Friday, December 22, 2017

God Has No Feminine Side

I hear the statement that God is both masculine and feminine or that God has both male and female traits now and then, and I think it is worth clarifying the issue because it is easy to be misled into an erroneous view of God. It is not uncommon to hear people claim that God could just as easily be referred to as Goddess or to hear them speaking of Him as Mother God or something of that nature. Even those who don't go that far might be a little confused about God's gender, if you will. So perhaps this will be helpful.

I should think it obvious that God the Father does not have a body and thus has no sex. He is not male or female and has no attributes of male or female bodies. So we must distinguish in this case between biological sex and personal attributes such as masculinity and femininity which could apply even to a spirit being.

What people often mean when they claim that God has both male and female traits is that God exhibits all the good traits which we attribute to both men and women, including some that we might associate more with one gender or the other (such as caring, nurturing, compassion for females or strength and courage for males). This part is true. God does exhibit all good traits.

However, such character traits are not necessarily either masculine or feminine. We often associate certain traits more strongly with masculine or feminine roles, but the traits themselves, in being good and noble, are not solely the province of either gender. A man can be caring or compassionate and do so without being feminine. A woman can be courageous or strong without being masculine. So the roles of masculinity and femininity are not merely a collection of traits.

I would claim that the underlying basis for masculinity and femininity are in their contrast to one another and their emphasis more so than individual traits, and especially their contrast with regard to authority and leadership. The masculine role is one of leadership, authority, protection, and provision with respect to the feminine and the feminine role is one of receptiveness, submission, vulnerability, and willingness to be led with regard to the masculine.

Given these definitions of masculine and feminine, as contrasts to one another rather than a list of traits, it does not make sense to claim that God has both masculine and feminine traits. Traits have no gender. Masculine and feminine refer to roles, not merely a group of traits.

Under this definition, God is only masculine because He holds only the role of authority, provision, protection, and leadership with regard to everything else that exists - His creation. God does not hold the feminine role. Ever. He submits to no one. He is not led by anyone. And thus while we can acknowledge that God can and does exhibit compassion, nurturing, and care for those in need, these do not make God feminine any more than they would make any man feminine. They are noble and good traits and have no inherent gender, even if the female sex is more associated with them, and perhaps exhibits them more often.

God's role with respect to His creation is the role of the masculine, and thus we should only refer to God with masculine pronouns. That is also, not coincidentally, the way that God has revealed Himself to us. It is a serious error to claim God is feminine, and we must be careful to avoid this error.

Friday, December 15, 2017

If You Want Children, Make Wise Choices

The common feminist advice given to women to live in the moment, travel the world, go drinking, hook up, and have fun in your 20's and even 30's and then settle down and be a mom when you've had your fill is absolutely terrible advice for many reasons.

1) A woman's fertility is not guaranteed. Waiting until the 30's or 40's to have children all too often means not being able to have them at all. Not naturally, anyway, and often reproductive technologies can't even help. Fertility, unlike travel or luxuries, won't wait. Use it while you have it.

2) Having children doesn't prevent women from having fun, as so many assume. Yes, children tie you down to some degree, but they're not little ball and chains. Your life isn't over when you have kids. In fact, having children helps us realize what really matters about life and have a far richer and more fulfilling experience than any party lifestyle will ever provide.

3) Being irresponsible, drinking, partying, and hooking up are terrible choices regardless of what age you are or whether or not you have kids. They're bad moral choices and also harmful in many other ways.

4) Being a party animal doesn't prepare a woman for being a wife and mother. Quite the opposite. It teaches her to live for her instant gratification and not consider others or the future. It teaches her to resent children as little burdens that stop her from doing what she wants to do. It teaches her to care only about herself. In short, it turns her inward rather than outward and fuels her natural selfishness, which is exactly the opposite of what is needed in a good mother.

5) Partying, drinking, and hooking up make a woman a bad wife, and bad wives are also, by definition, bad mothers. The kinds of habits that cause a woman to be a good wife, to knit her heart with her husband's, and to put others before herself also help to ensure that her children will grow up in the stable, married home they need. Premarital sex undermines marital stability. A habit of selfish indulgence doesn't magically end when the wedding is over. The habits we make follow us for a lifetime.

6) Selfish, irresponsible behaviors like drinking heavily and premarital sex cause disease and reduce a woman's chances of having healthy children. Alcohol kills brain and liver cells. Some STDs can be transmitted to a child, cause cancers of the reproductive organs, or cause sterility. Fertility isn't assured for any woman as she ages, but it's even less sure if she is engaging in behaviors that put her and her reproductive health at risk.

7) Smart, loyal men who want to settle down and have a family don't pick partying women for that role, and for good reason. The 30-something living weekend to weekend just to party or hooking up with a string of different men is not good wife material. So when she finally decides, in her mid-30's, after being all used up, that she wants a husband and children, she is very likely to find she has zero prospects. Men aren't going to marry her now. They're not stupid.

The bottom line is that women who want a husband and children need to plan in their teens and early-20's to pursue behaviors that help further that goal and prepare them to find a good man and make use of their fertile years. They need to be cultivating the kind of character that makes good wives and mothers. They need to be making wise and healthy choices. Those who do the opposite and think they can party like there's no tomorrow will likely find that their family goals never come true, and all because they made poor choices. For good or for ill, we reap what we sow.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

White Chocolate Hot Cocoa

My husband and I are very fond of white chocolate. To us, the very best kind of hot cocoa is white chocolate. We've tried a couple different brands, but they're expensive and hard to find. Then we found this Ghirardelli white chocolate powder, and it's awesome. It only comes in a big 50 oz can, but it's about 1/3 the price, ounce for ounce, as other brands and it tastes better. Plus, it can be used for more than just hot cocoa. It's just powdered white chocolate, so you can add it to coffee or cappuccino, dust cakes with it, use it for frosting, or any number of other uses. The hot cocoa is a great wintertime treat, and we like to curl up on on the couch with a hot mug and watch a movie after the kids go to bed.

Per serving:

8 oz milk
1-2 drops vanilla extract
3 tablespoons white chocolate powder
Whipped cream (optional)

Pour the milk into mugs and microwave until hot (around 1.5 minutes, depending on your microwave). Alternatively, the milk can be heated on the stove. Add a drop or two of vanilla extract and the white chocolate powder and stir until dissolved. Top with whipped cream for an especially decadent experience.

Note: This post contains affiliate links which do provide us with a small percentage of any purchase made through the link. All opinions are my own. Purchasing through the link does not affect your purchase price, but does help support this blog.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Should Christians Be Cremated?

It is common for people today to ask whether it is acceptable for Christians to be cremated. Many have a sort of vague idea that it's not okay, but don't really know why. Others instinctively believe cremation to be perfectly fine because it's accepted in our culture and they can't imagine what would be wrong with it. In times past, being buried was an extremely important issue to many, with some even believing that they could not enter heaven unless they had been properly buried. Sailors often wore a gold or silver earring in hopes that if their lifeless body were to wash up on shore, the precious metal would cover the cost of their burial.

But is it really all that important what happens to our bodies after we die? Is cremation wrong? To clarify the issue, it is helpful to ask a couple of questions.

1) Does being cremated prevent a person from going to heaven or having a resurrection body?

2) Should Christians choose to be cremated?

There is a distinction between these two questions that is not always apparent when discussing cremation, but I want to answer these questions separately because they are separate issues.

In response to Question 1, I think it's clear from scripture and scriptural principles that being cremated does not prevent anyone from being resurrected or going to heaven. God does not need an intact physical body in order to provide us with a resurrection body. A person can't be prevented from going to heaven by what someone else does with their dead body. Whether a body decays, is burned, is eaten by animals, or whatever else may happen to it, this does not affect the eternal future of that person. We are safe in God's hands when we trust in Him. We don't have to worry about whether someone will burn or otherwise destroy our bodies after we die. The early Christians were often fed to lions or burned alive, and they knew that they were going to be safe in heaven when their ordeal was over. Nothing that man can do to our bodies can separate us from God.

On the other hand, the symbolism and tradition of burial among Christians contrasted with the burning of bodies by heathens is not something to ignore either. Christians have always buried their dead as a symbol of the hope for bodily resurrection while many who reject God have used the burning of dead bodies to symbolize returning to the earth and a distinct lack of hope in a future resurrection.

Christianity has always taught that our bodies are not merely physical stuff that is irrelevant to who we are. We are not souls who have a shell of a body to live in for a time. Rather, our embodied existence was always intended to be an integral part of who we are. And that is why we will have resurrection bodies in heaven, because a part of our enjoyment of heaven comes from a physical experience and part of God's eternal plan for us is that we are to be embodied souls rather than just a spirit.

Thus, when we treat the physical body with respect during our lifetime and when we treat it respectfully in death by not purposely destroying it, we show our respect for God's plan that we are to be embodied creatures.

Burning our bodies is not respectful of our bodies or their Creator. Just as burning a flag is a way to show contempt for the flag and thus the country symbolized by that flag, burning a human body shows contempt for that body and the God in whose image that person was made. There's a reason so many enemies of Christianity burned the bodies of Christians - either alive or dead. There's a reason cultures all over the world often burn the bodies of their enemies. There's a reason burning a cross is easily discernible as a sign of disrespect. People burn things that are considered sacred to show that they do not hold them sacred or worthy of honor.

We should not treat our bodies with contempt or disrespect. Others may do so to our bodies after we die, and we cannot prevent that entirely. But we should not make the mistake of choosing to have our bodies burned because then we are the ones showing disrespect.

We should not treat the body as irrelevant or an anchor holding us down. Our bodies are given to us by God as part of His perfect plan. We aren't godlike spirits that need to be freed from houses of flesh, as some false religions teach. We don't need to escape our bodies to become perfect. Flesh is not intrinsically evil or base. Rather, God will perfect our bodies.

On the other extreme, we should recognize that our physical bodies are not the entirety of who we are either. We are not merely dust of the earth that will return to dust and that's all. We don't cling to the empty hope that we will live on by returning to the soil and being recycled into another living thing over and over as many atheists do.

Both of these extreme views - that the body is everything or the body is nothing - are a corruption of the correct and Biblical position that both body and spirit are integral and important parts of who we are. Choosing cremation or any sort of burning of the body claims either that the body is nothing, and thus can be disposed of with impunity, or that the body is all there is, and thus is not sacred. Treating a dead body with honor and respect means not purposely destroying it. The symbolism of burial affirms that we are not merely a body, but also that the body is sacred and important, not a useless shell that can be destroyed when we no longer need it. And that is why Christians have buried their dead for thousands of years, and why they should continue to do so.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Old-Fashioned Coconut Cream Pie

In case anyone was wondering, I'm a big fan of coconut. I have recipes on my blog for coconut cake, coconut-topped chocolate cake, coconut macaroons, coconut custard pie, and coconut pecan pie. Picking which one is the best is difficult because they're all so good, but I am leaning toward this one. It's so creamy and delicious. It's certainly the best coconut cream pie I ever had. Many of them are lots of fluff and not a lot of taste, but this one is richer and with a more substantial, homemade taste. Plus, it's not that hard to make. The most difficult part is waiting for it to cool and set up so I can eat it.

9 large graham crackers
1/4 cup butter, melted
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 cup flaked coconut
2 eggs
3 cups half-and-half
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup whipped topping (e.g. Cool Whip)

First, make the graham cracker crust. If you're in a hurry or cooking-impaired, you can use a store-bought crust, but it's easy and cheap to just make one. Chop the graham crackers into fine crumbs. I use a food chopper, but you could also place them in a plastic baggie and beat them with a wooden spoon. Stir in the melted butter and brown sugar until all the crumbs are moistened. Press the crumbs into a greased pie plate to form a crust. Bake the crust at 350 degrees for about 5 minutes. This helps melt the sugar and solidify the crust. Cool the crust. 

Toast the cup of coconut on a baking sheet at 350 for about 5-8 minutes, stirring occasionally so that it all gets evenly toasted. I do mine in the toaster oven where it's easier to keep an eye on it and doesn't heat up my whole kitchen.

Beat the eggs in a 3-quart saucepan. Stir in the half-and-half, sugar, salt, and flour. I usually don't keep half-and-half on hand, so I just mix 1-1/2 cups whipping cream with 1-1/2 cups milk to make my own half-and-half. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. It will thicken into a pudding. 

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in 1 tsp vanilla and 3/4 of the coconut. Pour into pie crust and smooth the top. Chill 4 hours or until set. 

Spread with 1 cup cool whip (or a little more, if you want) and top with the remaining toasted coconut. Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Going Back to a First Spouse After Remarriage: What Scripture Actually Says About It

I have seen a growing trend among certain groups of Christians to claim that those who are divorced and remarried are living in perpetual adultery and should divorce their second spouse and return to the first spouse. This is a very dangerous and unbiblical teaching.

It's somewhat understandable that people might believe this. We live in a time and place where divorce and remarriage are frequent and even the church has largely accepted it. In reaction against the common view that marriage is easily cast aside for any and every reason, some have tried very hard to go to the opposite extreme and consider marriage completely indissoluble. Yet rather than react, we must search the scriptures to find the right view.

Here are some Bible passages that show that second marriages are legitimate marriages and that divorce from a second spouse or a return to a first spouse is not permitted.

Deuteronomy 24:1-4 "When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favour in his eyes, because he hath found some uncleanness in her: then let him write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house. And when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another man's wife. And if the latter husband hate her, and write her a bill of divorcement, and giveth it in her hand, and sendeth her out of his house; or if the latter husband die, which took her to be his wife; Her former husband, which sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after that she is defiled; for that is abomination before the LORD: and thou shalt not cause the land to sin, which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance."

Notice that the woman's second marriage here is obviously considered a valid marriage and the scripture specifically says that she must not go back and marry her first husband again. Her second marriage was an act of adultery (according to Jesus), but it also broke the tie between her and her first husband such that it would be a sin if she ever went back to the first husband - even if her second husband were to die. That's very powerful proof that remarriage does produce a valid marriage.

Jeremiah 3:1 says much the same thing: "They say, If a man put away his wife, and she go from him, and become another man's, shall he return unto her again? shall not that land be greatly polluted? but thou hast played the harlot with many lovers; yet return again to me, saith the LORD."

Again, a second marriage makes it impossible to ever go back to the first spouse. This is clearly spelled out in scripture.

So while Scripture does intend for divorced people to reconcile with their spouse (I Cor. 7:11), that is only the case if they have not married anyone else. If a second marriage has occurred, going back to the first marriage would be a sin.

I Cor. 7:12-13 "But to the rest speak I, not the Lord: If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away. And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him."

Notice that, in this passage, even things which would normally be a sin to do (i.e. marry an unbeliever), once they are done, should not cause a divorce. One is supposed to carry on and not divorce, but live right from this time onward.

Some point out Jesus' statement that remarriage after divorce is adultery, and that is certainly true. It is a sin to remarry after divorce. However, the question is, if someone does remarry, whether the new marriage commits adultery as a one time thing or whether the new marriage is adulterous every day for the rest of their lives, which requires a second divorce in order to stop sinning. Jesus' statement, by itself, doesn't say which it is.

Some people assume, without proof, that the second possibility is the case without considering anything else. What we should do is use scripture to clarify that uncertainty rather than make assumptions. When we do that (as I did above), we see that the Bible teaches that a second marriage breaks the ties of the first marriage and forms a valid marriage, not continuous adultery, and thus that the first interpretation of Jesus' statement is the correct one. Remarriage is a one-time act of adultery, not on-going adultery, and the correct course of action is to remain faithful to the new marriage vows.

Another thing to consider, in addition to the Biblical case I already made, is God's purpose for marriage. God intends for marriage to be a stable, loving environment for the raising of children and also a picture of the love between Christ and the church. The idea that a person must divorce a second spouse is not only opposed to clear Scripture passages, but it runs counter to the plan God has for marriage. If a person has remarried, and especially if they have children in that new marriage, divorce only causes further harm to the people in the second marriage and any children they have. It is this damage that God hates. In fact, this kind of damage is the reason divorce is so harmful in the first place. Advocating further divorce to go back to a first spouse is telling people to cause more harm that God hates.

What it comes down to is that Scripture is clear that a second marriage breaks the tie of the first and the Bible never advocates more divorce. God hates divorce. He never tells anyone to divorce. What should happen when a divorced person comes to repentance is that they carry on, in whatever marital state they are in, and do their best to live for God going forward. If they can be reconciled to their first spouse, they should do so, but if they have married again, they should stay in that marriage and be faithful.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Modern Christians are Not Witnesses

One of the most unfortunate church-isms is the term "witnessing." It is usually used to refer to telling other people about Jesus or living a good life that makes people want to ask about our faith. You might, for example, hear a Christian say to another that they have been "witnessing" to their neighbors and inviting them to church.

The reason I say it's an unfortunate usage is not only because it's Christian jargon, and thus confusing to anyone who didn't grow up in church, but because no Christian living today is a witness. The original disciples of Christ who saw Him on earth and were there for His life, death, and resurrection were the witnesses. They actually saw those events. They witnessed them. We didn't.

We sometimes forget that not everything written in the Bible was said to us. We read the Bible looking for a special message to us, because that's what we were taught to do, when it's really an account of God's work throughout history, not necessarily a letter to us. It's for us, but it's not about us. So because of the misguided focus on ourselves, we often read a passage like Acts 1:7-8 and think it's talking about us when it's really Jesus speaking specifically to His disciples.

Acts 1:7-8 "He [Jesus] said to them, "It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth."

Like witnesses at a crime scene, the apostles and earliest believers saw the events of Jesus' ministry on earth and were instructed to tell others what they had seen. They wrote down their testimony in the gospels and the other books of the New Testament and they told their stories far and wide. They then died horrific deaths for that testimony, without recanting it. They were the witnesses, and it was their testimony that made it possible for us to know what happened and to believe in Jesus.

When we tell someone about the gospel, we aren't "witnessing" to them. We're telling them what the actual witnesses said about the events they saw. We should also tell them about the evidence we have that indicates those witnesses were not making up their story, but were willing to die for it. Their deaths were not in vain, but are an important evidence of the truth of their claims. We didn't see what they saw. So, while our lives are certainly important, we aren't witnesses to the truth of Christianity because we didn't see the crucifixion or the resurrection.

We Christians today are believers. We are case-makers. We believe the witnesses who told us what happened and we believe in Christ who came to earth, died, and was resurrected to prove that He is God and can forgive our sins. We must make an evidential case to others for the reliability of the eyewitness accounts handed down to us. We also invite others to examine the testimony of those witnesses and believe as well.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

The Purpose of Children

The number one reason Christian couples do not want children (or want very few children) is because they do not understand the purpose of children according to the Bible.

Our culture tells us children are for self-actualization. They're what you have when you're settled, financially secure, and need something to care for in order to give you purpose and also increase your social status or to make you feel good about yourself. But if children are for self-actualization, then you wouldn't want to have one when it might be difficult or get in the way of other types of self-actualization like having money for vacations or a big house or having freedom to travel or having time to yourself now and then. You certainly wouldn't need very many of them. A single child or maybe two is plenty and having more than that would result in diminishing returns or even negative returns as the workload and expense from multiple children mounts and people start to look at you funny due to your excessive procreation.

Because of this view of children, they are often seen as burdens when they cause us stress or expense or limit our freedom, but also as commodities to be obtained when we want one. People obtain children by surrogacy or sperm donation or IVF because they feel entitled to have one as part of their pursuit of self-actualization. Their life feels incomplete without a child, so they deserve to have one by any means necessary. So even when children are wanted, it is often for selfish reasons of the parents, not because they understand the purpose of children. And when children show up when they aren't wanted, they are seen as invaders or parasites and discarded through abortion or neglected. It's all part of the same false view of children as a means to the end of parental happiness.

Even in Christian circles, we repeat the mantra that children are a blessing, but we don't always understand what that means. We adopt the culture's attitude, but Christianize it. So we're still thinking that children being a blessing means a blessing to us. When you've got a crying baby at 2:00am or you're sitting in the emergency room with your child after they took a flying leap and broke a bone or you're dealing with a difficult teenager or you're doing your 4th load of laundry for the day and your toddler wets their pants yet again, there are a lot of things on your mind, but "This is such a blessing" is probably not one of them. Children are a lot of work and a lot of expense and even a lot of heartache at times.

So what does the Bible mean when it says children are a blessing? Yes, they are certainly a blessing to their parents in many ways, but it's much more than that. Children are meant to be a blessing to the whole world. Even from an earthly perspective, a child is a future worker, innovator, consumer, and contributor to society in many ways. We need children to keep the economy and our culture thriving and to pass it on to the next generation. Having a child is an investment in the future, not just for ourselves, but for the world. More importantly, a child raised in the nurture and admonition of the Lord is a light in a dark world, to lead others to Jesus and influence their culture for Christ. A child is a legacy to pass down a heritage of serving Christ to future generations. And perhaps most importantly, a child is an immortal soul who will live forever and is meant to praise and worship God and bring glory to our Creator. 

The purpose for children is not self-actualization of their parents. Children don't exist to make their parents feel good about themselves (which is good, because they don't always do that). Children exist to know and serve God and to be used by Him to change the world, or at least their corner of it. Having children and raising them, for a Christian, is a way of helping to bring the world into subjection to Christ and bringing more people to heaven. It's not about the parents and what makes them happy. It's about fulfilling God's plan. 

Every Christian, whether they know it or not, is on a mission to serve God. Having children is an important way of doing that because they're a way to multiply the impact and take that impact down through the years. Even for those who can't have biological children of their own, children are still important and we are all called to foster the growth of the children around us in whatever ways we can. If you can have children, have them because they're part of your mission for God to impact the world around you for many years to come. If you can't, encourage those around you who are having children and help children who need your influence in order to know and love God.

Children are worth the pain and the work and the expense many times over, but not because they make the lives of their parents so wonderful. Sometimes they do, and that's great. But let's not overlook the bigger picture. It's not about the parents. It's about implementing God's plan here on earth and populating heaven with more people to glorify God.

Friday, July 21, 2017

The Most Important Mission Field

There is a mission field that is more important than any other and it is often neglected in Christianity today. If you thought I was going to tell you all about a distant land in need of missionaries or remind us to tell our friends, neighbors, and coworkers about the gospel, you might be a little surprised. Our children are our first mission field. Those of us who have children have a number one mission from God to train and disciple our children in the ways of the Lord. We should prioritize them over every other mission field. Both men and women alike should focus on family first because our children are specifically given to us by God for training in the Christian faith. If we lose them, we have not only failed to win them as converts, but have been poor stewards of the souls God gave into our charge.

The Bible speaks of those who gain the whole world and lose their own soul. Their priorities were wrong and they lost that which was most valuable. Something similar is true of those who gain converts out there in the world but lose their own children.

This need to teach and train our own children first is evidenced in many places in scripture. In the OT, God's people were instructed to train their children at home, when they went out, and everywhere they go and in everything they do (Deut. 6). This requires not only a lot of time and effort, but it means parents have to be with their children in order to train them in the things of God. This has always been God's model for how children are to be raised by those who follow Him.

The New Testament includes the parable of the unfaithful steward (Luke 12) who did not properly care for the things entrusted to him and also speaks in the parable of the talents (Matt. 25) about the servant who did not invest what was given to him, but hid it and did nothing to bring an increase for his master. In these and other cases, the clear teaching of the Bible is that we are most responsible for those things which have been specifically entrusted to us. Of all the precious things entrusted to our care, the greatest is our children, who are specifically said in scripture to be gifts from God. If we fail in that stewardship, other gains we may have will pale in comparison. Yes, we should save the lost out there, but only after we save the ones God gave to us to train.

The need to train one's own children is also implicitly assumed in the qualifications for church leaders, who must be men with a reputation and record of not only remaining married and being self-controlled, but raising their children correctly so that they remain in the faith and are obedient to it (I Tim. 3). How can a man lead the church if he cannot lead his own wife and children properly? The clear indication is that he can't, which tells us not only that this is important, but of primary importance. The church leader must prioritize his own family so that they are properly led, before he can lead the church. And if even the church leader must prioritize his own family over the other work of the church, how much more the ordinary church member. We are all called to make our children our first mission field, with every other mission field secondary.

On top of that, women are specifically called to make their home and family their primary mission, even more so than men. Men must ensure that their children are in submission to their authority and being trained properly, but their wives are the ones who put most of the actual time and effort involved in this mission, because women are the ones called to be in the home caring for the children.

One of the major problems we have today is that too few have their family properly prioritized and they spend their time and effort everywhere but on their family. What we need is more Christian people who are teaching and training their children and building their marriages so that they can make a difference from a place of strength - a strong family that works together for God - and also be good stewards of what God has given them. This is not just about saving individual souls, though that is important, but about the intended purpose of the family to create, equip, and send out new soldiers to change the world for God. We can literally multiply our efforts to make a difference for Christ through properly trained children who continue the mission beyond us, in generations to come.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The Importance of Doing Little Things for God

Our culture pushes people to value fame and fortune and doing big things, and our churches have too often adopted this view, but "Christianized" it. Now, rather than just living a quiet, faithful life and serving those around them, Christians are taught to aspire to do big things for God. They all need to aspire to be the next Billy Graham or Ravi Zacharias. The "good" Christians all want to be missionaries or pastors or have a multi-million-dollar ministry of some kind.

This push to only value the famous Christians or those who do something big and important and unusual for God is part of the reason so many women want to become pastors and missionaries. If that's what a "good" Christian is, then how could God prevent women from being the best kind of Christian?

But in reality, most Christians are not called to do something big and famous for God. They're called to serve others where they are. They're called to raise a family and impact the people already around them for God. The greatest in the kingdom of God isn't necessarily the one whose name everyone knows, but rather the servant of all. That's what Jesus said.

The faithful husband who works hard to provide for his family and comes home and teaches his children about God and occasionally provides evidence for Christianity to his coworkers is doing what God wants him to do. The diligent wife who spends her days serving her family, keeping her house, and training her children in the faith is doing important things for God right in her own home.

It's not just the people "out there" who need our help. It's the people right in our own homes and communities too. I have mission field right here in my home - three little souls who need me to guide them, serve them, and raise them to know and love God and a husband who needs my support and love.

Some people are called to do more - to become pastors or missionaries or evangelists, to have an online ministry, to write books, or other things which impact a larger circle than just their family and acquaintances. But not everyone. We should all do what we can, with the priority on serving our own families first, then a larger circle as we have time and energy. Too often, the push to do bigger things results in wrong priorities and the family suffers while mom or dad spends their energy helping everyone but their own spouse and children, the very people they are most called to serve.

We aren't all called to be missionaries, teachers, pastors, or earth-shakers. But we are all called to make disciples. That can happen right where we are. In all the rush to make converts, sometimes we forget that making disciples is more than that. It takes a lot of time and effort to train someone to develop a Biblical worldview so that they are prepared to remain steadfast in the faith, serve God on their own, and impact others. Making a convert is just the first step. Some people are really good at this step and do a lot of it, but most of us are called to primarily foster the growth of these converts - to disciple them.

It takes a lot of little things to serve God, being faithful every day to share, teach, encourage, and serve others in various ways without getting much notice from the rest of the world. Whether we're raising babies or baby Christians, it takes time to mature them. There are many potential disciples and disciples-in-training right where we are. Let's not forget to serve them.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Baked Oatmeal

This tasty baked oatmeal is mildly sweet and just a little bit eggy, but also very hearty and nutritious. It is best served warm with a little milk on top.

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
2 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup milk
2 teaspoons baking powder
Pinch of salt
3 cups rolled oats
2 tablespoons flax meal (optional)

Mix all ingredients together until well-blended. Bake in an 8x8 baking pan at 350 for 30-40 minutes or until the middle is set and the top is browned. Serve warm with a little milk or ice cream.

I discovered that flax meal (i.e. ground flax seeds) works very well in oatmeal and particularly this recipe. The nutty flavor works well and the omega-3 fatty acids and fiber in the flax seeds make this a very healthy and tasty addition. My kids love it.

As for the sugar, the original recipe that I modified called for a full cup of sugar, but that seemed too sweet to me. I use about 3/4 cup and it's still plenty sweet. For those looking to reduce sugar even more, it can easily be reduced to 1/2 cup or even less.

Monday, May 15, 2017

The Myth of Socialization in Schools

One of the most common questions people have about homeschooling is "How do you get your children socialized?" They seem to think that socialization is something you need schools for and that children who don't spend all day in the presence of their peers are somehow deficient in social skills. This is false.

One of the primary reasons for this confusion is that a lot of people think of "socialization" as the kind of environment you get in public school. You know - all the cliques and after school sports and spending a lot of time with people exactly your age while looking down on younger kids and looking up to older ones. But that's not socialization.

Children are best socialized by spending a lot of time with adults and children of many ages, but especially adults. They primarily learn how to be social by learning from those older than themselves how to act in social situations. They don't learn how to be social from other kids their age who are still trying to figure it out.

In no other area of life do people think you need to learn things from similarly clueless people. You don't learn how to be a doctor by learning from other medical students. You don't learn to be an electrician from other students in electrician training. 16-year-olds don't learn to drive from other 16-year-olds. In every case, you learn from those who are more experienced.

Socialization is the same way. Children need to spend large amounts of time with adults who can teach them how to behave properly and interact socially. Learning primarily from their peers, who don't know yet, teaches bad behaviors and peer-dependence (which the Bible warns about, by the way), not a well-balanced social understanding.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Men Should be Providers and Women Should be at Home

Given the needs of children for a full-time caregiver who knows and loves them, it is important for one of the parents to stay home and provide that care. That's a controversial idea in our culture today, though it shouldn't be. However, many people who accept the idea of a parent staying home with the children claim that it doesn't matter which parent stays home. It could just as well be the father as the mother, couldn't it? But no, that doesn't work nearly as well.

There's a reason that societies have historically had separate and distinct roles for the man and woman such that the father works to provide for the family while the mother stays at home with the children and cares for the home. Even in our modern society, it makes a lot more sense for the man to be the main breadwinner and the woman to stay home. Here's why.

1) Every family needs someone to build a steady career, and it's a lot harder for a woman to do that when she keeps taking time off to have babies. It's even more of a problem for her career if she breastfeeds and provides the nurturing that a baby needs specifically from the mother for at least the first year. The man is in a position to build a career more effectively than a woman simply because of biology.

2) Men are tasked with the role of provision. It is the man's responsibility to ensure that his family has the needed resources to survive - food, shelter, money for necessities, etc - in ways that don't apply to the woman. Men are called to be providers.

3) Men are naturally designed to gravitate toward provision and to gain satisfaction from working to provide in ways women do not. On the flip side, women are designed to gravitate toward caring for children and keeping a home in ways that men are not. Women are more in tune with the needs of children and have a greater ability to multitask, which is needed when keeping a home and caring for children. Men are designed to focus strongly on a task and a vision, which is often advantageous for the kinds of work needed to build a career and provide for a family. Men generally have an outward focus toward the world while women are more naturally oriented toward the home. In addition, many jobs that are needed by society involve hard physical labor which men are well-suited for and women simply are not. The physical and mental aptitudes of men and women lend themselves better to a division of labor that involves the woman staying home while the man earns.

4) The relationship between husband and wife thrives far better when they have traditional gender roles that involve the husband as main provider and wife at home. Studies have shown that wives respect their husbands more and have more sex with him when the wives do the housework and the man does the providing. Men and women are not only physically designed for traditional roles, but mentally wired to appreciate the opposite roles in a spouse as well. Women have a far harder time respecting and being attracted to a husband who fulfills a womanly role like caring for children or housework instead of providing.

5) History tell us that men have produced the vast majority of civilizational advancements when motivated by the desire to provide for their families. Societies are safer, more productive, more innovative, and more stable when men apply their specific manly skills to the problems their society faces. The greater aggression, strength, and focus of men are a huge advantage when applied to the workforce, technology, protection of the weak, and many other areas that require men to leave the home and work. Women simply don't have the same skills or the same drive.

6) The Bible specifically tells men to provide and women to keep the home.

Titus 2:3-5 tells us "...that aged women likewise be reverent in demeanor, not slanderers nor enslaved to much wine, teachers of that which is good; that they may train the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sober-minded, chaste, workers at home, kind, being in subjection to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed..."

Meanwhile, men are told in 1 Timothy 5:8 "But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever." It is men who were told in Genesis that the sweat of their brow would be needed to provide food for their families.

There are many reasons, both Biblical and practical, that indicate that men are to be the main providers for the family while women are needed to tend the home and children. This isn't about being stifled or pressed into arbitrary roles, but rather a fulfillment of the inherent design of men and women and also a matter of providing best for the specific needs of children. Men, women, and children do better when these roles are preserved, the marriage is stronger, and society flourishes. 

Monday, January 30, 2017

What Women Should Do to Prepare for Marriage

The church and culture today do little to train or prepare women for marriage. In fact, they often teach or encourage bad habits that undermine preparation for marriage. Chief among the harmful philosophies women absorb is feminism, which tells them they don't need a man and don't have any specific womanly roles in a marriage to even prepare for.

In reality, there are a number of things women should be doing to prepare for marriage. Here are just some of them.

– Studying what their role would be in marriage and what their husband’s role would be and embracing this vision for marriage.

– Understanding the authority hierarchy of marriage and how important it is.

– Studying apologetics so they are prepared to teach their future children about the evidence for Christianity.

– Practicing proper submission to authority, self-control, wisdom, care for children, house keeping, and other godly traits for wives.

– Learning to build up a man through encouragement and support.

– Practicing good money habits so that they will be able to live within their husband’s income and frugally so as to lighten his burden of provision and ensure that she can be home with the children and not forced to work. This includes, at minimum, avoiding debt of all kinds and avoiding unnecessary spending on luxuries.

– Practicing teaching children and learning about their needs and how to care for them.

– Learning to control their tongues to avoid being bossy, argumentative, nagging, vulgar, or foolish with what they say.

– Developing a feminine attitude and demeanor that embraces their God-given and uniquely feminine traits and abilities.

– Practicing discretion and modesty in all things.

– Being chaste and having a proper understanding of Biblical sexuality, which includes sex being only within marriage but given freely within marriage, and also understanding what sex means to a man.

– Learning how to resolve conflict peaceably.

– Learning how to place others first.

– Keeping in shape and developing good eating habits and hygiene.

– Learning to cook healthy, nutritious, and delicious food and to do so frugally.

– Learning to clean and organize a house effectively and to keep it maintained in a state of order and cleanliness.

– Learning wisdom and proper priorities in life so that they are prepared to provide wise help to a husband and not blow issues out of proportion.

– Evaluating men on character traits and practicing being attracted to good character over looks or style. Also, realizing that there isn't just one soul mate out there who will show up at the proper time, but that there are only better or worse choices that she can make (and that she will have to live with).

– Getting what education they can without going into debt. This would ideally be in a field that will help with future training of their children (science, math, education, child development, etc) or that provides skills to help a husband or run a household (bookkeeping, home economics, gardening, canning, etc).

I’m sure there are others as well, but these are some of the major ways that women can prepare for marriage. There's a lot more to it than most women know. Not all of these need to be complete before marriage, of course. There's always more to learn. But working on these areas and having an awareness of the gravity of marriage and the skills required of them will make women better prepared to be good wives and mothers.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Feeling Used and Unrealistic Expectations

I hear from women fairly often that they don't like sex because they feel their husband just wants their body and they feel used. There are women out there who have really selfish or abusive husbands, but many times when women have this feeling, the problem isn't the husband being awful. It's the wife having unrealistic expectations.

For one thing, men don't have quite the expectations about sex that women have. In many cases, men want the sex itself while women want everything around the sex like feeling close. And while women like to integrate everything, men tend to think of things separately. Women tend to multitask, but men tend to focus. While a woman is wanting sex to be everything about their relationship all rolled into one, with appreciation for minds, emotions, bodies, and abilities as part of the experience of sex, men are usually just wanting to focus on the physical at the moment. So when that happens, women might think they're only being appreciated for their bodies and they get offended. But it's not that they're only being appreciated for their bodies. It's just that appreciating her body is what the man is focused on at that time.

There's a scene in the old Cary Grant movie Arsenic and Old Lace where Cary Grant's character, Mortimer, has just eloped and he takes his brand new wife back to her house to pack her things for their honeymoon trip. He's chasing her around a tree in the yard, hinting at how much he's looking forward to that night, and tells her she's so beautiful. She responds by saying "But Mortimer, you're going to love me for my mind, too." He says cavalierly, "One thing at a time!" He's focused on just one thing at the moment, and it's not her mind.

There's nothing wrong with that. It's okay for men to have that urge and fulfill it within marriage. It's okay for a man to appreciate his wife's body without also paying homage to her mind every time. People used to understand this. The movie came out in 1944. Today, it would be called sexist. But you can't change human nature. It's okay to focus on just the physical sometimes. It doesn't always have to happen on the woman's more emotional turf, where she is most comfortable. It doesn't have to be all candles and going slow. It can be raw and needy and gritty and crazy too sometimes.

If you get your ideas about sex today from Hollywood or pretty much any kind of media, they depict sex as both man and woman crazed for each other and can't keep their hands off each other and it just happens. And it's usually so romantic. Candle-light and soft music, staring into one another's eyes, etc, etc. The problem is, this is not real life.

I'm not saying sex can't be romantic. Only that it isn't always romantic, and it doesn't have to be. And you don't have to both start out equally passionate. It's okay to start and then get warmed up as you go. It's okay to not be in the mood, but engage anyway and let yourself get carried away.

When you're married, you're not the only one who matters any more. You're one with someone else. And if they have a need, you have a need too, even if you don't feel it. Meeting that need might take some sacrifice sometimes.

It's okay for sex to sometimes be about meeting a need or giving to the other person and not about romance. That's not being used. That's being unselfish.

Being used is when you have sex outside God's plan - outside marriage. Those people in the movies who have all the candles and music and can't keep their hands off each other, but aren't married? They're using each other. It looks like romance, and our society tells us that's the proper context for all sex - some feeling of love and passion. But without a marriage, they're using one another. They wake up in the morning and they have no commitment to one another. They walk away, not giving of themselves, but thinking about what they got from one another. A feeling. For a little while.

In marriage, it's different. In marriage, you belong to one another, so there's no taking from one another. You're not being used. You're fulfilling the vows you spoke to one another. You're doing what you're supposed to do together.

Ladies, embrace your husband wanting your body and revel in his appreciation of it. There are times for appreciating minds and times to just be physical together. Learn to love the way you can both drive your man crazy and satisfy him too. God made you to do this. It's not bad to embrace the physical side of your relationship, and that side isn't less important than the emotional or mental side. Your marriage needs both.

If you need to make some changes to make it feel better or to add some romance, that's fine too. But don't fall for the world's idea that sex without romance is necessarily bad or being used. When you belong to one another, giving freely to your spouse is a gift to yourself as well.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Foil Dinners

This isn't so much a recipe as a set of guidelines and ideas for making your own. There are about a million different ways to make foil dinners and they're so easy and can be customized for every member of the family. I'll tell you how I usually do it and also give some other ideas. Then have at it yourself to make it the way you like it.

You start with about a 2-foot-long piece of aluminum foil. I recommend the non-stick kind, but you can use the ordinary kind with a little spray of non-stick cooking spray in the middle.

Add your raw meat first. I use a hamburger patty. You could use chopped steak or cut up a beef roast or even use a chicken breast instead. Season the meat as you prefer. I like the Kroger brand hamburger seasoning or McCormick's Montreal Steak seasoning on hamburgers. Then just put the meat in the center of the foil.

Next add potatoes. I recommend red potatoes with the skin on cut into bite-sized chunks. You can use yellow potatoes or russets too. They can be chunks or wedges or those tiny little whole potatoes. Mix a little butter or olive oil with the seasonings of your choice. I use salt, pepper, garlic powder, and either rosemary or Mrs. Dash. Toss the potatoes in the oil and seasonings until coated and pile them on top of the meat.

Add veggies of your choice. Carrots and celery are my favorites to go with hamburger. My husband and I are not big fans of onion, but if you like onion, it would work well in this. You could do broccoli with chicken. Be creative and use what you have. Just chop the veggies into smaller pieces as needed and pile on top of the potatoes.

Then when you're done, take the ends of the foil and pull them up over the top and crease them together, then roll them over a couple of times to make them stay. Take the sides of the foil and fold or roll them up until you have a bundle of foil that is relatively sealed, with all the food inside. Place on a cookie sheet or in a baking pan and bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for one hour.

That's it! When it's done, it's ready to serve. There may be some oil and liquid in the bottom of the foil, so be sure to keep a tray or plate under it at all times or it will make a mess. You can eat it out of the foil or transfer the contents to a plate (which I recommend).

Not only can you customize this recipe to your preference, but you can customize it for every member of the family. If some of you like onions and others don't or you have a child who doesn't like celery or different people like different seasonings on their meat or potatoes, it's easy to make everyone happy. Each person's meal is in a separate piece of foil, so it's easy to make them different if you want to. You can even have the kids prepare their own if they're old enough. Then just put all the foil bundles on cookie sheets and cook them at the same time.

It's great for singles too who want to make several meals at once with minimal time invested and yet don't want every day's meal to be exactly alike.

If you have a person with allergies, this also allows you to make their food different by leaving out things they are allergic to while everyone else can have it in theirs. If allergies are an issue, be sure to put the special foil dinner on a different cookie sheet or baking pan as liquid may run out of the bundles and thus cross-contamination could occur.

Hopefully, you'll have fun making foil dinners as they're an easy solution for dinner that makes everyone happy. Be sure to leave a comment if you find an especially helpful tip or combination that you would like to share. Enjoy!

Thursday, January 19, 2017

The Effects of a Contraceptive Mentality

The topic of contraception is a controversial one in Christian circles. There are a number of common "contraceptives" that have the real potential of ending a new human life and thus can act as abortifacients. There are other methods that do not, but that some still claim are immoral. Some believe you can use some forms of contraception morally while others believe that any type of pregnancy prevention is sinful. And there is much to be said on that topic which I will not discuss here.

But even if someone has no problem with contraception per se, there is a real danger in having a contraceptive mentality - a mentality that children are burdens to be avoided, that sex has no link to procreation, and that our fertility is and should be completely under our control.

This contraceptive mentality is not only a false view in that it does not match reality, but it leads us astray from God's plans in many ways. Here are just a few of them.

-It teaches us to think of children in terms of what they can do for us or how they fit into our plans instead of what they can do for the world and for God.

-It causes us to think that children are commodities - to be obtained when we want them for our own personal happiness - instead of the precious gifts from God that they are.

-It prevents us from fully embracing the procreative potential of the marital act and the blessing that comes from being open to new life.

-It encourages immoral sex by taking away one of the major consequences that often caused previous generations to think twice before engaging in an act that can create a child.

-It leads to a culture that sees babies as the enemy of sex and encourages disposing of them to avoid the responsibility of parenthood.

-It gives women a false sense of security about their own fertility, leading them to delay marriage and childbearing, with often tragic results.

-It separates dating and marriage from parenthood such that many people neglect to choose their dating and marriage partners according to criteria that would make them good parents.

-It produces many unplanned, and even crisis, pregnancies from people engaging in sex when a pregnancy would be difficult or in situations where there is no stable home to raise a child.

-It harms children born out of wedlock and raised without married parents.

-It removes the norm of openness to new life within marriage and makes decisions around childbearing and parenting more complicated.

-It causes married couples to see their fertility as a liability and their intimacy as something that must be medicated instead of a gift.

-It prevents people from planning properly to be able to afford children, leading them to make life decisions that would make providing for and caring for children difficult.

While contraception is not necessarily inherently immoral in that it is possible to prevent pregnancy without sin, a contraceptive mentality is extremely destructive to individuals and to society at large. And once it has become culturally entrenched, it is so often accepted without thought by even those, such as Christians, whose worldview would normally contradict this mentality. That is why it is so important to examine our views in the light of scripture and develop a comprehensive Biblical worldview rather than uncritically accepting the prevailing views of the culture.