Needed Ingredients

A common heart’s desire I hear from homeschooling parents is to raise children who will love and serve the Lord Jesus. That is our desire as well. I believe this is a major reason why families invest their time and money to home educate their children. However, as critical as homeschooling is to raising men and women of God, homeschooling by itself will fall short.

Logic would wonder who could be a better father than the man of God, Eli the high priest, and what better place to raise one’s children than in “God’s house”? With those things going for them, Eli’s sons should have been dynamic, on-fire followers of God. Yet, 1 Samuel 2:12 tells us: “Now the sons of Eli were sons of Belial; they knew not the LORD.” Hophni and Phinehas, Eli’s sons, were priests in Shiloh. They would take the fat and flesh from the pots of the Israelites contrary to God’s Word to satisfy their covetous hearts. In addition, they were immoral, and God took notice. “Wherefore the sin of the young men was very great before the LORD: for men abhorred the offering of the LORD” (1 Samuel 2:17).

The people reported the sons’ conduct to Eli. We learn much about Eli’s life and parenting by how he responds to this information. “Now Eli was very old, and heard all that his sons did unto all Israel; and how they lay with the women that assembled at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. And he said unto them, Why do ye such things? for I hear of your evil dealings by all this people. Nay, my sons; for it is no good report that I hear: ye make the LORD’S people to transgress. If one man sin against another, the judge shall judge him: but if a man sin against the LORD, who shall intreat for him? Notwithstanding they hearkened not unto the voice of their father, because the LORD would slay them” (1 Samuel 2:22-25). Can you believe that all Eli could bring himself to do was to lecture his sons? Where was his passion? Where was his fear of God? Where was his love for his God and sons?

This account of Eli and his sons, though more extreme, bears similarities to many Christian families. It seems the popular assumption today is that if we are religious parents who bring our children to church frequently, the children will turn out all right. This hasn’t worked in the past, and it will not work now, even if we have made the important choice to homeschool them. If our vision for our children is that they be dynamic followers of Jesus Christ, we must be committed to do whatever is in our power to help them get there.

First and foremost, each child needs a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). It isn’t enough that Dad and Mom are believers. Each child must have a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. Each has to come to a place of acknowledging that he is a sinner and, before God, repent of his sin. Then he should see Jesus’ death on the cross, burial, and resurrection as the solution to his sin. However, our jobs don’t stop once our children are saved. Salvation is just the beginning of the journey.

The children have to be discipled by Dad and Mom to learn what life in Christ is all about. It appears that perhaps Eli failed in discipling his sons. We can tell from this account that Eli and his sons were focused on the flesh’s pleasure. Eli was very overweight when he died, and Scripture indicates this condition had come from Eli’s coveting food and physical pleasure, “. . . to make yourselves fat with the chiefest of all the offerings . . . “ (1 Samuel 2:29). His sons followed their father in his fleshly appetites while also taking them to new levels. They demonstrated the natural tendency children have to expand the appetites of their parents with less restraint. It would be beneficial to examine our lives and identify wrong appetites because we can expect to see these amplified in our children.

Subtly Satan has convinced believers today that as long as we attend church, we can still live for most all the world has to offer. If we stay away from the bad sin, it is all okay. Most of the “church” today thinks that everything “neutral” is fine and only wicked things are to be avoided.

Instead of listening to the world, we want to look at what God’s Word says about so-called neutral things: “. . . they have provoked me to anger with their vanities . . .” (Deuteronomy 32:21). The Hebrew word for vanities is hebel and means “breath as a transitory thing, emptiness or idols.” God is saying that because of the pursuit of empty, worthless things, He is angered. “And turn ye not aside: for then should ye go after vain things, which cannot profit nor deliver; for they are vain” (1 Samuel 12:21).

The tragic result of parents who follow after the world and vanity is that their children are being pulled into the world just as Eli’s sons were. To avoid this, children must see Jesus Christ alive and at work in Dad and Mom’s life. They have to be part of spending quality family time together reading the Bible every night rather than seeing a parent’s example of following after the world and its entertainment. The beauty of the abiding life in Christ should become desirable to our children because of its truth in our lives, and we must flee the pleasurable vanities that are being embraced.

Eli had a reverence for God as evidenced by the way he instructed Samuel to respond to the Lord when He called, but he didn’t have a fear of the Lord (1 Samuel 3:9). If Eli had possessed a fear of God, he would have chastened his sons when he learned what they were doing. There would have been consequences for his sons’ sin, such as removing them from their offices of priesthood or perhaps something even more severe. He would have used the authority that God had entrusted to him as the high priest with his sons just as he would have if they hadn’t been his sons. The prophet God sent to deliver the message to Eli made it clear that Eli preferred his sons over God. “Wherefore kick ye at my sacrifice and at mine offering, which I have commanded in my habitation; and honourest thy sons above me . . . ?” (1 Samuel 2:29).

After our love for the Lord, fearing Him is one of the next most important aspects in discipling our children. Fear of God and His chastening is a wonderful hindrance to sin. “If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?” (Hebrews 12:7). God chastens His children. Based on this verse, among others, and Israel’s past, I believe if we don’t experience chastening, we either aren’t saved or we are spiritually asleep and not aware of the chastening we are receiving. It would be wonderful if we didn’t receive chastening, but each of us is still in the flesh, and as long as that is the case, we can expect to be chastened. “Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit” (John 15:2). Hopefully, there will be fewer instances of it as we mature in Christ, but it is a good thing to recognize chastening and share it with the family.

When we tell the family that we have been chastened by the Lord, it will help the children to grow in fear of the Lord. I believe that talking about our personal sin and disobedience, with discretion, is almost as important as sharing the mighty works that God does in and for the family. In Deuteronomy 29, Moses forewarns what disobedience will cost Israel. In Acts 7, Stephen reminds the Jews of their ongoing disobedience and chastening. As I listen to and observe families, I have come to believe that the fact that God chastens His children isn’t being taught in homes.

“Gather the people together, men, and women, and children, and thy stranger that is within thy gates, that they may hear, and that they may learn, and fear the LORD your God, and observe to do all the words of this law: And that their children, which have not known any thing, may hear, and learn to fear the LORD your God, as long as ye live in the land whither ye go over Jordan to possess it” (Deuteronomy 31:12-13).

One important point to teach our children is that God does not always chasten immediately. God is so patient and long-suffering, giving us time to repent of our sin, that we can often think He isn’t going to chasten us. We must help our children not to confuse long-suffering with overlooking.

I have developed a passion about this topic because of the struggles families share with me all the time—conservative, Christian families who desperately want children who love Jesus Christ and serve Him. They are blind to the fact that their heart’s desire for their children has not matched the example of their lives nor their own investment into their children’s lives. I walked that path in my earlier Christian life and parenting, but I never want to return there. I can’t describe to you the joy and spiritual growth our family experiences as a result of our nightly time in the Word, and the freedom in our hearts as we have let go of the self-focus of entertainment. With all my heart, I want the same for you and your family.

Posted in: Dad's Corner

Can a Scheduled Mom be Spirit-Led? – Part 1

Sometimes a question is posed to me implying that if a mom is using a schedule, she is not able to be led by the Spirit. This thought is encapsulated in this message that was going to be posted on MOTHBoard. I asked the author if I could use it as a springboard for a Mom’s Corner so I could write an in-depth answer.

“I was speaking with some moms last night about scheduling. I desperately desire to be more scheduled, but they feel their days should be ordered by the Lord and each day should be new unto itself, open to what their children need, etc. Is there a way to be both? Is a schedule so structured that God cannot order your day? I would appreciate Teri commenting on the balance here. I’m having trouble keeping to my schedule, and I think I may be justifying it as stated above. I am not keeping to our schedule well at all, and I’m not sure why. I just know I feel stifled in some way, but I long for the order and peace a schedule can give me. Can I do both?” Used by permission

I believe we should begin by looking at a couple of verses to help us define what “Spirit led” means. “Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God” (Romans 8:12-14). Spirit led, then, means that I am not following the dictates of my flesh, but rather the direction of the Holy Spirit in my life.

Those not familiar with scheduling might be surprised to learn that my schedule allows my day to be both “ordered by the Lord” and “new unto itself, open to what the children need.” This is the case because when my schedule is planned and put together, it is prayed about during each stage. The schedule is a tool the Lord Jesus has given me to help me to accomplish what He has called me to do—it is a part of my life being Spirit led. That means I am looking to the Lord for what should make up my schedule and how long should be allotted for each activity, not only for me but also for each of the children I am scheduling. The schedule is also flexible, allowing me to accept the changes that the Lord brings into a day that were not a part of the schedule.

Through the Word, the Spirit has led me toward priorities for my time, and these have been confirmed by my husband. The first personal goal the Lord has directed me toward is my personal relationship with Him. “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). This will only happen as I grow spiritually. Titus 2:4-5 says, “That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.” From these two verses, I receive the next three goals for my time: to love my husband, to love my children, to be a keeper at home. Finally, 1 Timothy 5:9-10 says, “Let not a widow be taken into the number under threescore years old, having been the wife of one man, Well reported of for good works; if she have brought up children, if she have lodged strangers, if she have washed the saints’ feet, if she have relieved the afflicted, if she have diligently followed every good work.” These verses suggest to me a final life goal of ministry.

The schedule, with prayer for the specifics, plans out time for each of these Spirit-led aspects of my life. Not only am I able to do what the Lord calls me to do, but because of the use of the schedule, I am more efficient and productive with my time. The schedule has eliminated many of the daily decisions I used to make as I went through my day – decisions that were time wasters and emotionally draining. My mind is now free to focus on the needs at hand rather than trying to plan – on the fly – what should be done and how to fit it in.

To be Spirit led, when I wake up in the morning, I don’t feel any necessity to ask the Lord whether I should take care of my family that day or do something else I would prefer to do. My dictates for a normal day have already been given to me to follow by the Lord Jesus. Because He has placed loving my husband, loving my children, and being a keeper at home as my priorities, I know that I will care for my family throughout the day in obedience to the Lord Jesus. I also know that the tasks that will accomplish this are on my schedule.

It is a little like telling a child he is not to cross the street without stopping and looking both ways first. Once that command has been given, the child is not to come to me each time asking if he should stop and look before crossing the street. The answer will be the same. If he continues to ask me whether he needs to stop and look first, it is almost as though he is testing my leadership or perhaps is trying to get out of having to take the time to be safe.

This is how I would view it if I were asking the Lord every morning if I should get up and feed my family or do their laundry. I have already been told by the Lord what I am to do in those areas by having been given overall responsibility for them. I would feel like I were trying to avoid what I should be doing – trying to find a way to do something else – if I were questioning His direction each day.

Let’s go back to the child crossing a street. It is possible that I could chose to undo that street-crossing instruction for a particular incident. Perhaps I am with my child, and I have checked to make sure it was okay to cross the street. Maybe the street is blocked off so that no traffic can go through, making it unnecessary to look for cars before walking across the street. That is how I see the Spirit leading in the midst of a schedule where overall, basic direction has already been given. There will be some changes to the schedule on a moment-by-moment, day-by-day basis.

In a scheduled day, the Lord will bring unexpected events. This is the “new unto itself” part of a schedule. It may be a sick child who isn’t able to accomplish his chores so siblings and Mom pitch in to take them over. It could be the necessity of going to the dentist for checkups or a filling. The schedule lets me receive these diversions with a sweet attitude because I am current with my daily responsibilities rather than already behind and now getting further behind. I easily know what we can eliminate from our day to accommodate the trip away from home.

A very close-to-home example of this from my life involves our daughter-in-law’s recent pregnancy. When Melanie was put on bedrest, she needed several hours of help during the day while, Nathan, was at work. My schedule didn’t prevent us from helping, but rather it enabled us to meet the needs at hand. I could evaluate, on the schedule, who was more available to help and who was less available. Sometimes it was one of the girls, and sometimes it was me. I am not so tied to a schedule that I am not open to what the Lord brings into my day that isn’t already part of the schedule. If that were the case, then I would have to question whether I were Spirit led. I use the schedule on a daily basis, but I am listening to the Lord when He brings changes—changes I am grateful that I can joyfully accept and be a part of ministering to a need.

I believe it was my schedule that gave me the freedom to invest those four or five weeks with one of us across the street with Melanie, while still keeping up with the needs in our home. I was evaluating on a daily basis who would be helping and when. I was the one to be with Melanie the day she was in labor and then, because I went with them to the hospital, stayed with them the days Susannah Joy was alive. I think about that schedule I use and rejoice in how it facilitated our family’s ability to help Nathan and Melanie. All my children, because of the schedule, knew what to do each day and when to do it. They were able to look at what I was not able to accomplish while I was away from home and alter their schedules to accommodate the necessities. Without the schedule, it is likely our home would have been in a chaotic uproar. As it was, the family was able to do what they should do without me being there with them.

For me, being Spirit led takes place while I am using my schedule. It is a matter of my heart focus. Every day I am seeking the Lord for His strength, grace, and mercy for the day. I have to depend on Him. I look to Him for ways to encourage and support my family. He is my sustenance every minute of the day—right in the middle of what is scheduled to do throughout the day. The Spirit is leading me.

I believe a scheduled mom who has prayed about her priorities and schedule is Spirit led when she is depending on the Lord Jesus. Not only is she Spirit led, but she is also able to accomplish what the Spirit is directing her to do each day. She can face any unscheduled trials, difficulties, and pleasures the Lord brings into her day knowing she has been obedient to the Lord’s calling on her life and that the change of schedule is from Him. She is obedient and Spirit led when she is following her schedule and when there are alterations to the daily plan. May we truly seek the Lord every day with all of our energy, whether we use a schedule or whether we don’t. Next month I want to share more about the relationship of a schedule and being Spirit led.