Teach the Way

I’ve got a confession to make: I have no clue what I’m going to blog about before I sit down to write. Sure, I have plenty of wonderful ideas, but when I sit down to put them down on paper, I draw nothing but blanks. So generally, I pray and pick up my Bible looking for some inspiration. For this blog, I turned to the back of my Bible to the concordance and looked under “teach.” Surely I can’t go wrong there; after all we are the “teachers” of our children. Anyway, I’d like to share with you today the little study that followed. I pray that you are blessed as I know that I have been.

So, I looked up the first verse that popped out at me under the title of “teach.” Here I read the prophet Samuel speaking to the children of Israel, “Moreover as for me, God forbid that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you: but I will teach you the good and the right way,” 1 Samuel 12:23 KJV. In the margin of my Bible was a reference to another related Scripture, where we have King Solomon praying to Jehovah in behalf of the nation. “Then hear thou in heaven, and forgive the sin of thy servants, and of thy people Israel, that thou teach them the good way wherein they should walk, and give rain upon thy land, which thou hast given to thy people for an inheritance,” 1 Kings 8:36 KJV. Again I noticed another Scripture reference in the margin, this time a Psalm of David. “Shew me thy ways, O Lord; teach me thy paths. Lead me in thy truth, and teach me: for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day,” Psalms 25:4-5 KJV.

After reading these verses, I pondered on what is this way which the Scripture speaks of that we are to be taught? Then inspiration struck: Ask not what it is but whom. Oh, then the answer was made so clear! “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 KJV. Yes, of course it is so simple. Did not our Savior walk on this earth and show us the way? If we have any questions, all we must do is look to Him.

By studying the life of Christ, we can see the way which our Heavenly Father would have us walk, and therefore teach to our own children as well. This concept adds even more depth to this popular and well-known verse: “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it,” Proverbs 22:6 KJV. As parents and teachers we should continue to train our children in “the way” — that is, ever walking in the footsteps of our Savior, looking toward Him always.

“Teach Them Your Children”

Poster in our home of the Ten Commandments

There isn’t a vast range of Scripture that specifically covers what to teach our children. Sure, there are several passages that discuss wisdom, knowledge, and important principles, as well as the words of our Savior. However, we may often overlook verses which explicitly deal with what our Heavenly Father has commanded His people to teach and how to instruct their children. One of these passages, located in the book of Deuteronomy, I believe is of great interest. “Therefore shall ye lay up these my words in your heart and in your soul, and bind them for a sign upon your hand, that they may be as frontlets between your eyes. And ye shall teach them your children, speaking of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt write them upon the door posts of thine house, and upon thy gates: That your days may be multiplied, and the days of your children, in the land which the LORD sware unto your fathers to give them, as the days of heaven upon the earth,” Deuteronomy 11:18-21 KJV. These are some pretty hefty verses; nevertheless, I would like to point out a few of the highlights.

Firstly, we are instructed to place God’s Word in our heart and soul. “Therefore shall ye lay up these my words in your heart and in your soul…” This of course is a foreshadowing of the new covenant relationship with our blessed Redeemer as mentioned in the following Scriptures: “…but this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people,” Jeremiah 31:33 KJV. “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them,” Hebrews 10:16 KJV.

Next we are told to “bind them for a sign upon your hand, that they may be as frontlets between your eyes.” To understand the symbolism here, we need to look at some well known verses dealing with signs/marks upon foreheads (frontlets) and hands. “And the LORD said unto him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof,” Ezekiel 9:4 KJV. “And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand,” Revelation 14:9 KJV. These verses are commonly interpreted to mean of some truth or error settled in our thoughts (forehead) and shown through our actions (hands). With this in mind it speaks of having God’s Word and Truth placed in our thoughts as well as being lived out in our lives.

Now that the groundwork has been laid, the educating of children can commence. “And ye shall teach them (God’s Word) your children, speaking of them (God’s Word) when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.” We are to instruct our children His Word while we are at our homes, traveling about completing errands and what-not, as we prepare for bed, and as one of the first things we do from waking in the morning. We should be speaking God’s Word throughout the day to our children, not just at worship time and Bible class.

Then the verse gets interesting: “…and thou shalt write them upon the door posts of thine house, and upon thy gates.” Honestly, this part had me stumped for awhile. That is until I started practicing what many other families already do of placing Scripture verses throughout their homes. My personal observation is that ones placed at focal points are more easily read and memorized. Such areas include above the kitchen sink, around the dining room table, and especially doors — places where our eyes are drawn while we are moving about our day.

Poster in our home of 2 Peter dealing with character training

Lastly comes the promise, “that your days may be multiplied, and the days of your children, in the land which the LORD sware unto your fathers to give them, as the days of heaven upon the earth.” Interestingly enough is how similar this promise is to the one found in the Ten Commandments dealing with respecting our parents: “Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee,” Exodus 20:12 KJV. These blessings are not only physical, as in this world we live in, but more importantly spiritual, looking forward to the world to come.

Sometimes we can get so bogged down trying to educate our children to the state’s and society’s standards, that we just might lose sight of the importance of true education. However, “God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?” Numbers 23:19 KJV. His Word is clear! As parents we must seek and serve Him daily as we co-operate with the divine agencies in the growing of our relationship with Him. Then, we teach our children His Word by presenting it throughout our daily activities and placing it readily in their sight. By doing so we can do no harm, but instead bring great blessing upon our loved ones and ourselves.

May our Heavenly Father bless and guide you in your endeavor to raise children for His service in this life as well as the one to come, that you too may proclaim as the beloved apostle John did, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth,” 3 John 1:4 KJV.

Preschool Unit Study: The Ark of Noah

We recently started the little children’s family Bible lessons by Sonlight Education Ministry. This week and last week we learned about Noah and his ark.

I want to share with you what I have done with my four-year-old daughter and my three-year-old son. I hope you gain some ideas.

We started our study with reading from the Bible. During this two weeks, we read about Noah in different children’s Bible story books. I told the story in my own words, and I asked the children to re-tell it to me. Sometimes it was difficult for them to tell the story in their own words, so I asked them questions like this: “Why did Noah build an ark?” or “Who told Noah to build the ark?” Repeating the story in different ways helped them to get more familiar with Bible history and the important parts of it.

For our preschool math, we had two fun activities. The first was Nijntje ahoi. This is a balancing game. My son and daughter had to take turns in placing Nijntje (also known as Miffy), her family, and the animals on the boat. Make sure there is a place for everybody! Don’t let any of them fall off!

The second activity was called “porcupine.” For this game we took 12 clothespins. When they were all mixed up, it was not easy to count them. Then we made four rows of three clothespins. This way it was easier to count. Then came the time to give the porcupine her spikes. My daughter knelt down and closed her eyes. I clipped some clothespins on her shirt, and she guessed how many spikes she had on her back. Then she could look at the remaining clothespins and count again.

For this unit study, we went to Batavia werf, a yard where they make a replica of The Seven Provinces, a battleship from the 17th century. We saw the wooden frame of The Seven Provinces. It was only 43 meters (a little over 150 ft.), but it looked so big. Noah’s ark was even three times bigger! We were amazed, realizing how much work Noah and his team had done to build the ark.

In an old Bible activity book from the thrift store, we found some nice little crafts. One was an ark and animal finger-puppets to color and cut out. Another activity was coloring the rainbow with only three colors. My daughter loved mixing colors to complete the rainbow.

We loved learning about Noah, and I’m sure we will study this Bible story again someday.

Train Up a Child!

“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it,” Proverbs 22:6 KJV.

Train up a child… That’s what we’re trying so hard to do in our lives and with our homeschooling, is it not? And yet, there is some unneeded stress involved in that Bible verse. Many of us were raised with the idea that if we somehow live “right” and follow all the rules, modeling perfection and thus training “up a child in the way he should go,” we will assure the salvation of our children because they “will not depart from it.” Wow! That’s a huge burden. How do we manage to do everything “right”?  And — even if we could — think of the guilt and second-guessing if our kids don’t make all the right decisions.

Recently, I was introduced to the biblical understanding that we are putting the emphasis of this text in the wrong area, and maybe not understanding it as it was originally intended. This isn’t a stern verse that makes us responsible for our kids’ salvation, nor one that refutes our children’s right to the free will which God gives all of us — the free will to choose Him, not be forced into His arms. Instead, this is a wonderful, beautiful verse which invites us to understand our children better, and to instruct them and point them to God in a way that they themselves will best understand.

Take a look at this. The Soncino Books of the Bible offers this definition: “Train up. From the verb is derived the Hebrew word for ‘education’ (chinmuch). In the way he should go. lit. ‘according to his way.’ The intention is not ‘the way of uprightness and good living,’ but ‘for the way in which he is to spend his life.’ Whatever occupation he is later to follow it is necessary to prepare him for it in his early years, because then are habits formed which influence his conduct in manhood” (p. 146).

Likewise, another commentary understands “train” (hanak, in Hebrew) as meaning “to dedicate.” (See these texts as reference: Deuteronomy 20:5; 1 Kings 8:63; 2 Chronicles. 7:5; Daniel 3:2.) These add the idea of steering the child’s conduct into the way of wisdom — dedicating them to God, and preparing them for future responsibilities and adulthood.

“In the way he should go” is better captured in Hebrew as “according to the dictates of his way.” Barnes’ Notes on the Bible also points out that “the way he should go” could be understood as “the path especially belonging to, especially fitted for, the individual’s character. The proverb speaks to the closest possible study of each child’s temperament and the adaptation of ‘his way of life’ to that.”

That should be music to the homeschooler’s ear! Our personal goals in Proverbs 22:6 become much clearer. Rather than trying to create the “perfect” child by being “perfect” parents, and thus ensuring their salvation, we are advised to focus on dedicating, understanding, training, and preparing our children for the responsibilities and skills required in adulthood —all while gently leading them to His feet.

Dedicating our children to God is no problem. We probably do this informally every day when we pray for our children. Each family also has personal goals for their homeschooling, and many know what methods of education work best for them. Nonetheless, extra input on understanding, training, and preparing our children is always helpful. Right?

This school year on the SDA Homeschool Families Blog, you will enjoy the advice, experiences, and encouragement of 23 homeschooling authors. They will focus on early childhood through teens; challenges facing everyday homeschoolers, as well as how to meet special needs in some kids; and advice on everything from home management, to life skills, to subject matter, to transcripts, to bringing joy to homeschooling. These volunteer writers from around the world hope to help you in your own homeschooling journey by sharing theirs. And, in the process, you’ll likely find a lot of good tips on how to “train up a child in the way he should go.”

Welcome back!

The Best Christmas Gift of All

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I wonder what Mary was thinking about along the road from Nazareth to Bethlehem.

In her last month of pregnancy, Mary spent over a week on the back of a donkey as she and Joseph journeyed the 80 miles to Joseph’s homeland to register for the census.

You’d think that Cesar might cut the girl a break and let them mail in their registration. But, no.

Eighty miles on an unpaved, primitive road riding on a donkey!

So often we think of Mary as a woman having a child. But, she was little more than a child herself, around 13. If a 13-year-old gets pregnant these days, it’s scandal. For Mary, the only scandal she faced was her swollen abdomen before the marriage was sealed. That’s a pretty big “only.” The man she had vowed to be faithful to for the rest of her life could have stoned her to death.

“But before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit.”

Mary often gets all the credit, and let’s face it, she should. If you’ve birthed a child, you know it’s about the hardest thing a woman can do. But, Joseph is kind of a hero here too. He must have been so angry and hurt and confused and dejected. The hours in between finding out his future wife is pregnant and a visit from an angel must have been agonizing.

“Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.”

He was going to divorce her quietly. He finally decided. He would spare her life, and write her out of his. I wonder what he was doing before the angel came to him in a dream. Was he still nursing his wounded ego, or had he thrown himself into his work?

“When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.”

What a guy. What faith it took to believe something so outlandish. Pregnant by the Holy Spirit. It had to have been the craziest thing Joseph had ever heard. But, he took her home, only to find out he had to take her, eight months pregnant, 80 miles away to Bethlehem.

I wonder if the trip was awkward at first. “So, thanks for not stoning me…” Did they talk about parenting philosophies or discipline methods? They didn’t have to think of what to call him. “His name shall be Jesus.”

Eighty miles on foot. Under the best conditions they could cover 20 miles in a day. But so many things could have slowed them down – weather, terrain, pregnancy. It likely took them over a week.

What was Mary thinking about this whole time? She accepted the angel’s message without hesitation. “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered, “May it be to me as you have said.” Was there ever any doubts in her mind? Was she scared?

“While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born.”

A 13-year-old girl stood in a stranger’s stable, about to give birth to the Savior of the world. With every pang of birth pains, she knew there was no going back. Did she want to? Was she ready?

“She gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger.”

Was it one of those fast, easy births I’ve heard rumors of? Or did she labor for hours? Ever since becoming a mother myself, I’ve wondered about the details of Jesus’s birth. How did Mary feel about birthing her Savior in a barn? As she looked at her son for the first time, was she instantly captivated by him? Or, did it take a while for the bonding process like with some mothers and children?

There are so many unknowns about the birth of Jesus, so many details I hope I’ll hear about in Heaven someday. But, there are some things we do know — important things. “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

Do you need to hear that again? He will save His people from their sins. From your sins. From my sins.

My friends, He did what He came to do. It is finished. You have been saved from your sins.

The love of Jesus is unconditional. He gives it freely. You don’t have to earn it. You don’t have to be “good enough.” You, in whatever varying state of sin you find yourself in, are loved.

Praise the Lord!

Just as you are. Just where you are. He’s waiting for you to turn your eyes and look full in His wonderful face. He’s waiting for you to accept the gift He’s been holding out to you. Take it. Don’t be shy. Accept His love. Accept His sacrifice. Accept your Savior.

Today, as you unwrap presents, fellowship with friends and family, and partake of the bounty of blessings you might have, do so with the full knowledge that your Savior came to this earth for you. He was born so that you can live forever with Him. Your heart is the most precious gift you can give to Him. Won’t you give yourself to Him today?

**To read the story of Jesus’s birth for yourself, look in the book of Luke, chapters one and two. You’ll also find stories from Jesus’s life and ministry on Earth, as well as His ultimate sacrifice on the cross. The Bible is available for free online and in the app market for smart phones.**

(This is an encore blog post. It was originally written and posted by Cas Anderson on December 25, 2013.)