellow onion, sliced

1/2 cup olive oil

1 generous TBS minced garlic

2 cans black beans (I drain one can)

2 tsp. taco seasoning

salt to taste

brown rice

Place olive oil in pot, add peppers and onion. When they begin to soften, add garlic and seasoning. Saute a couple more minutes.  Add beans and simmer on low for about 10 minutes. Serve over rice. May top with cheese, sour cream, lettuce, and tomatoes in a rice bowl. Also delicious as a side dish for fajitas or tacos. May also add chicken broth if you want to make a yummy soup.

 

 

 

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seeking a life of usefulness

ann

Ann stared in the mirror, her soft brown curls framing her small face, her creamy neck rising out of the pale blue gown she had put on for just such an elegant occasion. She was meeting her friends for an evening of dining and dancing, but for some reason, even the anticipation of such a lovely gathering could not lift the weight that had pressed on her the past few weeks.

A thoughtful and cheerful young woman, Ann was excited to be attending Bradford Academy, one of the few schools that had recently welcomed girls into their classes. She enjoyed her studies and was challenged by the professors who were patient and kind, though demanding.

But, something was troubling her.

Not long after Ann had arrived, revival had broken out across the campus. Already a Christian, Ann was sure of her salvation by faith alone in Jesus Christ, but she could not shake the nagging sense that God wanted more from her life than parties and beautiful dresses.

On her nightstand was a copy of Strictures on the Modern System of Female Education, the controversial work written by educational reformer Hannah More, that had brought such conviction to the students. Among the words that pierced her heart were: A Christian’s piety does not consist in living in retreat and railing at the practices of the world, while, perhaps, her heart is full of the spirit of that world at which she is railing: but it consists in subduing the spirit of the world and opposing its practices even while her duty obliges her to live in it.” Convinced of the sinfulness and futility of this temporal world, Ann’s response would set the course of her whole life: Direct me in Thy service, and I ask no more. I would not choose my position of work, or place of labor. Only let me know Thy will, and I will readily comply.”

 Ann Hasseltine finished her education and went on to teach young children, pursuing what More had called “a life of usefulness,” leading many to Christ through her boldness in presenting the Gospel. Her great sense of compassion inspired her to care for widows and orphans and she often encouraged her parents in their work with the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions.

It was during one missions meeting in their home that she met the young and eager Adoniram Judson. He was immediately drawn to her and, convincing her to marry him in spite of the many protests of friends and family who feared for her to live overseas, Ann accompanied him first to India, then Burma, becoming the first female American missionary. Though she lived in another century, the life of Ann Hasseltine Judson has many lessons for women today:

 A life of usefulness will reflect what God places on your heart and the particular gifts He gives you for service.

 As a young woman, Ann’s heart was turned toward women who needed the Gospel message, both for their eternal souls and for their current life situations. She wrote “I desire no higher enjoyment in this life, than to be instrumental of leading some poor, ignorant heathen females, to the knowledge of the Savior. To have a female praying society, consisting of those who were once in heathen darkness, is what my heart earnestly pants after, and makes a constant subject of prayer. Resolved to keep this in view, as one principal object of my life.”

A life of usefulness may mean experiencing tremendous loss.

 Ann became a mother three times, losing her first child to miscarriage and the second to illness. Her husband was accused of being a spy and imprisoned for 17 months, leaving Ann to support herself and her small family while providing food and supplies for Adoniram and his fellow prisoners. She was often sick herself but continued to spend time in translation work. In her grief she wrote: “My native land, my home, my friends, and all my forsaken enjoyments, rushed into my mind. My tears flowed profusely and I could not be comforted. Soon, however, the consideration of having left all these for the dear cause of Christ, and the hope of one day being instrumental of leading some poor degraded females to embrace Him as their Savior, soothed my griefs, dried up my tears, and restored peace and tranquility to my mind.

A life of usefulness will leave a legacy beyond anything you can imagine!

During Ann’s 14 years of missionary service, she wrote a catechism in Burmese, translated the books of Daniel and Jonah into Burmese, and translated the Gospel of Matthew into Thai. Her letters home describing life on the mission field, including the tragic descriptions of female infanticide, child marriages, and abuse of the Burmese women, were widely circulated in America and published as devotionals after her death. Her commitment to helping these dear women was known throughout the whole world and even within the halls of governments.

At 37 years of age, Ann died alone, leaving her little girl and husband. She was buried in Burma but her testimony is known around the world. More than 16 biographies have been written about her life and many young women cite her life story as the vehicle God used to call them into ministry.

What are the particular gifts God has given to you? How are you using them in a life of usefulness?

 

(This article was originally published in Dear Magazine, 2015. If you haven’t yet subscribed to Dear what are you waiting for? Amazing publication, beautiful in words and pictures!)

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the riches of kindness

as is

 

Our greatest strength in parenting comes when kindness is central to all we do! It begins when we recognize that it is God’s kindness that leads us to repentance. “Do you think lightly of the riches of his kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?” (Romans 2:4). And we will continue to receive His kindness in our relationship with Him through Jesus! “In the ages to come, He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:7). In turn, we are to pour out that same kindness on others! “Be kind one to another” (Ephesians 4:32).

In the small church where I grew up, there was a dear older woman, Mrs. Thomas, who struggled with a variety of learning disabilities, some which were also shared by several of her children. All adults and some living at home with her, the family shared the pew in front of ours every Sunday morning, often making some of the church members uncomfortable. She talked loudly, and was suffering from some degree of Parkinson’s disease, which caused her to shake and read out loud about half a sentence behind everyone else during congregational responsive readings.

My grandmother was always the first to greet Mrs. Thomas, to help her take off her coat or find the correct page of the hymnal. She spoke lovingly to each of the Thomas “boys” and often patted their arms as they spoke to her. One morning during the greeting time in the service, I looked up, horrified to see that Mrs. Thomas was wearing a new dress and that the price tags were still dangling down under her arm! My grandmother also noticed and engaged her in conversation about her “lovely new dress” all the while carefully unpinning the tag and slipping it down into her own pocketbook. She was so proud of the dress because her daughter, a nurse, had mailed it to her that week and my grandmother, in her infinite kindness, made sure nothing could ruin the moment for Mrs. Thomas. It was such a simple gesture but it has left an impression on me still 50 years later. It demonstrated to me in a very real way what it means to be kind to someone, to show compassion, to be gracious.

Interestingly, the Greek word for kind in this command, chrestos, is the same word used to describe Christ’s yoke. “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. My yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:29-30). It literally means that which makes something easy, makes another’s burden lighter, and has nothing harsh or galling about it. Our acts of kindness to others are to provide the same kind of respite from the weariness of life as Jesus’ yoke does for those of us He calls “weary and heavy laden!”

from The Joy of Relationship Homeschooling ~ when the one anothers come home

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homeschooling and the myth of socialization

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Psychology professor Richard G. Medlin wrote in Homeschooling and the Question of Socialization Revisited

“Homeschooling parents expect their children to respect and get along with people of diverse backgrounds.… Compared to children attending conventional schools … research suggest that they have higher quality friendships and better relationships with their parents and other adults.”

Furthermore, says Medlin, “They are happy, optimistic, and satisfied with their lives.” How often do you hear those words applied to any other group of children?

Thomas Smedley, who prepared a master’s thesis for Radford University of Virginia on The Socialization of Homeschool Children put it this way:

“In the public school system, children are socialized horizontally, and temporarily, into conformity with their immediate peers. Home educators seek to socialize their children vertically, toward responsibility, service, and adulthood, with an eye on eternity.”

For more good thoughts on the myth of socialization and homeschooling, visit Relationship Homeschooling on Facebook and check out this article!

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you are not alone ~ encouragement for the heart of a military spouse

jen

How I wish I’d had this wonderful book to read when I was a young Army wife! Jen’s words of wisdom would have been just what I needed to endure the long days of TDY and solo parenting! Drawing on her experiences from living around the world, her stories are engaging and her down-to-earth encouragement is like having coffee with a dear friend. I especially love the challenging thoughts at the end of each story. This is one of those books I will return to again and again for inspiration. Also recommended for any mom and dad embracing the day to day challenges of life! I have had the honor of getting to know Jen over the past few years as a kindred spirit homeschooling mom, too. She is a gem!

And be sure to stop over to Jen’s website for a chance to win a free copy of You Are Not Alone!

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the way we were

army life

My friend, Sally, and I sat in our theater seats, sobbing and barely able to speak. Hubbell had left Katie for the last time and as the credits rolled, we sighed. There was nothing more romantic to two college girls than the dashing, blue-eyed Robert Redford in uniform, indifferently walking away from the woman he loved, holding on to only a memory of the way they were!

 In a few short years, as I graduated, married, and began to raise children, my idea of soul mate perfection changed. I had my own handsome man in uniform, but what attracted me even more were those qualities rarely shown on the big screen: a dad who wrestled with the kids, changed diapers, dried dishes, was kind and forgiving, and really listened when I talked to him. Forty years later, this is what still makes sparks for me!

In our early years as homeschooling parents, we were introduced to an “approved” version of “the godly Christian homeschool marriage” and suddenly everything changed. Rather than continuing to enjoy our lovely, organic family life, we were handed lists of manmade rules and silly paradigms in magazines and on convention book tables. Feeling the peer pressure of other moms, I was tempted by false expectations and discontentment. I no longer thrived being my gregarious, free-spirited self and began to substitute my life with what I had been told were the true marks of godly womanhood; my poor husband wondered where the fun and joy-filled wife of his youth was hiding. Ignoring the truth that each marriage and each couple are a unique reflection of the individual gifts and talents they bring into the relationship, I found myself trying to stuff both of us into a box. It was a miserable time.

Thankfully, along our spiritual journey, we began to examine what Scripture really teaches about the beauty of a relationship between a husband and wife. I took off the idolatrous blinders I was wearing and could see more clearly what the Lord wanted me to know: our marriage relationship here on earth will only last for a short time, but our relationship as brother and sister in Christ is for eternity. As we began applying all the one another passages of Scripture in our marriage….love one another, forgive one another, exhort one another, submit to one another, encourage one another (as well as the other 50 one another verses), once again, we were able to experience joy and harmony. By God’s grace, that lovely, organic relationship was restored; we returned to the way we were!

Over the years, I have spent a lot of time talking with younger wives who find themselves walking down a similar path, headed toward a paradigm that is neither sustainable, nor biblical. For many, so much damage has already been done that they feel like giving up. For others, peer and family pressure insists that they continue on this path, though in their heart of hearts these dear moms know it will likely end in destruction. Still, others grew up in homes where family life was one, big exercise in role-playing but they want their own marriages to be the real deal.

So what is the first step? I believe it begins by looking at your own husband and choosing to be content with what you see! It means concentrating on how we can grow ourselves in God’s grace, conforming to the image of Christ, trusting that He is also working in your husband’s life and in your marriage. God will bless us as we purpose to obey all the one anothers of Scripture in word and deed.

Author Laura Ingalls Wilder once wrote: “Things and persons appear to us according to the light we throw upon them…unconsciously we judge others by the light that is within ourselves, condemning or approving them with our own conception of right or wrong, honor or dishonor. We show by our judgment just what the light within us is.”

And so it is with each wife who considers her own marriage relationship and her own husband. Let me encourage you to get rid of the unhealthy paradigms of marriage and family life and pursue your husband with wild abandon! Let an organic marriage be the way you are!

 

(originally appeared in the fall, 2014 edition of Family Magazine)

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