Ancient Boundaries: SPIRITUAL LIBERTY

stone

The wise Proverb writer through the inspiration of the Lord stated “Do not move the ancient boundary which your fathers have set” (22:28).  He states it again in 23:10, “Do not move the ancient boundary…” During ancient times, land boundaries were often separated by nothing more than a stone or some other item that could be seen and determined as a dictator as to when one individual’s land stopped and another’s began.  Personal land as well as whole countries would be separated by just a memorial that might be elaborate or rather simple. You start thinking of the implications of this rather simple way of keeping track of your land and some might cringe.  What would stop someone from simply picking up the stone and moving it a foot or two?  The unethical individual might easily add a good deal of land to his parcel without drawing notice to himself at all.  You think how one might try one day to just kick the stone a few inches, only to get braver throughout the years and move the stone several yards.  The proverb writer explicitly condemns any sort of unethical behavior in moving that which was already set in place.

This condemnation still applies to us today.  No, we may not be concerned with the size of a parcel of land, and we may not have the ability to broaden our borders by simply moving a stone, yet we still have the temptation to move what has been set in place for centuries.  The first Ancient Boundary that we will discuss is that of Spiritual Liberties.  The church is full of good intentioned individuals that have a mind to help fellow Christians be the best Christians they can be.  These individuals will write, teach, preach, and counsel others in many areas of their Christian walk (personal, family, etc.).  This is needed and is very beneficial.  The problem arises when our counsel moves into areas that are not legislated in the Scriptures and we hold those areas as doctrine.  For example, areas such as home/public education, youth groups, dating and Santa Clause are argued a good deal in the church.  Some have argued their position to the point that they annihilate anyone who would have a different view.

As we look through the New Testament, we see many principles that will be helpful in examining this.  Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8 both speak on our liberties.  Paul writes on how some may partake in the eating of meats and in the observing of days.  Romans 14:5 says: “Each person must be convinced in his own mind”.  Jesus also condemned a group of Jews called the Pharisees on many occasions who had the custom of adding to the Law.  They were a legalistic bunch who prided themselves in being more righteous than the rest, all the while adding laws that people must obey (even when the Lord had not legislated the law).  Just by doing a rather quick study on the passages from Paul and condemnation of the Pharisees, we can gather that we must not hold laws above the heads of our fellow Christians that are not found in the Scriptures.

The main area I would like to touch on is that of homeschooling.  For those of you who know me, I am very pro home education.  I was homeschooled throughout my childhood and my wife and I have decided to do the same with our children.  When I was young, my family ran into the problem of fellow Christians moving that ancient boundary of Spiritual Liberty by condemning my folks for homeschooling us.  However, in today’s world Christians have become more accepting of the practice.  I fear now that on occasion the roles have been switched and the homeschoolers are now the ones who sometimes move the ancient boundary of Spiritual Liberty.  It saddens me to see Christian families condemn others because they have chosen to educate their children through the public or private school systems.  When one uses their mouth or their computer to spread gossip, or to say that one is sending their kids to hell by sending them away from the home for education, they are indeed moving the ancient boundary of Spiritual Liberty.

Do not read me wrong; I am in no way saying that one may not promote an item such as home education.  If you are around me long enough, you will probably hear from my mouth benefits of home schooling.  One of these days, I will more than likely write an article or two on why we homeschool our kids, or why I love homeschooling my kids.  If I know a young family that is considering homeschooling their children, I absolutely will encourage them to homeschool.  Yet, I as well as other home educators must be sure that we do not condemn those that decide on a different route.  I have known many Christians that have had success in raising their children in a Christian way, and they did it in a different manner than what my wife and I have decided to do.

Brethren, if the Lord has not legislated on it, we have no right to force it.  Let us keep the Ancient Boundary of Spiritual Liberty in place where the Lord has set it.

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Parental Responsibility: Given Away?

When I think of my two children, I cannot even begin to comprehend or explain the awe I have for what God has done for me!  Why has God blessed me this way?  Why has He given my wife and I the ability to raise these wonderful kids and watch them grow and mature?  I know this is the way that all parents feel about their children; it is a sense of awe and pride.

Yet we know that having our children is not just a blessing, it is a great responsibility.  The Lord explicitly commands me as a father to teach my children about the Lord (Deuteronomy 6:4-9).  He explicitly commands me to train up my children in the way they should go (Proverbs 22:6).  We know from reading the Bible, that being a parent is more than just fun and games, it is a God given responsibility…

But are we giving it away? 

Now, it is not my intention to throw parents under the bus in this post, I believe that parents truly wants what’s best for their children.  Similarly, it is not my intention to throw youth ministers under the bus either; they too want what’s best for the kids.

Many of my friends who I attended Bear Valley with are Youth Ministers, and I know many parents that send their kids to Youth Groups.  All of these individuals have the children’s best interests in mind.  There is no doubt in my mind that they love God and love the souls of these kids greatly.

However, these intentions do not negate facts of life.  The fact of the matter is that children are leaving the church in hoards.  Depending on the statistics that you look at, numbers as high as 85% of our children are leaving the church by the time they go to college!

Numbers this high or anywhere near this height should scare us greatly. “What are we doing wrong?” should be a question that is screaming in our ears! Despite the great intentions and the hard work that is going into these kids, something is failing.

If we think about all the effort put towards the children in the church today, many projects come to mind: mission trips, movie nights, game nights, devotionals, hiking trips, summer camps, rallies, service projects, and the list goes on and on.  We put more money and time into our youth activities, than we do with most of our projects.

Psalm 127:1 says: “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it…”

Could it be possible that we are building, building, building, but not building in the way the Lord wants us to build?  Could it be possible that when we are building our Youth Ministries, we are forgetting about our God given responsibility of parenting?

As stated above, the Lord has explicitly commanded us as parents to teach our children about the Lord (Deuteronomy 6:4-9).  Tie that to Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it,” and what do you get?  Instructions for parents to raise and teach their children.  Isn’t this what we are doing by putting our kids in a youth group?  Unfortunately, I do not think so.

My observation has been that we in the church do everything but have the parents teach their children.  With all of the activities listed above, we are pulling the family apart, rather than bringing them together.  This is where our “building” is in the wrong, and this is where we are giving up our parental responsibility.

When we decide to give over the teaching and the edifying of our children to a youth minister, is this not giving up a responsibility?  When we send them off to multiple functions a week, are we not giving up much needed family time?  When your child wants to hang out with the youth minister and his family more than with you, is there not something wrong?  When your child will ask advice from the youth minister but not from you, are we not allowing someone else to be the parent?  We are losing kids by the bucket loads and parents are not parenting, I believe that there is a correlation.

In the very last verse of the Old Testament (Malachi 4:6), we see that in order to avoid a “curse” the hearts of the children must be restored to their fathers, and vise versa.  We must ask ourselves if our efforts are restoring the family, or driving a wedge?

I mentioned above that I know MANY Youth Ministers.  If you are one, please do not take this as an attack on you or even your job.  I am not calling for the firing of Youth Ministers in the Brotherhood.  What I am calling for is for the parents to get more involved.  Get to know their kids more, teach more, and take their responsibilities seriously!  I am calling for the Youth Ministers in our churches to strengthen the families.  You can do this by promoting more family events rather than exclusively youth events, teach the parents how to parent, and never be a wedge between the two parties.

So the question is, are you giving up your responsibility?  Are you one that is participating in helping parents giving up in this as well?  I pray that each congregation reevaluates how they are training up their children, and makes the appropriate changes.

The souls of our children are at risk. So let us do what we can to save them. Let us not give away our responsibility!