Sunday, May 1, 2011

What Might Charlotte Mason have Said about 'Learning Styles'?

Many parents who are just beginning to look into a Charlotte Mason education are concerned with whether or not Miss Mason's methods are a good choice for their own children. Quite often, their questions revolve around the modern idea of children's 'learning styles'.

The reasons for such concerns are as varied as children themselves. However, as it turns out, Miss Mason really did understand children's 'educational needs' - whatever label one might put upon those needs.

Upon further examination, one begins to realize that Miss Mason respected all children's abilities and all children's needs, and she knew how to guide each of them from wherever they were yesterday, bringing them bit by bit towards increasing ability, discipline, and joy all at the same time.

How did she do that? She gently and naturally moved all children towards the same disciplines in learning. One might say that she studied the thinking patterns of the most natural of students, and then devised the means to help less 'natural' students learn how to work more and more 'naturally' and effectively. Through the study of her writings, we can learn to do the same today.

Using those principles which Miss Mason championed as a guide to assess any educational approach, we can also determine what methods might move students' abilities beyond those achieved even by Miss Mason herself (such as the many valuable aspects of Nanci Bell's work - a modern day educator whose work builds powerfully upon just some of specific aspects of the lesson options found in Charlotte Mason's broader educational methods).


Let's look for a moment at the example of the process of learning to read - and the concept of using manipulatives in the teaching of reading.

Some children might learn to read quite readily and joyfully with nothing but a lovely book in the hands of their mother, while other children must needs employ something like magnet letters and/or word cards in order to learn to read.

Now, magnet letters and word cards are 'kinesthetic tools' and those tools have helped some children learn to read. Thus, the use of 'kinesthetic tools' have left some people with the impression that such students are 'kinesthetic learners.'

However, the point isn't 'kinesthetic learning' in Miss Mason's perspective.

What's the difference in her point of view, and why does that matter?

In the case of the child who learns to read with nothing but a book in hand, that child already has a natural capacity to 'attend' effectively without significant assistance. That is a blessing for his mother.

OTOH, a child whose 'attention' skills (e.g. - visual attention, visual discrimination, and visual memory) are not as keenly attuned to the task of reading can learn to *apply his will* to learn to attend (visually) with great care and to great affect.

With practice and with guidance, he learns how to see and remember what was seen more effectively than he did yesterday. (he doesn't really learn how to touch manipulatives better....... *grin*)

The process of helping a child to apply his will to attend visually to letters and words on a page might require more discipline and effort on the part of the mother of this second type of child. However, that is not something bad by any means. Rather, the 'strength of will' gleaned by such a child is a lesson which was built into his life by his Creator..... If both the child's mother and the child uses the opportunity to stretch his will bit by bit until he is able to 'attend' (visually) as much as he needs to in order to read well, then he will achieve all of the accomplishments he was called upon to achieve in his reading lessons - and his whole person will have grown. There will be direct benefits from having done so.

In the future, such children will be more practiced in *willing* themselves to attend to anything which is a challenge to them, academically or otherwise.

If, on the other hand, the teacher is simply relying on 'kinesthetic learning' to take place somehow on its own, there will be specific, predictable outcomes.

The teacher who is relying on 'kinesthetic learning' to 'teach' is less inclined to specifically guide the child to apply his will to see a word with enough specificity that it makes an impression upon the child's visual memory. In such a case, the child often does do so in the end. However, surprisingly often, he did so more by accident than by learning how to apply either his will or even his mind to *chose* to do so, therefore he is not as fully prepared to do so again in the future as he could have been. He did not develop the consciously applied, targeted 'habit of attention' which he could have developed. He cannot then apply that 'habit of attention ' to other words by choice, nor to other subject matter. He does not realize that by applying a 'growing habit of attention', he can continue to grow in his reading skills (and spelling skills for that matter) whenever he is introduced to words anywhere in his little world.

Such a student might actually be inadvertently or wcwn specifically taught to think that he might always struggle to learn unless he has a chance to learn 'hands on.' Rather than that, he can be taught the tools of effective attention.
Though some children who are 'taught kinesthetically' do finally break through and simply learn naturally, not all children do. Of those who do, many will struggle with spelling more than they need to. Those children who are less inclined to break through in learning to read via 'random attempts at learning kinesthetically' are predictably at risk.

Unless those children are specifically taught to (1) apply their will in order to (2) ramp up their *visual attention* effectively enough to (3) make *visual impressions* upon their *visual memory* solidly enough to be able to (4) apply that knowledge with automaticity, they will utterly miss the opportunity to grow naturally and with greater ease - threatening the degree of literacy they might achieve. Perhaps they will miss the opportunity to be literate in any sense of the word.

That predictable outcome should be avoided, and it can be, by understanding 'educational law' and how it helps us both interpret a child's needs in regards to the child's alleged 'learning styles' and how to plan and/or adjust a lesson for a specific child's needs in order to: help the child learn more and more how to think via the most effective and efficient means available to him, and help him apply his will to do just that, through gentle guidance.

If, thanks to a teacher who is knowledgeable in regards to educational law, the student knows the specific goals of a lesson and how to achieve those goals, he is in a better position from which to apply his will more directly in achieving those goals. In the case of a Charlotte Mason styled 'Visual Impression Reading of Spelling Lesson' (aka: a CM styled reading-or-spelling-lesson - my terminology, not Miss Mason's), the child learns how to apply his will to take in a specific visual image for two specific functional purposes (a) to know the 'face' of that word in any 'crowd of words' in order to know the 'idea' of that word at sight, *&* (b) to know the parts of that word for the purposes of spelling, with the ability to recall the whole made up of those parts from the visual memory.

Though the ability to recognize the 'face' of the word might come a little while before the ability to recall the parts of that 'face' with enough clarity to spell readily while writing whole sentences, in a lesson developing the student's abilities in line with 'educational law', the skills required for the one goal are directly related to the skills required for the other goal - thus spelling skills build up comprehension skills, and comprehension skills build up spelling skills. It is an entirely efficient use of the mind from all aspects of both developing specific skills and applying those skills which have been learned.

If children do not apply their will in this way, it is quite predictable that some of them will weary from the effort of 'simply going through the material again and again and again' wondering when, how, and if they will finally take in certain words. Rather than learning to value the power of reading, they merely learn as many reading skills as they feel they absolutely must to in order to get through their immediate future, if they learn any at all. - - -

If instead, by following CM principles, the child is brought to understand how to specifically target his attention upon what he knows will work, he becomes more empowered, and if he is challenged in small ways, then a little bit bigger of ways, and then a little bigger ways than that, he experiences the benefits of setting and achieving very specific goals.

More importantly, he gradually feels the strength of the power of 'the will to do what is right' rising up inside of himself.
Thus we observe the 'predictable outcomes' suggested by Charlotte Mason's understanding of 'educational law': Not only does the child learn specific knowledge and specific skills, he grows as a person.

We see, then, that there is a stark contrast which develops between those children who will struggle in spite of kinesthetic tools vs. children who are successful because their education is specifically guided, one little step at a time, by CM principles and methods.

Okay, before we wrap this up, let's look one more time at the idea of 'kinesthetic learning':

The child who learns words using tactile objects does not learn to read because he was 'touching' letters or word cards.

The child, while touching tactile objects, somehow managed to apply HIS ATTENTION enough to really SEE letters and groupings of letters to the point that he remembers what he has SEEN.

Ultimately, the child has only learned when his will has helped him ATTEND TO WHAT HE SEES. Touching things might have helped him APPLY HIS WILL TO ATTEND MORE FULLY TO WHAT HE IS SEEING, but he didn't learn by touching.

*****Rather, he learned by finally seeing more and more clearly what was right before him in the first place.*****

That is not 'kinesthetic learning' - not really. That is bringing the attention more and more towards 'visual learning'.

That is both more powerful, and more capable of helping the whole child grow as a person. That power and capability is a possible and predictable outcome when one understands and applies educational law.

Furthermore, that knowledge can guide the teacher in his attempts to help the student know when and if it is appropriate for him to move away from reliance upon manipulative tools and thoughtfully and intentionally move towards increasingly effective attempts to 'will to attend' by more naturally effective, and efficient means of attending (visually or via other appropriate means, depending on the skill at hand). [That it not to say that manipulatives are never useful in quickly conveying information, one person to another. The use of manipulatives can also be invaluable in the course of high minded discussions. However, in spite of the long term, adult-level benefits of manipulatives, the ability to visualize ideas, words, etc. without the use of manipulatives is an especially empowering capability which can be intentionally nurtured with valuable benefits.]

With that said, I hope it makes sense to you that I truly believe that Miss Mason would think of the term 'kinesthetic learning' as a misnomer.


Both the example of using 'manipulatives' to learn to read, and the example of Miss Mason's use of pennies and dimes to learn basics in decimals, as well as many other examples suggested by Miss Mason, help to express a different point of view, and a more powerful one, than the idea of 'learning styles.'

Miss Mason worked towards helping students develop *the will to attend* - and then *the habit of attending* as an outgrowth of applying the will to attend.

As we more and more specifically
help our children to 'apply their will to attend', and once we begin to understand the power of 'the habit of attention', and once we understand what disciplines the child should employ 'to attend' to each specific task in the learning process, we are free to help guide them around OR through any struggles, and ultimately beyond them towards a joy of learning.

So what is this 'educational law' which Charlotte Mason valued so much?

Though Charlotte Mason never codified a formal thesis on 'educational law', there are a few specific things which Miss Mason has said about 'educational law'.

For example, in the preface to her series, she says that 'educational law' is:

"a basic concept with various details working in harmony with it. This workable, effective theory of education ... wouldn't think of education as an isolated, shut-off compartment, but as a natural part of life, like birth, growing, marriage, or work. It would create a bond between the student and the great wide world, connected at many different points where interest was sparked."
At other times, she said that one of the tools to identify 'educational law' would be to identify what we as parents and teachers ought not do. To help us know what we 'ought not do', her writings eloquently illuminate how to assess educational efforts according to the gospel, which teaches us that we should hinder not, despise not, and offend not one of the least of these.

She also taught basic principles supporting the 'basic concept' of helping children to learn to attend. She went on to teach that children can in and of themselves naturally attend to that which is their proper diet, yet, that it is the purpose of the educator to help children to gradually discipline that natural ability to attend. In order to do so, the children are called upon to apply their will in order to gradually increase their attention sufficiently enough to help them grapple effectively with any matter at hand which is worthy of note, in order that the children themselves will be able to allow the subject at hand to 'make an impression' upon their heart and minds.

Further, Miss Mason taught that life itself and living things (including 'living books') worthy of note in the life of a child are sufficiently suited to help empower all children to come to their studies with appropriate levels of attention. She went on with sage guidance on many points, such as principles to suggest that requiring too much attention of a child would be an offense to the child, and such as her eloquent instruction regarding other principles which guide one to know when the child has attended sufficiently and when he has not, and what to do in response to the child in the case of either circumstance.

So, why should such 'principles' be called 'educational law'?

The 'laws of education' are much like 'the laws of physics'. Once one begins to understand the basics of gravity, one can plan to build a hut, but once one knows more of those principles, one can move towards the ability to vault a sky-scraper.

Each of our children can achieve more than they would otherwise if we understand how the laws of education should guide us in their development as individuals.

It might seem quite a horrific challenge to think that one needs to 'engineer' a child's education, but Miss Mason points out that once the principles are understood, they become natural in their implementation.

Without the 'educational principles' as a guide, sometimes parents and teachers try the latest fad or a long held idea without knowing how to assess the validity of those trends. The results are typically good for some children, but not for all.

With the educational principles as a guide, we can each begin to redirect our views of parenting and teaching bit by bit, moving each of our children's 'education' more and more in line with the principles of educational law.

That might look a little different for Johnny than it does for Jane, but the principles behind the educational choices for both children will be the same principles.

This idea of implementing the same 'laws' differently in different circumstances is readily illustrated in the fact that building a foundation for a skyscraper on the bedrock of NYC is accomplished differently than the building of a foundation on the soil structure found in Mexico City, where there is no such thing as bedrock. In and around Mexico City, there is no effective bedrock. There is so much water in the earth in and around Mexico City that foundations for skyscrapers there are actually designed to 'float' to a certain extent. That's a totally different type of 'foundation' than the ones employed in NYC, but the purpose is still the same, 'to vault a skyscraper'.

Both the 'bedrock' foundation and the 'floating' foundation are effective implementations of 'physical law'. The foundations are different, but the principles which guide to the one foundation are the same principles which guide us to the other foundation as well.

In the same way, implementing 'educational law' might look different for different children, but the goals and aims are the same for each child. Best of all, as we implement educational law more and more effectively, the results will be an increasingly natural, increasingly beneficial, and increasingly joyous education.

If something is not working in your homeschool, with the help of prayer and the principles of CM, it is possible to make adjustments as needed.

We have corrected course many times in our homeschool, and in doing so, my oldest in particular watched the changes move us more and more towards grace and ease in learning (he being my most dysgraphic and dyslexic, BTW).

We have never 'arrived' at a perfect implementation of CM principles, however, each time we move closer, more of our life is blessed.

So if no one ever 'arrives', is it really that difficult to understand the principles?

No, not really. The principles, once understood and valued - become free to work for you in your home. They literally work naturally in and of themselves once we get out of the way and allow that to happen.

We do need to direct and guide activities to help our families move in line with the principles, but it is the act of trusting, honoring, and following the principles that provides confidence, peace, faith, joy, and increasing love for each other and for learning, bit by bit, in our homes.

Sometimes one or more family member might reject a principle here or there, or we might misunderstand a principle's direct application here or there, but once such resistance and once those misunderstandings are addressed, the principles become free to work for our families again.

Here is a quote from the early pages of CM's Vol I that relates to that idea:

It is worth while to point out the differing characters of a system and a method, because parents let themselves be run away with often enough by some plausible 'system,' the object of which is to produce development in one direction––of the muscles, of the memory, of the reasoning faculty––were a complete all-round education. This easy satisfaction arises from the sluggishness of human nature, to which any definite scheme is more agreeable than the constant watchfulness, the unforeseen action, called for when the whole of a child's existence is to be used as the means of his education. But who is sufficient for an education so comprehensive, so incessant? A parent may be willing to undergo any definite labours for his child's sake; but to be always catering to his behoof, always contriving that circumstances shall play upon him for his good, is the part of a god and not of a man! A reasonable objection enough, if one looks upon education as an endless series of independent efforts, each to be thought out and acted out on the spur of the moment; but the fact is, that a few broad essential principles cover the whole field, and these once fully laid hold of, it is as easy and natural to act upon them as it is to act upon our knowledge of such facts as that fire burns and water flows. My endeavour in this and the following chapters will be to put these few fundamental principles before you in their practical bearing. Meantime, let us consider one or two preliminary questions.

As you begin to learn about the basic principles, you will see that each one begins to bless your family.

As you begin to add more principles and/or fine tune the first ones you began to implement at the beginning of your CM journey, you will find that the principles do not merely add to each other, they multiply the overall benefits exponentially.
May God grant us more and more faith to trust in all of His laws. May we meditate on them day and night, be they spiritual law, moral law, social law, or even educational law. May we respond to those laws as we meditate upon them and are led by them in such a way that we praise Him through our faithful obedience, trust, and joy in those laws - magnifying His name in all we do and say.

Monday, February 28, 2011

The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer - Cover, fly, forward, etc.

"As the hart panteth for the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God." Psalm 42:1 (verse on the cover of the book)

"It is not mere words that nourish the soul, but God Himself." - Tozer

"Perhaps the continued usefulness of this book can be attributed to the author's great spiritual discovery that to seek God does not narrow one's life, but brings it rather, to the level of highest possible fulfillment." [pg. 6, ISBN 1-56865-491-X]

The 'fellowship of the burning heart' was a passion of Tozer's, a man who spent boundless hours literally on his face before God, being still before Him, waiting upon Him.

Tozer grew in this stillness before God:

- while living in the bustle of Chicago:

- after growing up in relative poverty, (with little education, BTW),

- after receiving Christ upon hearing a street preacher,

- and thereby becoming an 'active witness' for Christ.

It is said both that He wrote the rough draft of this book while traveling from Chicago to Texas by train in the 1940s, and that He wrote the book on his knees........ Utterly amazing to one less familiar with such service of worship. How humbling that is indeed.

Tozer studied scripture as a scholar in spite of his former lackings in educational experience through the help of the Holy Spirit, whom he sought directly in all of his efforts to become more effective in his effort to express the nature and greatness of the God, whom we should all pursue.

When Tozer sought to become self-educated (or should we say, 'Spirit Educated'?), he evidently respected works which were not directly related to scripture. It is reported that when he studied Shakespeare, he did so on his knees before God - seeking His guidance.

That bit of info caught me offguard. While I highly value the lessons one can glean from Shakespeare about life and discernment about humanity (such as the insight evident in our 3rd son's then 9 yo response to Shakespeare's The Tempest's conflict between Prospero and Caliban, when he answered that certainly, if one "Sees someone as a monster, he will treat him monstrously"). (BTW - the actual play can be found here). Still, I had not thought to study any book exclusively on my knees, not Shakespeare, not even scripture...... *blush*

That is a humbling picture: Tozer on his knees, while I seek to direct my children in what could definitely be considered a much more laid back approach to learning........

So what of studying Shakespeare 'on one's knees' as it were? Really: Studying Shakespeare on one's knees?!!!

Well, for starters: Why do we study anything of "literary merit" anyway?

Well, just today, I was visiting with my daughter about her school books. We have not been reading any 'living books' with her lately (not much anyway). Upon opening them again, she was somewhat excited, and somewhat overwhelmed.

She was excited to enjoy the richness, but she knows that, since I am heavily influenced by the writings of Charlotte Mason, she would be required to narrate. The perceived pressure actually weighs heavily upon her after a break from narrating, and that stress actually impedes her first, renewed attempts at narrating. With a little practice, she'll be growing in this skill again, but for today, it was a stark challenge.

Thus, we only read a little, BUT THEN, we talked a little about living books, and why we use them. This time, the purpose of living books seemed especially clear to her, which seemed to set her feet on the verge of chosing to grow in maturity. What are those purposes behind the use of living books? Well, what is the purpose of any education?

--the purpose of education is not to help her to 'be successful' (what is 'success' anyway?)

--the purpose of education is not to 'prevent any gaps of knowledge' (no one can 'know it all')

--the purpose of education IS to help the soul to learn to care about many things

I want *her* to care about a great many things, thus the living books.

A living book is a book written by an author who is passionately concerned about his subject, and who is capable of conveying that concern to others in a literary fashion. Upon reading those concerns, rendered eloquently, the hearts of many respond to the 'ideas/seeds' contained in said books. Those 'seeds' bring forth fruit from related concerns which rise up in their own hearts and minds - and if they are maturing in the Lord, which also rise up in their spirits.

The book my daughter and I had opened today dealt with birds. Other books she has on her 'to read list' deals with other subjects. One of her books deals with Shakespeare's tales - after which she listens in while her brothers and I read through the actual Shakespeare play from which those 'tales' are taken.


Before exploring with her (and for myself) *why* we read Shakespeare, we stopped and explored this question:

Why would we read about birds? Just because it is fun? Just so we 'know more' (no, that puffs up the heart of man...... *sigh*)

Then why?

In order to hear one man's love and concern for the birds, and thereby to impart a love and concern for those creatures into my daughter's heart as well.

Is that really important to God?

In today's world, it is easy to react against those who are 'green' and worship the world. However, God did admonish us to be caretakers here even before the fall (Genesis 2:15 - NIV). Besides, didn't Solomon advise us to learn from nature around us (e.g. - look to the ant, thou sluggard.......), and didn't Paul advise us that creation bears witness as to the nature of its creator?

I would that God can and will both encourage and teach my daughter directly through His creation - that as she becomes increasingly attentive to the creation around her, she might not miss the lessons God has enmeshed in His creation for us, but which we flit past all too quickly. (as an example of our own inattention to the wonders of His creation, I was found out to be quite the city girl when I encouraged my children to begin watching for raptors, which I had hardly ever noticed in my home town, but which are readily observed throughout the whole region! - that was quite humbling - what else am I utterly oblivious to, anyway???)

I would that God would put on her heart to care about His creatures and His wondrous creation at large. That is actually something that God Himself does: the sparrow doesn't fall without His knowing (Luke 12:6 NLT). He certainly must take note when the earth cries out to Him - did it only cry out to Him when Abel died in Genesis 3? (We are not so omniscient as God in any of that, but Certainly God cares more for His flock - the body of Christ, than He cares for the sparrows (see Luke 12:7). More than He cares for the sparrows, He cares for us. Even though He is keeping the whole universe from flying apart into chaos (Hebrews 1:1-3), He cannot allow even one sparrow to pass through life without His amazing attention. What does He miss about our circumstances? What should we notice about the circumstances of those around us?

I would hope that my daughter becomes concerned about modern concerns, such as the diminishing bee population (and perhaps the impact of GMO's upon the bees). I would hope that she is concerned to leave the nests of birds alone, especially during nesting season whenever at all possible.

I would hope that my daughter becomes concerned with many subjects, thus many living books, with many eloquent authors putting forth their concerns are brought to her attention.

I would that she would couch those concerns in the terms of caring for the creation of God Almighty, over which we were made to rule and manage wisely, to His glory.

But is she only to be concerned with creation? Heaven forfend! Certainly the souls of men who need salvation and courage and peace from God are more important than the sparrows, and insects, and such.

So what of Shakespeare? What is his 'concern' which might empower my daughter with righteous concerns?

And - Why would Tozer open Shakespeare so prayerfully that he would be upon his knees?

Two thoughts come to mind at present:

--that Shakespeare is not direct scripture, and Tozer would not wish to be infected by any error implicit in Shakespeare....

but *perhaps* more than that.......

--that Shakespeare was an eloquent man with a powerful and discerning passion: that we understand the way a heart and a mind ticks in good men, in evil men, in oblivious men, in undecided men.......

Charlotte Mason said of Shakespeare that his psychology was without error - that he studied the soul of men with precise discernment. Is that perfectly accurate? Perhaps not, thus it is wise to add trembling to our studies, just as we should add trembling to our rejoicing (Psalm 2:11). Thus, Tozer's wisdom in taking to his knees when approaching Shakespeare is a powerful example to us all.

That said: What benefit is it to anyone who might have opportunity to observe literary figures who illustrate the good, the bad, and the ugly - as expressed in Proverbs and in other scripture which give rise to understanding about human nature?

Simply this, there is less need to discuss the behavior of specific individuals in our world in order for them to observe scripture 'in real life scenarios'.

One of the advisory members for AmblesideOnline once shared that while walking down the street with her daughters, she simply stated, "Watch out, Wickham, at 2:00." (or something to that affect). Her daughters were amazed at this alleged insight of their mother, but they were warned to at least be on their guard with this brief comment (not Shakespeare, but Austin in this case, but similar concerns can be expressed quietly and without lible through references to literary characters - characters who are known to an educated youth to be examples of real life strengths and foibles in real life people around them).

Perhaps that advisory member was right on target about the young man to whom she referred; perhaps in time, her concerns proved unfounded. Either way, she had a tool with which to put her daughters on guard when they otherwise might be put off by any stuffy nay-sayings which a mother might be inclined to make in a more emotionally propelled way...... [Of course, I do not believe that this advisory member deemed this alleged 'Wickham' to be beyond the reach of God's grace, but that her daughters had been taught both that women cannot remake the spirit of a man, and that they are to be on guard and watch out for men who do not love God who 'creep' into the homes of godly men to lead astray the daughters of such men (II Tim. 3:6). A scripturally acknowledged reality which is illustrated so well in Jane Austin's Pride and Prejudice.]

Another reason to study the works of 'living book authors', is that they are master craftsmen of the English language. When one both reads such well written work, and then thinks through that level of material on a regular basis (preferably aloud or in writing via some form of 'narration'), one begins to naturally take on the literary style and thus the literary/verbal power of those he is studying.

Certainly scripture should be the first of literary, living books to both read and narrate (the first time I had my sons attempt narration of bits of epistles at a time - first one verse, then the next - the attention required was brought to bear upon aspects of the scripture which we otherwise would have missed - highly recommended!). Yes, the Bible is a literary book of the highest quality. Yet other authors are able to reflect a part of the nature of the god in whose image they are made. Well chosen authors, then, are worthy of study, in order to empower the student with a power to express ideas clearly, concisely, and purposefully.

Thus, I agree with Tozer that the study of Shakespeare and many other truly classic authors has incredible potential value for both ourselves and our children.

So, here now, I bow before God Almighty, asking Him to provide His grace to help at least my heart to bow before God very specifically upon opening any book, whether or no I should ask my children to read Shakespeare on their knees......

And here now, I ask God to move on our hearts to know whether or no, perhaps we should, as Tozer did, break open at least some of our books upon our knees as well........

And here now, I ask God to move on my heart to know whether or not, perhaps I should approach Bible study on my knees.........

That I / we might gain greater insight and concern for the things which are of concern to Our Heavenly Father, and not merely puff up our own mind and souls.

That we might leave off 'self-education' and 'home education' and thereby more diligently seek to be "Spirit-educated," filled with and supplied by and satisfied with - the Spirit - with the provision of God.

Can we even leave it to our churches to feed us? Milton, quoted in the Preface here answers that all too well, "The hungry sheep look up, and are not fed."

May that God provides that in our home, in our heart sought 'spirit-led-education', we do not develop an appetite for the things of the world, but that we do develop an appetite for our proper nourishment (God Himself, per Tozer - see quote above).

May He help us indeed to be hungry sheep.


The Preface goes on to lament 'the Program' taking over actual worship in the church, at which time my heart longs more and more to admonish and empower and encourage the brethren to admonish each other to spend the days in singing songs, hymns, and spiritual songs - and thereby to 'admonish each other' while praising Him.

Oh, to spend our days worshipping Him and encouraging each other! What a vision He has provided for us in this! (Colossians 3:15-17)

But what should we sing? Merely literary workings which point to God? Certainly singing hymns would be singing literary workings. There is no ill in that? Certainly singing psalms via psalmody or as they are set in psalters would be more powerful, being scripture which is God breathed. Then again, might we not add to that the singing of other scripture, which can bring forth greater and greater faith (Romans 10:17).

May God grant me the grace to set my hand yet again, and more effectively to setting His Word to song, and may it be set in a way that brings honor to Him while admonishing those who love Him to 'pursue' Him more purposefully and effectively, and that such work brings forth faith in those not yet of the faith, and more faith in those already of the faith.

May He thereby humble me further, that I might be laid low on my face, in stillness before Him - waiting on Him - becoming one of the 'fellowship of the burning heart' in deed and in truth - that I might not be brought forth as one whose life discredits in the mind of anyone the scripture by which I would that others might find life, peace, and the love of God in more and more abundance.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Music - Scripture Related to Music

Exodus 15 - The Song of Moses "I *will* sing (unto the Lord for....)" vs. 1
"sing ye to the Lord, for he hath...." vs. 21
Numbers 21:16-18 - The Well at Beer ",.....Gather the people together, and I will give them water. Then Israel sang this song, Spring up, O well; sing ye unto it. The princes digged the the direction of the lawgiver, with their staves...."

Exodus 32:18 (Moses hears the people in revelry)

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Mom's Commentary: Genesis 1:1a (Part IV)

We have seen that there have been a lot of beginnings just in Genesis.

Was the beginning mentioned in Genesis 1:1 just any old beginning?

Was it the beginning of God, perhaps? No!

Art thou not from everlasting, O LORD my God, my Holy One? Habakkuk 1:12a

Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God. Psalm 90:2

God inhabiteth eternity according to Isaiah 57:15. He also liveth forever and ever according to Revelation 4:10. His years shall have no end Psalm 102:27. (also see Romans 16:26)

So God didn't just 'show up' for the first time at 'the beginning'. He not only has always lived, He will always live! Glory!

Better yet, He didn't wind up the universe and then take a nap:

Hast thou not known? Hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? Isaiah 40:28a

And even better than that, if you accept Him as God (and allow His love to help you fix what's not working in your life), He promises to take care of you:

The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms. Deuteronomy 33:27a

But what about that first beginning? Again, was it just any old beginning?

No, there is a huge lesson for us in THE BEGINNING.

No one said it better than the psalmist:

Psalm 100

1 Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands.

2 Serve the LORD with gladness: come before his presence with singing.

3 Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

4 Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.

5 For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.


He is the beginning.

He is the end.

He is the beginning and end of all praise.

May we praise Him in all that we do!

Glory be to God.


Saturday, January 29, 2011

Mom's Commentary: Genesis - Introduction

'In the beginning' are the first words found in the book of Genesis.

And the name 'Genesis' itself means much the same as those first words of the book. After all, 'genesis' and 'genus' and 'generation' are similar in root and meaning. The words 'birth' and 'begetting' are associated with the word 'genesis' as well. Here is the most pertinent portion of the 1828 Webster's Dictionary's definition:

"The act of producing, or giving birth or origin of anything; the process or mode of originating....."

There are various beginnings introduced throughout the book of Genesis, which is why some people call Genesis, "The Book of Beginnings."

What other 'beginnings' are there in the Bible besides the beginning of this universe and all the things therein? Are all of the beginnings that are found in the Bible good beginnings?

a. There is the beginning of the good news: the hope and promise of a solution to our sin. The good news continued to be expressed throughout the time of Genesis in several ways:

--through the promise that 'the seed of the woman' would overcome Satan, crushing his head, as told in Genesis 3:14-15 Paragraphs 10-15 of John MacArthur's "The Promise of Redemption--Part One" are packed with incredible insights into this promise of God to bring about salvation. (e.g. - it took faith for Adam to name his wife 'Eve' which means 'life' after they had just been handed the sentence of 'death')
--through the sacrifice of a lamb which pointed to Jesus, the Lamb of God
--through the gospel in the skies (My first intro. to this subject came from D. James Kennedy's The Zodiac, I concur with the review at re: this book. -- It was in reading this book that, after having named one of my children, I realized that his name had extra meaning because of the archer in the sky who points to Christ....... which made the book particularly special to me at the time. If you want to observe the constellations and read through this type of material, then you might want to consider purchasing or checking out H. A. Rey's The Stars - It is amazingly accessible! - Now I just need to make more time to explore the stars some more with my children!)
--through gospel messages found by linking the geneology from Adam through Jesus, sometimes referred to as 'The Names Code' - 'The Acrostic of the Names - Code'
--through the story of the flood the gospel is also seen: the nature of Christ's salvation and the provision of the Holy Spirit as well as baptism is seen in the story of the great flood and Noah's ark (with Christ pictured as the ark: if we are in him when we pass through judgment, both Christ and those in Him are lifted up, above judgment, by the workings of the Holy Spirit), as well as the Noahic Covenant
--the gospel is seen through God's covenants with Abraham and his descendants
--the gospel is also expressed through 'types and shadows' throughout the rest of the book as well

b. There is a beginning to prophecy forthtold in Genesis 3. The promise that 'the seed of woman' will crush the head of the serpent is the first prophetic telling. It is of no surprise that the first prophetic forthtelling pointed out what is to come about through Christ.

c. There is the beginning of the sabbath (Genesis 2:1-3) even before the fall of man. Later, God expressed in scripture what He wanted from and for His people during the sabbath. He explained that after detailing a proper understanding of a life lived to Him for context. The context is found in Isaiah 58:6-14, with the information pertaining directly to the sabbath being in the last two verses of that section.

d. There is more than beginning to agricultural work. First, there is working the garden to dress it and keep it Genesis 2:15.

Then, after the fall, there is the beginning of working the earth to bring forth sustenance (bread and produce). This argricultural necessity after the fall is filled with symbolism which Christ referenced often in His dealings with the people of Israel.

The seed planted to produce food has to die to itself to multiply.

The seed of the weed, however is another matter. It must utterly die. After the fall, when the ground was cursed so that it would bring forth thorns, the one who tilled the ground pulled up the thorns - concerned with getting rid of them to the point where they will not go to seed (and after they are pulled, they can still go to seed, depending on the stage of life in which they are found when they are pulled). Thus, when the land was cleared of such troublesome weeds, what happened to the pulled weeds? My contention is that they were cast in the fire in order to utterly destroy the seeds. I mean, when I pull weeds that might go to seed, I don't want them in a compost pile that might let them escape back out onto the property, only to multiply! Only good seed should be suffered to multiply if we wish to further the yield of the land.

d. There's the beginning of child bearing with Cain and Abel. A humbling beginning, but hope comes forth with Seth because of the promise of God to this appointed son (Seth means 'set' or appointed, but is translated pillar or foundation in some translations of Isaiah 19:10). It was Seth's line that was appointed to carry forward the Adamic Covenant. As noted above, the names of the children who carried on the Adamic, then Noahic, then Mosaic, and finally the Abrahamic covenants all point towards the coming of Christ. (as per the site).

e. There is the beginning of the first marriage, between Adam and Eve. (Genesis 2:19-25) This marriage relationship is latter used to illustrate both the relationship of God as husband to the nation of Israel, as well as the relationship between Jesus and the church.

[Are we beginning to see a pattern here? The gospel message points to God's redemptive plan in Christ. The first prophecy points directly to Christ as God's solution for our 'uh-oh'. The sabbath points to the glory of God established by His Word. Agriculture and all of nature point to God and Christ. The descendents of Adam who are chosen as covenant children point directly to Jesus as the Lamb of God. - and so the Bible proceeds from beginning to end....., except when people reject that purpose, at which time, God ends up stepping in sooner of later, as in the next story, at which time, few people were left seeking His face.......]

1. Here's a beginning that occurred in the land of Shinar:

And the Lord said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do. Genesis 11:6

In this Bible story, the Story of Babel (Genesis 11), people have imagined to do something which God will not even permit. He had given a command to fill the earth (Genesis 9:1 NAS), and the people had come up with a plan which would not have been in keeping with the spirit of that command. They planned to make us a name, lest we be scattered (Genesis 11:4),

Oh, how we want to make a name for ourselves instead of exalting His name above every name! Satan certainly helped to encourage this vile plan, though it is likely that few if any of the people in the land of Shinar had any idea what Satan's actual purpose was.

Well, God had promised not to send another flood, but something had to be done soon, because this was one command He expected to see fulfilled one way or another.

Thus, He came up with a plan to force the issue:

Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech. So the Lord scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build to the city. Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the Lord did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the Lord scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth. Genesis 11:7-9

One might say that this was the 'end' of that 'beginning'. It was an end to keeping all the people in one place to corrupt all of them into worship of a god other than the creator God. However, if one observes structures used in worship throughout the world, one sees various stylized versions of a ziggurat (such as in Egypt, as well as India, China, and South America - see paragraph 17). So it seems that the influences behind the Tower of Babel have persisted.

God didn't approve of the plan to make us a name, lest we be scattered. He disapproved to the point that He brought an end to their plan without further delay.

When my children were young homeschooling students, we made ziggurats from cardboard, and then we took them out to the woods. They were encouraged to walk away from their ziggurats which would fade away, so they could walk towards God, whose glory will not fade, and who seeks to bestow blessings from His glorious bounty upon all those who seek His ways. (ziggurats are understood by many to have been used in the worship of the moon god - with the crescent moon found on islamic mosques and flags present in archeological artifacts from about the time of Abraham - you can read more about them here if you like).

May we walk away from our plans - from any gods of our own making, from making a name for ourselves, from making a place for ourselves apart from Him, and may we instead walk in His ways, with His leading as confirmed by the Word: beginning and persevering diligently through those things which He calls us to.

May that help us to grow in unity, in virtue, in knowledge, in temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, and most importantly, love.

May that be a light to others to come to Him.


Thursday, January 27, 2011

Growing in Prayer - Examples of Prayers in Genesis (Part I - Ch's 1-10)

We can cast all of our concerns upon Him:

Casting all your cares upon Him; for he careth for you. I Peter 5:7


Going through Genesis, looking for examples of prayer, worship, etc., a peculiar kind of perspective came to light. Well, it was peculair to me. Some of you may have noticed these kinds of things before, but it has utterly passed under my radar screen until now - at least, as a theme through scripture!


First, just to point out the obvious background:

0) At ground zero, creation week itself, God's Word showed up in this universe which He had created. His Word was gloriously powerful in creative force. Further, His Word made evident the incredible designing/engineering capabilities of God! His Word may or may not have said much more than is recorded, but what is recorded shows Him to be a glorious God!

Then the alleged peculiarities begin to show up:

1) Before the fall, Adam walked with God in the garden and scripture says that God commanded Adam regarding the food he should and should not have eaten (Genesis 2:16-17). No comment from Adam is recorded - no praise, nothing.

Nothing? Hmmmm, well, okay. It's His Bible, right? His Word.....

1b) Lots of people wonder about walking with God in the garden. How many people wish they could have been walking with Adam? Really, I do look forward to fellowshiping with Adam in heaven someday, but I never longed to walk in the garden with Adam! I only have wanted to walk in the garden with God Himself.

God is utterly glorious! Man? Not so much: Only as much as God shares His glory with us..... Wow!

2a) Later, Adam and Eve heard the voice of God walking in the garden (Genesis 3:8 - that's how the King James puts it anyway.... the NAS and NIV put it differently, but the KJV makes some sense to me in light of what the NAS and NIV had to say).

But back on track: Assuming it was actually a 'voice': Was that voice even talking to Adam? If it was, that wasn't important enough to mention!

2b) By that time, Adam & Eve had eaten the forbidden fruit.

In response to their disobedience, the Bible records a conversation between God, Adam, Eve, and the Serpent, with the serpent no longer speaking. (If he said anything then, it was of no consequence to us.) (Genesis 3:9-19).

There is finally a comment from Adam. When? Once it was time to start explaining himself in light of the first sin in the whole world! Rather humbling, don'tcha think? I mean, what would you do if God asked you to explain how you knew you were naked? Adam tried to explain....... Did he try to make excuses? What was that like, anyway? Glad he had fig leaves on, no?

Whatever all Adam was trying to do, the first recorded words of man were........... humbling at best.

When God spoke to Adam and Eve after the fall, His words were still glorious. He was both just (handing out appropriate consequences for those who decided He wasn't really 'God' after all), yet promising a way to access His mercy, grace, and love anyway!

Adam's words aren't of much regard, really. They are there 'for the record.'

God's words right after the fall are entirely different. Gracious and glorious.

What a contrast between God's Word at the onset of creation & after the fall, and man's first *recorded* words.

3) God even recorded for us His talk with Cain prior to murdering his brother (offering him a chance to avoid murder). Nothing Cain might have said in response has been noted.

God's words to Cain, however, are vital to us still today.

After the murder, something of Cain's words finally make it into the Bible! Let's see - for one thing he lied! Need we go on further? Yep, lies. That's what crops up the *second* time that any of mankind's words are recorded in scripture.

Still nothing great about man showing through here. (Genesis 4:1-15). Ouch!

3b!) Not a word from Abel is recorded in Genesis, or anywhere else in scripture.

However, Abel 'speaketh' to us today according to the faith chapter, Hebrews 11! (Hebrews 11:4)
So what is Abel still speaking - and how? What clues are there, anyway? The only thing we know is that he relied on a sacrifice that was accepted in order to find forgiveness of sin in his life.

What did the acceptance of that sacrifice require of him?

Faith in a promise/instruction. Abel is still speaking to us today about the results of faith in a promise. The promise came from outside of himself, and the faith came from outside of himself as well. The promise, and the faith in that promise both came from God. Thus, Abel's testimony lifts up the Promise Maker and the Faith Giver, and illustrates his/our failures and need of the Promise Maker. Yep! humbling again!

But the love of God changes all of that 'low life' aspect of man showing through here!

His love lifts us up. He is the lifter of our head in spite of ourselves! (Psalm 3:3) Nothing we can do can lift us up above our sin.

But He can.

The glory is all God's.

The glory does not go to those who were lifted to the Faith Hall of Fame. The glory goes to the one who lifted them up to the Faith Hall of Fame in spite of their failures.

The glory does not go to those who 'do better than Cain did' today, either.

He lifts up those who lift up the glory of His promise, who glorify Him!

He seeks to lift us up today as well! He does it the same way today as He did in the case of Abel: by granting us faith in a promise - in His promise. (Now we should still be speaking about that to mankind - something He can grant us the faith to do as well.)

Glory be to God!

4) Men began to call on the name of the Lord when Adam's grandson Enos, the son of Seth, was born (Genesis 4:26). Someone has recently pointed out to me that the name Y-hw-h was in the text when Eve named Cain - - and they are only now calling on His name when Enos is born? This confuses me to some extent, so to date, I still do not have much comment here. Just a lot of confusion about the delay........

But it's pretty amazing that men would call on the name of the Lord at any point in time. Where does the glory go in that case? To mankind who is in desperate need of Him? Oops! Nope! The glory goes to God yet again!

The really amazing thing is that God listens! Mankind does a terrible job of listening to Him, but He listens to us and cares for each of our thoughts anyway. He thinks about US a LOT: (Psalms 139:3-4, & especially Psalms 139:17-18)

That is amazingly glorious!

Praise God for His tender kindnesses!

5) There are, however, times when man walked with or talked with God, with the story of Enoch being an extremely wonderful example (Genesis 5).

So what does Enoch have to say to us? Anything?

Enoch is remembered today for having walked with and talked with God, but not a word of what Enoch said when he was 'walking and talking with God' was important enough for us to need to know about it! *giggle* (amazing really!)

5b!) Even though Genesis did not specify any words from Enoch, what was important was 'his testimony' which God honored later in Hebrews 11:5!

Now, the NAS and NIV render the testimony as one given to Enoch (like as if it was there only to let Enoch know that He was accepted so closely by God). However, if that testimony was given to Enoch, I'm inclined to think the KJV's rendering is still appropriate: Any testimony that God has given to Enoch has the ability to uplift others. So Enoch can share his 'testimony' with us whether it was given to him or it arose from His own life's experiences (provided from God, of course) as a statement to us.

Certainly if Abel is still 'speaking', Enoch is still sharing forth his 'testimony/witness', no?

Well, that is my understanding to date.

People usually think of a 'testimony' as including words. But that isn't necessarily important. Enoch's reputation now precedes him...... What is that reputation?

Well, let's examine scripture: What was Enoch's testimony? "that he pleased God" (Hebrews 11:5) - - -

His reputation is not that he was eloquent, or had clever things to say when He walked and talked with God, or anything, just 'that he pleased God.' Nothing else mattered from that incredible life - except that he pleased God!

Any clue as to what he did that pleased God?

He had faith.

How do we know? From the very next verse in the Faith Chapter, Hebrews 11:6 "Without faith it is impossible to please [God]..........!"

So there it is. We gotta have faith!

Enoch had faith - the very existence of his faith is all that we need to know to 'hear' his testimony about pleasing God.

6a) God spoke to Noah about the ark, and Noah obeyed (Genesis 6:13-22). It is true that actions speak louder than words. They did in the case of Adam & Eve, Cain, and Enoch too. Certainly all we hear is Noah's actions. Not a word from him here - not any words used in prayer in particular.

[but don't you think that he did pray to God in faith, and don't you think that his prayer life had something to do with his getting a ticket on the ark?]

6b) It happened again! God spoke. Noah obeyed (without any of his words recorded *again*) (Genesis 7:1-5).

6c) God spoke to Noah and told him it was time to leave the ark, he, his family, and all the animals (Genesis 8:15-17). Not even a sigh of joy or anything from Noah recorded here! No long psalm of praise - not even a short one! Nada!

The message should be pretty clear:

God gives the instruction, the important thing for those who trust and fear Him is simply to obey - IN FAITH.

6d) Noah built an altar and offered burnt offerings, but there is no mention of specific prayers - though certainly he prayed then (Genesis 8:20). I mean, this is a dramatic moment in history - at least to Noah and his family. No more ark building! No more ark rides! Well - there was the monumental task of starting over, but the ark ordeal was over. Yet not a peep from Noah or his family is able to make it into God's word at this time!

God's incredible word and work says all that needs to be said.

6e) In response to that sacrifice which Noah offered after leaving the ark (the sacrifice which pointed to the promised savior - in indication of faith, no? - which pleases god, right!?):

Sure enough, God was pleased and promised certain things that make life easier for man - like, no more floods! (Genesis 8:21-22). But still not a word from this monumental man, Noah.

6f) Going into chapter 9, there is still no word from Noah, but there is more said by God almighty! Blessings for Noah, some new, post-flood guidelines, a covenant, and the rainbow, - without one word mentioned from Noah's mouth (Genesis 9:1-17).

[When Noah finally speaks in the Bible, it is related to family dysfunction, and the curses that arise from family dysfunction. Is that glorious of man or something? *sigh* - not at all.]

6Z) What does the Faith Chapter tell us about what Noah 'said'? That by being 'moved with fear' and constructing an ark 'to the saving of his family', he condemned the world - (along with becoming the heir of righteousness - for his faith, of course. All of this was accomplished by faith.) (Hebrews 11:7).

[Remember, faith is a gift of god - lest any man should boast (Ephesians 2:8).]


So thus far, ten whole chapters into Genesis:

--God spoke and created (a huge power, more powerful than all the stars together; yet concerned about all the little details - such as laminin which both holds us together, and bears testimony of Christ's sacrificial love........ wow! - what detail in our lives is not important to that kind of God? What solutions can He create for us about anything that can arise in our lives? What couldn't He deal with?) End result? God is wonderful!
--God explained both wonderful blessings and safety standards for Adam & Eve - - End result? God provides everything we need - we simply need to listen to Him. God is wonderful!

--God's voice was heard walking in the garden (how cool is that!?)
--God asked a question because the safety standards had not been observed....... (how gentle is that?)
--Adam explained his sin.......? How does one do that? no, only admit... / Some people see this as not a narration/telling-back what happened, but as excuses. I mean, Adam didn't exactly try to stop Eve and protect her or something. So, what's the deal if they were ?excuses? - the first words recorded from man were excuses? How humbling is that?
--God spoke forth the inevitable penalties which applied, since safety standards were not observed. How just is that?
--God spoke forth a promise in the midst of the penalties........ a creationary God having created a solution for weakness in others who were itty bitty but thought they could be huge like Him. Why did He do that? Because of love! What incredible love!
--God warned Cain. Again, what love.
--God exposed Cain for what he was and punished him after Cain refused to heed God's warning. God exposed Cain by asking him questions - and Cain's own testimony exposed the lack of truth in his life in spite of God's warning *&* invitation (truth sets us free/obedience keeps us safe; lies tyrannize us/disobedience brings disaster......). God can bring us to Him if we embrace the truth, but for Him to be a just God, all untruth will have to be destroyed - along with those who cling to it.
--Abel, who didn't have much to say about the sacrifice that made him famously righteous before God, who didn't have much to say about being murdered, speaks his testimony still today: faith makes the offering God calls us to rely upon effective. What made him worthy of the grandiose list in Hebrews 11? Faith in A PROMISE FROM SOMEONE ELSE. That promise giver is pretty incredible!
--Enos, Seth's son, had to be born before men began to call upon the name of the Lord. God listened anyway.
--Enoch, who talked with God, doesn't have any of his words recorded, but it is said of him that he pleased God (and only faith pleases God........) Again, that faith is IN A PROMISE FROM SOMEONE ELSE. So what's so glorious? The PROMISE GIVER!
--God spoke the fear of God into Noah's life (why? to preserve Noah), and Noah got good and busy - with plenty of diligence to last a lifetime!
--God spoke promises and new guidelines for the post-flood world.
--God provided Noah with both a promise and with faith.

That's it for the first 10 chapters. (Yes, Abraham will talk to God, and so will others in other portions of Genesis and the Bible - but that's a lot of years from Creation to the time just before Abraham to have such a humbling view of mankind's 'words', especially in light of the glory of God's Word!)


Conclusion? God is amazingly wonderful.

Man? Not so much.

However, God values faith in the sacrifice He has ordained, Jesus Christ!

He also desires to walk and talk with us today. Even if we cannot walk and talk with Him on the level that Enoch did, He does desire fellowship with you. After all, that is why Jesus died - to reconcile us to Him, so we can fellowship with Him again.

Glory be to God in the highest!


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Mom's Commentary - Genesis 1:1a+

Genesis 1:1a+ In the beginninng, God

" 'In the beginning God . . . ' (Genesis 1:1). Not matter, for matter is not self-causing. It requires an antecedant cause, and God is that cause. Not law, for law is but a name for the course which all creation follows. That course had to be planned, and the planner is God. Not mind, for mind is a created thing and must have a creator back of it. In the beginning God, the uncaused cause of matter, mind, and law. There we must begin."

My son has been collecting the AmblesideOnline books for a little while now so that they will be in his own library as an adult, and we added The Pursuit of God by Tozer to his collection for Christmas.

He just finished reading it and had to share this quote with me, and now I just had to share it with you.

From A. W. Tozer's The Pursuit of God, Chapter 5, "The Universal Presence", which begins with a quotation from the Psalms:

Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? Psalm 139:7


Mom's Commentary - Genesis 1:1a (Part 2)

Genesis 1:1a In the beginning

[In Part 1, the last questions revolved around what God was beginning to do in us as individuals. What new works has He begun? What new songs might He have given us might be another good question to explore in that entry someday.......?

Now let's consider the same questions about 'us' as one body.]

What is God up to now? What is God doing universally (not politically or in the cosmos so much - but what is going on in the 'our/us' mentioned in the Lord's prayer)? What is God doing in 'our' life as one body (Romans 12:15)?

Do we need any new beginnings with Him as a body?

If so, in what does God want 'us' to begin to grow next?

For one thing, 'we' certainly do need to purpose to grow in unity!

Till we all come in the unity of faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ. Ephesians 4:13

In order to grow in unity, we all need to grow in faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God. Certainly we can grow in the knowledge of the Son of God. Can we grow in faith?

We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is meet, because that your faith groweth exceedingly, and the love of everyone of you all toward each other aboundeth. II Thess. 1:3

So do unity, faith, the knowledge of the Son of God, and love all grow and mature together? In searching for answers directly from the scripture to answer that question, it seems that the Bible does directly relate faith and 'hearing the word of God' - as per the writings of the apostle Paul.

So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. Romans 10:17 (see also Galatians 3:2)

Is hearing the word of God all there is to it, then? No!

Hearing the word of God and receiving faith by hearing is only 'a beginning'!

According to II Peter 1:3-9:

--We have been given promises which have produced the beginnings of faith (Hallelujah!)(faith - fido.....a rope or cable which makes fast - draws...... 'to believe, to obey')

--that we might partake in the divine nature! (Amazing! - what an opportunity! - the definition of divine that would pertain to our 'partaking in the divine nature' would seem mostly to be: proceeding from God, as in divine sayings or works, apparently above that which is human! - Does it not seem, then that we should be, in our new nature in Him, something above the human nature - via the nature He wants to share with us - knowing this, that the 'above human nature' all comes from Him, not us!)

--we are to give all diligence (constant effort to accomplish without unnecessary delay or sloth!)

--add virtue to our faith (faith is a gift, it enables us to add virtue - and what a definition! 'strength from straining, stretching, extending'....etc. - - faith empowers us to strain, stretch, and extend beyond ourselves, particularly to be in keeping with God's desires, which produces strength, aka virtue! What a hope and power there is in His Word! But some strain, stretch, and extend themselves for their own purposes, such as those who have fasted for vain reasons. God's reasons for fasting include more than being sensitive to His spirit in intellectual worship, or even open to direction about 'change' in one's heart. God's reasons include giving the bread not eaten to those who are oppressed and poor, along with releasing the bands of wickedness not only in our lives, but through prayer and fasting, God releases bands around us, etc. Isaiah 58:1-8)

--then add knowledge to that (more knowledge than what produced the initial faith.... 'a clear and certain perception of that which exists, or of truth and fact, the perception of the connection and agreement or disagreement and repugnancy of our ideas!)

--then add temperance (We may satisfy our appetites if we have the means, but not indulge them, as indulging them increases them yet never satisfies them - increasing them over and over again, which dulls our spiritual appetites. How much do we really need in order to satisfy healthy appetites pertaining to our physical selves? That differs from person to person. We each need to learn to listen to our appetites to take note when we are actually satisfied, as they are able to inform us as to how much we need in order to be 'satisfied' with regards to sleep, activity levels, diet, etc.... (Here is an example: What we eat can be an uncomfortable topic: but it is an important one. Health issues can impact weight gain, that is a different issue altogether. If one actually struggles with listening to his/her own appetite to learn to recognize when they are satisfied, there are ways to learn how to listen more attentively. One way is to calculate the approximate caloric need for a given person using a scientific equation that is fairly accurate. That would provide a starting place. One could use that as a ballpark figure, then increase or decrease food intake to the appropriate amount of food in order to either gain, lose, or maintain weight as decided in prayer and praise. Next, notice when requirements change due to change in activity levels, physical cycles, age, health, etc. In working this way, many have learned to watch for subtle indicators that help to signal 'satisfied' to the brain.) This does not require austerity and long faces. Even fasting is not to be accomplished with long faces. (Matt. 6:16) So no groaning allowed! Replacing the groaning with praise for what we do have (which might focus on non-food items) would help to increase spiritual sensitivity, and decrease an appetite on overdrive. Developing healthy appetites in non-food interests helps as well. Diligence and strength-of-will (or virtue) is often required when changing the appetites and drives from 'overdrive' or even 'underdrive' to 'normal-healthy' levels. Again, no long faces! Satisfying our fleshly appetites may be done joyously, with thanksgiving to God, and with love towards those with whom we have opportunity to fellowship, in order to help meet their needs with love and joy as well. It is important to note that no more attention should be given to our appetites than that. For example, as Charlotte Mason, an incredible English educator from a century or so ago, said in her book Ourselves (written to inform students regarding basics of applying good character), "while you are eating, talk and think of something more amusing than your food," and "Never think of your meals till they come" (save for the cook who should think how to prepare, not how to eat what is being prepared; and we should also take time to thank God for the food He does provide). [Volume 4, pg. 14 of the Original Homeschooling Series (highly recommended reading!)] But enough on temperance for now!

--and thereby be enabled to add patience (...endurance without murmuring.... submission to the divine will..... constancy in labor.... bearing offenses without anger.... Each of these goals is more attainable when we are not expecting to fulfill lusts of the flesh, but merely meet our fleslhy needs with thanksgiving when we are able to do so, and being thankful for what we do have even when we are unable to fulfill our fleshly needs. Patience is also more accessible when we recognize that we need to give up ownership of everything we have, even our reputation. As Bill Gothard puts it, our reputation doesn't matter, and God is big enough to deal with His own reputation. (paraphrased version of Gothard's take on the subject)).

--which results in increasing ability to develop godliness (...reverence for the divine character...obedience. To be Christ-like - which includes bringing glory to God, obedience in all things; sacrificial love, even to the point of death if need be - for the benefit of others).

--leading then to brotherly kindness (affection, kindness...syn. tender.....) To be kind, we actually invest our time, energy, and/or our resources in others' lives... 'where your treasure is, there will your heart be also' Matthew 6:21. As Bill Gothard shares in his videos, if we are kind to others, it develops a real love in us towards them, because we have invested treasure into their lives.)

--resulting ultimately in love (.....devoted, .....strong attachment to.....)

Would this not then result in unity within the body, with the 'we' who love Him and serve him?


Okay, with the verses and definitions that was a bit choppy. So what would be a paraphrase of II Peter 1:3-9? How about this?

Due to God's gift of faith which binds us to Him and draws us after Him, we are able to give constant attention to exerting our will towards strength/virtue in the realms of moral excellence, helping us to have more knowledge about God, ourselves, others, and proper stewardship of those things which we have use of to serve Him - being humbled before Him by the strength of our various fleshly desires, we can trust him to provide us yet more virtue/strength to be patient in well doing and patient with others, producing godliness, inspiring brotherly kindness wherewith we invest treasure into their lives, producing in our own selves, love for the brethren.

Which produces unity.

So, does faith, knowledge of the Son of God, love, and unity increase and grow together?

When the faith is from God, yes, it must.

Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ.... that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel. Philippians 1:27


Monday, January 24, 2011

The Lord Is My ____________

Some of the ladies at church encouraged us to begin listing what God has meant to us each day, using the format found in the beginning line of the Twenty-Third Psalm.

David gave quite the example when He said, "The Lord is my shepherd."

I'm sure I won't blog on this entry daily, but I'll make entries as time permits....... starting here:


--2/4/11: The Lord is my Shepherd: Several years ago, my family was actually at the state fair (we don't attend often for one reason or another). When we went through the livestock barns, I had an opportunity to cuddle a lovely ewe lamb. She was beautiful, soft, cuddly, warm, and wonderful. I was in love, to be sure. My husband saw it all over me and shepherded me as far away from the livestock as fast as he could....... He knew he might not be able to tell me 'no', but that it was not the time for us to tend even one lamb....... /// Fast forward to today. Our church has a Wednesday evening ladies' class which is going through W. Phillip Keller's A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23. Keller has a lot of experience working with flocks of sheep, and even owned his own flock for eight years. He spoke of the loving care he provided for his sheep, and of the amazing relationship that develops when the good shepherd lays down his life for his flock. His writing reminded me of the time when I nuzzled that precious ewe lamb, and the Holy Spirit reminded me that Christ loves me the way I loved that ewe lamb. /// It is not time for me to be a shepherd, but it is a time for me to be a ewe lamb in the flock of the Good Shepherd. What a precious thing to have such a good shepherd to care for us! /// Then, while going to sleep, I recalled Bill Gothard's talking about Psalm 51:8 which says Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice. Now, I was already familiar with what is said about shepherds who break the bones of lambs who go astray. After breaking the bones, the shepherd carries the lamb next to his heart until the lamb can walk again. During that time, the lamb learns to love the voice of the shepherd and learns not to stray. --- THEN I recalled Psalm 34:20 He keepeth all his bones: not one of them is broken. Might that be because not only is a good shepherd to us, but he was a faithful follower of his own 'shepherd', His Father in Heaven????? ...........

--1/25/10: The Lord is my why and wherefore. (We've had slow days in our school work: our daughter is in training to begin taking responsibility for her own school work at a new level - and our sons have been going back to some of their notes/questions from various Basic Seminar in Youth Conflicts sessions, in order to draw conclusions and set goals somewhat independently. / That provided time to go through notes made on paper about Genesis last week, and rework them quite a bit with the help of Notepad, blogspot, Biblegateway, and an online 1828 Webster's. In the meantime, my flesh/pride, etc. has tried to interfere with this wrong attitude or that. It took some effort to battle with that pride/flesh, when I'd rather do something else. But it was cool to win the battle for the day! And the reason for persevering? The Lord is my why and wherefore.......) .

--1/24/10: The Lord is my healer. (God gave direction to my husband to seek help from our chiropractor when my shoulder pain became persistent and increased in intensity over time, even though at other times, I needed a different nutritional or medical solution for joint pain. I am grateful for God providing direction through my husband when we didn't have the funds for 2nd opinions right now. Wow! It is also amazing that God has allowed the human mind to understand some of the complexities of our bodies, which are so fearfully and wonderfully made; and that there are men who are well studied enough to work in such a healing way.) Thank you God for giving my husband good direction and for sharing this particular healing knowledge with mortal man. Thank you that our bodies can respond to healing hands this way!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Getting Started in Newness of Life

So you have prayed a prayer of faith and accepted Jesus as your Savior and Lord!

Hallelujah! What a savior we have in Him!

And now you are ready to begin taking your first steps in this newness of life which He has so freely given to you.

That's fantastic. Ask Him for specific guidance as well, but here are some important, general pointers for you to work through to help get you started.

It might be a good idea to read just a couple (or a little more perhaps) of the ideas listed below a day at first. You can review them later more quickly once you have begun to work through each point individually.

Do make sure you take each of these points very seriously though. They are all important to your new life in Him.

1. First of all, keeping praising Him about all of His goodness towards your past, present and future. Praise Him with your heart, your mind, your spirit, and with your actions too.

Now it is time to thank Him. How can we best do that?

And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him. Colossians 3:17


If you do better with writing down your thoughts, here are some ideas to get you started:

Some people find it helpful to list things they are thankful for in a journal of sorts. It's not something you must do. You do need to praise Him and thank Him throughout the day, but you don't have to write anything down. Some people just find it helpful to do so.

Here's a list of amazing things He has already done in your own life to get your started:

--He has removed the shame which was a burden to you in the past.
--He has enabled you to turn away from sin today.
--He has empowered you to do what is right today.
--He has also removed the penalty of eternal death in the future.
--He has created some amazing things in the world around us.
--He died for you and rose from the dead! Hallelujah!
--He gave you His Word in the Bible to help guide you in walking in newness of life.
--He overcomes evil with good!

If you decide to keep a praise and thanksgiving journal, make sure that the words you write in your notebook are not merely from your head, but that you take time to be still and look at Him. To be still regarding thanksgiving, simply take time to see each of those blessings as having come from Him.

If you want to keep a journal, you can use a simple notebook, or a nicely bound journal of your choice, or journal online, or jot some things down to help you think 'out loud', then let the paper go if that is best for you.

Another thing you might do in a journal is keep a running list of things He means to you. Ladies at my own church encouraged me to do that recently, and it is a wonderful blessing. They referenced the rather well known Shepherd's Psalm and pointed out that the first line says, "The Lord is my _____".

They suggested filling in the blank each day with whatever God has been for you that day.

If you have time, let me know what God has been to you, so I can praise Him with you!

2. You are now able to overcome sin in your life. It is a daily choice to live according to the new spirit which He has given you.

First of all, depending on your life before receiving Christ, you might need to go through your belongings and give away or even destroy things which have to do with things that are contrary to the love, goodness, and righteousness of God. If you have actually worshipped another 'god', you should actually burn anything related to that worship. Any statues which are formed in the images of idols should be treated in the same way, even if you only collected them as 'art'. Other items that God puts on your heart to remove from your home might just need to be given away.

If you are unsure about some things, pack them away until you find a godly mentor to help you know the right thing to do with them. It is probably a good idea not to get back into that box until you have the help that you need to make the right decisions.

Simply go through your home prayerfully considering if there are things which He would want you to get rid of. There might not be anything, but then again, there might. Taking care of those things now can help you to overcome sin tomorrow.

Then, just keep casting your cares upon Him, for He cares for you. We aren't in heaven yet, so our life won't be perfect around us. We are now free to trust Him to work out the details of our life that might not look so good.

He is an amazing god who promised that He will use all of life's circumstances for our good simply because we love Him. We might not know how God will use tough times in our lives, but He has provided us with lots of examples in the Bible, and in the lives of Christians whom you can go out and meet for yourself as well. Here is His promise to you:

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

You might not know yet how He will work your imperfect world out for your good, but you can wonder how He will and look forward to those blessings when He is ready to give them to you.

Think of those future blessings as presents that you will be allowed to unwrap later. They really are something to look forward to.

So praise Him and thank Him again.

3. Forgive those who have hurt you, or who are hurting you.

Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. Matthew 6:12

Trust Him to work out any problems in your life in His time. In the meantime, be sure to forgive others the same way He has forgiven you. You did not deserve forgiveness when He died for you. You don't have to climb up on a cross to forgive others, but you can forgive them even before they accept that forgiveness from you.

Actually, God expects you to forgive everyone. He considers it ungrateful, unloving, and prideful to be frustrated with, angry, or bitter towards others who have wronged us while, at the same time, accepting His forgiveness of our own sins towards Him.

If this seems difficult for you, then read this story which Jesus told, and then pray fervently for God to help you to forgive others as He forgave you.

Thank Him again for forgiving your sins. Thank Him for helping you as you work through forgiving others too.

4. Ask Him to help you find a solid church home. Not all churches are alike. Some churches seek God earnestly. Some churches are filled with people and leaders who like to hear whatever they simply want to hear, convincing themselves that what they want to hear is right.

Don't worry. God can help you recognize other Christians who believe in Jesus as He revealed Himself to us (as per His Word found in the Bible).

Look for a church where the people who attend there regularly carry the Bible, read it, love it, learn to love others more fully by studying it, are ready to be corrected any time the Bible says something different than they thought it said, and believe that the Bible is inherently true and can lead us to increasing grace, peace, and righteousness.

Ask the more mature Christians there who have experience relying on God's Word as a guide to help you in your new walk with the Lord.

God tells us to meet with other Christians and to worship with them, encouraging each other in righteousness, worshipping and singing songs of worship.

He always keeps His word. Let's see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on. Hebrews 10:25 (The Message version of the Bible)

5. When God has provided you with a church home, ask the leadership there about baptism and ask them to baptize you as soon as possible. When God helped you to pray the prayer which you prayed a minute ago, you were saved right then. It is faith that saves you, but you will need to walk in obedience, and one of the things He tells us to do is to confess to others that He is our savior.

Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me, him will I deny before my Father which is in heaven. Matthew 10:32-33

Baptism is one important way to let others know that you have been saved.

He also tells us specifically to be baptized if we have relied on Jesus for forgiveness.

Repent, and be baptized, everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins. Acts 2:38

6. As soon as possible, get a Bible. You will need to grow in understanding. God's thoughts are higher than the thoughts of man, and without learning from Him and rejoicing in His thoughts and His ways, you will find that your physical mind will be inclined to lean back into your old ways of thinking, or that you might listen to another man's ways, or the world's ways, instead of continuing in the newness of life.

Study at least a little every day with patient prayer, asking God to protect your mind from misunderstanding scripture. Listen to guidance from men who respect and study God's word since we can sometimes misunderstand the Bible on our own, but always test their counsel with what the Bible says itself.

There are many versions of the Bible today. If you are unsure what you will want to use down the road, pick up an inexpensive Bible for now to get started, and then in time, you will have time to discern what God wants you to use for your own study. Don't be deterred from getting a Bible because of the growing number of translations to chose from. I might personally recommend the New American Standard Bible and/or the King James Version, but it might be that you should study another version. Be careful, the Living Bible and the Message Bible have been a great encouragement to many, but they are not translations and are less likely to be fully in line with the original languages (the Bible was not written in English first....). In other words, I do recommend that you get a direct translation of the Bible first.

Ask God where to start, but many people do well starting with the Gospel of John, so you might do well to simply start there.

As you start to read and study, you might find that some things seem confusing to you at times. Ask God and your church for help. There are answers for anything that is confusing to you. He might take His time to help you find the answers, but if you continue to seek Him, He is always faithful in answering your concerns.

You can do this. He does not ask you to do anything that you cannot do. (Phil. 4:13)

It is important that you know that God has provided you with a guide, His own Spirit, the Holy Spirit, to help you understand His Word. Jesus Himself said:

But the comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things. John 14:26a

If you find yourself tending to slip back into old ways, then you should seek to be renewed in your mind (once you are saved, your spirit is born incorruptible, but your mind can be tricked into leaning on old ways; at which time it needs to be renewed in order to be in line with your new, righteous, incorruptible spirit). (Romans 12:1-3)

You need to learn to listen to His thoughts using your new spirit which you received at the time of salvation. Learn to listen to the Holy Spirit's guiding of your spirit instead of following your fleshly mind's reasoning. Test your own reasoning against scripture often.

The best way to learn to listen to His thoughts and to guard against leaning upon your fleshly thinking is by studying and meditating on His word as revealed in the Bible, which tells us His thoughts.

7. Memorize verses that help to build you up in your new life.

Thy Word have I hid in mine heart that I might not sin against thee. Psalm 119:11

It is powerful to meditate on His works, his promises, His prinicples, and His instructions.

There are helps online if you need help getting started. You might try printing off memory verse cards. If you like those, you can find others, hand write some yourself, and/or /make your own online. This particular rotational review method is the method with which I am most familiar. It has been very useful in my own home. Some families report using this method using a notebook to track previously memorized verses with good success as well.

Ask someone at your church to hold you accountable regarding your Bible study and scripture memory work. It can be encouraging for them as you share with them what God's word begins to do in your life.

I have not used this approach from The Navigators. Of those who seem to retain individual verses the most, this seems to be mentioned as the supporting source most often.

After first memorizing scripture, continue to review it and think about it often.

8. Share your faith in Jesus Christ with others.

Sometimes they might give you a hard time - especially your friends who are not Christians yet. Most often, they will just be testing you out to see if you are really different and if what you have would actually do them any good too. Assume this is true when they start in. It can help you to roll with their proddings when you realize where it is coming from.

Sometimes others might actually hate you because of your love for Christ. Don't be surprised when/if that happens in your life. Jesus explained that to His disciplines when He was here with us:

He that heareth you heareth me; and he that despiseth you despiseth me; and he that despiseth me despiseth Him that sent me. Luke 10:16

Remember that even Jesus was despised to the point that he was murdered upon the cross. He knows what it is to be despised and rejected by men. He can bring you comfort when/if you actually face that.

There are also promises that come with being persecuted as Jesus was, so there is something to be thankful for, even if you are being persecuted!

Whatever happens, remember to praise God in all things (see point #1 above!).

9. Praise Him and thank Him again and again, casting your cares upon Him, for He cares for you. I cannot emphasize this point enough, which is why it is included more than once.

Praise Him!

10. Then be quiet!

Just be still and look at all that you have learned about Him.

Just look at Him in wonder.

Be still, and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10