Monday, November 21, 2016

A Homeschooling Parents' Advantage

4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. ~ Deuteronomy 6:4-9 (NIV)

Brothers and sisters in the Lord Jesus, the God who commanded these words to his people in the Old Testament is the same God that we worship and serve today. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, this God has become our God. And by faith in him, we become His people.

So these words are his commands for us. And the essence of God's command is this: Since the LORD is our God - and we ought not to have any other gods - and since we belong to him by virtue of saving us and loving us in our Lord Jesus Christ, God wants us to love him wholeheartedly. God wants us to be loyal to him as his own people.

One way of showing our love and loyalty to him is to love the children he has given us. Fellow parents, our children are inheritance from the Lord (Psalm 127:3). Our children belong to God first and foremost. He entrusted them to us in order to raise them up and nurture them the way He would nurture them. Children, you belong to God first and foremost.

Do you understand the implication of this truth? God is saying, "You are mine. Your children are mine. I love you and I want you to love me with all your life. Love me by loving the children that I gave you."

And how do we show our love for the children that God has given us to nurture? By teaching them everything that he has commanded us to do. When and where do we teach our children God's commandments? When we sit comfortably in our home. While we walk on the street. While we lie down on our bed. At the dining table. While we drive our car. While shopping or doing our grocery. While on vacation. In the morning or in the evening. At noon time. All day long and all the time.

So godly instruction begins in the home but does not end there. It also flows over into a life under the Lordship of Christ in every aspect and sphere of life. In the home the children are taught the basic principles of how to seek the will of the Lord and how to please him.

Someone rightly said, "History proves when the family is sound, both Church and society flourish. The family is the foundation of human society. Give us thus [faithful Christian] families and the Church [and society] will prosper. Otherwise we will certainly face a dark future."

As homeschoolers, we are on the best position to obey this command of the Lord. We really are. Why? We have our kids with us at home most of the time. We see them always. And that's a wonderful blessing that homeschooling brings us. And we thank the Lord for that!

Do we always have the opportunity to teach them? Opportunity? Yes! But do we always take those opportunities? I doubt it! I always fail with my responsibility to teach them. There are times that Facebook is more appealing to me than teaching or spending time with my children. Now you know that I'm an ordinary parent like you. I have my own weaknesses. We all have and we don't pretend. We learn to admit and confess them.

But the thing is, we don't give up teaching our children in spite of our failures. We also admit our sin and weakness and ask for the Lord's forgiveness. And by the way, since failures and frustrations are pretty much part of our life here on earth, we teach ourselves, and our children as well, to accept them and deal with them in a godly way.

We tell our children that even if they fail once, twice, or many times, they don't give up. Rather, we turn to God again and again through our Lord Jesus Christ. Those who humble themselves before God, no matter how many times they fail or fall, are pardoned and accepted by God because of what Christ has done in our behalf.

Today and tomorrow are opportunities to show our children and our brothers and sisters in Christ the love of God in us. Right here. If we truly love God the way Christ loved us by giving up his life for us, we will also be willing to love others, even to give up our comforts and rights, for our children, for our fellow homeschoolers, for our friends and neighbors, and most of all, for the sake of God's kingdom and for the glory of God.

Remember: the Lord is our God. And we belong to him. Let us give others the opportunity to see our Lord Jesus Christ in our lives today, tomorrow, and the rest of our lives.

(A devotional talk given at the opening of our "Yes! You Can Homeschool" Conference at the NCCC Mall Davao on November 19-20, 2016).

Monday, November 7, 2016

An Earnest Prayer of a Pastor for the Congregation He Serves

Our heavenly Father, Sovereign Creator of the universe. You are our Lord and great God, the king who towers above all the power and authority over all the earth and the one true God who is above all false gods and idols. In your hands are the depths of the earth and the mountain peaks belong to you. The seas are yours for you made them and your hands formed the dry land, too. We come to you as your people bowing down before your holy presence in humble worship. We are your flock nurtured and nourished by your tender care.

We are always amazed by your great faithfulness to us who for generations have been kept and prospered by your great love in spite of our unfaithfulness. O that we would know you more and be inspired by your amazing grace and be emboldened by your greatness! O that we may comprehend your glorious majesty that we may grow in our boldness and confidence like Daniel and his friends who knew you and stuck their necks out for their faith and commitment to you rather than bowing before the image made by human hands in exchange for human approval and recognition!

Make us, O Lord, a people who really know you and serve you no matter what the cost is. Be merciful to us when sometimes we are complacent in our service to you and for your kingdom. Forgive us for those times when we fail to realize that our greatest joy and contentment is in you alone. O we are easily tempted and distracted by the cares and concerns of this world that our minds and hearts are turned to temporal and worldly things rather than on things that really matter the most, that is, your glory and your praise.

Direct our gaze, we pray, upon the beauty of your holiness, to the perfect and sinless Son who is the image of the invisible God and the firstborn over all creation. For you were pleased, O Father, to have all your fullness dwell in your Son, and through him to reconcile to yourself all things. Grant us the desire to be instructed fully in your Word by your Holy Spirit that we may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that we may know the mystery and glory of your name revealed in the person and work of your Son in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

Let us not be easily deceived by fine-sounding arguments and hollow, deceptive philosophy of man that are being propagated in the world today trying to get our attention away from you in order to turn to man's foolish ways and the evil one's scheming devices. Father, save your people from those dangerous teachings that exalt human idea and accomplishments and disregard true wisdom that comes from you. Equip us by your Spirit to discern the truth and to walk according to your Word and live according to its precepts. Cause the light of the gospel to be all the more clear in our minds and hearts that we may behold the glory of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, that we may love him and give our lives for him and his sake. Make us faithful followers of Jesus daily denying ourselves, humbly taking up our cross with gladness knowing that the afflictions of this life are nothing compared to the joy and glory that awaits us at his coming.

Just as we have been raised with Christ in his resurrection, help us to set our hearts on things above where Christ is seated at your right hand. Cause us then to put to death everything that belongs to our sinful nature such as sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Help us to forsake everything that our old sinful nature craves, ridding ourselves of unhealthy anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from our lips. Instead grant that by your Spirit, we would only speak the truth in love, to speak that which is helpful for the building up of other believers according to their needs.

Merciful God, make us gentle and kind, compassionate and loving to one another as brothers and sisters in Christ. Enable us to forgive each other from the heart just as in Christ you forgave us. We want to be known not only as people who are theologically astute and doctrinally sound but more so as people who are godly and loving thinking not only our own interest but the interest of others as well.

Help us to teach our children these precious truths in your Word patiently and to set before them a clear pattern of godliness that they may learn to imitate us just as we imitate our Lord Jesus Christ in his obedience and faithfulness even in his suffering. Enable our children to catch the vision of you as our holy and righteous God who loves his people dearly and works everything for their good. Help us all to embrace and treasure your Word and the principles of your kingdom that we may be willing and ready to live and die in the pursuit of these things knowing that we belong to you and to your Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in whose name, we pray. Amen.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Anchor and Lighthouses in Homeschooling

In many ways, homeschooling is like a journey. Sometimes it feels like a sea journey. There are times when the voyage is smooth while at other times it’s rough. Sometimes the journey is as clear as the daylight, but there are also times when it’s uncertain and as dark as the darkest night.

Sixteen years ago, we decided to homeschool our children in spite of lack of knowledge, resources and materials, in spite of zero moral support from family and friends, and non-existence of homeschool support group like our Lighthouse Homeschool Network (LHN) now.

What I want to share with you today are some of the lessons that Cathy and I have learned from our homeschooling journey, which I’m comparing to a sea voyage, and we as amateur sailors. As I do, I would like to focus on two important things, which I call mariner’s aids or tools that help provide a stable and safer homeschooling journey. The first tool is the anchor and the second one is the lighthouse.

As homeschoolers on a journey, we have a goal and a destiny. Of course, our ultimate goal as Christians in all and every endeavor, including homeschooling, is to give glory to God. We were created to show forth the beauty and majesty of our Lord and Creator who revealed Himself clearly in the person of His Son Jesus Christ. That’s our ultimate goal in everything – to honor him.

Now, how do we get there? It’s a life-long journey, you would say. And that’s true. And our homeschool journey is an important aspect of that lifelong journey.

What do we need in order to get there? Well, like traveling at sea, we need first of all, an anchor, “that which gives the [assurance] of stability or security, or a source of abiding confidence.” An anchor symbolizes strength and stability in seafaring especially in the midst of a storm.

In the Bible anchor is used figuratively of the hope that we have in the promises of God. Hebrews 6:19 says: We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. Well, in context, the promises of God pertain to the believers’ secured position in Christ which includes our redemption from and forgiveness of sin and the hope of entering God’s glorious presence.

In other words, our hope, our anchor, is securely fastened to our faithful and unchanging God who fulfills all His promises to His children. And the anchor that firmly connects us to God is our Lord Jesus Christ.

In Him, our hope, our position, cannot be moved or shipwrecked by the storms of life. That’s how strong our anchor is! That’s how stable and solid the rock which our anchor holds on to!

Thus, like the sailors that drop their anchor in the middle of the sea in order to provide stability for the ship, especially during the storm, we also fasten our hope, we fix our eyes on our Lord Jesus Christ, our anchor, who provides us with security and firmness, as Christ intercedes and connects us to God.

The only difference between the sailors’ anchor and ours is that while the sailors drop their anchor with the hope that it would hold on to something firm and sturdy under the sea we, however, thrust our anchor, by faith, upward to heaven, where our hope is fixed, even in Christ who ministers for us at the Father’s right hand. Christ is our hope of glory who provides for us security and stability in times of trouble. Christ does this for us through His unceasing intercession and through the constant ministry of His Spirit in our lives.

How does it relate to our homeschooling? Well, it’s through this. If our aim is to please Christ or to glorify God, our homeschooling materials and resources and activities must be grounded on something that help us achieve this aim. That means that our resources and materials and activities should be Biblically-based, Christ-centered, and God-pleasing.

There are a lot of teaching materials and resources available in the internet and the market today that will help our children achieve academic excellence and earn them scholarship in prestigious institutions of higher learning. But academic excellence must not be our ultimate aim in homeschooling. It must be subordinate to our main goal of knowing and pleasing Christ.

We may have children who will become academic elite, but if they lack humility, respect for authority and genuine concern for other people and the kingdom of Christ, their academic achievements will fail them eventually.

We want children who are not only academically competent but also spiritually mature and committed to help in accomplishing the Great Commission of Christ, which is to make faithful disciples from all corners of the earth.

I want to address our children here. Children, in your studies, aim for something that’s beyond the here and now. Anchor your effort in your studies to something bigger than this world. Aim at serving Christ and glorifying Christ in your studies now. Use the gifts and talents God has given you to serve Him and to serve others and you will know that your anchor, your effort, is holding on to something stable.

Now, boys and girls, how about the lighthouse? What is a lighthouse and what is its purpose? A lighthouse “is a tower with a bright light at the top, located at an important or dangerous place regarding navigation (or travel over water). The two main purposes of a lighthouse are to serve as a navigational aid and to warn boats of dangerous areas. It is like a traffic sign on the sea.”

Historians said that the first lighthouses were actually given by nature itself. Sailors sometimes used landmarks such as glowing volcanoes to guide them. In the ancient world, trading ships were eventually built enabling navigators to sail long distances to buy and sell goods. In the days of wooden ships with sails, the wind and waves could easily push them against the rocks and wreck them. And so, the need for lighthouses as warning signals arose.

In homeschooling, we need lighthouses. We need something, or someone, to guide us on our way and to warn us when we are heading at the wrong direction. I would like to share with you only two lighthouses in our own homeschooling experience.

First, we need counselors or mentors in homeschooling. Proverbs 11:14 says, “Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.” The Word of God encourages us to employ the wise counsel of others in our endeavors, and homeschooling is no exception. With many unknowns and many options in homeschooling, it is important that in our journey we have fellow voyagers and pilgrims who not only give us wise counsel but also encourage us when we are down and troubled.

That’s where we’ve seen the need to start a homeschool support group in 2009. Lighthouse Homeschool Network has been a great support group for our family here in Davao City and I encourage you to avail of the wisdom and experience of our fellow homeschoolers. To some of you maybe your church support group has been serving as a lighthouse as well.

Some families can do it all by themselves, but many of us opt to pull resources together. And for us the journey has been more enjoyable and pleasing with LHN. So thank you so much for all of you who have encouraged us and helped us in our own journey. We’ve gained a lot of friends and connections through LHN. We also have grown in our knowledge of homeschooling and Christian parenting through many of you. I hope that you will continue to keep your lights shining, your Christian virtues and values, to help our fellow travelers in homeschooling.

Another lighthouse that has been guiding our homeschooling – and this is very important – is of course the Word of God, the Bible. One of the most memorable times I have in homeschooling our children is to be able to read with them the Bible and to share with one another the things that we’re learning from it. Bible reading is an important lighthouse for homeschoolers.

Aside from the Bible, we’ve also read books together, either books that help us know God more, or books about Church Fathers, Christian theologians, missionaries, pastors, and even musicians in the past. These books have enriched not only our knowledge of God and Christ and the lives of believers in the past, but they also made our homeschooling experience enjoyable and exciting. Just reading books together enlightens a lot our way.

I know many of you, if not all of you are doing this already. But, boys and girls, isn’t it a lot of fun when mommy or daddy reads books aloud for us? Of course! Maybe, sometime we could have reading stories together as a support group. That’s something that we could probably include in our joint activities in the future.

Well, I could add some more ‘lighthouses’ that could guide our way in homeschooling but I think those two are important – support group and family time. Let us remember that our greater goal in homeschooling is to bring ourselves to a deeper understanding of Christ and a greater commitment to His kingship and lordship over us.

Ultimately, we want to glorify and honor God in everything we do, including our labor to bring up and teach our children in the ways of the Lord. May the Lord continue to give us the grace and the right motive to do this!

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Progress of Civilization and God-Centered Learning

No civilization has advanced without education. Civilization can only be achieved and sustained by continuous learning. Education then is man's chief means of acquiring and teaching essential knowledge and skills that leads to progress. For progress to take place and continue, people must keep on learning and discovering truths that are yet to be known, and at the same time build on the knowledge that are already there. You stop learning and you end the possibility of progress.

One thing I observe though is that at every significant point in history where progress deeply impacts society in a good sense, people are learning and living a God-centered and gospel-motivated life rather than man-centered way of life. One example of this is the Victorian era (1837-1901) when England experienced tremendous progress and somehow influenced other countries as well. If one word could sum up Victorian England that would be morality. Victorians aspired to live moral lives in line with their understanding of the Holy Scriptures and their high standard enabled them to excel in literature, science, and industry in a way that is still admired today. That's why Victorian era is usually associated with progress and moral excellence.

I've read that when Queen Victoria in London entertained a chief from one of Britain's African colonies, he asked her the secret of England's greatness. Her majesty did not take him to the Tower of London and showed him the glittering crown jewels. She did not speak to him of the brilliant politicians who debated in Parliament. Instead she presented the chief with a Bible and said, "This is the secret of England's greatness." A prince from India, which is one of Britain's former colonies, also recognized this truth. He asked, "Where did the English-speaking people get all their intelligence and energy and cleverness and power?" "It is their Bible that gives these to them. And now they bring it to us and say, 'This is what raised us. Take it and raise yourselves.'"

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Fulfilling the Great Commission as Ordinary Christians

When we think of the Great Commission we usually have in mind career missionaries going overseas or cross-culturally. Definitely that's an important part of the Great Commission. But not all will become full-time missionaries. Some will be stuck in the home taking care of their children or to some their aging parents. Some will be managing family business. A few might even do both. Still some will probably stay in their local churches serving for the rest of their lives. Does that mean that they can't fulfill the Great Commission?

Let's look at it this way. Yes, the Great Commission takes place cross-culturally and in faraway places as missionaries are sent out to preach the gospel, make disciples of Christ, and start a church. However, ordinarily it happens in our homes, our workplaces, in the church, at school, even in some unexpected places.

The Great Commission begins at home where Christian parents are patiently teaching and disciplining their children in the ways of the Lord, including doing cheerfully simple house chores. Disciple-making takes place at home where husbands and fathers lead their families in reading the Bible, in teaching their families the precious doctrines of the Christian faith, and in leading their wives and children in prayer. Remember that as believers our children also belong to the Lord. We consider them disciples also. They also need to be taught of the teachings of Christ until they, too, would profess faith in him.

Proper understanding of the Great Commission would also lead Christian single men and single women to seriously consider marriage with a fellow believer in the Lord in order to build a home where Christ is honored as Lord, where his Word is taught and obeyed, and where children are nurtured to believe and serve God.

The Great Commission also happens in the workplace where Christian professionals and employees bear witness to the grace of God in their words (evangelism) and their good deeds to their fellow workers. They are the light of Christ in the workplace bearing good works as testimonies to the power and presence of God in their lives.

The Great Commission is also being fulfilled in Christian schools where children are taught in every subject the truth about God not only as the great Creator and Lord of the universe but also as the Redeemer and Savior in the person and work of His Son Jesus Christ. So Christian teachers are also fulfilling the Great Commission in the workplace.

And of course, in the church, where everyone is being taught of the gospel and its implications in personal lives and in the life of the whole community of faith, the Great Commission also takes place. Our Reformed churches must always proclaim the gospel in the pulpit, in Sunday school classrooms, in catechism classes, and in the nursery. Every member of the church must be captured and saturated by the same good news of salvation so that each one and the whole body naturally bear the gospel-fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, and self-control. We need the gospel not only to fulfill the Great Commission but also to live daily the Christian life bearing witness for Christ.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Trusting Christ, Our Redeemer

In our materialistic and narcissistic society, the world, the flesh, and the devil offer us daily with all kinds of things that are really appealing to our senses and base desires. Things such as food, sex, gadgets, money, power, and fame are really pleasurable, which makes these things powerful incentive to yield to temptation and sin.

But we know that these things and the pleasure that they give are fleeting and they leave us empty, guilty, and restless. In fact, these are substitutes to the things that are eternal and really matter. They are counterfeit gods peddled by false gospel teachers and hucksters of holiness who are motivated by greed and selfish ambitions.

Jesus Christ, however, offers to us the real thing that truly satisfies both our body and soul. He offers himself in his Word, the gospel of salvation. Those who believe him, those who accept him and his claim as the Christ who suffered, died and came back to life on behalf of his people, he offers pardon and peace through his redeeming work at the cross that reconciles sinners to God. Jesus Christ is the only Savior and Redeemer from sin and he's the only one who is able to deliver us from the enticement of sin. As we fix our eyes on him by faith he helps us in conquering every sin that easily entangles us.

When we lay our hands on Christ by faith, when we put our trust in him and repent from our sin, the Father owns us as his children and seals us with the Holy Spirit, 'who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of [God's] glory' (Eph 1:14).

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