Thursday, June 21, 2018

Caption #13

Wow, that was a lot of fun! I didn't think I'd get nearly as many wonderful responses as I did! Thank you everyone who sent in a caption: Abigail, Alex, Amy, Arianna, Audrey, Carla, Danny, Debbi, Faith, Isaac, Kathy, Natalie E, and Samuel.

As I received each caption, I couldn't help but laugh. Some were similar, but all unique, and each one was so much fun to read! My favorite caption was sent in by Danny, but second place was tied between several of you. Here's Danny's caption:

I don't mind all the kisses, but how will I ever break it to her that I ain't turning into a prince?
Isn't that so funny? I can picture the lizard thinking exactly that. Thank you, Danny! Some of the other fabulous captions are below.
Amy: "Introducing ... The Great and Powerful Lizard of Oz!"
Alex: "I've never seen a tree talk before!"
Carla: "I know she can't see me, I know she can't see me . . . wait, I thought I was a chameleon—oh no, she sees me!"
Kathy: "How many times did you have to shed your skin to be that super?"
Samuel: "Are you Goliath?"

I hope you enjoyed this as much as I did! Let me know if you'd like me to do another at some point. :)

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Dear Fathers, Grandfathers, and Future Fathers

This goes out to all the amazing guys out there, but especially to my dad and grandpa, both the best of the bunch (though I'm probably a bit biased). :) Happy Father's Day!

Dear fathers all over the world, thank you for all the times you love on your children, show them they're special, and take care of all their physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. You are one of the most influential people in your children's life, so thank you for when you show them how to either be a good father and husband, or what to look for in a future husband. Thank you when you imitate your Father in heaven. As the leader of your household, treat your children with love (including discipline) and instruct them in the ways of the Lord. Proverbs 22:6 tells you to "Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it."

Dear grandfathers all over the world, thank you for spending time with your grandchildren, and raising your children to be Godly parents. You are an incredible role model and mentor to so many around you, whether your children, grandchildren, "adopted" children, or the neighbor down the street. Look for how God wants to use you in your community, and remember that each stage of your life is something special. Job 12:12 reminds you, "Wisdom is with the aged, and understanding in length of days."

Dear future fathers all over the world, thank you for the times you pray for your future wife and children. Thank you for putting effort now into being a good father and husband later. You are the next generation who will have the responsibility of determining the course of the world; this starts with your family. Thank you when you respect your parents and siblings, and put God first. Obey your parents now and learn all you can from them and any Godly elders around you. Never compromise on your beliefs; rather, rely on God to give you strength to do what is right as your fulfill your roles in the body of Christ. Honor all girls as your sisters in Christ. Second Timothy has lots of wisdom for you. "So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart." Proverbs 3:1 also instructs you: "My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments."

Dear fathers, grandfathers, and future fathers, "Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong." (1 Corinthians 16:13) Each of you has such important roles at all stages of your life. Don't dwell in the past, don't focus too much on the future, but enjoy where God has you right now. Never resent where you are, and pour your everything into being the man God has called you to be. Thank you for all the times you honor Him.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Caption This #13

By request, today I bring you a "Caption This" post. For those of you who are newer to my blog, this is a series of posts I ended in 2015 when people's interest seemed to taper off. But after a couple years, it's time for the thirteenth edition!

Here's how it works: Contemplate the image below, and decide a funny way you would caption it. Leave your suggestion in the comments (or email me) and I'll re-post the picture with my favorite caption. For some samples, click HERE to see the previous rounds. Have fun!

What's the lizard thinking?
I'm looking forward to hearing your funny ideas! Thanks for participating! I enjoy connecting with my readers through fun games like this. I'll post my favorite within a week. :) God bless you all!

Monday, June 11, 2018

Smell the Flowers

A few months back I was blessed with the opportunity to attend a local high school retreat/campout with one of my youth groups. The youth group was calling it "Pause," signifying the goal of the weekend was to get away from everyone's hectic lives and take a break to breathe and get some time alone with God. It worked.

The time I spent at Pause gave me an opportunity to take a much needed time of relaxation, and reminded me of the importance of taking time to just rest. In today's culture, everyone is always busy. There's a never-ending list of things to do, places to be, and people to catch up with. Sometimes it feels like you're only falling further behind, and never catching back up. It doesn't take long before you're overwhelmed, exhausted, and feeling like you're failing. It's an easy trap to fall into. And a hard one to climb back out of.

I still haven't found the secret to avoiding this pitfall, but I've found a few things that help. One of my biggest is stop procrastinating when I need to do things, and not keep "finding" distractions. But another thing I've found that helps, is allowing yourself some time to stop and rest. Give yourself a break. As one of the other youth groupers put it, take time to smell the flowers.

It's unbelievable how much it helps to take a few minutes, a couple deep breaths, and calm down. Giving yourself permission to rest is key. Don't worry about everything on your to-do list. Just go outside, enjoy God's beautiful creation, read a book, photograph, journal, do whatever is relaxing to you. Forget the stresses of life—allow yourself to rest. And just breathe.

Recently, my "theme song" has been Jonny Diaz's "Breathe." I'd highly recommend it if anything I've said today resonates with you.

Don't wait until school lets out or you get a break from work. Take time right now, this summer, and through the rest of the year to pause, take a breathe, smile, and thank God for your many blessings. Be refreshed and don't regret the moments you spend. Take time to smell the flowers.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Top 10 Questions People Ask Me About Homeschool

I've been a proud homeschooler since third grade. At first, it was hard to leave my friends at school, but it wasn't too long before I fell in love with the homeschool atmosphere. Time with family, taking trips to locations I wouldn't otherwise be able to, the ability to pursue my interests, and a freedom I hadn't experienced before were the main highlights resulting in much closer relationships with my parents and younger sister. For these past nine years, homeschool has been one of the best things that has happened to me.

However, despite my enthusiasm for homeschool, there are many people who are curious, and some even skeptical, about homeschoolers. It's a foreign group of students. An unusual type of family. A rather odd decision. Without further ado, I give you ten top questions people ask me about homeschool (and my responses).

1. Why did your parents decide to homeschool you? // Why are you homeschooled?
Probably the most common question I'm asked, my go-to answer is simply: because my parents felt that God led them to. No, they aren't "anti public school" people, they simply felt God was calling them to pull me out for awhile. At that time, they thought it was only going to be for one year to correct some attitude issues I was having. However, by the end of that year they decided to do . . . one more year. And so on until eventually I hit high school and we realized unless God suddenly changed our course, I would be homeschooled the rest of my education until college.

2. Do you like being homeschooled? // Do you wish you were in public school?
YES, I love being homeschooled! I would never trade homeschool for public school. Nothing against public school students, but my personal preference is absolutely homeschool. When I think about just my few years in a public school surrounded by ungodly influences and how that affected me, and then I hear about high school experiences . . . . *shudders* I'm so blessed to be educated from home. The closeness as a family, trips we can take, and bonds I form with other homeschoolers are among my favorite aspects. I enjoy talking to skeptics and proving all their ideas about "homeschoolers" wrong. And I'm so grateful not to have an hour plus long bus ride to school each way. It's much faster to wake up and walk to my desk.

There have been times I've wished I was in public school, but only to have more friendships, and to be a witness for Jesus in the public school system. I would be challenged but so grateful to have more opportunities to share my faith with non Christians, and help them find the love and hope of Jesus Christ.

3. What's it like to be homeschooled?
I like to think it's a lot like public school in the sense that I still have school every day, still have the same core subjects (plus many more awesome subjects), and still have a schedule to keep. However, it is also understandably very different. Instead of spending two or more hours on a bus, I can use that time to do homework and visit with my family. I can help more easily with projects my family has, take more vacations during the off season (like to Disneyland and Yellowstone Nat. Park), and study more subjects I enjoy (i.e. cinematography, photography, calligraphy, marine biology, apologetics, blogging, Constitutional literacy, horses, etc.).

4. Do you do school in your pajamas? // Is it nice to sleep in till ten every day?
Unfortunately, I don't do school in my PJs, though I probably would if I didn't have to feed our horses first thing in the morning. As for sleeping in, I can't have that luxury for the same reason. Country life = no sleeping in. :) Besides, even without the horses, I still need to be up and start school by 8 in the morning. I don't sleep in as late as I want. I have a schedule to keep just like other students, although from time to time I can sleep in a little longer.

5. Can't you just take the day off and catch up another day?
Sometimes yes, sometimes no. It's not quite as easy as it sounds to "just take a day off." True, I have more flexibility choosing which days to do school, but I still need to get in five days a week, and I still have work on the weekends. So although I am occasionally able to take a day off to participate in an event, it's not always as easy as it sounds to catch back up on what I didn't do that day. I don't have infinite days to take off/make up; even if I got sick, that day just becomes my "day off" for the week, but I still need to complete the assigned work later.

6. Does the state give you your curriculum and grade your work? // How do your parents choose your curriculum? // How do you take tests?
Although some "homeschool" students have state textbooks and curriculum, these are more accurately considered independent studies students. I'm the type of homeschooler whose parents don't use a single program, but they select which subjects I'll take that year and then choose the best books they can find for that subject. It's a lengthy and pricey process, because the state doesn't provide funding, but the textbooks they've found for me have been almost all from a Christian perspective, extremely well done and interesting, and taught me far better than many other curriculums that I've seen. Sometimes, they find them through hours of online research, and other times through recommendations or attending homeschool conventions. Through some of the material they've found, subjects I had never enjoyed much made sense and came alive and these became some of my favorite classes.

As for the tests, I grab a pencil and start filling in answers. Simple as that. Like I said above, my curriculum, therefore my tests, are not state generated or graded. They come with the various curriculums my parents have chosen and my mom grades them using the teacher book/answer key. On occasion, she generates her own tests for a given subject. Few of my tests are only true/false or multiple choice; they are fill-in, short answer, or essays so that I must demonstrate a true understanding of the concepts.

7. How does your mom teach you these subjects?
I love informing people of how smart my parents are. So I always have an easy answer to this one. The two most common subjects people ask about are my foreign language (Spanish) to which I respond that my mom was a language major, and math. For math I explain that I have video based instruction and then I complete the lessons, but also that math comes naturally to my dad. As for my other subjects, between both my parents and my textbooks, I usually have no problem learning. If they can't help me figure something out, there's always this great resource called the internet. :)

8. What do you feel you're missing out on? // What about graduation? Prom/dances? Friends? High school? Summer break?
This one . . . is a little bit tougher to answer. I know quite a few things I'm "missing out" on, such as drama, secular teaching, etc. but that doesn't bother me. :) As for things I'm missing out on that I wish I had, for several years my answer would have been friends. The only reason this was a problem for me was because I live so far away from anyone else that church was the only time I would see anyone my age, but God finally brought me a few good ones I'm able to see on a semi-regular basis. Another aspect might be sports, but I played softball for a few years at the elementary school when my parents coached. The last thing I can think of at the moment that I might be missing out on is academic competition and brainstorming. As the only student in my class, I am my only competition. My goal is just to be better than I've already been doing, and it would be nice to have a little competition in that respect. Also, it would be helpful to have a class environment for discussing literature books, etc. So the social aspect and sports are primarily all I really miss out on.

Graduation: At this point, I'm the only high schooler in my homeschool group, so there won't be a traditional ceremony, but I'll probably have some form of gathering/party. This has actually been one of the hardest aspects of homeschool for me, even back in eighth grade. My family is wonderful about making things special, but I do wish I had a class to graduate and celebrate with. You could add that to the list of things above that I miss out on, but in the big scheme of things, having a ceremony or class to graduate with isn't necessary. Sure, I would like it, but it's not crucial.

Prom/dances: Again, it's another aspect that would be fun, but it's not too important for me.

High school: Homeschooling high school has been a real challenge, especially for my mom, but we've made it through the first three years. One more to go!

Summer break: Yes, I do get a break for summertime! The biggest difference between my break and that of a public school student is that mine is a little shorter, but only because we exchange the longer summer break to have breaks between quarters. I gladly accept that trade.

9. Are you ever going to go back to real school?
I don't take offense easily . . . but this one tests my limits. First of all, I am in real school. Maybe it's not normal school, but it most certainly is real school. So please rephrase this to ask, "Are you ever going to go back to a public school?" because otherwise it just sounds like you think I've spent the last nine years skipping out on school and when I go back I'll be in third grade. Trust me, homeschool is every bit as real as public school.

Now, to answer the heart of the question, as I mentioned earlier, for several years we thought we would homeschool "just one more year." But as each year came to a close, God told us to keep going. Eventually, we realized that unless God suddenly told us otherwise, we would be homeschooling through high school. This has not been an easy process, and some days we've nearly given up, but no, I plan to finish my last year of school the same way I've been doing it. That being said, my senior year I will likely be taking some classes at a local junior college, but I will not be attending a public high school.

10. Are you going to homeschool your kids?
First of all, that's a long ways off. Secondly, when that time comes, I'll have to see if this is what God and my husband want. My personal hope is to homeschool my children. After having these years bonding closely with my family, I can't fathom sending my children away to school for most of every day for so many years. I'd much rather homeschool so we can grow closer as a family. Homeschooling would be the fulfillment of one of my dreams.

And a bonus question . . .
11.  Do you see your teacher and principal . . . kissing??
Ah yes, a personal favorite. And the answer is yes. Yes I do. I thought about reporting it to the school board . . . but nah. :)

So there you are! I hope the answers to these top ten (or eleven) questions have been enjoyable and educational for you. Do you have any questions about homeschooling? Or, if you are homeschooled, which of these questions have you been asked, and what others have people asked you? Three cheers for homeschool!

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Random Updates

Well, I'm sitting here realizing that out of the few posts I've done this year, most of them have had a very serious note to them. So I decided to do something a little more lighthearted to end May. Here's a brief summary of my life lately to keep you updated.

I've been busy, but who isn't this time of year? A few weeks back I took the SAT. My family just completed making a twenty-five minute film of our highest production quality so far, but it took a tremendous amount of time. I haven't been reading much, but I've been writing a little bit more lately. The event I went to with intentions of evangelizing was quite an experience. It made me more aware of how lost so many people are without Christ. These next couple weeks promise to be filled with lots of school and attendance of multiple graduation events for friends. I'm eagerly looking forward to the beginning of July bringing my first camp of the summer. This is one I'll be counseling at for my third year in a row.

I've been listening to more music these last few months than I usually do, and I've been enjoying multiple Christian artists. The newest songs I've been introduced to is Josh Wilson's "Dream Small" and Riley Clemmon's "Better for It."

One of the things I've been doing lately when I'm feeling down is looking up Christian jokes.
Q1: What kind of man was Boaz before he married Ruth?
Q2: Who was the first tennis player in the Bible?
(answers at the end of the post)

I've been enjoying writing my "Defending the Faith" series, as it is a topic close to my heart and I'm grateful to have an audience to share it with. As for posts I'm planning, I suppose you'll just have to wait and see!

I haven't been taking too many pictures lately, but I thought the image of the flower I used for the title picture came out pretty well.

What sorts of things have you been up to lately? Any good songs or jokes you've heard?

A1: Ruthless.
A2: Joseph, because he served in Pharoah's court.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Defending the Faith 4: How Will I Know What to Say?

Ah yes, the age old question. "I want to talk to people about my faith, but I don't know what to say! They'll ask me questions that I won't know how to answer. How will I know what to say?" There's a few aspects to touch on regarding this topic.

First off, I want to point out God's response to this. In Exodus 4 when Moses is begging God not to send him back to Egypt to free God's people, one of his many excuses is that he doesn't speak well. God replies that He made Moses' mouth and "I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak" (verse 12). I don't know about you, but that's a pretty amazing thought. God Himself will teach me what to say.

Secondly, Philippians 4:19 teaches that God will give us what we need to do what He asks of us. He knows that we need the words to speak, "And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus." Once again, God is telling us that He will take care of it.

Another case where God confirms He will handle this need comes from Paul's second letter to the Corinthians. "But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me." The context to this is Paul explaining that He has asked God to remove some sort of "thorn" from his flesh. The Bible isn't clear whether this was a physical ailment, person causing him trouble, or something else entirely, but regardless, this "thorn" is something burdensome to Paul. Instead of removing it, God says that He will use this weakness to make His power even greater in Paul, ". . . For when I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Corinthians 2:10). In our weakness, God reveals His strength. When you are uncomfortable speaking to people about your faith, that's when God will shine through all the more.

My personal favorite passage that directly relates to the worry of what to speak is recorded in three of the gospels. Each place is slightly different and adds even deeper meaning, so I'll share all three here:
Matthew 10:19 "When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour."
So far, we gather that when we are in situations where we have to defend our faith, we don't need to worry about how to do it, because at the time we need it, God will tell us what to say.
Luke 12:11-12 "And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say."
Now we know that even when we are being brought before rulers, we still don't have to be concerned about defending ourselves or what to say because the Holy Spirit in us will teach us. We might not know what to say even sixty seconds before we have to speak, but when we open our mouths, He will provide.
Mark 13:11 "And when they bring you to trial and deliver you over, do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit."
Finally, we gather that in addition to what we've learned above, it's not even us who are really speaking! It is the Holy Spirit doing the talking for us, and all we have to do is be the messenger and listen for what to say.
This is such a comforting thought to me. I really don't have to worry about what to say, because when I need to speak, the Holy Spirit will put the words in my mouth. These verses are what I'm holding to this weekend when I will be speaking with unbelievers.

Does this mean we will always have all the answers? Not at all. However, even when we don't have the right responses for someone, God has still given us what we need. He simply decided that we didn't need that answer at that time.

However, I see another side to this whole topic as well. Someone could interpret these verses to mean that they don't need to do any preparation, because God will just tell them what to say. I don't believe this is what the Bible is teaching at all. If my Dad never prepared a sermon and said "Oh, God will just tell me what to say when I get to the pulpit, I don't need to worry about preparation," . . . I think he would be very embarrassed when he stands up front without a clue of what to say and has to admit that he doesn't have anything because he failed to prepare. That being said, there have been times when he prepares all week but something about his planned sermon doesn't feel right, so he walks to the pulpit unprepared, but God always shows up and gives him the perfect words for that day. God honors his attentiveness and efforts. First Corinthians instructs us: "So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God."

Do your best to prepare, but don't worry. Make an effort, but rely on God in your hour of need. Study the Bible so you have verses that God can bring to your mind. Remain attentive to the voice of the Holy Spirit, so you hear His quiet whispers. Do all to the glory of God. Be on the lookout for "God moments" and trust Him to give you the words to speak.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Defending the Faith 3: Where Should I Go?

Maybe this isn't a post best suited to be a "defending the faith" post, however, even before you defend your faith, you need to know where to start.

To share your faith, you don't have to be a missionary to Africa. You don't even have to go with your youth group to Mexico or downtown Los Angeles. You don't need to stand on street corners or in front of Planned Parenthood clinics. Yet . . . the Bible tells Christians to "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations . . ." (Matthew 28:19) So where do we do this if we're not traveling to Africa, Mexico, or L.A?

True, God does call some people to go forth as a missionary to foreign nations and preach the message of the Kingdom of God. But He doesn't ask everyone to travel to share the good news of Jesus Christ. I'm sure you've heard it said that the biggest mission field is the streets of America, and there's never been a truer statement. For example, my family lives in a rural area about an hour away from a town, and my dad is the pastor of the local church. Years ago a church in the local town decided to help support my family as missionaries. We were surprised when they informed us of this. Were we traveling to share the gospel? Were we dwelling among people who speak a different language? No. Yet this church considered us missionaries. God has given us a local mission field, reaching out to our friends and neighbors in this little community.

Any Christian could be supported as a missionary in this sense. You don't have to be a pastor in order to have your own special mission field God has given you. Are you attending school? Shine your light with your fellow students and tell them about your best friend, Jesus. (Yes, students do still have the Constitutional right to talk about Jesus Christ in schools.) Do you work long hours every day? Even if your workplace doesn't permit you to discuss Jesus with coworkers, you can show Him to them in the manner that you handle situations and your work ethic. Are you standing in line at the grocery store? Maybe in that moment, your mission field is the cashier or person standing behind you. Sitting in a restaurant, do you see a girl walk in with a broken arm? Perhaps God is calling you to go pray for her.

Always be on the lookout for "God moments" and people that He puts in your life. Be sensitive to the Holy Spirit living in you and watch for opportunities. Get involved in outreach events your church hosts. Volunteer with a local food bank or Samaritan's Purse. This summer a few of my friends and I will be staffing at summer camps for youth and teaching them about Jesus.There are so many places and chances to share your faith with others. Always be on the lookout.

Don't let your life fall into a monotonous pattern; find people God wants you to pray for and bless. There's always someone whose life could be changed by you listening to the Holy Spirit prompting you to start a conversation with and pray for them. Maybe you are one of the people God has asked to go to New Zealand as a missionary, but more often than not, God has called you to be a minister to those around you right now. God has put everyone in your path for a reason. Whether it's a friend, family member, or coworker who you see every day, or whether it's the person in line at Disneyland you might never see again, be watchful for opportunities God places before you and listen for His voice.

Some of Jesus' last words here on earth were instructions to the disciples (and to all followers):
". . . you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." (Acts 1:8) Be a missionary to your family, in your hometown, and in every place God puts you. (As a side note, Christians are not always called to defend their faith, but they are always commanded to share their faith. This verse says to be a witness—to tell people about their faith, but not force conversions.)

So where should you go to share the Kingdom of Heaven with people? Maybe to a foreign land, but also consider your next door neighbor.
P.S. This post is inspired by plans to go into a local event this weekend as part of a team seeking God encounters where we will witness for Christ. Prayers for God to soften people's hearts are much appreciated!

Monday, April 30, 2018

Separation of Church and State

How much would you say you know about American history? Would you consider yourself a history buff? I'm suspecting you don't know half of the content in this post. Starting with this: Who first coined the phrase "separation of church and state"?
A) Richard Hooker
B) The Constitution
C) Thomas Jefferson
D) Benjamin Rush
E) Justice Hugo Black

How many of these names do you even recognize? You might find it interesting that each of these historical figures has impacted the way the phrase "separation of church and state" has been interpreted over the centuries. First termed in the late 1500s by Richard Hooker, ordained minister of the Church of England during the Reformation, the intended meaning was to keep the state from interfering in the affairs of men's religious freedom. From then until 1962, this phrase consistently referred to protecting religious liberties from government intervention.

Commonly attributed to the United State Constitution's First Amendment, the first recorded instance of a prominent American using the phrase was none other than the deist Founding Father and president, Thomas Jefferson. While most consider the "separation of church and state" to be a provision of the Constitution, nowhere is it found, nor in any other founding document. Surprising, isn't it? In fact, out of the ninety men present at the discussion of what to include in the First Amendment, not once was the "separation of church and state" even mentioned. Surely, if the Founding Fathers desired to make this a part of American law, they would have at least discussed it.

Nearly everyone today is under the impression that "separation of church and state" implies preventing religious expression from public institutions. It has become a drive and backing to claim that religion must stay out of political matters in order to remain true to the Constitution and original intent of the Founding Fathers. If they know Jefferson wrote it, they believe he did so to affirm such an idea, thus "proving" that our Founding Fathers were opposed to religion being involved in the government. However, few are aware of Jefferson's true context in writing this.

Responding to a group of concerned Baptists who feared the ratification of the Constitution gave the government too much power to control religion, Jefferson assured them this would never happen. He explained that there was a separation between the church and the state so that the government would stay out of religionNOT the other way around! Yes, one of the few deist Founding Fathers was convinced that the government would not, and should not, interfere with religion. Religious people involved in politics, government institutions, and public organizations were perfectly acceptable. If you wish, you can read Jefferson's letter for yourself by clicking HERE. It's interesting to note that Jefferson wrote this letter on a Friday . . . and attended a church service that Sunday in the United States Capitol building. He also founded a Bible Society and made a Bible translation known as the Jefferson Bible for the express purpose of creating a missionary tool for the Indians.

Today, we are being taught that the Founding Fathers were deists, the church should stay out of government, and that we have a godless Constitution. To the contrary, 95% of the Founding Father's were religious, the "separation of church and state" is in no founding documents, and the Constitution was founded on Biblical principles by Christian men.

Benjamin Rush, signer of the Declaration of Independence and a little known Founding Father yet one of the three most influential, wrote a dozen reasons that the Bible must never be taken out of schools, started the first Bible society in America, and said "I do not believe that the Constitution was the offspring of inspiration, but I am as perfectly satisfied that the Union of the United States in its form and adoption is as much the work of a Divine Providence as any of the miracles recorded in the Old and New Testament." In 1806 he also wrote:
"Let the following sentence be inscribed in letters of gold over the doors of every State and Court house in the United States. 'THE SON OF MAN CAME INTO THE WORLD, NOT TO DESTROY MEN'S LIVES, BUT TO SAVE THEM.' " Does that sound like a deist to you?

How about Fisher Ames, who is largely responsible for the language of the First Amendment? He also insisted that the Bible cannot get pushed to the back of public schools. Does that sound like a deist to you?

James Wilson, signer of the Declaration of Independence, teacher of law, and one of the six original Supreme Court justices, helped write the Constitution. In his books on law, he taught that human laws should be based on "Divine" law and that they need to go together. Does that sound like a deist to you?

George Washington's farewell address says that religion and morality were important for our government. John Adams wrote with Benjamin Rush about the Holy Spirit and claimed that the primary people who affected the Constitution were reverends. John Hancock wrote a proclamation to Massachusetts to have a day of prayer and fasting for people to come to know Christ. Do these famous Founding Fathers sound like deists to you?

The United States of America has drifted far from its original roots. No longer is the checks and balances system truly functioning. Courts have neglected to make decisions based on the original intent of the Constitution. The government is currently a far cry from anything the Founding Fathers had desired and planned. How did this occur? People have taken the founders intentions and perverted them to match their own agendas. Such as with the "separation of church and state."

Remember that I mentioned how the "separation of church and state" meant keeping the government out of religion from the 1500s to 1962? What made the meaning change? It was a court case, Engel v. Vitale. The question of the case was "Does the reading of a nondenominational prayer at the start of the school day violate the 'establishment of religion' clause of the First Amendment?" ( The prayer in question was a twenty two word prayer that read: "Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence upon Thee, and we beg Thy blessing upon us, our parent, our teachers, and our Country." Notice only once does it mention "God," the same number of times the Pledge of Allegiance does, and 1/4 the times the Declaration of Independence! Yet Justice Hugo Black delivered the court's 6-1 opinion to suddenly take the "separation of church and state" and turn it 180 degrees without citing any precedents. The court even acknowledged that at the time, only 3% of the nation's population was not religious.
Nevermind the 97% who were.
. . . or the Founding Fathers that were.
. . . or the 1982 court case, Church of the Holy Trinity v. United States, that cited 80 precedents allowing prayer in public institutions.
. . . or the church services held in the Capitol.
. . . or the chaplains and prayers in the early governing bodies.
. . . or the 800+ court cases that cite the Ten Commandments as their final source of authority.
. . . or the fact that the Bible is the number one source of quotes from the Founding Fathers.
. . . or the numerous verses mentioned in the Constitution as reasons for the laws and provisions.
. . . or the knowledge that ministers wrote the books the nation was founded on.
. . . or that the Bible was the source of the sermons that the founding documents were based on.
. . . or that everything in the Declaration of Independence had been first taught from the pulpit.
No, instead of all the evidence proving that the "separation of church and state" was intended to protect religious institutions from the government, the court suddenly and without any valid reasoning completely altered the intended meaning of the phrase. Now, most all Americans believe that the church should stay out of politics. Little do they realize this is in complete conflict with the original meaning.

I pray that now you are more equipped to share this fascinating information with those who don't understand true American history. I, personally, find these topics and tidbits both intriguing and shocking. If you are interested in learning more about these types of things, I have many sources to recommend. Much of the information for this post was from renown historian, David Barton's American Heritage DVD series. You can visit his website at

Now that your mind is spinning (like mine), go share this with your friends and family! Tell them how history is being altered from the Founding Father's original intent. Let's bring America back to being the Christian nation it once was.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Defending the Faith 2: How Do We Defend Christianity?

Here's a word to add to your Christian vocabulary: Apologetics—The branch of theology that defends and proves the truth of Christian doctrines. Yes, there is an entire study devoted to just defending the Christian faith.

Previously, we discussed why we should learn to defend the Christian faith. I showed how 1 Peter 3:15 instructs us to be ready to give a reason for our beliefs. The next step is understanding how we are called to defend our faith.

Recently I've been learning more regarding this topic. I've heard about many extreme approaches to defending one's beliefs, from yelling and calling people fools to softly and carefully treading so as not to offend and possibly turn someone away. I, personally, would fall somewhere in the middle, but what does the Bible say about this?

The first step is recognizing that the battle Christians are in is a spiritual war. Second Corinthians 10:3-5 makes this point clear. "For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ." [ESV] A lot is packed into these verses. Some key points I'd like to make for this topic are:
  • Spiritual warfare is a very real battle every single Christian is engaged in, whether they realize it or not! The enemy is constantly seeking to devour Christians, and he succeeds far too often. Many people (Christians included) do not understand or choose to believe in the spiritual realm of angels and demons, but they are just as real as the sun shining or you breathing. Christians need to always be on guard against the attacks of the devil.
  • In understanding this, it is also crucial for Christians to realize they aren't fighting earthly battles when defending their faith, but they are coming against the powers of darkness in the name of Jesus. Christians possess spiritual weapons designed to "destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God." Christians shouldn't try to make a "scholarly" case for Christianity without allowing God to lead them and give them the words to speak.
The verse we examined in my last post and the following verse also give some insight as to how we should defend Christianity. First Peter 3:15-16 instructs Christians "but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame." [ESV]
  • The first bit we can glean from this is that Christians must honor Christ. One of the best ways to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with others is to be the example so that the unsaved look at you and ask what makes you different from everyone else. Realize that you are serving a holy God, and give Him all the honor He is due.
  • Additionally, when Christians are responding to people, they should behave gently and respectfully. This rules out the radical, yelling-at-people approach. Consider how receptive you'd be to an idea if the person attempting to convince you is screaming in your face. Behave in a manner you know is worthy of the King you serve. You are His ambassador.
Another verse with important tie-ins to defending Christianity is 1 Peter 2:15 "For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people." [ESV]
  • One of the biggest points non-Christians make that they seem to think undermines any Christian's stand is pointing out that Christians aren't perfect. They often point to the crusades and say that Christians are hypocritical for preaching one thing and living another. And they would be right in some cases. Sometimes, this causes Christians to doubt if they should be teaching and sharing their beliefs. They wonder if they are being hypocritical and if so, then they think they have no place criticizing others. Hypocritical Christians need to examine themselves and make sure that they are living in a God-honoring way that reflects Christ.
  • However, no one is perfect, and all Christians will mess up. The world interprets this as a piece of evidence that Christians are just a bunch of hypocrites. The difference is for Christians who recognize their faults, and praise Jesus for saving them from their sin. Something I've noticed that seems to cool the steam of hostile unbelievers when they accuse Christians of being judgmental hypocrites is having the Christian readily admit they themselves are flawed as well. This often catches unbelievers off guard and destroys their accusations of judgment on the part of the Christian. When a Christian says, "Yes, I mess up. Yes, I'm sometimes a hypocrite. Yes, I'm a sinner. And yes, I've been saved and forgiven by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ" suddenly the unbeliever can't call the Christians judgmental. The Christian has knocked down a barrier and worked in the gospel message all in one.
  • Coming back to the verse, Christians should do good, simply because God tells them to, but also because it is a wonderful witness. But when they mess up, even that can be used to bring people to Christ.
Here's yet another passage that shows Christians how to act and defend their faith. Colossians 2:6-8 "Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ." [ESV] Once again, there are multiple points in this passage.
  •  The three major pieces of instruction offered first all direct the behavior of Christians. They are to walk in Christ, and be established firmly in the faith. You can't defend your faith if you aren't convinced of it yourself. Know what you believe and why.
  • Don't allow anyone of the world to cause you to doubt God. Many intellectuals and scientists have what may seem like good and compelling arguments, but don't allow their empty deceit to fool you. If someone brings up a seeming "contradiction" in your faith, then ask a strong fellow Christian and reestablish your convictions. Don't be afraid to ask questions and seek answers, just don't fall prey to the "logic" of the world. 
Notice that in all these verses, the instructions are for responding. First Peter 3 says to be prepared to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you. First Peter 2 doesn't even include speaking. Rather, it merely commands you how to behave. Of course, the Bible also instructs Christians to "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations . . ." (Matthew 28:19-20). However, I do find it interesting that all three of these passages are about responding and answering. The definition of defend is to: resist an attack made on (someone or something). That's what I'm discussing in this particular post, not how to go out and preach the gospel. That's a topic for another time. :)

These verses just barely scratch the surface of the Biblical instruction for how to defend the Christian faith. I've found countless others rich with teachings on this topic. I encourage you to see how many others you can find until I share a few more in part two of "How Do We Defend Christianity?"

Have you ever been placed in a position where you've had to defend your beliefs? How did you handle the situation?
 P.S. I changed my blog layout in anticipation of spring! Let me know what you think. :)