by Jennie Smith
Is there a hotter topic right now among parents? I know that I have seen both sides of this issue in my news feed… A dad angry because his child with cancer had been exposed at a facility here in the Valley…Explanations of why her child cannot be vaccinated…even a video montage of shows from the 1960’s showing that measles is not that bad. It’s everywhere and passions are up on both sides of this issue because of the recent outbreak that dominates our news.
The question of this blog really isn’t should we vaccinate our children…the question is: can we respect the decisions other parents make for their own children? Can we choose to have healthy discussion with one another without calling names? Parenting is so hard and making choices for our children is even more challenging in an information saturated society that makes it difficult to tell what is true and what is false. There can be healthy debate, but I see so many of us being unkind, and sometimes downright mean, to a parent who has made a different choice than we would.
My dearest, lifelong friend has a daughter with autism. It was heart wrenching to watch this beautiful child grow into this disease. When her second daughter was born, she chose not to vaccinate. When I was pregnant with my third, she asked me to reconsider my position on vaccination. We had a lovely conversation one afternoon. She told me her journey, her research, her heart on the issue. I asked questions. Then I did my own study and explored options with my pediatrician and chose to vaccinate on a more extended schedule. She didn’t rail against me for my decision. I certainly won’t blame her for hers. Actually, because there is no way for me to even imagine what she deals with on a daily basis raising a special needs child, I would in no way – not ever – challenge her decisions in this area. No way! But we can have healthy, loving discussion between us. But then we make the decision to support and love each other no matter what.
And it’s not just vaccinations for which we judge other parents…
To nurse or bottle feed
To spank or not to spank
To put your child in Christian school, public school, or home school
To celebrate Halloween or skip it
This list can become lengthy. The conversations can become ugly.
I read a great article last week on the topic of judgement, and I think we can apply its principles to this discussion. First it clarifies that judging should only come in issues of righteousness. John 7:24 says “Do not judge according to appearances, but judge with righteous judgement” (NASB). If we are judging in any other way, we judge in self-righteousness, not God’s.
But even when we do judge, or challenge, a parent in an area of God’s truth, we need to inspect ourselves first. In another teaching on judgement, Jesus said “Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:3-5, NASB). Let’s be sure to approach one another with clean heart before God.
I love the way the article encourages us to talk to people: “The point of this passage is not to forbid judging. On the contrary, it encourages judgment that is grace-filled and humble, a love-filled judgment that brings a fellow believer into right standing before God. We walk beside the person because we too struggle with our own sin. We judge not by our own authority, but by the Authority that will one day judge us all” (Mitchell, paragraph 8).
May I challenge you to apply this idea to the hot topics we as parents tend to argue with each other about? Walk beside each other as a fellow struggler in this great journey we call parenthood. Be filled with grace and be humble. Most of all, love another. And in all things bring honor and glory to our Heavenly Father, the greatest parent of us all!
Learn more about Faith Christian School at www.faith-christian.org
Owens, Mitchell. “Teaching Our Children to Judge.” For the Family. March 28, 2014. Retrieved January 31, 2014 from http://forthefamily.org/teaching-children-judge/
by Jennie Smith
“If you can’t see it, hear it or feel it….it doesn’t exist!,” said Sour Kangaroo to Horton, and anyone else who would listen.
As I sat in the movie theater watching Horton Hears A Who with my three boys, I was struck by the amount of discussion material packed into this movie! In case you haven’t read the book or seen the movie, here is a quick summary (spoiler alert).
Horton, an energetic elephant, hears a noise from a speck of dust that is travelling through the air. That speck holds the entire world of the Whos. Horton has to get that speck of dust to a safe place – otherwise, all of the Whos will perish. However, Sour Kangaroo does not believe there is any world on that speck of dust and since she is the official boss of the forest, she attempts to convince everyone that Horton is wrong. She hires an evil vulture, Vlad, to get rid of the speck. When Vlad is unsuccessful, Kangaroo organizes a mob who ties up Horton and threatens to put the speck in a boiling vat of oil. All Horton has to do is to deny the existence of the world on the speck and all will be alright. In the end, the speck is saved and, in a shocking turn of events, Horton forgives Sour Kangaroo and befriends her.
There were so many things to talk about with my kids after we saw this movie!
Knowing God Exists
We started by talking about Kangeroo’s thought that “If you can’t see it, hear it, or feel it…it doesn’t exist.” I asked my boys if they thought that was true. We discussed how many people think the same of God – that because you can’t see Him or hear Him, He must not exist. We talked about how we know God exists – and how we see Him, hear Him, and feel Him. We see Him in His provision for our family. We hear Him when a Scripture speaks directly to our pain or convicts us. We feel Him when we have unexplainable peace in the middle of the dark times. It was wonderful to hear my young boys realize that they do hear God, they do see His hand, and they do feel Him.
Renounce Your Faith
Later we moved into a discussion about the end of the movie when all Horton has to do is say the world of the Whos does not exist and all will be alright. There will come a time, and it may be in the time of our children’s lives, where we are asked to renounce God or lose our lives. Those times are quickly on the horizon. But my children and I talked about times they are asked to reject God in their actions. It is hard when you are asked by friends to do something you shouldn’t. It’s very difficult to say “That’s not right. I can’t participate in that because God would not be pleased.”
I love this passage from 2 Timothy 3:12-15: “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted…But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”
We need to encourage our kids to be strong in their faith, just like Horton was strong in his conviction and was willing to face a vat of oil for the truth.
The last lesson from the movie is an important one. Sour Kangaroo was so mean to Horton! She was cruel in her words and her actions and she almost killed Horton’s Whoville friends. But Horton forgave her; he invited her in as his friend. What a witness that was to my kids! We talked about the way that Christ forgives us and how we are to carry out that same forgiveness to our friends and to our siblings. A great verse for the family to memorize is Ephesians 4:32 “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
I didn’t expect to go to the movies that day and walk away with deep theological conversation ideas for my kids. But it was a beautiful time of encouragement and one we speak of often. What a beautiful illustration of some of life’s toughest lessons. Have you seen great movies that lead to amazing conversations with your kids? Leave some ideas in the comments below or interact with us on our Facebook page!
by Jennie Smith
I can’t watch the news anymore. We live in such a fallen, sinful world, and the news on the news is never good. Murders. Robberies. And don’t even get me started on Ebola! There is so much to be scared of, and I can be the biggest scared-y cat of them all. Just the other night, there was a police helicopter going around and around in the middle of the night, and someone was on the megaphone saying unintelligible things. I laid there for hours feeling fear (and listening to the police scanner app I have on my phone) while the rest of my family slept in peace.
Sometimes, I think I must be the only one who experiences this crazy level of fear. Thankfully, I’ve realized that even great heroes of the faith have experienced fear. Adam and Eve hid from God out of fear after they had sinned. Abraham lied about Sarah being his wife on two occasions, motivated by fear. Moses didn’t want to fulfill his calling and tried to talk God out of it…because he was scared. Saul disobeyed God because he feared the people of the land, and Peter had such great fear that he denied Jesus three times.
So, what do we do to combat fear?
Call it what it is….Disobedience to the Almighty God
The Bible has a lot to say on the issue of fear. I saw on Facebook this popular meme…
I‘ve been trying to do some research about the accuracy of this, and most are concluding that there aren’t exactly 365 verses, although it is a nice thought. The most important thing is that God said “Do not fear…” many times, even though ONE time ought to be enough for us! Here is my favorite (emphasis added):
Isaiah 41:10 “FEAR NOT, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
If God has told us not to fear, and yet we spend time in fear of the various crisis that can befall us, we are in direct disobedience to Him. And He gives us a reason not to fear….He is our God; He will help us.
Trust, Trust, Trust
Our Father is so worthy of our trust. Has he been faithful to you through past trials? Has he sustained you in your times of struggle? Has he provided for you in times of want? Has he comforted you in times of grief? He will never change and will speak to our pain when it arrives again. When we understand that God is in complete control, and has all resources at his command to help us, we can exist at a new level of peace.
Elyse Fitzpatrick, author of the book Overcoming Fear, Worry, and Anxiety (2001), says “God’s sovereignty is the only safe harbor when we’re assailed by the winds of fear, doubt, and worry” (pg. 128). At the time when the fear of the Ebola crisis had me on edge, I googled “sermons on God’s sovereignty” and found an excellent sermon by John Piper. I was so encouraged to be reminded that God is not surprised by any problem that we are faced with and there is not one thing that God can’t handle!
Realize that our fear does nothing to help the situation.
Did my laying there in bed, awake, listening to the dispatchers talk to the police through the night make me any less in danger? Does imagining my boys coming down with Ebola make my children at any less risk of getting the disease? Jesus said “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” (Matthew 6:27). Elyse Fitzpatrick (2001) says that worry “can’t change anything. It won’t make you live one more day than God has ordained. It won’t influence whatever you may face in the future. Worry is powerless” (pg. 111). The threats of bad things happening will always exist, but stewing about them does not decrease the chances of them happening to us, it only makes us feel miserable and wastes valuable time.
Our only hope lies in the fact that our God is sovereign – He knows all the things that lay before us and He is in complete control of them. Bad things are going to happen. Police helicopters will fly over head. People we love are going to suffer. We may be asked to walk a difficult and terrible road. But He is good, and loving, and will meet us in these trials and give us exactly what we need to endure them. Let us be like the Psalmist who said “I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears” (Psalm 34:4).
Fitzpatrick, E. (2001). Overcoming Fear, Worry, and Anxiety. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers.
by Jennie Smith
In just the last few months, I have noticed an ugly trend on Facebook. Social media has become an acceptable way to deal with our hurts and grievances with other people. Facebook, along with other social media avenues, has become the modern-day marketplace for public floggings. I have been very grieved to see my friends, family, and even myself become the object of such public scorn.
In the time of Jesus, a sinner would be brought out to the public square, publicly scolded, and even put to death. Do you remember what Jesus did in one of these cases? Read the story again from John 8:2-11:
Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught
them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”
All of us are sinners. We have done awful things that have offended and hurt others. Does that mean we deserve to have our sin exposed before all of our friends and family and even complete strangers? Jesus came to change things – to change the way we think, the way we speak, the way we act, and certainly the way we treat our fellow man. He graciously gave us a step by step plan to deal with the hurts that others cause us. Here it is directly from Matthew 18:15-20:
“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”
We call this the Matthew 18 Principle. Here are the steps:
1. If someone has hurt you, go to them. Go to them privately. It may be tempting to text or email and if that is all you can do, then do it. However, a face to face talk is best. Hopefully, they will ask your forgiveness and you can be restored to each other. But if they are not willing to work it out with you, you can move onto step 2.
3. And if they still won’t listen, go to a higher authority – the church, your boss – whoever it may be that is appropriate to the situation.