Friday, June 29, 2012

Gospel Powered Parenting Book Club {Chapter 3}

"Gospel Fear"

In chapter one we learned about important assumptions about parenting that we need to identify.  The primary assumption that stood out was the realization that the goal of our parenting should be the transformed hearts of our children through what the bible calls "new birth", or regeneration.  Chapter two explains that the gospel is the power for parenting and for producing the transformation of the new birth in our children.  In both chapters we have learned that our children need the new birth, but we cannot give it to them!

Chapter three begins with the bold assertion that the fear of God is "the most important thing that parents can possess to move God to regenerate their children." (pg. 55) Farley explains that while this is not a guarantee of salvation, it is a "general principle" that has a strong biblical basis to it.  He follows this assertion with many biblical examples that tie the parents' fear of God to blessing for their children as well.  It is important to understand that Farley is not expressing moralism (God blessing us because we are good.)  He says, "God blesses faith, and a key expression of faith is the fear of God."  (pg. 55) 

I had never thought of the fear of God as an expression of faith before, and yet he shared example after example of the fear of God preceding and motivating obedience.  Because of their fear, they obeyed.  Fear was an expression of faith, not fearing was an expression of unbelief.  This was a new way for me to see faith in the Old Testament.

Farley then begins a helpful explanation of the fear of God.  He shows that this fear has two expressions:  one attracts us to God; the other repels us from God.  One is son-fear, the other is slave-dread.
Slave-dread, the wrong type of fear, does not motivate obedience.  It causes us to run away from God.... Those with slave-dread draw back from God.  They have no conviction that he is good, that he rewards those who seek him, or that he has their best interests at heart.  All they see is his holiness, his severity, and his hatred of sin, and they run the other way.
But son-fear, the fear that comes with new birth, attracts us to God.  It motivates us to pursue God.  As we have seen the people of Israel drew back from Mount Sinai, but Moses went right up the mountain into the fiery cloud to be near God.  Why?  Like Israel, Moses saw the holiness of God.  But he also saw that the Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love and mercy and that he does not give us what our sins deserve but removes our transgressions from his presence... 
Moses' fear was more like the fear that attracts us to the edge of the Grand Canyon.  We are afraid, but the incredible beauty and vastness of the great gulf irresistibly compels us. (pg. 62-63)
 I love that image of the fear that attracts us, and irresistibly compels us!  What other images or experiences come to mind when you think of that kind of fear?

Understanding the fear of God will be important as we learn how we are to be obedient to our calling as parents.  Farley stated that this fear of God motivates, attracts, inspires, "rivets our eyes on eternal realities" and "makes parents humble, teachable and approachable".  All these things are critical elements in bringing the gospel to our children.

How did this chapter change your understanding of the fear of God?

What can a parent do to grow in the fear of the Lord?

I would love to hear your thoughts, please share them with me and the others reading along in the comments section!  (If you are reading this by email, you will need to click through to the website to comment.)

The next chapter will help us to see how the fear of the Lord culminates in the gospel, specifically in the cross.

Other posts in this series:

Join the Club!  Book club, that is.

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Thursday, June 28, 2012

How Do You Make Learning Fun?

Tuesday's post where you got to ask me questions was really helpful to me because I got to think through some really important questions. I hope it was also helpful to you!  (Or at least satisfied your curiosity.)  There was one question that I was asked that I didn't include because I thought it would make a really good blog post all by itself.  A fellow homeschooling mom (and guest post author) asked, "How do you make learning fun?"

This is a great question, unfortunately, I am not FULL of ideas about this one.  However, I figured this would be another great opportunity for my readers and Facebook friends to contribute their ideas and fill up a post with lots of great ideas to share with each other.  Some subjects are fun just because they are enjoyable, some subjects don't have a natural "fun" factor and they take a little extra creativity to engage our little learners.

So here is the challenge!

Send me your best ideas for how you make learning fun, whether it is
in your homeschool,
in your public school classroom,
when you are doing homework with your kids
or even when you are teaching your kids an everyday life skill!

You can submit your ideas by:

I will put all the ideas together in one post, one week from today!

I wish I could offer a giveaway or something to reward you for commenting... but I'm still a new blogger with no sponsors or freebies.  Can you help a sister out from the kindness of your heart and creativity of your non-radiated brain?  (Oops, that's another story I'll get to a different time.)

Still stuck with no ideas to offer?  All I need is one or two good ideas from each of you - and I KNOW that everyone has had at least ONE success story of something you did that your kids really loved.  If you have more than one... you are an EXPERT, so get typing!!!

Thanks a million!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Helping Children to Understand the Gospel

Our book club has been learning about the importance of regeneration, or the new birth.  We learned that parents often assume children have been born again based on a child's prayer alone and yet new birth is a miraculous event that bears fruit over a long term.  If fruit is not present in the life of the child as they grow and mature, it is possible that we have mistaken spiritual interest for true saving faith.
I also referred you to an important sermon series on understanding the new birth by John Piper that was pivotal in my understanding of what happens in salvation and in my own salvation experience in particular. 

Today I want to help with another resource that will help you to understand your role as a parent in explaining the gospel to your children and how they come to genuine saving faith.

Helping Children to Understand the Gospel by Sally Michael, Jill Nelson and Bud Burk

Part one of this book talks about preparing children for the gospel.  It uses the parable of the sower (Matthew 13) to explain how parents can sow tend and harvest the seeds of the gospel in the lives of their children.  One thing that was important for me to learn in this section was to understand the "soil" of my children's heart and how that affects the way the gospel is received. 
Most children are not yet "hardened" by the deceitfulness of sin (Heb. 3:13), so they often respond to spiritual teaching eagerly.  They love to hear the stories of the Bible and sing songs about Jesus-many young children are even eager to pray to receive Christ.  Sometimes this is genuine saving faith, but often it is only a spiritual interest.  We need to discern the difference between spiritual interest and saving faith.  Spiritual interest may be a step on the journey toward salvation, but it is not salvation. (pg. 11)
One of the dangers of misinterpreting spiritual interest as genuine saving faith is that it can lead to spiritual neglect, or encouraging a child to live a life that is pleasing to God without the heart change that is necessary to do so.  "A parent who has presumed salvation may not continue to pray for the child's salvation or continue to encourage the child to trust in Jesus and instead treat the child as a Christian in need only of further sanctification." (pg. 12)  The solution?
The job of the sower is to keep the Gospel in front of the child- to keep sowing the Word of God upon every opportunity; to break up clumps of soil with discipline and training; and the water the seed with unceasing prayer. (pg. 12)
The section goes on to describe the growth in the faith of a child, based on approximate ages and stages and how the parent can be attentive to the needs of each stage.

Part Two of the book is on presenting the gospel to children.  Specifically it explains how the gospel that is usually presented to children is more of a "life-jacket" type of gospel rather than the true gospel of scripture.  Why is this an important distinction?
This changed gospel puts man at its center instead of God.  It presents a plan instead of a Person.  It seeks to comfort but not convict.  it is a message that calls for acceptance of Christ but not repentance.  it simply encourages acknowledging true facts rather than embracing and submitting to the One who is both Savior and Lord.  It enslaves men to works instead of freeing them to do good works.  (pg. 30)
What follows is a clear presentation of the important themes that children need to know and how to present them in a way that will be understandable to children.

Part Three of the book is perhaps the most practical as it is a devotional guide for families in 10 lessons.  This is a great resource for fathers to lead their families in as part of family worship or devotion time.  The devotions are short, clear and include helpful hands on illustrations that require little to no preparation time.  This is an invaluable resource for parents and children alike to clearly understand the gospel.  It will not only help you explain the gospel to your children, but probably also help you to understand it better yourself!

Helping Children to Understand the Gospel can be purchased from Children Desiring God in either print or electronic form.   You can also check out their other resources for parents here.

This post is linked to the Kids in the Word Wednesdays blog linkup at  Check out the other posts for more great ideas on keeping your kids in the Word!

The Pelsers

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Top 10 Questions People (Really) Asked Me

I have to admit that I didn’t think this post would be all that interesting.  Most of the time when I mention that I homeschool, people smile and nod, but rarely do they ask the hard questions that I know are really going through their brain.  If they are interested in homeschooling themselves, they may ask questions, but these are interest driven questions, not ones that may threaten me.  Oh, sure homeschoolers all learn the “answers” to the typical hard questions, but I frankly get tired of the standard answers.  The typical responses tend to treat these questions like they are coming from a hostile “outsider” not a caring, inquisitive person who might be my friend or my relative, who is supportive of me, but just doesn’t “get” why I would do this, and might be afraid to ask because they don’t want to offend me.  So I wasn’t planning on answering the typical questions.  Then I posted to Facebook a request for questions that people would like to ask me.  (Facebook tends to give people the freedom to ask questions they might not otherwise ask, but would really like to know.)  In fact, this post has already generated more feedback than all my other 25 blog posts so far  - even before it was written!  The questions I received were great and really caused me to think not only about my response, but how I would specifically respond to the person who asked them.  These are not nameless, faceless questions, they come from friends who I love and respect, so I will do my best to answer them with love and respect.  I haven’t changed the questions at all, I just copied them over from my Facebook page.   (This is MUCH longer than a typical blog post, so feel free to scroll to the questions that most interest you!)

Here goes:

1.      Why are you choosing to homeschool your kids?

There is a long list of reasons why we homeschool:  flexible school schedules, time, alternative curriculum methods, customized education, one-on-one instruction, worldview development, social environment, family bonding, spiritual instruction, and because we love it! 

2.     What's wrong with the public school system?

That is a loaded question!  Let me answer that with what I think is RIGHT with the public school system.  They have some of the most dedicated teachers I know, who do a very difficult job with very little credit and even less pay.  They work hard to get better at what they do and give as much attention to each individual student as they can.  I greatly respect them.  I would not want to do what they do.  My father-in-law, grandmother-in-law, pastor’s wife, college roommate, cousin and one of my mentors are all (or have been) public school teachers.  Our choice to homeschool definitely should not be seen as a slight to these people who have spent a lot of hard work to be good at what they do.  At the same time, all these people also would admit that not all the teachers are equally dedicated, and more importantly – the system that they work under frequently hinders them from doing the work that they would like to do.  That’s as far as I will go with that one!

3.     How will you "do" high school?

Well, I haven’t committed to high school yet…  I like to think that we take things one year at a time.  Although, that is not entirely true.  We assess what we are doing every year, but we do like to think long term about where we are going and how we will prepare them for future grades, whether we are doing the schooling at home or not.  If we do homeschool through high school, there are some really incredible resources to make sure that our kids get college prep experience in all sorts of subjects, regardless of my capability to teach all of those subjects.  High school, as I understand it, begins to become more of a preparation for life than even a “normal” high school can be, because I can seek out subject experts to tutor the kids in math or chemistry or writing, I can provide internships in areas of interest and skill (because they have time for that) and we can also enroll in community college courses so that it is possible to use high school time to get a leg up on college core requirements.  The possibilities for creating experiences that really support the boys’ strengths and interests is pretty exciting (but I won’t think about it too much yet….)

4.     What about socialization and dealing with the "real world" as opposed to an artificial, insular, over protective environment?

Any homeschooler will tell you that socialization is their biggest question.  There are some social experiences that are helpful, some that are harmful and some that are neutral.  If we are talking about helpful social experiences such as making friends, playing sports, meeting people who are different than you, these are all things that homeschoolers get in abundance and with people from all different age groups (babies to senior citizens)!  If we are talking about harmful social experiences, homeschoolers can be protected from the over-abundance of these experiences, or they can experience them within a safe environment and with the guidance of parents who can help to frame these things in ways that turn them into learning and growing experiences.  (Public school parents can do this too, but more things can slip through the cracks, especially as the kids get older.  At least that is how it worked when I was in public school.)  Some social experiences are neutral… I’m pretty sure my kids understand how to stand in line, how to eat their lunch quickly if they need to, how to raise their hand to ask a question.  (I’m not being snarky about these things… they are honestly things people have mentioned to me as important social aspects that my kids might be missing!)  My kids have non-homeschooling friends from church, neighborhood and sports.  They hear words they shouldn’t hear.  They have been exposed to different lifestyles and even to outright evil that I wish I could have protected them from more.  How and when we expose our kids to the “world” is a matter of wisdom and prayer.  I agree that homeschool should definitely be a place of preparation for mission in the world, and not just separation from it.

5.     How do you decide on curriculum?

I research homeschool websites and curriculum providers, I ask friends what has worked for them, I read books on educational methods and learning styles, I try things and assess how they work, I ask more questions, do more research, wash rinse repeat.  I really enjoy it actually!

6.     How do you stay one step ahead to keep them occupied?

This is what seems really hard to imagine from the outside looking in.  It can be tough, but the kids and I start to get into a routine of what is expected during certain times of the day.  For the youngest, I provide plenty of coloring books, puzzles, picture books, Legos and short learning activities.  When they were toddlers, they had “school boxes” that had different activities they could only do during school time and that kept them busy.

7.     What is the most difficult and/or frustrating aspect of homeschooling your sons?

ME!  It is hard to realize that you are your kids’ primary role model and yet to realize how often you fail at that every day.  Parenting itself is one of God’s best tools for sanctifying us (making us more like Him), and the more hours a day you are at it, the more you feel it!  I cannot make my children good, smart, successful, moral, or even Christian – but I really want to!  So I am the most frustrating thing… when I am trusting in myself.  I daily have to cling to the cross and realize the depth of my need, OUR need – but that is a fight of faith, for sure!   

8.      What can a spouse (in the supporting role) of a homeschooling parent do that is the most help?

 I think the most helpful thing a spouse in the supporting role can do is to be the champion of the family vision.  I don’t think that homeschooling would work if my husband wasn’t fully on board with the reasons, benefits and value of what we are doing.  He carries the vision when I am discouraged, and at the same time, he also helps me to evaluate (non-emotionally) if it is time to make a change.  Especially in a family of boys, if Dad is not all in, you will soon have a bunch of “momma’s boys” and I don’t mean that in a good way.  The more Dad is involved with not only discipline but with direction, vision, and especially spiritual leadership, the more successful homeschooling will be.  Wait.  The more successful FAMILY LIFE will be… regardless of school choice.

9.     Where do you see deficiencies that could be worked on to make things run more smoothly?

Time management.  Anyone with help for that one, I’m right here waiting.  I mean, I’m not just waiting, I’m using my time wisely while I wait.  Kind of.

10.When everything is all boiled down, what is the number one, most important reason you homeschool?

I asked this question to my family to see what they would all say.  Much to my dismay, the kids all came up with an answer that revealed what I have (obviously) spent entirely too much time talking about.  It was actually really helpful for me to see what things get conveyed to the kids when we talk around the dinner table about why we do the things that we do.  This is true in all kinds of areas… ask your kids why they think you go to church, or why you vote for the candidate you vote for… you might be surprised to see what things they hear you emphasizing, even if it is not what you think you are emphasizing.  (This could be a whole other blog post.)

The REAL answer, and the one that I will make sure my kids understand over and above all other reasons is…

Homeschooling gives us the greatest quantity of time with which to teach our sons about the great God who reveals himself through creation and through history and most of all through his Son, who lived and died in our place, while we were still hostile towards him, to reconcile us to God and give us unspeakable joy in His presence for eternity.  Should God be pleased to open their eyes and grant them new birth through faith, we will be thrilled to be able to walk alongside them and disciple them as we follow Christ together, for His glory and for the magnifying of His name.

Thanks for all your questions… and for making it to the end of this blog post!
I love getting your comments, and you have earned a little talking time of your own after reading this whole post, so have at it!!

This post is part of the Top Ten Tuesday link up at Many Little Blessings.

Top Ten Tuesday at Many Little Blessings

Monday, June 25, 2012

False Religion vs. The Gospel

Have you unknowingly been following a version of Christianity that is essentially a false religion, or a false gospel?  Here is a quick comparison from Pastor Tim Keller's small group study,

Do you see yourself in here?  I sure did. 

(False) Religion
The Gospel

“I obey; therefore I’m accepted.”

“I’m accepted; therefore, I obey.”

Motivation is based on fear and insecurity.

Motivation is based on grateful joy.

I obey God in order to get things from God.

I obey God to get God-to delight in and resemble him.

When circumstances in my life go wrong, I am angry at God or myself, since I believe that anyone who is good deserves a comfortable life.

When circumstances in my life go wrong, I struggle, but I know all my punishment fell on Jesus and that while God may allow this for my training, he will exercise his Fatherly love within my trial.

When I am criticized, I am furious or devastated, because it is critical that I think of myself as a “good person”.  Threats to that self-image must be destroyed at all costs.

When I am criticized, I struggle, but it I not essential for me to think of myself as a “good person”.  My identity is not built on my record or my performance but on God’s love for me in Christ.

My prayer life consists largely of petition, and it only heats up when I am in a time of need.  My main purpose in prayer is control of the environment.

My prayer life consists of generous stretches of praise and adoration.  My main purpose is fellowship with God.

My self-view swings between two poles.  If and when I am living up to my standards, I feel confident, but then I am prone to be proud and unsympathetic to failing people.  If and when I am not living up to standards, I feel humble but not confident – I feel like a failure.

My self-view is not based on my moral achievement.  In Christ I am simul iustus et peccator - simultaneously sinful and lost, yet accepted in Christ.  I am so bad that he had to die for me, and I am so loved that he was glad to die for me.  This leads me to deep humility and confidence at the same time.

My identity and self-worth are based mainly on how hard I work, or how moral I am – and so I must look down on those I perceive as lazy or immoral.

My identity and self-worth are centered on the one who died for me.  I am saved by sheer grace, so I can’t look down on those who believe or practice something different from me.  Only by grace am I what I am.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

More Ways the Gospel Shapes Homeschooling

I posted earlier this week my take on how the gospel shapes our homeschooling.  I also asked a few friends what their thoughts were on this subject.  I received one response today from a godly homeschooling dad and friend that I greatly respect, one so committed to the gospel he recently spent three years in Zambia sharing the gospel with the unreached Lozi people.  I thought you might enjoy his thoughts as well, so I will share them in their entirety. 
My friend, Shannon Reece, on the gospel and homeschooling....

When I think about how the gospel relates to doing anything, I almost always think of a small devotion by John Piper called "How to drink orange juice to the glory of God." It was ultra practical and helped me to see how the gospel relates to every part of life. I will borrow from some of his ideas below as I attempt to describe how the gospel relates to homeschooling.

First, every little innocent pleasure that we enjoy as a homeschooling family comes to us at great cost. It's free for us but only because Jesus Christ paid for it with his blood on the cross. Life is a gift. Homeschooling is a gift. (1 Tim. 6:17, Rom. 8:32)

Second, we deserve hell because we are all guilty of being rebels and God-haters; but instead we get to enjoy being together as a family, exploring and discovering the world that our God made, his purpose throughout redemptive history, and his unique purpose for us as part of the body of Christ.

Third, homeschooling continues to bring each of us face to face with his own weakness and inadequacy. There is a true and living God and none of us is him! He knows everything and we struggle to learn or to teach (especially higher math and science!). But God created the mysteries of the universe. He speaks math! Therefore we need him enable us to learn and understand. Another example - God never grows weary. We reconsider our decision to homeschool every year because my wife is exhausted or discouraged! So the gospel is not a one-time experience or "decision" that a person made. On the contrary, it's a new life of constant dependence on God, through Christ, for his gracious provision. We come moment by moment as needy children to a mighty and benevolent Father who is happy to supply what we need. (1 Pet. 4:11)

Fourth, we can't lose sight of the very purpose of the gospel; that is, to bring us to God. Jesus death made it possible for us to be reconciled to the very God whom we once hated. It makes it possible for former rebels like us to sit in the very presence of the One we have infinitely offended and fellowship with him! (1 Pet. 3:18) Homeschooling helps us all to know our God better.
Thanks Shannon!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Gospel Powered Parenting Book Club {Chapter 2}

Today brings us to the thesis of William Farley's book:
Paul tells us that the gospel "is the power of God for salvation" (Rom. 1:16).  But its power does not end there.  The gospel is the power of God for parenting.  We argued in the first chapter that our children's hearts are the issue.  Effective application of the gospel empowers parents to reach their children's hearts. (pg. 40)

Effective application of the gospel.... I'm looking forward to learning what that looks like, aren't you?

Parenting Defined

In this section, the author points out the weight of the parenting responsibility.  Rather than understand parenting as a responsibility that lasts from birth until adulthood, Farley wants us to understand that we should parent with eternity in mind.  It is the goal of Christian parenting to transfer our worldview (which includes beliefs, values and purposes) to the next generation.

Not Morality

After discussing the ultimate goal of Christian parenting, the author gives us an important clarification of what the goal of parenting should NOT be.  He asserts that well-behaved, moral children should not be the end goal.  "Morality is important, but it follows faith.  It does not produce it." (pg. 42)  He defines moralism this way:
Moralism trusts in its own goodness, virtue, and principled intentions to get a "not guilty" verdict from God on the day of judgment.  It is deceptive.  A cloak of morality over a unregenerate heart can make it difficult to discern the child's true spiritual condition.  (pg. 42)
Farley explains that it is heart change, not moral transformation that we should be after. 

Yikes!  It's that "cloak of morality" that sounds so familiar to me as a kid who grew up in a Christian home.  It's pretty easy to put on that cloak, isn't it?  Have you ever used a "cloak of morality" to cover up what you knew was pretty dark motives and unrepentant heart attitiudes?  Ouch.  I have.

It was at this point that I was feeling pretty despairing over the task ahead of me.  Who can change their children's hearts?  As soon as I asked the question, I realized that was exactly where the author was leading me.  This impossible goal of parenting will drive us to reliance on Christ, because it is impossible with us, but with God all things are possible.  Thanks be to God who gives us the victory!

Seven Ways in Which the Gospel Affects Parents

Next, the author laid out these 7 points, which he will discuss further in the rest of the chapters of the book:
  1. The gospel teaches Christian parents to fear God.  (chpt 3,4 and 5)
  2. The gospel motivates parents to lead by example. (chpt 6)
  3. The gospel centers families in their male servant leaders. (chpt 7)
  4. The gospel teaches and motivates parents to discipline their children. (chpt 8, 9)
  5. The gospel motivates parents to teach their children.  (chpt 10)
  6. The gospel motivates parents to lavish their children with love and affection. (chpt 11)
  7. The gospel is the solution for inadequate parents.  (chpt 12)

Gospel Defined

The final section focuses on defining the gospel.  He emphasizes two important points here.  First, if the word gospel means "good news", we need to understand what the "bad news" is regarding sin and judgement.  The bad news makes the good news good.  Second, he focuses on the cross as the center of the gospel.


I was most affected by the idea that parenting suddenly got harder for me, as I realized the serious, eternal reality that is before me and by the fact that it will take nothing less than heart transformation to accomplish the task.  At the same time, I became aware of how inadequate our usual parenting strategies of emphasizing moralism or other gospel substitutes are for the goal of turning a child's heart toward God.  When I started my parenting journey with the birth of my children,  I read as many books as I could find on ways to manage and train my children - from sleep habits, to nutrition, to discipline, to school choices, to love languages, to character formation and more.  This chapter has made me look at all of those things as really scratching the surface of what my children really need, which is the miracle of the new birth.

What struck you the most in this chapter?  I would love to hear your thoughts...

We will read chapter three for next week - "Gospel Fear", the post will be up by Friday morning.  Remember, you can read along at your own pace and comment on the chapters as you go - it's the no guilt book club!

Thanks for reading along with me,

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Time to Re-charge

Summer started slow for us, but it sure has picked up in the last couple of days!  In the past 10 days we have had VBS, homeschool conferences, father -son camping trips, visits from faraway friends, a trip to the zoo, swimming, trips to grandparents, and absolutely no chores getting done!!!  So I'm playing catch up for awhile and the boys have spent most of the morning reading ALONE in their rooms - this was their own doing, not a suggestion from me, so they must be worn out too. 

While we re-charge, I thought I would post a couple of my favorite links I've found in the last few days, for you to bookmark and read when you need to re-charge!

10 Things Moms Wish They Could Go Back and Tell Themselves About Homeschooling  This was a cute top 10 list, and I agreed with every one of the things on the list.  I haven't read all the linked articles yet, but the list was definitely true.

A Review of the Hunger Games  OK, I admit it.  I read all three Hunger Games books.  Sometimes I just want to know what the hype is about!  If you haven't read the books, this review is full of spoilers, but I liked the review mainly for how it helped me think through the themes and ideas in them.  It is great when a review can help you become a better reader, and this is one of those reviews.

Tomorrow is the next book club post... chapter two of Gospel Powered Parenting.  Keep reading and comment when you want to on the chapter as you've read it....
Posts so far....
Introduction and Chapter One

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Miracle of the New Birth

Monday morning Gospel reminders:
More on the power of the new birth from John Piper...
"What you need is for the miracle working God, to do the miracle in you."

Listen to the entire sermon series, You Must Be Born Again
or download the book, Finally Alive, for free.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Gospel Powered Parenting Book Club {Chapter 1}

Today we begin GCH's first ever book club!  We are reading William P. Farley's Gospel Powered Parenting together.  If you haven't got the book yet, you can join us at any point.  The posts for each chapter will remain open for comments until we finish the book - so you can join the discussion as you are able.  Today we are looking at the introduction and chapter one, which are available as a free sample from Amazon. 




In the introduction, Farley explains how three things have affected his approach to parenting, and have prompted him to add to the huge number of books written on the subject of parenting.  Those three things are:
  1. A steadily expanding understanding of the implications of the gospel for parenting
  2. A realization that success in parenting had less to do with school choice than with the spiritual depth and sincerity of the parents, especially the father and
  3. The centrality of the cross and the inner workings of the gospel. 
Also important in the introduction is his definition of the gospel.  He says, "The gospel is the incarnation of God's son, his sinless life, his substitutionary death, his bodily resurrection, and his ascension into heaven, from which he will someday return to earth in glory.  But the cross is the heart and soul of the gospel."

Chapter One:  Intellectual Submarines

Chapter one is also somewhat of an introduction to the book, as it lays the groundwork for the rest of the book by laying out some important assumptions.  He argues that to become a gospel-centered parent, we have to start with a gospel-centered worldview.  These assumptions comprise that worldview:
  1. Parenting is not easy. Both children and parents are sinful, so we both need a Savior.
  2. God is sovereign, but he uses "means".  In other words, God is the only one who can save our children, and yet he uses normal means of grace, (primarily parents) to reach them.
  3. A good offense is better than defense.  Rather than "fear based parenting" which solely seeks to protect children from negative outside influences, we should have an offensive mind set, which seeks to go after the heart of our children through the "overwhelming, all-conquering power of the new birth."
  4. Understand new birth.  Point three is further expanded in point four as he explains the importance of not "assuming" the new birth.  This is the section that was most compelling to me, so I will elaborate on that next.
  5. Effective parents are not child-centered, but God-centered.  "In a God-centered family, everyone serves God by submitting to the authority over them."

Understanding New Birth

I want to spend some more time on what was, for me, a pretty big paradigm shift.  The idea that the new birth is something miraculous that I can't do for myself or for my children is something I don't think I had ever really thought through the implications of, until just recently in my Christian life.  Here are a few provocative quotes that I underlined that will hopefully spark some good discussion....
"Most Christian parents assume that church attendance or youth-group involvement equates to new birth." (p. 28)
"Even a child's testimony that he 'accepted Jesus' or 'asked Jesus into his heart' means very little.  That is because God initiates new birth.  Of course, the child is responsible to respond to God with faith and repentance.  But a child can go through these steps and not have the saving faith and repentance that point to new birth.  That is why it is foolish for parents to presume upon new birth.   New birth is a radical change of heart that ushers in new desires, new loves, and a new life direction." (p.28)

"The bottom line is this:  New birth is known by its fruits, not by a decision.  The most important fruit is hunger for God himself.  Effective parents assume this, and patiently wait for sustained fruit before they render a verdict." (p.30)
 Does that shake up your Christian worldview a little, or does this ring true with your experience and knowledge of scripture?  When I first started teaching my young son about Jesus, I really began looking forward to the time when he would be ready to "ask Jesus into his heart".  The fact was, I discovered it wouldn't be that hard to get any of my children to the point at which they were ready to do this.  All I really had to ask them was, "Don't you want Jesus to live in your heart so that you can be with him forever in heaven with mom and dad?"  Of course they did!  But when it came to it, I just couldn't present it that way!  It didn't seem like getting them to repeat a prayer after me was very genuine for either them or for me- it seemed manipulative!  There has to be more to being born again than that, right?  Well, yes and no.  Yes it can be that simple.  And no, it's not that simple.  New birth is a miracle and miracles are not simple.  The cause of new birth is God, not a magic prayer.   The evidence of new birth is born out in fruit, which we may or may not see immediately.  So yes, a simple prayer can be evidence of new birth - but a simple prayer doesn't cause the new birth.  So how do we know the difference?  We look for fruit, we don't presume the new birth.  But this is not a problem because both saved people and unsaved people need the gospel every day.  We need to be reminded, and we need to remind our kids, of our need for Christ, of what he has done for us.

The first time I heard the new birth explained like this was in a sermon series by John Piper titled, "You Must Be Born Again", which became the basis for his book, Finally Alive. (I love that title!) It was huge for me in understanding not only my own conversion, but what to look for in the conversion of my children. (I will be posting more on that later next week.) 

Now I want to hear from you! 

Post your thoughts in the comments section, regarding what struck you most in the first chapter so far!  You are free to agree, disagree, or ask questions, or just let us know you are here and reading along with us! I will be moderating the comments, so I will try to get them posted soon after you send them.
A few conversation starters...
What assumptions about parenting have you grown up with?
Which assumption in this chapter is most important to you at your stage of parenting?
Can you think of any other assumptions that would be important to a Christian parent's worldview?

For next Friday, read chapter two of Gospel-Powered Parenting
where the author moves from initial assumptions to presenting the thesis of the book.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

He Speaks! (Guest post)

I am very blessed and grateful to have several close friends who, when they are pricked, bleed gospel.  It is really encouraging to me to be grounded, sharpened and comforted by these ladies.   Today I get to share with you a guest post by one of them. Enjoy! -Jennifer

He Speaks!

By Sarah Phillips

I’m not sure why it still has this effect on me, maybe because it doesn’t seem to happen often, but when God shows me something in His word I am always surprised. After the shock wears off, I am left humbled that the perfect Lord of the universe wants to teach me something tailored to an immediate need that I wasn’t even aware of. 
This situation happened the other day as I was reading 2 Kings. First of all, I wasn’t really expecting to learn much from 2 Kings, besides some history. Kings is seemingly endless and repetitive to me. Truthfully, I was just trying to finish these books and get to the “good stuff”, which for me is Psalms, Proverbs, and Isaiah. I was beginning to feel like I’d been reading the same thing over and over, and getting really confused with all the names when God spoke through His word. Just like when I’m relaxing on the couch, (a rare thing) and one of my children runs and jumps on my stomach, I couldn’t miss it and it hurt. The lesson here goes beyond the specific verse; however as to not leave you in suspense I will share it with you.

2 Kings 17:15 They went after false idols
and became false. (ESV)

How often I too seek after false idols –

 praise and approval of people,

                things I don’t need,

my children’s good behavior to make me look good,

etc., etc., etc.

 and I am sometimes false as a result.

Do I really want to become false, like so many people I see in this world? Comparisons kill passion for Christ and yet I too often fall into the trap. Whether it’s building myself up as superior or tearing myself down as inferior, I lose my focus. In losing my focus I forget that seeking anything besides Christ is equal to going after idols. If I follow this path enough, I will become false. I’m actually disgusted at the thought. If fakeness in myself and others is disgusting to me, how much more so to the perfect Lord of the universe? I hear the warning and repent, and I am ever so thankful for God’s teaching, love, and patience.
However, as I mentioned, the lesson goes beyond the single verse. First of all, God blesses perseverance. Read His word, even when it feels like He isn’t speaking through it, because He will. Second, it’s ALL “good stuff”. Even in the seemingly endless and repetitive parts, He will teach us. The final lesson: I need to come to His word expecting to learn and not just check it off my list. He may not speak to me so clearly every day, but He will speak.
One verse, four lessons, awesome God!
Sarah Phillips is
child of a great God,
wife of a sweet husband,
and homeschooling mother of 3 beautiful blessings.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Motivating Summer Read Alouds for Boys

My boys are great readers, but sometimes it can be difficult helping them to choose books to read.  It can be hard to convince them to try something new.  Summertime is a great time to help motivate them to branch out into new genres, authors or themes by reading aloud to them!  I find that if I read a book to them they might not have chosen themselves, they may end up liking it and search out others like it for their own independent reading in the future.

Here are some great books that might motivate your boys to read more!


The idea here is YOU read aloud the first book, they get hooked and ask for more - so put them on the independent reading list for next school year!

1.  Redwall Series
302378: #1: Redwall: Where Legends Are Made--A Tale of Redwood Redwall: Where Legends Are Made--A Tale of Redwood

By Brian Jacques
There is an almost endless supply of books in the Redwall series.  Once your boy starts, he will be hooked.  (Even if he does think he is too old for books about a mouse.  Promise!)

2. Mr. Tuckett by Gary Paulsen (The Francis Tucket Books)
There are five total books in this series, about a boy captured by Indians while going West on the Oregon trail.  Read the first aloud and let him discover the rest!

Classic literature

If you want your son to appreciate healthy food instead of just Twinkies and pizza, you present him with good quality foods to develop his appetite.  You don't continue to feed him Twinkies and pizza and sigh, "Well, at least he is eating!"  The same thing is true of classic books.  If I don't want my son to read a steady diet of books about bodily noises and underpants, I put before him a banquet of imaginative, exciting classic books.  Enjoy them together - pretty soon the other stuff won't sound nearly as appetizing.

3.  Swiss Family Robinson
04999: The Swiss Family Robinson The Swiss Family Robinson

By Johann Wyss / Penguin Putnam Inc.
If you want, try this as an audio book and listen in the car.  He may not understand everything, but with a captive audience, you never know what he might like.

4. Classic Starts series
736896: Around the World in 80 Days Around the World in 80 Days

By Jules Verne / Sterling Publishing Co., Inc.
Or try an easier start into Classics.  The abridged classics for kids at least introduce them to compelling story lines, without all the complicated subplots and antiquated vocabulary.

Favorite authors

Find some new authors that have great books for boys.  We like...

5.  N.D. Wilson
838743: Leepike Ridge Leepike Ridge

By N.D. Wilson / Yearling
Written by Doug Wilson's son, a homeschooled kid (now adult).  He has several other books for children as well.

6.  Marguerite Henry
71601: Mustang: Wild Spirit of the West Mustang: Wild Spirit of the West

By Marguerite Henry / Simon & Schuster
Books about horses aren't just for girls!  Marguerite Henry has written quite a few horse books that had significant "boy" appeal for my little cowboy.


Boys usually do pretty well with non-fiction, but it may be hard to find something more substantial than magazines and The Dangerous Book for Boys.  Here are a few we will be trying...

7.  Sterling Point biographies
751196: Daniel Boone: The Opening of the Wilderness Daniel Boone: The Opening of the Wilderness

By John Mason Brown / Sterling Publishing Co., Inc.
A well written biography about a true life hero can be very inspiring to a boy!

8.  Sports biographies
007285: Through My Eyes Through My Eyes

By Tim Tebow with Nathan Whitaker / Harpercollins Publishing
We live in Bronco country, so our recent sports hero has been Tim Tebow.  Great to read aloud together so you can talk about it when you watch him on TV.  Have Dad read this one with the boys (he can explain the plays better than I could.)  Not a Tebowmaniac?  How about Jeremy Lin, Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton... any other suggestions?


What you didn't think they would like....

9.  Little House on the Prairie series
400042: On the Banks of Plum Creek,  Little House on the Prairie Series #4 On the Banks of Plum Creek, Little House on the Prairie Series #4

By Laura Ingalls Wilder / HarperCollins
Let's face it, your boys won't pick up a book with a girl on the cover.  But, if you read it TO them, they will enjoy this one!  My boys identify with Pa and Mr. Edwards, but they are pretty impressed with Laura, a real tomboy.  They have often said about certain tomboy-ish girls we know, "She's cool.  She's a Laura Ingalls kind of girl."  HA!


Don't neglect...

10.  The Bible
Summer is a great time to read the bible together.  Not just a story Bible, but the actual text.  Start from the beginning and just keep reading.  I know... what about when we get to Leviticus?  Well, you could skip around, or you might just keep on reading.  Carrie Ward has some great suggestions in her book Together about her journey to read the WHOLE Bible together with her kids.  This is a quick read for Mom's summer reading list and may inspire you in your Bible reading with your children!
404482: Together: Growing Appetites for God Together: Growing Appetites for God

By Carrie Ward / Moody Publishers

You can also find more from Carrie at her website, An Everyday Mama

Find more great summer read aloud suggestions at the
Many Little Blessings blog linkup!

Top Ten Tuesday at Many Little Blessings

Join us at Gospel Centered Homeschooling on Friday for the beginning of a new book club!  We are reading Gospel Powered Parenting by William Farley together!  "Like" GCH on Facebook, or subscribe by email to join the conversation!