By Whose Standard, Part 2
Heart to Heart

     Battles are always fought for power and control with the very first in His story waged to gain power and control over the world. For our greatest enemy with all his spiritual forces continues to wage the fiercest of all battles for the hearts and minds of God’s children. However, never in the history of the world has our deadliest foe had such easy and unrestricted access to the hearts and minds of mankind. Computers, the Internet, emails, chat rooms, satellite dishes, cable television, DVDs, CDs, videos, stereos, radios, telephones, cell phones, books, magazines, billboards, bumper stickers, signs, labels, and more have created a very difficult challenge for Christian parents who desire to keep their children pure and holy.

     Of course, the obvious solution is to eliminate and restrict the enemy’s means of access to our children, but even we, who have taken great precautions to protect our children, still find it difficult to fully protect them. Although we don’t have a computer or watch television, we don’t send them to youth groups or learning centers, we home church and are very careful about their associations, what they read or listen to, the world continues to thrust its attack on them by bombarding them with billboards, bumper stickers, music and magazine covers at stores, foul language, obscene gestures, indecently clad people, and by the ungodly conversation of others.

     Like the Pilgrims, we would gladly risk dying in the wilderness to save our children’s souls from corruption, but unfortunately for us, there isn’t any virgin land to which we can flee. So instead we must be more vigilant than ever to continue to protect our children so as not to risk any further exposure to the dangerous, and ultimately deadly, influences of this world.

     Though we must live in this fallen world, there is in fact a well-worn handbook that we turn to every day for answers to our most perplexing problems. Interestingly, one of the things God tells us to do is to be shrewd as serpents (Matt. 10:16), which makes sense. When engaged in battle, it is always wise to take the time to understand the enemy’s stratagems and strategies, so we began studying the serpent’s first successful attack revealed to us in Genesis 3:1-6. Upon studying this battle along with subsequent verses that expose the enemy for what he is (John 8:44, 12:31, 14:30; Luke 10:18; Matt. 13:19; Rev. 12:9 and 20:2), we learned several very important lessons. Most important is that our enemy is very crafty and continually schemes against us (Eph. 6:11). Who are we dealing with but the most cunning of all warriors, who often disguises himself as an angel of light, while secretly desiring to devour us. We can never be too cautious in leaving ourselves unprotected, and we must never be too overconfident like Peter or underestimate his wiles like David because he knows best how to lure us to destruction through our own weaknesses.

     Carefully observing the tactics he used on God’s first children, we can see how subtly he plants doubt in our minds by causing us to question, “Indeed has God said?” From there he gently leads us to think God could be unfair by depriving us of something more wonderful than what we already have. Creating discontentment is one of our foe’s most powerful tools of destruction. “Indeed has God said that you shall not eat from any tree of the garden?”

     Then when he has our full attention, he makes a most compelling case with his smooth, persuasive speech to implant his false doctrine—lies! “You surely shall not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it you will be like God.” Now he’s opened the floodgate by appealing to the lust to make oneself a god and to the lust of our eyes as well. For “she saw … it was a delight to the eyes and that the tree was desirable to make one wise. And she ate.” And finally he uses the power of peer pressure, for “she gave also to her husband and he ate.” Sin almost always includes others.

 

Our Best Defense

 

     When God warns us that “bad company corrupts good morals,” we believe this applies to anything that keeps us company, whether it be the people we associate with, the books we read, the movies we watch, the music we listen to, or the activities in which we engage. For we are certain that everything we read, hear, or do shapes us for good or for evil, and as we are what we eat, our hearts and minds also become what we feed them.

     Even despite our displeasure at recalling images, ideas, and songs we were exposed to some thirty or so years ago, we can’t erase them from our minds. For this very reason, coupled with the understanding that the lives of most authors, playwrights, producers, musicians, and artists are riddled with evil, which indeed Satan will use to indoctrinate our children, it is imperative for us as their parents to be judicious when selecting the foods upon which our children’s minds will feast.

     Fleeing evil, which we are commanded to do, isn’t always so easy though because, more often than not, it is cleverly disguised in appealing, tasty morsels. Therefore, we must be diligent to carefully examine and judge all things by God’s standards by asking ourselves: Who is the source? What is their agenda? Do they have a biblical worldview? Does this honor God? Does this impart godly wisdom? Will this strengthen my children’s faith? Will this help them to put on the heart and mind of God? Is this true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, of good repute, excellent and worthy of praise (all of which God tells us to dwell on in Philippians 4:8)? Furthermore, we must realize, too, that although some things may not be overtly bad, the intemperate consumption of them could dull our children’s taste for healthier fare. For example, the excessive consumption of fiction, which often overexcites the imagination, could indeed dull the mind to truth. Apparent similarities could be made with action-packed videos or even action-packed days.

 

Our Best Offense

     Since our children are frequently exposed to the world’s philosophy and thinking, which are totally contrary to the heart and mind of God, it stands to reason that the best safeguard against false doctrine would be to daily expose our children’s hearts and minds to the heart and mind of God.

     What is our vision for our children? Have we laid hold of God’s calling on them and what He requires? God does not measure our success by our children’s completion of Calculus and Physics, but by how strong our children will stand when the storms come. It’s not about them making six figures, but how content they will be with what God gives them. It’s not about planning next year’s vacation destination, but the destiny of their children’s spiritual lives and laying out a course for fulfilling that destiny.

     Where have we come from, and where do we wish to take our children? Certainly not along the same path we traveled; yet familiarity feels safe, and the flesh naturally takes the easier, beaten path. For this reason it is imperative that we understand the failure of our own education to prevent us from making the same mistakes with our own children. Removing God from every subject and teaching each in isolation was most certainly a diabolical maneuver to keep us far away from understanding God’s purpose in history and His purpose for us, leaving us spiritually bankrupt. Adding a little Bible each day does little to alter this scheme or the outcome. So what does God really require of us, and what ensures success?

     “As for you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father, and serve Him with a whole heart and a willing mind; for the Lord searches all hearts, and understands every intent of the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will let you find Him; but if you forsake Him, He will reject you forever” (1 Chron. 28:9).

     “How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night, and he will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers” (Ps. 1:1-3).

     Are these the instructions we keep in mind when choosing curriculum and mapping out our journey? And if “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (Prov. 1:7), do we begin with ABC, 123, intensely laboring over these skills with little regard for God’s plan?

     Our Heavenly Father says, “My son if you will receive my sayings, and treasure my commandments within you, make your ear attentive to wisdom, incline your heart to understanding; for if you cry for discernment, lift your voice for understanding; if you seek her as silver, and search for her as for hidden treasures; then you will discern the fear of the Lord, and discover the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth comes knowledge and understanding. He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk in integrity, guarding the paths of justice, and He preserves the way of His godly ones. Then you will discern righteousness and justice and equity and every good course. For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul; discretion will guard you, understanding will watch over you, to deliver you from the way of evil” (Prov. 2:1-12). When we place God first, all the rest falls into place.

     “Let your heart hold fast my words; keep my commandments and live; Acquire wisdom! Acquire understanding! Do not forget, nor turn away from the words of my mouth. Do not forsake, and she will guard you…. Hear my son and accept my sayings, and the years of your life will be many. I have directed you in the way of wisdom, I have led you in upright paths. When you walk, your steps will not be impeded; and if you run, you will not stumble…. My son give attention to my words. Do not let them depart from your sight; keep them in the midst of your heart. For they are life to those who find them, and health to all their whole body” (Prov. 4:1-22).

     “In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight” (Prov. 3:6). “Continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them; and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:14-17).

     How intent are we in holding fast to these truths? God promises us that if our children diligently seek Him, meditate on His Word throughout each day, and acknowledge Him in all their ways, they will be successful and receive eternal life. How clearly laid out for us, yet how far we often stray from the course, allowing other things to take precedence over our most important task, subsequently leading to frustration and futility.

     We know that God’s greatest commandment is to love Him with all our heart, soul, and mind, but are we always true to our first love? Does He hold the most important place in our lives – really? Or do we rush through Bible to pursue more important academic endeavors? And do we relate the world around us and stories of prior generations to each other and to God’s purpose?

     “For in Him all things were created, both in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones, or dominions, or rulers, or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him” (Col. 1:16). If we hold His Word to be true that all things were created by Him and for Him, how can we possibly take Him out of everything we study, except of course for the little time devoted to Bible? If, however, we present His scriptures, His Story (History), and His world simultaneously, making God the focus in everything, will not our children understand what we did not—that all things work together to fulfill His plan? And will they not possess a deep reverence for their majestic Father as His mighty power, infinite wisdom, absolute authority, glorious holiness, and the vastness of His magnificent handiwork is revealed in all they learn? Oh, that our children may see the whole picture and truly understand that our God is God over all!

 

Give Me Understanding According to Thy Word (Ps. 119:169)

     Our intense passion for homeschooling stems from a deeply rooted knowledge of our Heavenly Father and from a deep appreciation for this knowledge. For our dear, merciful Saviour gave us another chance to really know Him through homeschooling our children. And the desire He gave us to give our children the very best education through homeschooling turned out to be His desire to give us the very best education on who He really is. As we learned with our children about God and His sovereign hand upon all of His story, the more we stood in awe of Him, the more we wanted to learn of Him, the more reverence we had, the more we were compelled to know. And for the first time in our lives, we came to understand God’s plan for mankind and for our own individual lives as well. We were blind, but He gave us sight to see. We were deaf from the din of the world, but He opened our ears so we could clearly hear Him and the voice of His angelic host praising Him. We were living on crumbs, but He brought us to His own banquet table, and now we feast there together with our family every day. Even though we must live in such a depraved world that is doomed to die, our Saviour has given us a rich life. And upon this foundation, we consider it a privilege and honor to share the joy and hope that is in us. If we could give every family something by which to enrich and sanctify their lives, it would be the glorious journey we have shared together homeschooling.

     On our quest for truth, foremost, above all else, we diligently study God’s Word line upon line and precept upon precept in chronological order from Genesis to Revelation, so that we may fully know God and understand His sovereignty upon His story. Jon leads us in hours of study where we read, discuss, define, cross-reference, locate on maps, take notes, answer questions, make applications, and commit to memory His truths, “so that we may not sin against Thee” (Ps. 119:11). To help us memorize scriptures, I purchase the five colored deck of index cards, so we each have our own colored set of Bible verses to study, which we review every day.

     During the day we also study all of His story chronologically from creation to modern history, integrating every subject into the time period we are studying, except for Math, which we study separately. (For more detailed information on our studies, history notebooks, materials used, and specific unit studies, refer to our book also entitled There’s No Place Like Home.)

     With no time constraints on our quest, we thoroughly study every time period covering location, terrain, the people, their language, their food, dress, religion, quality of life, their worldview, how God used them to bring about His perfect will, the consequences of their decisions, God’s curses and/or blessings, their response, their work ethic, how they made a living, their form of government, political decisions, battles and conquests, their leaders, heroes, authors, artists, musicians, architects, scientists, what they thought, how they lived, what they created, what posterity they left behind, and how it affected other cultures.

     Throughout the day, literally everything we study relates to His story as we analyze, discuss, define, and evaluate in the light of God’s Word. So instead of being a separate subject, segregated from all other subjects, God’s Word, precepts, and principles consume everything we do, which indeed is the very flame that has ignited our burning desire to learn all we possibly can about the Author of all things. Is it any wonder that the enemy has worked so hard to silence us and worked so hard to separate God from homeschooling?

 

Music and Art from a Biblical Worldview


     This brings us to the main theme of our newsletter this month on how we teach the arts from a biblical worldview. Works of art, whether they be crafted by the hands of writers, artists, musicians, or architects, wield a powerful influence on mankind for good or for evil because each work reflects the master of the artist’s soul, expressing either a message of oppression and depravity or one of liberty, holiness, purity, beauty, and purpose. One cannot fully understand His story without studying all people, and especially those who left their mark and impacted their fellow man. The art and music of a time period tells us much about the people of that time.

     Needless to say, most of you know that neither Jon nor myself are accomplished artists or musicians, but we can hardly contain our appreciation for the art and music of those whom God inspired to reflect His magnificent character. Calling such pieces “Masterpieces” is truly significant to us because we believe they reflect the Master of each artist’s life, as the artist captures the depth of God’s character and brings to life the richness of His personality on canvas, in stone, or in notes fit for the heavenly host. And the grace and beauty that they exhibit speak volumes to our souls, for each one is truly an act of worship.

     Think of Bach who said, “The aim and final end of all music should be none other than the glory of God and the refreshment of the soul. If heed is not paid to this, it is not true music but a diabolical bawling and twanging.” Based on this strong conviction, we know he wrote all his masterpieces “to the glory of God alone in the highest.”

     Dvorák spoke of his music as “God’s voice.” When Handel was working on the “Hallelujah Chorus” for The Messiah, he said that he saw “heaven before him and the great God Himself.” This glorious piece went on to inspire The Creation by Franz Haydn, who claimed it as his favorite oratorio because, “In The Creation angels speak, and their talk is of God…. I was never so pious as during the time I worked on The Creation. Daily I fell on my knees and begged God to vouchsafe to me strength for the fortunate outcome of the work.” Knowing that is truly a gift from God. And to know that Haydn’s cheerful music came from such a cheerful, content heart gives us deeper understanding of his faith, for he claimed that “when I think of my God, my heart dances within me for joy, and then my music has to dance, too.”

     Mendelssohn’s “Lift Thine Eyes to the Mountain,” Luther’s “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God,” and Heinrich Schütz’s last piece before he died, “Before Thy Throne I Now Appear” are all priceless gems, for we see that the great faith of these great men could not be separated from their work. So when we thoroughly study the lives of each of the artists, musicians, sculptors, and architects, it truly helps us to understand and appreciate their work and the mark they left on His story. It gives meaning to what we see and hear and leaves a lasting impression on our minds and an indelible mark upon our souls.

     Here are some recommended resources to help your family learn about various artists and musicians. Music Maestro by Aristoplay is a multilevel game that teaches preschoolers up to adults to recognize musical instruments and to identify them by their sound. The Gift of Music is an excellent resource for studying the lives of the composers. It also lists recommended selections of the musicians’ works, which is very helpful. Other resources are Usborne Story of Painting, Pleasant Hours with Great Painters, Famous Paintings: 100 of the World’s Most Beautiful Paintings, Masterpiece Coloring Book, Godly Composers: Color the Classics, and Music and Moments with the Masters. (As with all books, we are very careful. Some books we just use for the pictures. In the case of art books, we go through and black out the nude or lewd pictures before our children see them.)