Monday, May 09, 2016

OCHEC Conference, Notes


Nadine and I had the joy of attending the annual conference of the Ontario Christian Home Educators' Connection (OCHEC) this past Friday and Saturday at Redeemer University College in Ancaster.  The conference featured keynote addresses from Jonathan Lewis, the editor of Home School Enrichment Magazine and Mike Farris, the founder of Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) and the founder and chancellor of Patrick Henry College.  In addition to the keynote speeches there were numerous workshops covering a myriad of topics pertinent to home education and other related issues.  There was also a large group of exhibitors displaying all the latest curriculum materials for parents to browse and/or purchase.

 

All in all it was a great weekend.  My mom graciously came over and watched our daughter during the day and they had a blast together.  As for Nadine and I, though with a 4-month old in tow we were limited with respect to the amount of activities we could participate in, we still found the weekend to be a rewarding experience (even though Nadine got sick on Saturday....  thankfully she is feeling better now).

 

I am hoping to make several posts with summaries of the various workshops which we participated in.  The first is below, it was the opening address from Jonathan Lewis entitled, 'Strength in our Convictions: Eight Reasons Why Homeschooling is Worth It'. 

 

Though the talk was primarily directed at parents already homeschooling, I hope all parents will take the time to consider his points below.  When people ask me why we are planning to home-school my response is that 'It is our conviction that Christian education is the God honoring path which parents should take, and who better than parents to carry out that task'. 

 

I usually get the 'that's nice' response, both from Christians and non-Christians and a frank discussion rarely ensues.  It can be difficult to discuss this subject with other parents; I feel that this is because many parents can feel threatened when someone questions their parental choices.  Is it a matter of personal preference, or does the Bible speak clearly regarding education?  How can the principles of wisdom found in God's word lead us to correct conclusions on this subject?  I hope these are questions we are all willing to ask. 

 

Emotions aside, I hope that all parents can consider objectively what God requires of us and where the path of wisdom leads with respect to educating our children.  I found the points below to be well worth contemplating.

 
_______________________________________

 

Strength in our Convictions: 8 Reasons Why Home-Schooling is Worth It

(Jonathan Lewis)

 
Homeschooling is about convictions.

1.  Without God Learning is Empty:

 
-"What shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world yet forfeits his very soul?" 

 -secular education has been set up as society's saviour, but it cannot save (Christ Alone can save!) 

 -Theology and Anthropology are the two most important subjects (Theology, Who God Is - Anthropology, Who We Are)

-Secular education by definition leaves God out - but how can we leave out the very foundation of knowledge? 

-education without reference to God is dishonoring to our creator and builds on a foundation of sand that is sure to collapse.
 

2.  Virtue is More Important than Academics:

-it is evident that there is a crisis of character in our world today

-character training simply does not take place in public schools today

-despite good intentions of some teachers, with 30 students 'character training' often amounts to crowd control

-one teacher cannot nurture and develop 30 students by themselves
 
-character is king, and a child with character makes a better student

-education should prepare our children for a life of virtuous service to others, and is ultimately training for eternity
 

3.  There is more to School than Books:

-there is success you cannot quantify on standardized tests

-life itself is the test and education should be about life itself

-with homeschooling life is our curriculum and the world is our classroom

-virtue is its own reward, and a life lived for Christ trumps academic achievement

-homeschooling combines the best of both, it is statistically better academically speaking


4.  No one can take care of a child better than their own parents:

-the experts are not more qualified than you are

-studies have shown that greater amount of schooling in education (i.e. M.A. in Education) does not correlate to better teacher performance

-if God has given you specific children he has also equipped you to educate them


5.  There is no such thing as an 'average child':

-mediocrity is the wellspring of uniformity

 -classrooms are like assembly lines of education with a 'one-size fits all approach

-homeschoolers can be free from the 'grade-level' mentality
 
-children can be gifted in out subject and struggle in another, homeschooling gives more freedom to spend time where it is needed

-one-on-one time from a parent who loves and cares for their child far more than any teacher cannot be beat

 
6.  Socialization Isn't Everything: Better no socialization than bad socialization.

-the best is positive socialization that is accomplishes a purpose

-"It is better to be alone than in bad company" - George Washington 

-schools are heavily peer based (e.g. 30 students, one teacher)
 
-"Do not be deceived 'Bad company corrupts good morals'" (quoted by the Apostle Paul, 1 Cor.15:33)

-the Bible warns even adults regarding the company that they keep

-remember the warning - "do not be deceived", many people are deceived about this

-"whoever walks with the wise will become wise, but a companion of fools will suffer harm" (Proverbs 13:20)

-"folly (foolishness) is bound up in the heart of a child" (Proverbs 22:15)

-when children spend time with other children does their behaviour improve or deteriorate?  (it deteriorates!)

-Prov. 22:15 continued - "but the rod of discipline will drive it (folly) far from him" 

-it is the parents role to teach and disciple their children in accordance with the principles found in the word of God

-better socialization takes place in spending time with family, parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and church family, sunday school teachers, pastors and mentors

 
7.  Not Just about Education, it is about lifestyles:

-it is a mistake to view all educational options as equal

-every educational approach comes with a distinct lifestyle that influences family life, from subject matter to scheduling to homework etc.

 -homeschooling is the superior choice because that is how God designed and established the family from Genesis

-Deut. 6, "when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, when you rise up", this is describing a lifestyle
 

8.  The Product is a Result of the process:

-education is not a neutral process

 -leaving God out of school is not neutral, it is actually teaching children that God is not relevant or important (infers a sacred/secular divide)

-it is a mistake to believe that as long as a child is educated it doesn't matter how it happened

-the road we follow dictates the destination we arrive at

Thursday, December 03, 2015

Jesus’ promises “To the one who conquers”.


Jesus’ promises “To the one who conquers” from Revelation Chapters 2,3 -

"I will grant him to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God."

"He will not be hurt by the second death."

"I will give him some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it."

"To he who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father.  And I will give him the morning star."

"He will be clothed in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels."

"I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name."

"I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne."

Those who keep God’s works to the end, who have been united to Christ by faith and who die in Him are the ones who conquer.  In this life we are conquering, in death the full victory is suddenly realized.  (see Romans 8:37-39)


The word conquer can also be translated ‘overcome’ as in Jesus words -
 
Be of good cheer, I have conquered the world”
 
And as in 1 John 5:4-5 -
 
“For everyone who has been born of God conquers the world. And this is the victory that has conquered the world—our faith.  Who is it that conquers the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

 
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.  And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”  And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment.
 
The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son.”



We may look at death in deep sadness– those feelings are right, because ‘it was not so from the beginning’.  Death often comes in tragedy - we lose a friend, we lose a Kingdom warrior, we lose a loved one, and we do not understand God's purposes in the loss. 

We lose, but through Christ they have gained the victory.  It is not their loss, but their promotion - from daily battles in this weary world to a seat with Christ on his throne, ruling and reigning with Him until he comes.

Hats off to the ones who have conquered, may we, by faith, keep God's works until the end and follow in their footsteps.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Christ Our Hope.

With the poor election result, our nation doubling down on immorality it is easy to become discouraged - but take heart, what God has promised he is also able to perform.

" For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense will be offered to my name, and a pure offering. For my name will be great among the nations, says the Lord of hosts." - Malachi 1:11

Too many Christians today are stuck in a pessimistic outlook and I must admit that I am prone to this myself at times.  We must be constantly reminded that we should not take our worldview from the pages of the newspaper, but the pages of holy scripture.  God has promised to exalt his son among all the nations -  

"All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations will bow down before him,for dominion belongs to the Lord and he rules over the nations.  All the rich of the earth will feast and worship; all who go down to the dust will kneel before him—    those who cannot keep themselves alive.  Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord.  They will proclaim his righteousness, declaring to a people yet unborn: He has done it!" - Psalm 22:27-31

One obstacle I see to an optimistic view of the cause of Christ in our world is faulty eschatology.  For the uninformed 'eschatology' is merely the study of the "eschaton" - the last things.  Many Christians think we are living in the last days and things will only go down hill toward the tribulation.  In that scenario our best hope is to be raptured off this place before the sky falls.  Such ideas have been made popular by many radio teachers and book hucksters.

Though the scriptures do speak of difficult times in the last days - we need to remember that scripture refers to the last days as the entire time since Christ has spoken to us (Hebrews 1:2).  We have been living in the last times so-to-speak since zero A.D. Yes there have been terrible times, but the scriptures also holds out great hope for the future, such as the prophesies mentioned above.

It makes me sad when an extremely prominent Christian leader at a prominent evangelical conference here in Ontario tells 500 pastors that 'revival doesn't last'.  When I heard those words at the recent TGC Conference in Toronto I felt like a knife went through my heart.  The statement doesn't even make sense from a historical perspective, considering we are still living on the spiritual capital of the Great Awakenings -  and that those Awakenings spawned movements of global missions which are currently evangelizing the entire world.  But what is worse is the implications for the future - I wanted to tell Dr. Carson that his lack of faith disturbed me.  Yes men's hearts are sinful, but Christ is greater!

If our Christian leaders can't raise their eyes above a hope for mere mercy drops, who will storm the throne of heaven EXPECTING showers of blessing?  Who is praying for revival that will change the shape and face of our nation for over a thousand years?  Why should we pray for such things?  What is our hope for the future?

Our hope for the future rests on God's promises - the gates of hell shall not prevail, our Kingdom commission is guaranteed by the one who governs all things by the council of his will.  

I have some questions for the pessimists.  In his love for his Son would the Father ordain that majority of the world reject his sacrifice?  Is the Spirit unable to break the heart of stone?  Did not God "make known to us the mystery of his will - to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ." ?

If anyone is interested in learning more about eschatology a great sermon to listen to can be found here -->
  

While I don't agree 100% with every detail of the message, he makes some excellent points and proves (I trust) that the scriptures teaching about the end should give us GREAT HOPE for future gospel blessings.

I have transcribed the text of the last several minutes of the sermon below:

Richard Cameron "The church of Christ is to be so exalted that it’s members shall be made to ride upon the high place of the earth.  Let us not be judged to be of the opinion of the 5th monarchy men, who say that Christ will come in person with all the saints and martyrs and reign 1000 years on earth – but we are of the opinion that the Church shall be more high and glorious, as appears from the book of Revelation, and the church shall have more power than ever she had before.”

James Renwick said this “There have been great and glorious days of the gospel in this land, but they have been small in comparison of what shall be…”

And so James Godfrey, when he was about to be hanged, and the rope was around his neck - he lifted up the napkin from over his face and he cried out ‘The covenant, the covenant, shall yet be Scotland reviving!’ – He knew he wouldn’t see it in this world, but he knew the cause for which he was about to die would flourish again, and it will. 

And whether we live to see it or not, the Lord will perform all his word - what he has promised he is able also to perform.  Let us aim high in our doing and in our praying. 

The Post-millenialism flavoured Larger Catechism question 191 reads –

“In the second petition (which is, Thy kingdom come), acknowledging ourselves and all mankind to be by nature under the dominion of sin and Satan, we pray, that the kingdom of sin and Satan may be destroyed, the gospel propagated throughout the world, the Jews called, the fullness of the Gentiles brought in; the church furnished with all gospel officers and ordinances, purged from corruption, countenanced and maintained by the civil magistrate”

Do you pray for those things?  You should!

When we pray thy Kingdom come, we pray for the coming of the Kingdom of Glory, for we pray for the advance of the Kingdom of Grace –that’s what we should have in our minds.

John Howe the Puritan said, lamenting the lack of belief in these things said – “We expect to see what we have been wont to see and men are apt to measure their faith by their eyes for the most part in reference to these things.  Only that can be done, which they have seen done and men are hardly brought to raise their faith and expectation higher than this…  why should it be thought an incredible thing that there should be a resurrection of religion?”

You say – ‘Oh the Puritans were men of their times’ Rubbish!  It’s us.  It’s us, the men and women who are influenced more by what we see rather than what God has said.

And so we look around us, we see the cause of Biblical and reformed truth at a low ebb and we think it will always be so, and will never be much more than it is – we stagger at the promises of God.  Abraham didn’t and neither must we. 

He will do it, He will perform His pleasure He will fulfill all that he has written – and we are to pray and to labour in that blessed stream of those whose hearts have been attached to that cause which shall yet have it’s resurrection day in this world.  “The ends of the earth shall remember, and they shall turn unto the Lord”, “the zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform it.”

AMEN AND AMEN




Friday, January 09, 2015

Of cartoons and vile men...


I find the offensive cartoons to be interesting from a Christian worldview perspective. 

 

 
I found this to be a good article by Ross Douthat and I agree with Ross's statements in some respects.  However, given mocking is making fun of someone or something in a cruel derisive way, one which intends to cause emotional harm to others, as I Christian I do not believe that mocking is a God honoring course of action.

 
Ravi Zacharias has said that in Christianity there is an equality of persons but a hierarchy of ideas.  When it comes to mocking of Islam however I don't see how you can separate the idea (religion) from those who practice it.  What is needed is not mocking, but speaking the truth in love. 

 
I believe it is Biblical to feel  a righteous repugnance for Islam and those who promote it, along with an intense pity for those who are lost in Islam, following a false prophet and offering  false worship to what is not God.  Isn't this the way God feels?  We worship the true God who "hates all evildoers" and "abhors bloodthirsty and deceitful men", yet at the same time "is not wishing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance."

 
How do we balance the instruction to "if possible, as far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all", while exposing Islam for the lie that it is?  Obviously there is a need to gently instruct, speaking the truth in love, reasoning from the scriptures, however as has been amply demonstrated a certain portion of Islamic adherents are certainly not open to listening to reason.

 
That said, I don't think we as Christians should have anything to do with the cartoons.  At the same time we need to up our efforts to dialogue with Islam in an effective manner, using persuasive words, not inflammatory means.  Dialogue is what is needed.  There will always be those who take even dialogue as offensive and (to borrow a Biblical phrase)their condemnation is just. 

 
For those who are so filled with hate and violence that they seem beyond hope: we serve the God who brings hope to the hopeless and who can change any life by his grace.  "God my King is from of old, working salvation in the midst of the earth."  We need to declare our trust, increase our faith and rest on that truth.
 
 

 _____________________________

  
 

On another note, though somewhat related, to be honest, when I see stories like what has happened in France, my guttural reaction is that I want justice, and I will be willing to take up arms to get it.  I am sure I am not the only one who wished he was there, and armed, and was able put three bullets into each of the attackers. 


But I wasn't there, and now it is over, yet I still long for justice for the murderers and I am filled with anger in my spirit at times when I think about it.  These are sickening, vile men and (rightly or wrongly) I feel like David in Psalm 139: " Oh that you would slay the wicked, O God!  O men of blood, depart from me!"

 
In all honesty, I want vengeance.  I think everyone feels that way to some degree, and hopefully these men are caught and are brought to justice.  That said, perhaps they will escape, and live out their life in luxury somewhere in Pakistan or who knows where.  I don't understand how those who have no belief in a final judgement deal with these things emotionally, thankfully I am not in that situation.


Last night it took some time in the Word to get to a place of peace and this morning I feel more like the David of Psalm 131.  "O Lord, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things  too great and too marvelous for me.  But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me..."

 
"Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”  To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.”  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."  (Romans 12:19-21)

 
Last night I asked the Lord for comfort and he brought me to Psalms, 73-77:

 
"For behold, those who are far from you shall perish;
    you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you.
But for me it is good to be near God;
    I have made the Lord God my refuge,
    that I may tell of all your works."  (Psalm 73:27,28)


 
"For not from the east or from the west
    and not from the wilderness comes lifting up,
but it is God who executes judgment,
    putting down one and lifting up another.
For in the hand of the Lord there is a cup
    with foaming wine, well mixed,
and he pours out from it,
    and all the wicked of the earth
    shall drain it down to the dregs." (Psalm 75:6-8)
 

Yet in the midst of these guarantees of ultimate justice we trust that "God my King is from of old, working salvation in the midst of the earth." (Psalm 74:12)

Thursday, January 08, 2015

"As for murderers... "

On the bus this morning I was discussing world affairs with another rider and the conversation came to the recent events in France and the connections with ISIS in Iraq. 

The fellow told me that the problem with these radical Muslim terrorists is that they are not afraid to die. 

I thought about that as I was walking from the bus to my office.  Upon consideration, I don't think that is the problem.  The problem is not that these folks are not afraid to die, but that they are not afraid to kill.

I am a Christian, and I am not afraid to die.  I believe in Jesus Christ, the resurrected one, who has conquered death for those who put their faith in him.

I am afraid to kill though, as Christ has taught me that he "will require a reckoning for the life of man." 

Only a sad and perverted religion could mock God's command "thou shalt not kill". 

A poor deceived people.  "As for murderers...  their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death."

Sunday, January 04, 2015

It is a New Year

I don't really do resolutions, but these verses have been on my mind this past year and my ruminations for the new year are centered around the ideas contained here.


"But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.  Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn!  But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells."
(2 Peter 3:10-13)


________________



 "Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet."
(1 Corinthians 15:24,25) 


__________________________



"For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.  Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw—  each one's work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done.  If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward.  If anyone's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire."
 (1 Corinthians 3:11-15)

Friday, December 19, 2014

Historicity of Jesus



I wrote the below quickly this evening as a letter to the editor after finding the ridiculous article below on 'thespec.com'.  Sad that many may read it and genuinely question the truth about our Lord on such erroneous grounds. 

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I find it astonishing that your newspaper would post such an article as -


- on the front page of ‘thespec.com’ right at Christmas time. 

There is no question amongst historians that Jesus existed, in fact to suggest otherwise amongst academia is laughable.  If you seriously question the fact that Jesus existed you must by extension question the existence of every historical figure of antiquity.  We can be sure Jesus existed because of the extra-biblical evidence coming to us through secular historians, the sheer volume of records contained in Biblical manuscripts, and the historical impact of Christians (followers of Jesus Christ) that has shaped the western world and beyond for two millennia.

The article in question states that, “the first problem we encounter when trying to discover more about the Historical Jesus is the lack of early sources.”  This is factually incorrect.  We have direct references to the existence of Jesus in no fewer than nine secular historians and writers of antiquity including: Thallus, Phlegus Josephus, Pliny the Younger, Tacitus, Hadrian, Suetonius, Lucien of Samosata and Mora Bar-Serapion.  On top of these writings there here are also references to Jesus in the Jewish Rabbinic writings known as the Talmud.

Additionally, the sheer volume of New Testament writings in existence testifies to the historicity of Jesus.  Take a comparison between the writing of the early historians Herodotus or Tacitus against the New Testament.  There are 8 copies of the manuscripts of Herodotus the earliest of which can be dated to 900 AD, nearly 1300 years after the history he claims to record.  In the case of Tacitus we can find up to 20 manuscript copies of his Roman histories, with the earliest copies dated to 1100 AD, 1000 years after the history he claims to record.  Now, compare with the New Testament: there are 5686 Greek manuscripts in existence today for the New Testament with conservative estimates placing the earliest copies at the beginning of the 2nd century only 70 years after the events they claim to record.  The comparison is staggering, yet do we question that the Peloponnesian wars occurred (Herodotus) or the existence and events of the life of the emperor Nero (Tacitus)?  The gospel writers clearly imply they are writing history and sometimes state such explicitly  (see Luke 1: 1-4).  The level of skepticism required to deny such well attested documents is mind-boggling.

Finally, during this Christmas season as well over two billion Christians prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus I wish to know how those who would question historical existence of Jesus account for his historical impact?  Could a figment of the imagination truly be the source of a faith which has changed the course of human history more than any other force?  That seems extremely implausible to this writer.

I was surprised that the article was posted on a professional website such as ‘The Spec.com’, you have lowered my estimation of your newspaper.  The article posted was misleading, factually incorrect and academically laughable.  Please stick to real news and leave the Jesus haters to act as trolls on your comment boards instead posting them as front-page news.

Yours Truly, 

Andrew Smith