What does a Girl on Fire really look like?

Can you imagine Katy Perry standing before millions saying at a time in my life when I was least committed to Him, Christ remained committed to me? It is only when we become "wide awake" to this reality that we can truly overcome.

What is being taught in your child's school?

As a parent, you must also be a student. Do you know what your child is learning in school? The answer may surprise you.

Public, Private, or Homeschool?

How do you know which choice is best for your children?

Talking to Your Kids about the M Word, Modesty

Modesty is not a beauty issue at all, it is about consideration of others. A person who dresses modest may not be "hot" at all. In fact, by societies standards, probably not.

July 25, 2014

Girl on Fire (Points from Power Ballads, Psalms and Songs Series)

I grew up in the late 70’s and 80’s.  We invented the power ballad.  What child of the most eclectic and unreal generation of music hasn’t sat at a red light belting out Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” and actually thought you sound just like Steve Perry?  I do.

When a power ballad charts it defines a moment for a generation.  Power ballads make a strong statement about empowerment and overcoming some of life’s most difficult trials.  
The Book of Psalms also has a collection of power ballads.  Psalm 30 provides an example of a redeeming moment in David’s life when he was struck down, but somehow rose again.  The result is a classic for his generation that would also be used at the dedication of the Temple.  
Yet in comparing Psalm 30 with the power ballads of our culture’s pop music we find a major difference.  Today’s power ballads are about self-sufficiency; yet it was David’s self-sufficiency that was also his undoing.  “As for me, I said in my prosperity, I shall never be moved.  By your favor, O LORD, you made my mountain stand strong.”  
David was on top of the world.  Even though he was enjoying the blessings of God, he forgot his benefactor.  The end result was that he was dismayed when God turned His favor away from David (30:7b).  The lyric in verse 2 implies that he must have gone from being on top of the world to being gravely ill.  In the end David cried out to God and rose again a worshiper instead of a self-promoter (30:8-12).  
What you overcome may not be as important as how you overcome it.  
We all go through trials, but when you land on your feet is the resulting power ballad of your story full of pride, determination, and self-promotion or is it a story of contrition, spiritual growth, and a marked change of direction?
Alicia Keys is arguably our generation’s most talented singer, songwriter, and musician.  She is Whitney Houston with a keyboard.  When she released the chart topping Girl on Fire, she also released this statement to her fans.
“Girl On Fire is about new beginnings, new perspectives and fresh starts. It’s about finding your own inner strength and channeling it in a way you’ve never tried before. To be “on fire” is to allow yourself the freedom to take full control of who you are and how you want to live your life. To live your passion and shine your light unabashedly!! It’s that moment you choose to claim your power and be extraordinary!With this album, I hope to empower you in the way you have me… I hope to move you to be your own phenomenal self in life. Thank you for your tremendous support throughout my career and for being a part of my journey as an artist. I’m so proud to share Girl On Fire with you all. I can’t contain the flame!!!! Never contain yours!!!”
While this statement sounds encouraging and persuasive, it is ultimately empty and void of truth.  Look at it.  Over and over again by affirming one’s self-sufficiency Keys is declaring that we are ultimately on our own.  The world is all about you, “allow yourself the freedom to take full control of who you are and how you want to live your life?”  Really?  I’m sure if she said that in a concert the crowd would give her an uncritical and thoughtless roar of approval, but tell me on what planet that ideology actually works.
She goes on to say,
It doesn't matter who you are," she continued, "how you are, in what way you express it - that's what's important about it.” 
I’m sure she means that as a statement to lift our self-esteem, but in the end it is self-defeating, empty propaganda.  Think about it, “It doesn’t matter who you are.”  Oprah would applaud her here, but is there any worth in us if it doesn’t matter who we are?  Keys says, “it doesn’t matter how you are.  It doesn’t matter in what way you express it.” 
What she is trying to say is that you are so incredible what ever you do is acceptable, but what she ends up saying is that you are worthless. Why?  If you can do whatever you want to do, be however you want to be, and do it any way you want to do it and it doesn’t matter - well then, “you don’t matter.”
But we do.
The problem with the philosophy of self-sufficiency is the misguided belief that value is drawn from the well of self.  Yet when we lower the bucket into the pool of self-sufficiency we find nothing there.  You may have a lot of confidence in yourself as a serial killer, but you are worthless to society.  You may have a lot of confidence in yourself as a child molester, but you are worthless to a society that values children.  You may have a lot of confidence in your ability to conquer every Halo world in 2 hours, but the time you spend sitting for days on end in a basement by yourself with a video game is worthless to a society in desperate need of productivity.
The Bible teaches that we are not autonomous.  We live in a world created by a moral God who is aware and responsive to our actions.  What we do matters.  How we do it matter.  Who you are - matters!
In Psalm 30 David tried to be his own man on top of the mountain.  Borrowing a lyric from Alicia, David felt like a “Man on fire.”  “I shall not be moved.”  But in the next breath, he found himself dismayed.
We will all need at some point to overcome and land on our feet, but what sort of person will you be on the other side?  Will you be more confident but clueless?  Will you be more skeptical or hopeful?  Will you be a self-promoter or a worshiper?
Katy Perry - Roaring
Katy Perry’s lyrical journey is proof that what you overcome is not as important as how you overcome it.  She is representative of a generation of kids raised in church who rejected faith as they entered adult life.  In 2001 she was Katy Hudson singing Faith Won’t Fail.  In 2008 she was Katy Perry singing I Kissed a Girl.  A few years later came the power ballad for homosexual teens, Firework.  After a difficult separation from Russell Brand, Perry came out with Wide Awake.  It was sort of her power ballad of the fallen ready to rebound.  She even included lyrics which recalled her former faith.
I'm wide awake
Yeah, I am born again
Out of the lion's den
I don't have to pretend
And it's too late
The story's over now, the end”
Next from Perry came Roar.  Roar is a me against the world type power ballad that expresses her intent to voice a new message.  A message once censored by her past will soon be proclaimed.
I used to bite my tongue and hold my breath
Scared to rock the boat and make a mess
So I sat quietly, agreed politely
I guess that I forgot I had a choice
I let you push me past the breaking point
I stood for nothing, so I fell for everything

You held me down, but I got up (HEY!)
Already brushing off the dust
You hear my voice, you hear that sound
Like thunder gonna shake the ground
You held me down, but I got up (HEY!)
Get ready 'cause I’ve had enough
I see it all, I see it now

[Chorus]
I got the eye of the tiger, a fighter, dancing through the fire
'Cause I am a champion and you’re gonna hear me roar
Louder, louder than a lion
'Cause I am a champion and you’re gonna hear me roar
Oh oh oh oh oh oh
Oh oh oh oh oh oh
Oh oh oh oh oh oh
You’re gonna hear me roar
What is that message?  Perry is currently topping the charts with Dark Horse.  The accompanying video and performances have been laced with unmistakably dark pagan and satanic themes.  In response to her Grammy performance of the song E! news tweeted, “”Um, did we just witness actual witchcraft during Katy Perry's #Grammys performance?”
What you overcome is not as important as how you overcome it.
No matter the trial of life, do you want to come out on the other side saddled to a witch’s broomstick?  If we come out on the other side and hate life more, love God less, and as Perry proclaims in Dark Horse, a perfect storm of black magic that is more dangerous than ever before, are we really better off or simply poised for an even more tragic mistake?

Some would argue that Dark Horse is not about Katy Perry, it is a song about drugs.  Oh.  My mistake.  But is that progress or a sign that a girl that God loves is even more deeply disturbed?

I pray Katy Perry finds what David found in Psalm 30.  Can you imagine a redeemed singer standing up at the Grammy's, not simply thanking God for "this award" but actually saying what David said in his Psalm?  Can you imagine Katy Perry standing on the world stage saying that she has been to Hell and back (Psalm 30:3) and has found that "His anger is but for a moment, and his favor for a lifetime (30:5)."  Can you imagine Katy Perry standing before millions saying at a time in my life when I was least committed to Him, Christ remained committed to me?  It is only when we become "wide awake" to this reality that we can truly overcome.
In Psalm 30 David cried out to a  God who heals and restores.  He was crushed as a dismayed self-promoter, but raised from the dust of death a worshiper.  In the end David proclaims that if he dies, the only thing God has done is that He has lost another worshiper.
“What profit is there in my death,
if I go down to the pit?
Will the dust praise you?
Will it tell of your faithfulness?
Hear, O LORD, and be merciful to me!
O LORD, be my helper!”  (Psalm 30:9-10 ESV)
I want to reprint a testimony from Sarah who grew up in the church I pastored in Birmingham.  As her pastor, I saw Sarah, her mother and sisters go through some very tumultuous circumstances.  Sarah certainly had a lot to overcome.  A year and a half ago, Sarah made a tragic mistake that took her to the place David found himself, the dust of death.  As you read her testimony, notice the absence of self-promotion and the sense that she has been raised purposefully by God as a worshiper.  What you overcome is not as important as how you overcome it.
“Today marks 18 months that I should have died. I was supposed to be taking care of a 98 year old lady (who is now 100 years old!), but instead, she saved my life. My dependence on pain medication was no joke, and my senseless choice of drinking vodka on top of popping pills inevitably stopped my breathing. I should have died. My GOD SAVED ME by having this amazing woman make the calls for an ambulance to come. She had seen my heart and stomach convulsing, and the paramedics said that they were seriously about to intubate me- right as I finally started breathing. For so long, I was ashamed. Yes, I was angry at myself for making such stupid decisions to put those things in my body. I was very upset when I saw the faces of the people I love, and who love me, not just in the emergency room, but even after that horrible night for a long, long time. You think you're in control until you aren't. I wouldn't have known how people would have reacted, but the thought of my family and friends hearing the news of my death due to an accidental overdose had me in tears. How selfish of me to be so careless. Hurting people I love is unbearable. Then that guilt and shame comes with coping, analyzing why we do certain things, and opening up to work through the issues. Negative people will easily remind you of your mistakes and problems which will bring back that guilt. I am not ashamed anymore, and I want to help people who have been stuck in this awful place. I am not using Facebook as a platform for gaining attention, and I am definitely not bragging about my weaknesses and issues with addiction. If you struggle with meds (prescribed or not), or know someone who is, I encourage you to get help. Accountability is the most important way to keep on track (for me, anyway). I HAVE to testify and exclaim that my Savior has me here, still, and here for a reason. For His Glory, I must live. So many awful things happen to good people as well as good things happen to awful people. I do not know why I was given another chance... but I will definitely take it. To the wonderful family I was working for, who I've known my whole life, You know who you all are, and I am thankful for you brothers and sisters in Christ. I still think about Mamaw everyday. I don't know if she would remember me, but please tell her- the girl whose life she saved says Hello and that I thank God for her everyday (I thank God for all of you and the lengths you all went to so that my family would know).”
“Life is SO short, as we all know. But seriously, use this time to not only tell the people you love that you love them, but show it to them. I love you all!”
That is a girl on fire!

July 24, 2014

Public, Private, or Homeschool (Deciding Factors Part 3 - Freedom and Curriculum)

Continuing a discussion on deciding factors for choosing your child's education.
I would like to address two deciding factors at once in this point.
Personally, this is where I am beginning to part ways with public education.  I see great educators who love kids with their hands tied by bureaucrats.  Most decisions are being made by Washington and very few are being made locally.  I see more elitists at the top assuming there is no intelligence in the people who are actually gifted to educate children.  I see more passion for an ideology than I do for my child.  
I may be very jaded here, but my kids now both attend private school and I teach two hours a day in that same school.  The kids in our school, which is a Christian school, are just as flawed as the kids in any other school; but I can pray with my kids.  I can customize certain experiences for my classes based on who they are.  We can use the Bible as a text for life.  We can stop the course of the day and assemble for worship.  We can teach Creationism and intelligent design.  We can tell the real story of American history.  We can discuss both the flaws and the faith of our nation’s fathers.  We can purposefully lead kids to Christ and not fear losing our jobs.  
As a parent, I value freedom.  I do not value psuedo-freedom which says you are free to express your beliefs as long as it is doesn’t contain any ounce of the Christian God, opposition to homosexuality, the right to life for the unborn, or any perceived conservative thought.  
At this time in our lives we are not paying for private Christian education because we think it will lead our children to be greater Christ followers.  We are paying for freedom.  We are paying of the peace of mind of knowing our children will not be subjected to some sort of sensitivity training which leads to a compromise of Biblical morality.  We are paying for knowing the people choosing the curriculum.  We are paying for less government intrusion and greater freedom in customization of curriculum for our children.    Without a doubt, homeschool and private school offers the greatest degree of customization in curriculum and freedom of thought than public education.  
I know there is a lot of debate about Common Core in its motives, creation, and content, but aside from the propaganda, I have heard nothing good from the educators who are being forced comply with its standards.  Common Core seems to be a more radical ideological culmination of something public education has been setting itself up for, for quite some time.  For too long we have been teaching toward tests rather than teaching kids how to think.  The problem is now a radical leftist agenda is writing the tests.  Public education has become little more than government school.  
Public education in America was first introduced mainly by the churches as a means of preserving freedom and Christian values in the culture of our nation.  It was deeply rooted in the local community.  Now public education is a means of advancing an agenda and it is strongly dictated by the NEA and the federal government.  
If you choose for your child to go to private school or homeschool as a means of avoiding bad kids or placing them in an environment with better kids, wrong reason.  If you are choosing private school over public school because you think it will make your kids better than other kids, wrong reason.  If you are doing your homework and investigating philosophies, ideologies, and making choices based on deep conviction, now you have something to work with.
Can a child of faith survive in the public school environment?  Absolutely, but you as a parent must be more vigilant than ever.  This should hold true for all education, but especially for those who choose the public route, you need to be a student of history, science, and the Bible.  Read the books your kids are reading.  Stay on top of the content.  Keep your kids connected in a church that teaches the Bible faithfully.  Keep the conversation going with your kids.  Ask them what they are learning.  Don't be afraid to ask your pastor questions and for support from your church.  Be open about it - this is what my child learned at school this week, what do you - Sunday School teacher, pastor, youth pastor, mentor, friend, other parent - think about this?
Last year we actually had a doctrinal issue arise from something being taught in our private school and a group of parents in our church approached me about it.  As their pastor, I was more than happy to use it as a moment of information, teaching, and discipleship.  Any good church leader would be happy to help and support you as a parent as you journey with your children in education.  

Education doesn't mean we always have to agree.  In fact, if there is no disagreement, it is probably indoctrination rather than education.  Yet we must approach education with some standards, some semblance of deeply held belief.  
What I am about to say should be true of any parent to some degree, but especially so of public school parents; be prepared to offer critical thought in the home that can fill in the gaps or combat the ideology public education will be pressing upon our children more and more with Common Core.  You can’t assume that what your kids are learning in school is what you learned in the classroom in 1985 - it’s not even in the same galaxy.  
As a parent, with any educational choice, you must also be a student.  Know what your kids are learning, stay involved, and disciple your children in the Word. 

July 23, 2014

Public, Private, or Homeschool - Deciding Factors - Which is affordable?

(Continuing the topic of choosing education for your kids; deciding factors).
Affordability.
Once you have your options before you, count the beans.  Which of them are affordable for you?  Don't think that public ed. comes free.  Oh no, you will pay!  And if somehow you will not pay, you will sell gift wrap, gourmet chocolates, and all sorts of knick-knacks to make up the difference.  Public school is cheaper, but it is by no means cheap.  You should also know that the further your children go in public school, the more they will pay as their activities increase.  This is especially true if your child is athletic or artistic.  As government budgets become more strapped fees for extra-curricular activities grow higher and higher.  It is not unusual for a public school cheer leader or football player’s family to throw in $500 or $1000 just so their child can be on the team.
Homeschool and private school come with some sticker shock as well.  If you homeschool, you will probably lay out a few grand just to begin.  However, there are some incredibly thrifty homeschool moms who cut coupons and create shampoo out of peanut butter who can show you how to get radical and cheap.  Thriftiness is something I find inherit in the homeschool movement and it is a unique art form all its own.  My former church actually hosted a homeschool bookstore exchange.  Those involved demonstrated a very Acts 4 and 6 type of common sharing that made education possible for other families.  It was incredible to watch.  There are probably others who can speak more to the coops and creative solutions than I and I would invite your comments.
The greatest sticker shock is no doubt to be had in the private school.  The private school sales pitch can at times seem like a spill for the timeshare condo.  They show you all the wonderful things that can be yours and then sit you down with a very persuasive fellow who can change your perspective on spending tons of money on their product and never having the necessary finances to go on vacation again.  
I will talk about this under the deciding factor of freedom, but with the sticker shock does come a great deal of freedom.  Private schools are not under the same constraints as government funded schools.  Without government support, funding must come from somewhere, and you may weigh the facts and find the price well worth it.  With a quality private school there is a greater likelihood you get what you pay for.  
Well run private schools are also good about finding options for families.  Truth be told, most students in the school probably don’t pay the top line sticker price.  There are scholarships, grants, and private subsidies that make private education affordable.  However, every family is expected to make some sacrifice.  You may not pay equal price, but you will be expected to make equal sacrifice.  Most families, contrary to stereotype, that choose private school are not swimming in dough.  Most of them are making a great sacrifice financially because that choice fits what they are trying to accomplish as a parent.  In any event, if you just want free or cheap, private school is definitely not an option.
At the same time I would warn against going into debt to fund K-12 education.  I see some families dying on the financial vine out of guilt.  Part of discipleship is stewardship.   If paying more fits your educational philosophy and it helps you accomplish your goals for your children, then sacrifice.  But don’t go private school out of guilt or pride.  Financing fear is foolish.  Don't be deceived in thinking that taking out a loan for the 3rd grade will get you a better seat in the Kingdom. 
Currently my wife and I have chosen to pay for our children to attend a private Christian school in our community.  This year will be the first year both of our children are in the school together.  Transitioning financially from public education to private education has not been easy, but we love what we see happening in the school we have chosen.  I am very involved in many of our local public schools and would feel comfortable with my children attending them, but for our goals at this time in the education journey, we do want more than book learning.  We found that if we are willing to pay more, we will receive more from our private school what we are looking for than our local public schools can offer (I will discuss this more in freedom).
As our children enter their teenage years we are looking not only for books, but for philosophical and moral support.  During your child’s elementary years you will probably find it easy to get involved in your child’s school.  Once they enter middle school and high school, the doors seem to come with tighter locks.  In some sense, we are now paying so we can stay involved.  
Academically our goal is to expose our children to the highest degree of challenge possible and we found an affordable (with sacrifice) convergence of these things in the school we have chosen for them.  With this school there are also some people on staff who offer services for our children’s advancement that we could not find anywhere else.  For instance, our school has someone on staff who is incredibly specialized at helping students prepare, apply, and get acceptance in the best universities.  She is not your normal guidance counselor.  I have told my wife often that what she does is worth the price of tuition. 
Look at your wallet and decide.  What is affordable?  Yet in any venue of education you choose, be prepared to pay.  What you have to consider is how much will I pay, and for what am I paying?

July 22, 2014

Public, Private, or Homeschool (Deciding Factors Part 1)

A couple of weeks ago I posted an article I wrote entitled Before You Bury the Bus on the topic of using sheltering as a strategy for raising our children.  In that post I mentioned the education environment.  In response, Bridgette asked,
“Hi, Brian - Do you think choosing to home school strictly for the purpose of sheltering children from the evil they may face in public school, or even Christian school for that matter, is 'burying the bus in the Mojave'? I can see how that could be literal 'withdrawal' so is it more biblical to prepare children for the things they are likely to face in school rather than avoiding them altogether? ... I realize this could potentially open a can of worms via the comments, but its becoming a hot topic in our home this summer as we prayerfully make the decision to continue homeschooling or not.”
This is a great question and one in which there are a wide variety of strong opinions from both educators and parents.  To answer this, there are two categories to keep in mind: 1) mistaken assumptions and 2) deciding factors.  Last week I dealt with mistaken assumptions.  It is a mistake to assume, in any educational venue, that one will accomplish a greater degree of sheltering or engagement.  We must separate fear from fact and make good decisions on good information.  Choosing out of fear is often misleading.
With the next few posts, I want to address deciding factors in choosing a path for your child’s education.  Those deciding factors would be: 1) the choices you actually have 2) quality of education 3) affordability 4) freedom 5) curriculum 6) parental involvement 7) your parental commitment.
The choices you actually have.
For a single mom or dad who works long days just to keep the family afloat, homeschooling may not be a viable option.  If both mom and dad are working, plopping the kids down at the kitchen table with a textbook and leaving them for 8 hours to do it on their own is not education; that’s called busy work.  
If you live in an area where there are no private schools, well, that makes it easy to strike one choice from your list. If your child has been expelled from public school, to the dinner table for class he will go unless there is a private school nearby that will accept him.  
Once you see the choices that are before you, sample them.  As I said in my previous post, get real information.  I would not allow the “I heard” story to be considered as fact.  Sample the homeschool curriculum.  Make a visit to the local prep school.  Make an appointment at your local public school.  When we were choosing a school for our daughters when moving to a new community we made a day of visiting our options.  We found most all of the schools were incredibly accommodating and welcomed our investigation.  I would recommend that you call and set up an appointment ahead of time.  It seemed to me that the larger the school the more difficult it was for them to accommodate a walk in visit.  Yet in those same schools, a few days notice made all the difference.
In our previous community both of our attended public school for three simple reasons.  1)  Neither of us were willing to homeschool our children.  2) There was no viable, affordable private option within a reasonable commuting distance for us at the time.  3)  We knew a lot about our community school and felt comfortable with it.  None of this made us any more or less of a Christ follower.  It made no statement about how much or how little we loved our children.  It said nothing about how naive or worldly we were.  
Look at what is there.  That’s really all you have to decide on.  The rest of it is called worry or anxiety, and the Bible never offers a high opinion of either.
Quality of education.
While it is true that there are a myriad of ways schools can be rated according to test scores and student/teacher ratios, all of which is easily accessible online, before you go to greatschools.com you must personally answer a critical question.  What is education?
Test scores are misleading and teacher/student ratios aren’t all they are cracked up to be.  A horrible teacher of 40 is a horrible teacher of 4.  The number of students in a classroom does not determine how qualified for the task a teacher is.  Small class sizes do not make bad teachers great.  Instead of asking how are the ratios, ask rather, how are the teachers?  Also ask, what are they teaching?
These questions will inevitably bring you back to your philosophy of education.  When our children were in elementary school we wanted them to learn math and science.  We wanted them to be able to write sentences.  We expected the school to keep them safe, but we did not expect the school to lead them to Christ.  We wanted a school that would help them become capable academically.  We wanted book learning and our local elementary school was on target.
There was a private Christian school just down the road from our church, but academically it was subpar.  I was involved in that school as well and felt a lot of unrest and instability in the organization.  Although the faculty were sincere followers of Christ who had a heart for children, the school did not offer what we needed to accomplish our educational goals for our children.  Again, we discipled them, we needed someone to help them grow academically.   Eventually the school closed.
That being said, philosophically and practically for our family, there was nothing homeschooling or a private school could offer us that trumped our choice of the public school.  We discipled our children both in and out of the context of their experience in public school and all went well.  
This does not mean that I believe a public school is morally neutral.  No doubt there is a more liberalized climate of content both morally and philosophically in public schools.  Along the way, there were books and films the school wanted to expose our children to which we objected.  The school officials were incredibly accommodating.  They were sensitive to our beliefs and offered our children alternatives. 
I should say that they were not sensitive to us because we barnstormed the office or pitched a sanctified fit; neither of which is Christ honoring.  I believe the school was sensitive to us because we served the school and we were constantly involved.  It actually came to the point that my wife and I were often asked to pray or to offer a devotion at parent sponsored events.  
I will discuss this in a forthcoming post, but the key to education according to Deuteronomy 6, which we are using as our pattern text, is parental involvement, strategy, and intentionality.  This holds true for any venue of education, private, public, or home.  Parents must be involved.  If parents are merely passive onlookers the educational process crumbles at its foundation. 

More to come.

July 8, 2014

The "Me" Monster Church Has Become (from David Prince)

David Prince has posted an article to the ERLC website that I think needs to be seriously considered. The longer I am in pastoral ministry the more I feel like an event planner instead of a  minister of the Word (Acts 6:2).  My week looks less and less like that of the apostles and more and more like that of a cruise ship director.  The staff spends more time choosing whether the next fellowship meal will be chicken or burgers than it does in prayer.  I think this is only symptomatic of the mindset of today's consumer driven, Me-centric church.  I am appreciative of David for sharing his thoughts on how this mindset is especially impacting church ministry and preaching.  

____________________

A morally Christianized narcissism has invaded many churches where congregants read the Bible and hear sermons in a pursuit of individualized self-improvement. Corporate worship is often understood as a matter of convenience in assembling individual Christians who seek individualized answers to individualized questions. The result is a malformed expression of Christianity in which the church is seen simply as a tool to help each individual grow spiritually. Thus, the church exists to provide us the support we need for our personal discipleship.

Read the rest at: http://erlc.com/article/the-me-monster-unleashed-in-todays-churches.


July 3, 2014

How to Talk to Your Kids about Modesty

We live in a society that is quickly losing a sense of decency, modesty, or shame.  The Bible, however, calls for God's people to observe a sense of modesty.  How do you talk to your kids about this subject?  Here are 10 "Do Not" principles that you may find helpful:

  • Do not teach that the body is a bad thing. Gen. 1:31.  Modesty is not because there is a problem with the body, it is because there is a problem with our mind.  Before they sinned, Adam and Eve were naked and unashamed.  After sin, even though they were married and there is no indication that there was anyone else in the garden, they looked at their nakedness in a different way than they had before.  As a result, they covered themselves.  Let's be honest, we live in a world of perversion and uncovering the body is provocative.  Call it art, call it beauty, naked is naked.  I have read articles that object saying that we should honor the person without objectifying the body.  Ultimately we do want to see people as parts of the body of Christ rather than just seeing people as body parts.  Yet, again, really hard to do when that person is naked.  It's the nature of the way we think.  Modesty is an answer to our situation.  We are sinners.  Sinners are tempted, enticed, and think bad things.  Cover up.
  • Do not teach that the body is their own.  The attitude of the culture is that one can do what one wills to do with their own body.  The Bible calls for us to practice a different ethic.  1 Corinthians 6 and 7 teaches that the body is a temple of the Holy Spirit and that the body is also something that one can surrender to their spouse.  We need to have conversation about modesty in the broader conversation about sexuality and marriage.  In a culture that is undermining marriage, the church needs to be more proactive at teaching marriage and purity.  Modesty is not just covering up, but it is saving up for a grander goal that God has for us.
  • Do not think that if your kids are wearing what you said they could wear that the mission is accomplished.  Legislation is not life change, it is legalism.  However, this does not mean there is not a place for rules.  Even though someone may not understand the heart of a law, laws are necessary to protect us.  Even in the garden when Adam and Eve sinned God made a correction.  They covered themselves with fig leaves, God covered them with animal skin.  There is a broader picture of atonement here, but our Heavenly Father was the first one to say to His children were not going to go out of the house wearing that!  They needed to put more on themselves.  Legalism takes the life out of principles.  Modesty is not about a certain color, length, or texture of anything.  It is about a mindset that is considerate of others.  Interestingly, the Bible never defines modesty, it just uses words like appropriate, modest, respectable. The word modest comes from a Greek Word that talks about a person in a crowded room of excellence; perhaps there are skilled actors on the stage, singers, or musicians.  All the attention in the room is directed toward something beautiful, then in an act of vulgarity you break that attention and draw it towards yourself.  This is the idea modesty is rooted in.  Modesty is a position of humility that realizes life is not about you.  We need to teach the heart of this principle, not simply legislate obedience.
  • Do not make modesty an issue of conviction, but of aspiration.  Modesty is about loving God and loving His body (His people), not magnifying your own. G.K. Chesterson stated that it was a mistake when we moved modesty from the organ of aspiration to the organ of conviction.  Our goal is glory for our Lord, not guilt over what we wear.  Modesty teaches that we want to be pleasing to Him and mindful of His people.  We don't measure our shorts because a Baptist believes it, we wear what we wear because we love the Lord and His church.
  • Do not teach that modesty is a matter of clothing, but rather that it is an issue of the heart.  If it is always a fight about clothing, there probably needs to be some conversation about deeper things.  It may not be an issue of the shirt, it may be an issue of the heart.  The Bible teaches that modesty is a heart issue, not a fashion one. (Luke 6:45, 1 Peter 3:3-4)
  • Do not teach that modesty is about what you wear only, but it is also about the way you wear it.  Interestingly, 1 Timothy 2:9 was about overdressing not underdressing.  Let's be honest, for the ladies, they wear what they wear not for other guys, but for other girls.  Have you ever been sitting in the waiting area of a crowded restaurant?  Next time you do, when a woman walks in, watch the eyes of the other ladies around her.  They check out her shoes, then her clothes, then her purse, then how she got her hair "did."  Watch their face, you can tell what they think :).  It's funny!  Modesty means that I don't dress just to best someone else.  There is an attitude of Christian con tenement that should permeate everything we do (and put on).
  • Do not teach that modesty is an issue for your daughters and leave your sons out of the conversation.  We need to teach our sons to honor the ladies, not victimize them.  Job made a covenant with his eyes.  Jesus taught that to look lustfully on a woman was to commit adultery in the heart.  We need to teach our sons that girls are not giving guys permission based on what they wear.  I read a great statement in an article published by Relevant magazine by Sharon Hodde Miller, "Love your sisters by exercising the fruit of self-control and “taking captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). Love your sisters by taking ownership in this resistance, rather than letting the bulk of the burden fall on us."
  • Do not teach modesty without modeling it.  Modesty does not just apply to the way we dress, but it is about a sloppy, vulgar, selfish life.  Modesty is seen in every venue of life from the way one keeps the house, speaks in public, or posts online.  Overly loud and obnoxious can be just as offensive as an outfit that is too short and too tight.  If our kids are to receive the message of modesty it is something that must be modeled at home, in society, and at church.  Titus 2:3-5
  • Do not teach that modesty makes you more beautiful.  There was a popular message that sounded attractive, but was dishonest, "Modest is hottest."  Yet, modesty is not a beauty issue at all, it is about consideration of others.  A person who dresses modest may not be "hot" at all.  In fact, by societies standards, probably not.  At the same time modest doesn't mean I have to look like a potato sack either.  When the Lord sent Samuel to seek out a new king he revealed to us that the issue for the Lord is not outward appearance at all, but the Lord looks on the heart (1 Samuel 16:7).  For humans beauty is often a relative issue anyway.  Recently a free lance journalist sent an untouched picture of her natural face to 25 graphic artists in various countries and simply asked, "Make me beautiful."  What she received back was 25 various versions of herself compliments of photoshop.  Check out the project here.
  • Do not give up on teaching modesty just because it modesty is more difficult.  In a culture that seems to value "uncovered" it is not easy to find modest clothing at times.  It is especially difficult in the warmer seasons, and especially true of swimwear for women.  When it comes to our children we cannot trust a sexually addicted culture that does not value censorship and moral protection for our children.  The fashion industry will probably not applaud what you are trying to teach your children.  Furthermore, your children may not get support at school, at the pool, and you may not get any help from other parents.  And there may be some rare occasion of life in which your children don't agree with your values. As shocking as this may be, remember, you are still the parent.  For Christian parents this is where the church should be especially helpful.  In a Christ centered counter-culture there should be support, not undermining of the message.  Parents need to talk to one another as well as to their children about modesty. 

July 2, 2014

Public, Private, or Homeschool - Mistaken Assumptions

I received this comment from Bridgette last week in response to my post “Before You Bury the Bus . . .”

“Hi, Brian - Do you think choosing to home school strictly for the purpose of sheltering children from the evil they may face in public school, or even Christian school for that matter, is 'burying the bus in the Mojave'? I can see how that could be literal 'withdrawal' so is it more biblical to prepare children for the things they are likely to face in school rather than avoiding them altogether? ... I realize this could potentially open a can of worms via the comments, but its becoming a hot topic in our home this summer as we prayerfully make the decision to continue homeschooling or not.”
This is a great question and one in which there are a wide variety of strong opinions from both educators and parents.  To answer this, there are two categories to keep in mind: 1) mistaken assumptions and 2) deciding factors.  With this post I want to deal with the mistaken assumptions.  I will follow up tomorrow (hopefully) with deciding factors.  
Mistaken Assumptions:
Most of the time mistakes we make in decision making are driven by fear and lack of information.  This is especially true when it comes to making choices about educating our children.  
Mistaken Assumptions with Homeschool:
I have found that strong proponents for public education often try to demonize homeschooling.  Because public education is the social norm, homeschool usually comes out of the gate with the opinion polls jaded against it.  
We usually hear that one can expect a homeschool child to be socially inept and academically behind.  My opinion is that the strong public school advocates make this their platform of argument because homeschooling inherently lacks what unionized educators believe to be fundamental - standardization, qualification (ie. degreed educators) and expert hierarchal accountability.  
While the homeschool certainly offers an environment in which this can happen, and has, it is statistically not the case to the degree that home school opponents wish to make things seem.  Here is an interesting study published by CBN you may find informative (http://www.cbn.com/cbnnews/144135.aspx).    
The truth of the matter is that many home-schools are now connected and offer creative environments in which children flourish under well qualified teachers.  Home schoolers are taking great advantage of the freedom that homeschool offers and are not turning out children that are merely social survivors but leaders.
A mistaken assumption that homeschool parents may make is to assume that by withdrawing their children from the public school option that they are saving their souls from sin.  The word public does not mean it is of the devil.  McDonald’s is public, as is your street, the library many homeschool parents would use, as is the pool where your kids take lessons.  Public school doesn’t send a kid to Hell, failure to shepherd their heart and share the gospel with them will give them a one way ticket.  If the strategy of the home school parent is to save a child’s soul by withdrawal only to offer them an alternative solution of neglect we have not done better, we have done much worse.  If homeschool means you go to work while your kids do a workbook for a few hours and then spend the rest of the day watching television and playing video games - I would even argue that your children may be exposed to much more smut in a few hours than they are going to hear down at Roosevelt High.  
Mistaken Assumptions with Public School
The big mistake with public school is that it is often demonized by strong adherents of private Christian and homeschool education.  Public education is not a moral death sentence.  All of my years from 1st grade - 12th were spent in the Catoosa County Georgia system and I am thankful for all of them.  Until recently my daughters were daily in the public school and we had a great experience all along the way.  The public school is full of dedicated, gifted educators; many of whom are strong followers of Christ.  Our experience was that even when our children’s teachers were not believers that they were morally astute and sympathetic to our beliefs.  Public school often offers a diverse environment in which your children can explore a wide variety of opportunities, each of which can be profitable in the broader conversation of discipleship.  
However I find that Christian parents and teachers sometimes make a mistake by thinking that being in the public school makes them more obedient to the gospel while Christian school and home school are less gospel centered choices.  The assumption is that by being in less sanctified institutions, somehow one is doing more of what Jesus did by entering the world and sharing the gospel.  
While my daughters were in public school we prayed for this everyday.  God honored our prayer and during our last few weeks in Birmingham God used my daughter and her friend to lead two girls to Christ.  Now three years down the road, these girls are in church and being faithfully discipled.  
As incredible as this experience was, I reject this assumption on two grounds:
  1. It assumes that unless YOU are there that people will go to Hell.  I do believe that people need to hear the gospel to be saved, but I don’t think that a change in venue makes one automatically disobedient to the Great Commission.  Choosing an alternative route to public school doesn't mean you love Jesus less.  Had my daughters been home schooled or attended private school, they would have met these same girls through their swim team or some other community activity with which we were engaged.  I have more confidence in the sovereign will of God and His grace than I do in myself.  I think this premise that my absence is a sentence to Hell for anyone is built on theological guilt rather than on Biblical theology.  I am to share the gospel out of obedience, not out of guilt. 
  2. It ignores a Biblical precedent.  Notice in the Bible that Jesus did not send His disciples into the world until they had been with Him and were prepared.  In sending them out on mission, He also debriefed them.  One, we need to remember that our kids are not evangelism tools, they are kids.  They need to be brought up in the way they should go.  Whether they are in public school or not, their presence is useless without preparation and discipleship.  Sadly, a lot of the very people I hear say that they are being salt and light in the public school return week after week to their church fruitless.  I don’t see them leading anyone to Christ.  Evangelism is not a matter of presence but of prepared proclamation.  If this assumption is true, the churches should be full of publicly educated children coming to Christ, but they are not.  This is a matter for a broader conversation of the church and discipleship in the home.  All I am advocating here is that we don’t need to make an irresponsible assumption on this point.
Mistaken Assumptions with Private (Christian School)
The big assumption across the board with the private, especially Christian school is that you get what you pay for.  Parents of the private school, Christian or not, believe that they are turning out scholars for their investment.  For the Christian school parents, the belief is that we are paying for our kids to become Jesus followers.  
As with any institution, private school, church, public school, etc. we have fallen victim in America to believing that we can subsidize an outcome with our children.  Institutions are not replacements, they are partners.  As I will discuss later, private schools often offer a place where parents can be a greater source of influence in their child’s education - they are often more socially, morally, and idealistically agreeable places or you would not be paying the price - but I know that the private school was never intended to replace parental responsibility.
In observing the hubbub surrounding private, especially Christian school, I have also noticed that the most detrimental assumption is the undue pressure put on the kids.  From within parents pressure the child to produce an A every time.  Well, isn’t that what we are paying for, A’s with a reputation?  
Many private schools require a higher degree of academic rigor as opposed to some public schools.  If you send your kid to certain private schools, be prepared that they may not always get an A.  Reputable private schools have a way of exposing what your child would otherwise find out in college, they may be a B or C student.  If so, celebrate who they are rather than try to manipulate with money what they are not.  
From outsiders, especially with Christian schoolers, I almost see a glory in the children’s failure.  If a mistake is made, it is often much more public and the kids are exposed to a greater degree of disgrace.  We often forget that wearing a uniform does not change the heart.  Not all kids in Christian schools know Christ personally.  Not all kids that know Christ are perfect; in fact, none of them are.  A kid who stumbles coming out of the door of the home school, public school, or private school deserves the same opportunity for grace and Biblically rooted discipline as any other child.  
When the kids stumble, I usually hear the following mistaken assumption, “See there, the school says Christian but they are not real.”  I disagree.  The Christian school is just as indicative of reality as is the church, Roosevelt High, and the home school.  Sinners are sinners whether they wear uniforms, do math at the kitchen table, or go to class on the government dollar.  We all need Christ.  Institutions do not change that reality.

Much like the assumption that placing your kids in public school makes you more missional, is the mistaken assumption that placing your kids in Christian school makes you more devoted to Christ.  I knew a pastor who would make statements to the congregation both publicly and in private that made people in the church feel as if they didn't fork out the dough for private Christian school that they were second class citizens of the Kingdom.  There is really no biblical premise for this type of thinking in any form.  It is legalism, not obedience.  It is like saying I am less of a pastor because I am in Georgia instead of in Africa.

So whether you send your child to the living room, private school, or public school for class one needs to sort fear from fact.  Discern opinion from proof.  In moving to a new town two years ago, I said in jest that if I listened to all the parents that there is not a school in town fit for a kid :).  
You can’t make good decisions based on bad information.  Pray through the information you have.  Stay involved as a parent.  I will discuss this more in my next post, but Deuteronomy 6:4-9 shares the key for any educational paradigm - parental involvement!
Sending your child to one avenue of education over another is not a matter of automatic withdrawal, nor is it a recipe for successful engagement.  In any choice there is responsibility.  As a parent we have to own it.

Bridgette, thanks for your question.  I hope this helps.    

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