Fixing my eyes on Jesus

A lot of things have happened recently. We are in our fifteenth week of homeschooling, and the magic has disappeared. Maybe I mentioned that already in another post. I am not as excited as I was at the beginning, and homeschooling is not as “awesome” as I thought it would be.

Let me rephrase that. My definition of “awesome” was: effortless, leisurable, and comfortable. Homeschooling has been anything but that. Yes, it has been awesome, but my perspective on what “awesome” actually is has changed.

I heard this at a conference, you know – it’s not like I was clueless. They said this was going to be hard – that I should expect it to be hard.  What was I thinking? That somehow my children somehow managed to escape the Total Depravity of man? LOL! 

9 What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; 10 as it is written,

THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE;
11 THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS,
THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS FOR GOD;
12 ALL HAVE TURNED ASIDE, TOGETHER THEY HAVE BECOME USELESS;
THERE IS NONE WHO DOES GOOD,
THERE IS NOT EVEN ONE.”
13 THEIR THROAT IS AN OPNE GRAVE,
WITH THEIR TONGUES THEY KEEP DECEIVING,”
THE POISON OF ASPS IS UNDER THEIR LIPS”;
14 WHOSE MOUTH IS FULL OF CURSING AND BITTERNESS”;
15 THEIR FEET ARE SWIFT TO SHED BLOOD,
16 DESTRUCTION AND MISERY ARE IN THEIR PATHS,
17 AND THE PATH OF PEACE THEY HAVE NOT KNOWN.”
18 THERE IS NO FEAR OF GOD BEFORE THEIR EYES.”

– Romans 3:9-18 NASB

The children and I spent a couple of weeks memorizing these verses as we have been studying the true condition of man’s nature after The Fall of Adam and Eve. I am a loyal ESV Bible reader, but lately I’ve been using the NASB. It capitalizes the text of the New Testament every time the Old Testament is quoted. How amazing is that?

In Romans 3:9-18, the apostle Paul is simply quoting the Hebrew Scriptures. He quotes Psalm 14:1-3, Psalm 53:1-3, Psalm 5:9, Psalm 140:3, Psalm 10:7, Proverbs 1:16, Isaiah 59:7,8.

And it makes sense, right? That as Paul is making the case for the sinfulness of man, the Jews are affirming everything they hear. They probably are thinking those non-Jews are the worst, and then Paul goes on to say, that EVERY ONE is under sin, both Jews and Greeks [non-Jews] alike. For there is no distinction, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23)

During Bible time we have also talked about how the doctrine of Total Depravity does not mean you are as evil as you could be, but it does mean that the fall of Adam was so radical that the body, the mind, the will, the spirit—indeed, the whole person—have been infected by the power of sin. So our only hope then to overcome that condition is the mercy of God. We cannot just make some small adjustments or behavioral modifications, but we need a new heart. We need to be regenerated, we need to be born again from above. And as Jesus would explain to Nicodemus, being born into the kingdom is not a matter of man’s will, since flesh gives birth to flesh. But being born of the Holy Spirit is like the wind – it goes wherever it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes.

So how can someone be born again?

Do you put your faith in Jesus [pray a prayer or do whatever you need to do] and as a result of that action you are born again into the kingdom of God?

OR

You are born again from above [without your input, God changes your heart without your permission] and as a result you willingly come to faith and repentance in Christ?

I am convinced from the Scriptures that the latter is the biblical explanation for why anybody is a Christian. Anyways… it’s not new (at least in my own circles) that Reformed Theology has changed the way I see everything in life, and homeschooling is no exception.

I think this is what I have been confronted over and over again these fifteen weeks. My children were very responsive and excited the first week. They listened for the most part, and were obedient. Now, however, most of our days we are angry at our neighbor who is annoying us for the 24th time in the day…

 

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Civil War Weekend 2019

 

Libby and Enzo sit together side by side, and Enzo gets on her face all the time. Change seats, right? That’s the answer!! Well, nobody wants to change seats. Most of the classes they have to take together, so it is only natural that the older will be faster at some things, like writing or taking notes. The other morning, Libby started a whole argument in the bathroom trying to control the amount of time Enzo brushed his teeth. She is prone to have cavities so the rule for her is that she has to brush her teeth for two minutes using a small sand clock that she has. Enzo had one, too, but he broke it one day when he was angry. So… Libby was brushing her teeth and Enzo did not brush his teeth for the whole two minutes since she had already started with the clock. Well, that made Libby upset and she began bossing him around. He snapped at her about how he doesn’t have to obey her, and in retribution, she stuck her tongue at him and walked away.

Pretty funny, right? Although, it is not.

He then tossed his toothbrush full of toothpaste at the mirror, and made a mess which he proceeded to clean, but was having a difficult time cleaning. Then I realized all this had happened in less than two minutes, and I was not even aware of it. I was making my coffee in the kitchen and the only reason I got involved is because Enzo asked for help  on how to clean the mirror. I just asked him what had happened, and he got all hot again, which is and has always been a struggle for him – his anger. Then he began raising his voice at me, and I was not even part of this argument, but he began disrespecting me.  It took us probably more than ten minutes to settle the whole argument, with both parties involved, and without yelling at each other.

Everybody had to be confronted about their own sin in the situation, because everybody did sin. Libby was controlling to say the least, and then she showed contempt for her brother in sticking her tongue at him. I had a hard time not laughing when he told me he was upset because of that. It is hilarious for me as an adult who sees this from the outside, and has perspective on it, but seriously, what was happening in her heart at that particular moment that made her do that? I have showed contempt for people and for God. In a way, I have stuck my tongue at God when I have disregarded His ways, and have gone my own way.

Enzo, well, he lost control. He let his emotions rule. Yes, she sinned against him, so now how is he supposed to respond? Should he offer forgiveness or should he pay back evil for evil, and made a whole mess out of nowhere? Of course he was angry, and he had a good reason to be angry. One of the things I have learned to do in marriage is to overlook minor offenses, otherwise Emerson and I would be arguing more often!

How do we learn to do that? God is giving us plenty of daily opportunities to practice forgiveness while at the same time learning to confront sinful behavior by talking instead of throwing stuff at each other! God willing, this will be very helpful for their future marriages.

So this was the start of our day… we were just getting ready to start with Bible. I think that’s basically how all our days go – on and on throughout the day. Forget Math and Grammar, what gets me tired is fighting for the spiritual state of my children.

 

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North Houston Baptist Church Camping Trip 2019

 

A while ago I shared with someone that I was gonna be homeschooling my children. They looked at me in horror, I am not kidding – HORROR – and exclaimed, “WHY?!”

LOL! I did not take offense, this was not a Christian woman, so of course we had zero agreement on what matters the most in this life. But Christian or not Christian, situations like the toothpaste are exactly why we chose to homeschool. I don’t think I have ever written it all down. I have the privilege to address my children’s hearts as only I can. I get to disciple them and spend my days teaching them what matters the most in this life.

Who is going to teach them those things if not my husband and I?

Am I really naive enough to think that their home room teacher will? Even assuming the teacher is Christian, that person has no time in the day to address my child’s heart or the other twenty children in her classroom. They do not know my children. We never intended to get the children out of the public school system to put them in a Christian bubble in order to isolate them from sin. I am stuck with these little sinners every single day, and they are stuck with me. Sin is alive and well in our household. I guess it was way easier to send them over to school where somewhere else was bothered by their misbehavior. And what would the teacher do? Have a ten minute talk about sin and how sin gets in the way of our relationships? Of course not. So basically, at the end of the day I am exhausted, but I am so thankful we are doing this.

We are studying about other cultures, and other religions, and the questions have been great so far. I was not expecting Libby to ask me how do we know that Christianity is true.

 

You tell us all the time the Bible is true, and that every other religion is false. But the Muslim mother is teaching her children that Islam is true, and that everything else -including Christianity – is false. How do we know who is right?

– Libby

I froze for about five seconds LOL!

I didn’t have to deal with that question until I was 31 years old. Nobody ever prepared me to answer those things. And it is awesome that I get to use my spiritual gifts in teaching and preaching the gospel to my children over and over again [to my children – you know, in case you are not familiar with the uproar after Go Home].

The LORD has been so good to me and He has equipped me with so much knowledge and understanding about other religions, particularly Islam after living in India. It is a great opportunity that I get to teach apologetics and theology to my children. God has wired me with a passion for this, and it is great to be used by Him in that way. It doesn’t happen often (we do not follow a curriculum), but I think it comes often enough because we are studying the Scriptures every day. And as I write this post, I realize that the things that we have talked about have happened over a period of weeks, not necessarily in one sitting.

We have talked about the nature of truth claims, and how the most zealous sincere believers can be sincerely wrong. We have talked about how all religions share some truths together, but in reality, it is also nonsense to say that all religions teach the same things, because when you really study them side by side, they contradict each other at critical points. Simply said, Islam, Christianity, Jehova Witnesses, and Mormonism all have a different Jesus. For the JW, Jesus is Michael the archangel; for the Mormon, Jesus is the actual literal son of God who had sex with one of his many wives, brother of Satan, among other things; for Muslims, Jesus is a great prophet, but ultimately a man who, by the way, did not die on the cross (despite all the historical evidence from Jewish historians); and for Christians, Jesus is the Son of God, not a physical son, but of the same nature of the Father.

It takes a lot of time to go through many of those things. And I think that’s what I LOVE about being with them all the time. If I were not with them, all these hours that I am investing in their spiritual present and future would be spent somewhere else, with someone else, and they would be learning something else. They would still be discipled, but by other people. I know the LORD saves no matter what. He saved me, and nobody ever homeschooled me. God is mighty to save, but if I can spend this time with them, why wouldn’t I?

 

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He decided to get a haircut 😦

 

Ultimately, what I am striving for is to help them see what the Bible says about the condition of fallen man and how Christ is our only hope.

I have tried to make clear to them that if at any point in their lives (including right now) there is any real desire to follow after Christ in their hearts, that desire did not originate in their sinful hearts, but that God gave them that desire. Even though I believe their confession of faith is true, ultimately only God knows whether or not their faith in Jesus is genuine. And so, if they came to Christ is because it was granted to them by God, the Father, since nobody comes to the Son unless the Father draws him. That is the plain reading of the text.

We have memorized Romans 3: 9-18.

Who seeks after God? No one. There are no true seekers apart from the Holy Spirit already working in the hearts of those people.

Who is righteous in their heart that they fear the Lord? No one. So if they really believe, it is because God changed their hearts. How or when, I do not know. But I believe what Jesus said about the Holy Spirit blowing wherever He pleases, and we only see the effects of it.

If they are Christian, it is not because they are smarter than their peers, or because they are more reasonable than the unbelievers down the street, or more humble than other children or adults who refuse to accept Jesus. No. They are Christian because God had mercy on them. They are Christian because He chose to open their eyes. They are Christian because God chose them in Christ before the foundation of the world, that they should be holy and blameless before Him. Another plain reading of the text.  They are Christian because God, in love, predestined them to adoption to Himself as children through Jesus Christ, not according to their free will, or according to how amazing they are, because the text does not say that anywhere. If they are Christian, it is according to the purpose of His will, for the praise of his glorious grace. Therefore, they cannot really boast in their ability to choose for Christ, because if there is repentance and faith in their lives, even that is a gift of God, so that no one can boast.

So I guess, we pretty much are hanging on the mercy of the Lord at all times,  and that is a sobering thought. I have been very anxious about several things lately, and the original intention of my post was to talk about it, but I got sidetracked… I have been realizing that, literally, my every heart beat is a gift from God – every single time my heart beats depends on the LORD keeping it beating.

So apart from the grace of God, no matter how much evidence I could provide them so that they would believe Christianity is a factual, historical, reliable faith, they would never believe it anyway.  They cannot. That is exactly what the Bible claims. They are blind. They cannot please God on their own. Apart from Christ, they are God’s enemies. Apart from Christ, they are all alone in the world, without hope, following Satan. Apart from Christ, they are dead in their sins and trespasses, and by nature, children of wrath (Ephesians 1, Ephesians 2, John 6, Romans 5, Romans 8, John 3).

So they do not need evidence, the evidence is there, and will always be there. What they most desperately need is a miracle. They need the Holy Spirit to illuminate their hearts. They need to be born again. While I cannot birth them spiritually, I know that my prayers and my teaching of the Word of God to them are some of the means that God might use to bring them to faith. And even if He doesn’t, I am still commanded to do it. I need to trust God will glorify Himself through our lives.

This is basically why we homeschool. If we didn’t, we couldn’t compete with the 16,000+ hours that they would have spent in school. I want that time for Christ.

Oh, yes. Other than that, we are into crocheting, and rock climbing lately. My arms were sore for three days. I am also learning to play the piano 🙂

 

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Libby climbing.

Headache

More than anything, this is a post that I am writing to myself. I need to be reminded of these things at this moment, and will probably continue to be reminded until glory.

I had a terrible headache a couple of nights ago. I went running with the children in the morning, and I probably didn’t drink enough water after that, or who knows. So around 11 am, the headache began creeping in. It was one of those headaches where your head is not in full-on pain, but the headache is just there, lingering.  I didn’t have any medicine available that I could take, so I hoped it would go away.

We had such a busy day, that by the time we came home after running errands, I just couldn’t imagine making one more stop at the pharmacy to buy some Tylenol. I was miserable. Long story short, I had two pills at 8 pm, and went to bed. I was not really asleep, I was just closing my eyes in hopes that the medicine and the darkness in my room will make me feel better. Then, I told the LORD, “This really hurts, please, take this pain away.”

A headache is all it took for God to show me that He is in charge, and that I am, despite my illusion of power, not really in control of anything that happens in my life.

The next morning when I woke up, it was like I could SEE how my anxiety and all my first world problems had just gone away along with the headache. I was so relieved of that horrible pain that I felt happy. I was thankful that my head did not hurt at all. And I praised the LORD for that. That morning I also read this in my daily Bible reading:

Then the LORD said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD?

Exodus 4:11

For the last six months I have been going against something that I know it’s true theologically, but it seems to escape my heart again and again – that God is sovereign.

That word in itself – SOVEREIGNTY – has many different meanings to different people. I don’t think it is because there are many meanings – there is only one meaning – but most people do not like what it actually means. When I say God is sovereign, I mean that from all eternity God decreed everything that occurs, without reference to anything outside himself (Isaiah 46:10). God did this by the perfectly wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably. Yet God did this in such a way that He is neither the author of sin nor has fellowship with any in their sin (Ephesians 1:11).

All that seems like a lot if information, but writing these things helps me. There is more.

Since all things come to pass unchangeably and certainly in relation to the foreknowledge and decree of God (Acts 2:23), and God being the first cause, then nothing happens to anyone by chance or outside of God’s providence (Proverbs 16:33).  Yet by the same providence God arranges all things to occur according to the nature of second causes, either necessarily, freely, or in response to other causes (Genesis 8:22). In His ordinary providence, God makes use of means (Acts 27:31), though He is free to work apart from them (Hosea 1:7), beyond them (Romans 4:19:21), and contrary to them (Daniel 3:27) at His pleasure.

So, I believe that, biblically speaking, God ordained my headache. God used means to bring that headache come about; whether it was dehydration or stress, I don’t know.  God, however, can do as He pleases with me, and with my body – with my entire life, really,  He made me. I am His creature. He has that right over me. That is what it means for God to be God. And I don’t think this makes God evil, or mean, or in any way unloving when He brings about suffering in my life, because I believe that my suffering has a purpose. I cannot go over everything that I believe regarding the character of God in order to convince others that His purposes for His people are always good.

My point for this post is that my heart gets stuck when life happens and it struggles catching up with the theology in my head. There is this particular situation in my life right now that I have no control over, and yet, I find myself going at it as if I could actually make things happen… and it’s just not happening. And it makes me angry, and it makes me sad. And so that headache the other night reminded of how fragile I really am.

I am also being reminded that I don’t pray over the situation. I pray, but not as fervently as I should; therefore, I forget that prayer is also a means that God uses in order to accomplish His purposes.

It is simply staggering that God, the Sovereign Ruler of the Universe, would ordain that prayers cause things. Prayers cause things to happen that would not happen if you didn’t pray. I wonder if there are any Calvinists out there squirming…

– John Piper

Uh, yes… Me.

Just the other day while studying Astronomy with the children, I saw a picture of a basketball side by side with a peppercorn. That’s the difference in size between the Sun and the Earth! The whole Earth is a peppercorn. What about Mount Everest? It would be a speck in the peppercorn that is next to the basketball.

What about me? What size would I be, really, compared to the Sun then?

And what size would I be when I compare myself to God?

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And yet, this magnificent God, at the right time, choose to enter into His own creation to dwell among us! He freely humbled Himself, and had He not done that, I wouldn’t even be here. There are bigger purposes and bigger realities that the ones I can see. Sometimes (more like all the time) I suffer from tunnel vision. I hate that. When I pray about my situation, I pray for God to give me what I desire, but that is not the purpose of prayer. I think I am missing the whole point of prayer which is communion with God. The LORD of the universe hears me! What other thing can be more amazing than that?

So just for the last three or fours days after my headache, when I am tempted to ask why this would be happening, and why God is still not granting my desires, I just don’t question Him anymore. I don’t want to question Him. I really want to trust Him. If God can make people mute, deaf, seeing or blind, I’m sure He can change my situation, but He hasn’t, so I need to rely on Him.

I also believe that the perfectly wise, righteous, and gracious God often allows His own children for a time to experience a variety of temptations and the sinfulness of their own hearts. He does what He does to chastise them for their former sins or to make them aware of the hidden strength of the corruption and deceitfulness of their heart so that they may be humbled. I am actually experiencing this, and He is allowing that, too, to happen.

I have noticed that what I desire is taking precedence, and I can feel it in my heart. It becomes a must in my life, and that shouldn’t be. In my heart sometimes I desire my desires more than I desire God Himself. That is Idolatry 101.

God is humbling me. Uh… a headache knocked me out the other night. How foolish of me to think that I can be in control. I realize that my sin is bigger than I think it really is. I am not being faithful. I am not trusting that God allows this to lead me to a closer and more constant dependence on Him to sustain me, to make me more cautious about all future circumstances that may lead to sin, and for other just and holy purposes (2 Chronicles 32:25, 26, 31; 2 Corinthians 12:7–9).

I want to trust that whatever happens to me, happens by His appointment, for His glory, and for my good (Romans 8:28). And that DOES NOT mean that I will get my desires after suffering for a while. I am learning to trust God whether or not God gives me what I desire. I want to desire God more than I desire anything else, even if that means my desires will never be granted.

So that’s where I am lately. God will conform me to the image of His Son. I am resting on that 🙂