Testing Required

f-test1I graduated long ago, but I still sometimes wake up in a panic, thinking I have to take an exam for which I didn’t study. Ugh! I’d be content never having to take another test in my life.

Yet Scripture commands Christians to test the spirits to see if they’re from God. If we fail at this testing, the consequences are much more serious than flunking a class. The consequences are eternal.

False teachers are everywhere—television, radio, internet, books, movies. Even in Sunday School classes and pulpits. Everyone wants our ear, but not everyone should get it.

How can we discern who’s teaching truth and who’s spouting lies?Here are three questions to help us decide:

  1. What’s being said about Jesus? Lying spirits hate Jesus. If a speaker or writer professing to teach Biblical truth either ignores Christ or lies about Him, we must reject that teacher. I don’t mean we should nitpick every word that comes out of our pastor’s mouth. I mean we can’t listen to anyone who denies the basics of the Gospel—that Jesus is God who became man, lived a sinless life, died on the cross for our sins, rose again, ascended into Heaven, and is coming back one day.
  2. Does the world love it? Popularity doesn’t equal truth. In fact, if the world loves something/someone, Christians should beware. By nature, the world loves what is worldly and hates what is from God. Remember, labels can be deceiving. Just because somebody labels a book or movie “faith-based” doesn’t make it Christ-exalting. I’m certainly not saying every “inspirational” book that makes The New York Times Best Seller list is teaching lies. I’m just saying we can’t embrace it without careful testing because not everything labeled “faith-based” is based on faith in the right Person.
  3. Is it Biblical? This question doesn’t allow laziness. We can’t simply point to a tacked-on Bible verse and call a teaching good. We have to ask if Scripture is being correctly interpreted. We have to watch for verses taken out of context. If the way a verse is used doesn’t fit with what the rest of the Bible teaches, it’s not being used correctly. In order to recognize whether a teaching is Biblical, we have to know what the Bible actually says. When we have trouble understanding passages, we can seek help from trusted Christians, read reputable commentaries, and check time-honored catechisms, creeds, or confessions. We should always pray for God’s help in discerning the truth.

How should we proceed when someone’s teaching fails the test? If the source is a book/movie/blog/radio program, etc., we can’t allow it in our homes, no matter how popular it is with our friends or family. If the false teaching comes from a teacher in our church, we should go to that person and respectfully present our concerns. Maybe we misunderstood what he/she said. Maybe the person will correct his/her false understanding. If the person refuses, we must bring the issue before other church leaders. If that doesn’t work, we must seek a different church–one where the truth is proclaimed.

Above all, we can’t give up. Even if we get it wrong sometimes, we’re commanded to test the spirits. We must use the tools God has provided…and get testing.

Thumping Cans

imagesRecently, I overheard some elderly men in conversation.

One old codger said, “Me and the wife, we always held with ‘spare the rod, spoil the child.’ None of this newfangled time-out stuff for us. No sir, we spanked our kids when they needed it. But this one time when my boy was six, that’d be forty years ago now, we were in Meier’s doing some grocery shopping. I was walking along the canned goods aisle, and my wife and son were behind me. I kept hearing the thump, thump, thump of my boy flicking the cans as he walked along, so I turned around and told him if I heard one more thump I was gonna spank him right then and there.

“No sooner had I started down the aisle again than I heard a thump, thump, thump behind me. I whirled around, snatched hold of the child, and gave him a good hard smack on the bottom.” The codger shook his head and chuckled. “About then I looked down and realized the boy rubbing his sore bottom wasn’t my son at all. Nor was the woman standing slack-jawed beside him my wife. I was flabbergasted, let me tell you. Pretty quick, I spotted my wife and son at the far end of the aisle shopping for soup.

“Well, now, I couldn’t let on that I’d spanked that child by accident. So I shook my finger in his face, said, ‘Let that be a lesson to you,’ and high-tailed it from the store before his momma could recover enough to holler for security.”

The other men razzed the codger for swatting somebody else’s son, but the man just smiled. “Well now, you can say what you like about spanking, but I can just about guarantee you that boy never thumped another can in his life.”

How to Help the Next Generation

We see the empty-eyed girl struggling to care for her baby. The boy canstockphoto0468212bullying his classmates. The delinquent shooting up on the corner. We see and lament. But how can we stop the downward spiral of the next generation?

Following are five ways we can help:

Parent—Several godly men in the Bible raised ungodly children (Eli, Samuel, David), men who led God’s people and yet failed to parent their own children. As parents, we must not fail to train up our children. Recently, my husband and I took our kids to an inflatable activities center. All around signs stated the rule, “Socks are required,” but we repeatedly heard parents tell their children to take off their socks so they could climb more easily. As parents, we must not train our children to disregard rules. We must encourage obedience. We must teach them to bow to God’s ultimate authority.

Grandparent—Scripture gives examples of good grandparents (Timothy’s grandmother, Lois, who taught him about God) and bad grandparents (Athaliah, who killed her grandchildren to seize the throne). Not long ago, I heard a grandmother tell her grandkids after their dad had told them not to do something, “Don’t listen to your dad. He did that all the time when he was a kid.” She was training her grandchildren to disregard parental authority, undermining their souls in a way just as deadly as Athaliah’s murder of her grandchildren. We must be God-fearing grandparents like Lois, who seek to instill a love for God in our grandchildren.

Volunteer—We must seek opportunities to impact children and teens for good. We might teach a class, chaperone a youth event, coach T-ball, tutor at the library, anything to build relationships with a generation in desperate need of godly role models. Not long ago, some friends of ours opened their home to a teen from the projects, a kid struggling to break free from the sin patterns of his past and live his newfound faith. Maybe we can’t all take in the strugglers, but we must take opportunities to befriend such young people for the sake of the gospel.

Notice—Sometimes helping simply means noticing individuals. We should learn the names of the youth, listen to the children, offer a friendly smile. Once at a church dinner, I watched a teenager and her toddler join the end of the long line. I invited her up front where I was helping my children with their plates. I soon realized her two-year-old was carrying his own plate while she tried to fill her plate and his. I wondered, “What would it mean to her, a girl who has known only use and abuse from men, if a man helped her, not because he wanted anything from her, but to serve her for Christ’s sake?”

Pray—We must pray for the next generation. If we as Christians, through prayer and action, show the love of Christ to the young people we know, maybe God won’t say about us what He said about the Israelites of Judges 2, “another generation grew up who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel.” Instead, God may do what He has so often done in the past: show mercy to the next generation.


PhD Dropout

download (1)For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a voracious reader. As a little girl, I curled up for hours with Nancy Drew, The Hardy Boys, and Agatha Christie mysteries. In all those blissful hours, it never occurred to me that I could one day write a book myself.

Throughout school, I excelled in my Literature classes and eventually majored in English at Mississippi College, with the plan of becoming an English professor. I took a couple of Creative Writing classes, but still never thought I could write a full-length book.

After earning my MA, I headed to Baylor University and started my PhD in English. One semester into the program, I dropped out. Not because I couldn’t handle the class work, because I loved my studies (though I did not love teaching college freshmen). I dropped out because I wanted children…and I wanted to stay home with them. So I worked full-time while my husband finished seminary, and we had our first child soon after he graduated.

Over the next years of raising babies and beginning the homeschool journey, I didn’t regret giving up school to stay home with the kids. (Okay, most of the time I didn’t regret it, though potty training, toddler tantrums, and spelling lessons nearly drove me crazy at times.) But I missed studying literary works and writing those essays everyone else in class hated, so I took a correspondence course on writing for children. Soon after completing the course, I wrote my first novels (both short and pretty bad), one a children’s mystery and the other a Christian romance.

It wasn’t until after my youngest graduated from diapers that I attended my first writers’ conference. I took a class on how to write how-to articles, went home, wrote an article, and sold it a month later. Since then, I’ve had published forty or so articles, short stories, and devotionals (and had nearly that many rejected).

A few years ago, I began my Levi Prince fantasy series about thirteen-year-old homeschooler Levi Prince. Later, I wrote the first book in my On the Brink YA suspense series about three homeschooled girls beginning college.

For more than a decade I’ve had the privilege of raising and teaching my kids while learning and working in the field I love. Just this past year, I had the joy of seeing my oldest child achieve publication for two of his own articles.

All in all, I’m glad to be a PhD dropout.

Ways to Avoid Five O’clock Madness

clock12_clip_art_16380The clock strikes five. Dirty dishes cover the counters; looks like pizza night again. Mt. Laundry avalanches, burying the baby in dirty clothes, just as you discover a crayon T-Rex on your toddler’s bedroom wall. Meanwhile, your second-grader stares at the math lesson he started two hours before. History was a disaster, and Latin looks impossible. Your fourth-grader’s grammar lesson has to wait until tomorrow (again) because you got caught up in a phone conversation with your best friend. At this rate, you’ll finish up this school year in September—just in time to start up for next year. You heave a massive sigh and wonder how to teach your children to be more disciplined with their schoolwork.

Wish you knew the secret to avoiding five o’clocks like this one? Teaching kids to stay on task actually begins well before school time. The trick actually begins with you.

  • Discipline yourself. Children can’t learn self-discipline until you learn it yourself. Employ proper self-care—shower, eat right, exercise, sleep enough, read a good book, relax. Set aside devotional time daily. Enjoy a few date nights with your husband. When you take care of your needs, you can better care for your family.
  • Get organized. Put your house in order. Chaos doesn’t breed smooth schooling. Set up a chore chart. Plan meals and use grocery lists. Train your family to put things in their proper places.
  • Make a schedule. Set a daily routine for school, chores, breaks, etc. Post a copy in the schoolroom and on the refrigerator. Then stick to the schedule. If it’s not working, you can always make changes. You don’t have to set specific times for every little thing, just plan the order (i.e., 1st-Math, 2nd-Reading, 3rd-Snack, etc.). Don’t forget to plan special times for your preschoolers.
  • Minimize distractions. Turn off the TV and computer. Turn on the answering machine. Give family and friends copies of your schedule so they’ll know when not to call. Pick quiet toys and activities that you only allow preschoolers during lesson times. Separate students so they won’t distract each other. Utilize the little ones’ nap times for more difficult subjects.
  • Vary your routine. Try altering your schedule every six weeks to stave off boredom. Change the way you teach a subject by going on a field trip or doing an experiment, making a lap book or painting a picture. Let a child record or type a report instead of handwriting it.
  • Make your child responsible. Give your child a checklist of subjects to mark off when completed. Reward her with something fun—like a sticker, a piece of candy, or extra play time—when she meets the requirements. Always have consequences for lack of diligence—missed play time, extra post-school chores, or additional practice in the subject done poorly.
  • Plan for the “squirmies.” It’s hard for kids to sit still, so try alternating between the “sitting” subjects and the “active” ones. If math is hard for your child, be sure you do something he enjoys, like art, right afterward. You may try sending a squirmy child into the next room to do ten jumping jacks, then have him come back to write his sentence or work his problem.
  • Know when to say when. Some days it’s just time to throw in the towel. When the kids (or you) are sick and no one is learning, it might be time to give it up for the day. Sometimes Mom the Teacher forgets to be Mom the Mommy; occasionally, you just need to play awhile and enjoy your kids.
  • Set attainable goals. Don’t set monumental tasks that you and your child can’t complete in a day. Set small, reachable goals. You’ll see results in the long run.

Learn to practice self-discipline and teach your kids discipline. Then five o’clock will mean playtime with Daddy because school’s completed, chores are done, and supper’s nearly ready.

Author, Homeschooler, Pastor's Wife

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