“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.

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!

Trusting God When You Can’t See Ahead

When things are going the way I planned, it’s much easier to trust in God. Of course he is leading and guiding our family. Everything is falling into place. But, what about when things go in all different directions and there seems to be no clear path? What then?

I’m writing in the middle of the confusion, so while it would be nice to say how it all worked out in the end, there is no end of the story yet.

Have you experienced conflicting signs in your life? Lord, what are you trying to tell me? Is this from you or another spirit? Am I supposed to work and homeschool? Am I really supposed to do that for the next ten years? How will you sustain me? Are we supposed to move or not move? Are we supposed to do online school, enrichment classes, or everything at home? What if I can’t handle it Lord, and yet I believe you want me to be the primary educator of my children?

I’d like to say that the first place I go in these unsettled times is to a place of trust and gratitude, remembering how God has led in the past and resting assured that he still knows the end from the beginning. But instead, this time I become angry, then confused, then irritated, then frustrated. I feel like Peter, sinking in the waves of the sea after having walked on water.

What to do? Finally, with much resistance, I go to the only place I know it is safe to go when things are churning around me. “Help me Lord! Help me to trust you, even when I can’t see the path ahead.”

And, amazingly and faithfully, the Lord answers as he always does.

“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths,” Proverbs 3:5-6.

It doesn’t say he might direct your paths. It doesn’t say sometimes he will, sometimes he won’t. God’s word promises he SHALL direct my path if I trust in Him. Trusting is the hard part, but with God all things are possible. I make a decision everyday to put my trust in the Lord and not in my own feeble understanding. It’s not always an easy choice to make, but it is always the wisest choice.

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own,” Matthew 6:34.

There are no certain answers at this point, but I can sleep at night. There are many uncertainties and stressors, but we take one day at a time. I don’t know what the next year will bring, but the Lord does. That is enough for today.

Weeds

“But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold,” Matthew13:8.

We live in the southwest desert, so gardening can be a challenge with not-so-good, hard-to-water soil. Our dirt is like concrete and can be hard to get a shovel in. So, we have put in raised beds in wood frames. This not only helps with the dirt and water issues, but it also helps with weeds.

Keeping them weeded isn’t hard, but sometimes the water leaks out and the ground around them gets watered as well. The weeds then grow outside of the boxes. Usually we don’t pay a lot of attention to these weeds because they’re not “in the garden.” But, sometimes they get big, and we can have a hard time getting to the garden; plus, plants that grow big or vine need space outside of the garden to grow. Then we have to weed out the garden. Sometimes these weeds have better roots because we don’t get them when they’re small.

Weeding has often been compared to getting rid of bad habits or sins in our lives, and this is true. But, as I was pulling those hard, out-of-the-garden weeds, I got to thinking. Usually we focus on what’s in the garden and not what’s around it. What about in our hearts? Do we have a garden just for Jesus? What about the area around that garden? Do we weed it as well?

Taking a Census

Chapter 21 of I Chronicles is not one of the best known stories in the Bible. While some might have peripheral knowledge of it, not many have stopped to really think about what it means today in our modern lives.

I’ve shared with this blog previously about the fact that my husband is hoping for funding to come through for a startup that he’s involved in. Because my husband is a visionary who sees the big picture, and builds virtual cities for data to live in, he doesn’t do so well with feet-on-the-ground details. And so, in the negotiating of salary and such, there were a few gaps.

When the funding was delayed, my husband went back and renegotiated these issues, and the good news is that when/if funding becomes available, we’ll be paid retroactively for two distinct periods — one from when he began working informally several months ago, and one for full-time employment as of what should have been his hard start date of March 1.

What a load off my mind!

Now mind you, there’s no guarantee that this funding will come through. However, the business plan is solid. The guy doing the startup and meeting with the venture capitalists (VCs) is very accomplished and in a position of power and influence within his field. The numbers are fantastic for profit, and the revenue streams are not ad based — or selling advertising — but transaction based; the company would profit a small amount for each transaction. Good stuff.

I am, on the other hand, a very firm pragmatist. Feet-on-the-ground is my spesh-ial-i-TEE, and so I am very aware that many good ideas, many great business schemes, go down in flames if they ever get off the ground in the first place.

However, when Whitney told me that we would receive lump-sum back pay amounts should it happen, my mind went ZIIIIING considering all the possibilities! I was driving; otherwise, I’d probably have pulled out my trusty spreadsheet to run the numbers!

Fortunately, I had only started to mutter to myself, “Okay well at [insert annual salary here], if you divide that by twe…”

And, the words “David,” “census,” and “sin” popped into my head. It wasn’t a coherent thought necessarily; it was just a half-formed memory of the story, and I immediately remembered the mild confusion I’d always felt whenever I had come across the narrative.

Why in the world was it a problem that David ordered a census of all the fighting men?

Because I’m a planner, because I’m the budgeter of the family Walters, counting, assessing, and preparing make complete sense to me! It’s only wise to figure out what you have, what you can expect, and plan accordingly, right?

But, the story continued to niggle, and so I consciously put aside my financial musings.

When I got home, I looked the story up and read the entire chapter of 1 Chronicles 21.

Wow! Have you really read that story?! It’s pretty intense!

It starts out with the context that Lucifer, the roaring lion himself, incited David to take the census! Joab protested because he knew it was wrong, but when bullied into it, fudged the numbers.

At this point David, as was his habit, realized way after the fact that he had committed a sin and begged forgiveness.

Get this. God says (through a “seer”) basically that David has to pick his punishment: three years of famine, three years of persecution for the nation from their enemies, or three days of “the sword of the Lord” — or plague.

Woah.

David chose plague and 70,000 died.

That’s a pretty strong statement of how God feels about this census business.

And so, I’ve been pondering this whole question of what exactly a census is.

David counted his fighting men so that he knew how many men he could count on in a battle.

It’s almost as if David were saying that he needed to prepare because God’s provisions might not cover it all.

God won a battle with 300 men against a whole host. The Bible described it this way: “The Midianites, the Amalekites and all the other eastern peoples had settled in the valley, thick as locusts. Their camels could no more be counted than the sand on the seashore.”

Three hundred against tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands? More than a million?

How many times do we limit God by counting our “fighting men,” our dollars, our bonuses, our expected gains?

For the first time, I completely and totally understand the application of the story to my life. I get it.

You see, we just might get the funding. Or, we may not. If we get the funding, we may just get a nice raise and a lump-sum amount. Or, the business may go crazy and we get a fortune. Or, it may bite the dust and Whitney will end up having to find another job.

I’m still a budgeter. I still need to manage my family’s finances. But, I don’t have to run ahead of God. What I know for sure and certain is this. God’s provision will blow me out of the water. It’ll either be Him taking two mites and stretching it to cover exactly what we need. Or, it may involve financial blessings galore.

I’m not plugging anything into my spreadsheet. I’m not thinking about this eventuality or that. I’m thankful just for today for everything He’s given our family. He’s going to handle the rest. I will simply sit back and watch.