Living a Christian life is easier sometimes than others. There are times that worldly things hardly tempt me. My focus truly is on things above and the worldly temptations just seem beneath me. I cruise along the narrow way and things seem great.
There are other times when the temptations here seem very alluring. I not only am tempted but almost feel the addict's craving and need to give into those temptations. During these times I'll pray earnestly for 15 to 20 minutes and five minutes later find myself heading off after some sin or other. I catch myself, pull myself back to the right way, pray some more, and then five minutes later . . .
I assume that I'm not alone in dealing with these ebbs and flows of temptation. The times that most of us fail are during the times of strongest temptation. What I want to discuss for a minute is how our love of God should impact these trying times.
Jesus tells us that the greatest command is to love God (Mt. 22:37). He also tells us that to demonstrate our love, we should keep his commandments (Jn. 14:15). The way we express our love is in keeping his commandments and living righteous lives. So, how does that inform our discussion of the peaks and valleys of temptations in our lives? Do the dark periods when I am so very tempted to turn away mean I don't love God? Well, that kind of depends on whether or not I give in, now doesn't it? Temptation alone doesn't impact my love, but sin does. Think about it for a second. If you only did nice things for somebody when it was easy to do those things, does that really show your love to that person? Parents, if you only love your children when they are behaving, being cute, and winning awards and otherwise you can't stand them, do you really love them? Husbands, if you aren't willing to give up anything for your wife, if you aren't willing to work harder and do more for her than you otherwise would, can you really look her in the eye and say you love her? Obviously not. Loving someone is doing good for them when it isn't easy. When it costs you. When it hurts you. Anything less isn't love.
We learn love from Christ, right? 1Jn_4:19 "We love, because he first loved us." How is God's love for us defined? Rom 5:8 "But God commendeth his own love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." God didn't love us just when it was easy. He didn't just love those who were on his side. Verse 10 of Rom. 5 says we were the enemies of God when he reconciled us to him. He loved us when it was hard. He loved us when it cost him dearly. He loved us when it hurt. That is his perfect example of love to us.
So, when I live righteously when it is easy, but give in to temptation as soon as they get harder and tougher, am I showing my love for God? My love for God isn't expressed during those weeks when I am on the spiritual mountaintop and everything is easy. God discovers whether or not I love him during the dark times. When it is so hard to be good. Those times when I think that Paul may have been literal when he said he buffeted his body to keep it in line. Those are the times when my love for God can shine. That's when I can show him how much he matters to me and how devoted I am to him. Love when it's easy isn't love.
Do I love God? Have I shown him lately? How about you?
First read this passage:
Eph 5:25-27 "Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish."
Now compare it to the way God described Israel in Hosea and Ezekiel 16. In those passages Israel is described as God's bride whom he saved from a filthy and degraded state, whom he washed and made clean then adorned with glory and yet she was serially unfaithful to him.
Paul says in Ephesians that God (in the person of Jesus the Christ) has found his perfect bride in the church. He has saved her from a filthy and degraded state and has cleansed her and adorned her with glory. Since she is made up not of a people physically born into the family but rather those who choose to be reborn into the church, she will always stay faithful to him. Individuals may be unfaithful and thereby remove themselves from the body, but the bride is herself always pure to God.
Yet another way that the foreshadowing of the OT is fulfilled in the NT
One of Dad's
recent posts raised a lot of comments about grace and obedience. All of it got me to thinking about these two concepts that seem to be exclusive, but are found side by side in the Bible. Eventually, my thoughts ran to the book of Joshua, chapter 6. It is here, in the first five verses that God gives Joshua the plan of attack against the city of Jericho. The first thing God says to Joshua, in verse 2, is "See, I have given Jericho into your hand. . ." He states it as an accomplished fact. He calls it a gift (something given). Neither Joshua nor the Israelites had done anything to earn it. God just declares that he is going to give it to them. Then God tells Joshua to march the people around the city once a day for 6 days, then on the seventh day to march seven times around the city and follow that with a great shout and blowing of the trumpets and then God would cause the walls of the city to fall down. If God has already given the city to Joshua and the Israelites why did they have to march around the city? Nothing they did in marching around that city a total of 13 times and then yelling at it caused the walls to fall. Doing that in no way "earned" them the victory. They only way to earn the walls falling is to go up there with a crowbar and pull them down piece by piece. Besides, God had already said that he had given it to them, so there was no need to earn it.
But what would have happened if they refused to march based on God's statement that gift was already accomplished? Or what if their feet had gotten tired after five trips around the city on the seventh day and they had stopped because that was close enough "and there's no reason to be sticklers about doctrine"? Do you think God would have toppled the walls for such a disobedient people? Every indication throughout the Bible is that he would not. It was a gift. They could not earn the gift. God still put conditions of faithful obedience on the people to receive the gift.
2 Pet. 1:5 says that "God saved Noah". How did he do this? He didn't make it rain everywhere but around Noah. He didn't seal Noah into some water tight bubble. He told Noah what was coming and what Noah needed to do. Noah needed to believe what God had said (faith) and be obedient to his commands. Yet building the ark didn't earn Noah his salvation from the flood. God was not forced to tell Noah what was going to happen, that was all grace. God was not forced to protect Noah during the year his ungainly craft floated on the flood waters. That was all grace. Nothing Noah did earned him those favors, but he still had to build the ark or he would have drowned.
When speaking to Nicodemus in John 3, Jesus compares himself to Moses's bronze serpent. Joh 3:14-15 "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life." Now when the fiery serpents were biting the Israelites in the wilderness (Numbers 21) and God told Moses to make that bronze snake and put it on a pole and whoever looked would be saved, was anything expected of the bitten? Yes! They had to look at it. Did this earn them any salvation? No! Nothing in looking at a statue will ever necessarily cause a snake's venom to dissipate. But what would have happened if an Israelite, bitten and then told what to do, had proclaimed his belief in God's promises but refused to look at the bronze serpent? He would have died because only by looking could he have been saved. Jesus compares himself to that. We have to believe in him, but belief implies action (James 2). We say we love Jesus. What does he say about that? "If you love me, you will keep my commandments". John 14:15
No, we cannot earn our salvation. Nothing we can do will ever come close. We are saved by the grace and love and mercy of God. But, just like with Joshua and Noah and Moses, his gifts come with conditions. No, completing those conditions do not earn our salvation, but they are necessary. We can't skip marching around Jericho on days 3 and 5 because it is too much work and then only do six circuits on day 7. We have to do our dead level best to carry out all his instructions in the way he wanted them carried out, all the while knowing that doing so doesn't earn us anything. All the while knowing that we might not (will not!) get everything right throughout our lives and knowing with serene peace that his grace will cover all gaps for us. Our salvation is his gift to us. His grace makes us free from sin. We still must strive to meet his conditions to obtain the promises, just as Noah, Joshua, and Moses did.
Mat 7:21 "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven."
Talking to my boss (raised a Catholic, now atheist) the other day and he said the thing he doesn't get about heaven is that if it is so wonderful all the time, wouldn't we eventually start to take it for granted? He said he thinks, given human nature, that we need a bad day every now and then to make us appreciate the good days. I tried to say that if God, who created us and who knows us better than we know ourselves, designed heaven for us, wouldn't He know how to make us happy? but he remained unconvinced, repeating that he believes that eventually we'd start to take heaven for granted. For the sake of argument, I conceded and then said, "yeah, but wouldn't it be great if the only problem we had was wondering if we were not appreciating heaven enough?" He grinned and agreed.
“Are home-schooled students more advanced than public school students?” Given that an estimate of the number of children being homeschooled in 2001 was almost 2 million and the numbers seem to be growing continuously, this topic needs study. (Romanowski, 2001) Yet this is a question which begs another question: what do we mean by “advanced”? Do we refer strictly to academic achievement? If so, then the answer would seem to be an unqualified “yes”. Romanowski (2001 &2006) and Talbot (2001) agree that not only do home-schooled students do well on standardized tests, they often outperform their public school compatriots. Talbot also notes that the spelling bees and geography bees have come to be dominated by homeschooled children. Romanowski points out that many universities, including Ivy League schools, have begun actively recruiting home-schooled students, who perform at least as well in college as public school graduates. (2006) So, if by “advanced” we merely mean academic performance, then, yes, home-schooled students are more advanced, in general, than public school students.
Most of us will agree that there is more to the education of children than just teaching them facts and helping them to pass tests. Children should be socialized so that they can confidently interact with a wide array of people from diverse backgrounds. Children should be taught to be active members of society, taking part in our self-government process and being active in the community. It is in these areas that most people doubt the effectiveness of home-schooling. In fact, in a limited survey of working class young people (mostly under 30) the most common response to “What is the biggest negative you can see from home-schooling?” was that homeschooled students had limited social skills and might feel awkward in new or unusual social situations. If this is the general public perception of the effects of homeschooling, then what truth, if any, is this based on?
In this paper, we will discuss home-schooling achievements from the perspective of student socialization and community involvement. We will consider the facts regarding these issues for home-schooled students as a whole while remembering that broad social statements do not always hold true in each individual case. We will examine broad studies and case studies. After compiling these facts, we will draw some conclusions about whether or not home-schooled students are truly more advanced than public school students.
In the survey conducted by the author, some of the phrases used by the respondents in discussing the socialization of home-schooled students were “sheltered”, “isolated,” and “socially awkward.” This is the stereotype of a home-schooled student. Is this a fair assessment? Studies have shown that home-schooled students participate in numerous activities outside the home: 4-H, scouting, music lessons, sports teams, etc. In fact, 98% of homeschooled students are involved in at least two such activities. (Romanowski, 2006) These activities bring home-schooled students into contact with a variety of other people including children their own age, older and younger children, and adults all from a variety of backgrounds. (Romanowski, 2006) Rather than being disadvantaged socially, this contact with a wide variety of people seems to give home-schooled students a head start in comparison to those in public schools. Public school students are grouped together with others of their own age and background. Home-schooled students, in contrast, seem more socially mature and able to handle new situations better because they have been exposed to more social situations. (Romanowski, 2006)
One case study of home-schooled students (“Mommy What’s a Classroom?”, 1997) followed Peter Kowalke who was 17 at the time of the interviews. While Peter admitted to feelings of alienation and being separated from others, he also mentioned that he attended two homecoming dances at two different schools with two different girls. (The author wishes he had done as well in High School!) How does Peter make friends without the framework of school? “You know, you're out and doing things and one friend leads to another and it snowballs. It's the way any adult makes friends.'' (“Mommy . . .”, 1997) Peter seems to show the more mature socialization that Romanowski cited among home-schoolers.
Closely related to this question is the idea of the development of a student’s self-concept. A national study has shown that home-schooled students have scored significantly higher on the Piers-Harris Children's Self-Concept Scale (PHCSCS) than public school students. (Romanowski, 2006) In fact, not only were the home-schooled student’s aggregate scores higher, but their scores averaged higher on each of the six sections of the PHCSCS than the public schools students. (Romanowski, 2006)
It seems reasonable to state that in general, home-schooled students are at least as well socialized as public school students. If anything, the home-schooled students seem to be more socially mature than their public school peers.
How can students who are taught at home, isolated from others, be taught that they ought to be involved in the community? In fact, since the foundation of home-schooling is putting the individual student’s needs above the group’s needs, it would seem that home-schooling would be the antithesis of community involvement. However, Romanowski (2006) reports that 71% of home-schooled adults participate in some form of community service compared to just 37% of the general population. Also, 76% of home-schooled adults between the ages of 18 and 24 had voted in a national election in the previous five years compared to just 29% of the general population in the same age group. (Romanowski, 2006) Home-schooled adults “are more likely to have participated in a protest or boycott, attended a public meeting, wrote, or telephoned a public official or signed a petition more often than the general population.” (Romanowski, 2006) In referring back to the case study involving Peter Kowalke we cannot but note that Peter met one of his girlfriends while they were both volunteering at a Senior Center. (“Mommy . . .”, 1997) Perhaps it is the public schools which should be taken to task for producing inactive citizens.
While no study of this type can speak to every individual student, it seem clear that home-schooled students in general are more advanced academically, more mature and comfortable socially, and more involved in the community than their peers from the public school system. Again, some individual home-schooled children will be socially awkward, just like some public school children are socially awkward. Some home-schooled children will be loners who aren’t involved in the community, just like some public school children will be. But as a group, this is not the case and the home-schooled students seem to have the advantage in each of the areas we have examined.
The only hesitation we have in making this statement is the fact that one of the researchers Romanowski cites most, Ray, homeschools his own children, so he would seem less than impartial. However, in most cases Romanowski supports Ray’s findings with those of other researchers. So, even if Ray’s research was omitted, almost all these same findings could be reported. So, it seems safe to conclude that in general home-schooled students are, in fact, more advanced than public school students.
Given this conclusion we urge you to consider whether or not home-schooling might be right for your individual child.
(1997, February 02). Mommy, What's a Classroom?. New York Times Magazine, Retrieved from
Romanowski, H, M. (2006, January 01). Revisiting the Common Myths about
Homeschooling. Clearing House, (3), 125, Retrieved from http://elibrary.bigchalk.com
Romanowski, H, M. (2001, May 01). Undoing the "us vs. them" of public and home
schooling. Education Digest, The, (9), 41, Retrieved from http://elibrary.bigchalk.com
Talbot, Margaret (2001, November 01). The new counterculture. Atlantic Monthly, The, (4), 136,
Retrieved from http://elibrary.bigchalk.com