Monthly Archives: April 2007
For years, the joke in my kitchen was the sad state of my kitchen knives. Being so used to working with them, I thought nothing of paring potatoes with a carving knife but anyone helping me in the kitchen just couldn’t get used to my sad tools. It wasn’t until I received a beautiful set of red-handled kitchen knives, complete with their own honing tool, that I knew what I had been missing. And that tool is amazing. A few swift strokes of the blade across its rough edges and I can chop, whittle, and dice anything!
I am fascinated by Proverbs 27:17 which reads “as iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another,” and perhaps most fascinated of all by the context in which it is written. Most of the 16 verses that precede it list stressful social exchanges: a man talking loudly while his neighbor sleeps, a nagging wife who cannot be stopped, a person who makes unwise financial choices with an immoral woman, boasting, anger, fury, jealousy, a man forsaking his home. And then, as though it should make everything all better, it says we sharpen each other as if we are going through the painful process of sharpening iron.
I don’t know a lot about the process of sharpening iron, but I do know a couple things. First, you must have the right tools to do the sharpening. A cotton ball is terrific for dabbing Calamine lotion on a mosquito bite, but it make a lousy tool for knife sharpening. This is the reason that I refer to some of the “one another” passages of Scripture as the “iron sharpening iron” verses, especially when put in the context of family life. As we live in families, we naturally will have conflicts. But, if we use the right tools for sharpening each other, that is, the “one another” verses, we will be able to refine each other, helping each other to be better prepared for service in God’s kingdom. I would list the “iron sharpening iron” verses as:
Instruct one another (Romans 15:14)
Speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs (Ephesians 5:19)
Admonish one another (Col. 3:16)
Encourage one another (1 Thess. 5:11)
Spur one another on to love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24)
Often, when we think of iron sharpening iron, we picture the painful process rather than the finished result. Admonishing, for example, produces uncomfortable thoughts; maybe it even causes us to remember times when we were admonished ourselves and it wasn’t pleasant. Or maybe the idea of instructing another person leaves you uninspired. However, in the context of the other ways we help each other grow, worshipping together, encouraging each other to do what is right and not what is wrong, to correct each other when we see each other sin or even when we see each other making foolish choices, we learn that being in an “iron sharpening iron” relationship is what God uses to make us more like Jesus.
I think the other fact I know about sharpening iron, though, is the most important one. In order to produce really sharp edges, you must use successively finer stones to get a very smooth surface. You see, the closer we are in relationship to each other, specifically as husbands and wives, the finer our tools for sharpening each other. The closeness of the relationship, the intimacy we share, knowing each other in ways no one else does, and the commitment we have made, all place us in the right position for the hand of God to use us to polish off the rough edges! As we strategically one another each other in our marriages, carefully obeying God’s word, we employ God’s chosen method to produce husbands and wives who grow, in grace, together, co-workers fit for His kingdom.
It is my goal, in the coming months, to introduce some topics and situations that are difficult and to introduce you to real homeschooling moms who have been able, by God’s grace, to meet these challenges head on. I will call these podcasts Homeschooling in the Milieu, because that is where we homeschool our children, in the midst of the day to day struggles, in the middle of the battles, whether they are educational in nature or not, and we experience them while living lives that are not idyllic…..Listen here for the podcast entitled Homeschooling in the Milieu ~ Interview with Joy Nuesken, (Part 1)
As I read through the one another passages, it strikes me that there are three categories in which we can place these commands and I think they perfectly demonstrate three aspects of a godly husband-wife relationship. The first group I will call the “nurturing” commands, those things husbands and wives do for each other that nurture the relationship, building it up and giving it strength:
stop passing judgment on one another (Romans 14:3)
accept one another (Romans 15:7)
serve one another (Galatians 5:13)
be kind and compassionate to one another (Ephesians 4:32)
submit to one another (Ephesians 5:21)
forgive one another (Colossians 3:13)
greet each other with a holy kiss of love (1 Peter 5:14)
live in harmony with one another (1Peter 3:8)
offer hospitality to one another ((1Peter 4:9)
have fellowship with one another (1John 1:7)
In the Romans 15:7 passage, the literal word for “accept” is “receive” which connotes a drawing to oneself, a bringing close, a close relationship. Of course we assume that a husband and wife are close, but, as with anything else that is worthwhile, it is a goal that must be worked toward. In other words, closeness in marriage does not just happen. We become one flesh when we marry but achieving a oneness in marriage requires that we deliberately and purposefully work toward that end.
It is interesting how each of these one anothers requires obeying the other ones on the list. If we stop passing judgment, we learn to accept each other. In order to do that, we need to maintain a spirit of forgiveness and submission (setting aside our personal rights) in our homes, which means that we must demonstrate kindness and compassion by serving each other. Then we will be able to live in harmony and offer hospitality to one another, which results in real fellowship.
Let me give you an example. Suppose your husband has forgotten your wedding anniversary. (Hard to imagine I know.) You are hurt and in your mind you conjure up all sorts of reasons why he might have done this, all of them personally offensive. In your mind, you have tried him for this heinous crime and passed judgment on him. You cannot accept his slight. You do not forgive him and you demonstrate it by not being kind and not serving him or submitting to the things he desires. The result is no harmony or fellowship.
On the other hand, suppose you greet this situation without passing judgment. You accept or welcome him home, greeting him with the “holy kiss of love,” you do everything you can to express kindness, compassion, and a servant’s heart, which really are the out workings of forgiveness, are they not? You set aside your personal right, that of having the anniversary remembered. The result is harmony and fellowship. By obeying the “nurturing commands,” you have contributed to building the oneness in your marriage. You have also created a spirit of openness for practicing the “iron sharpening iron commands.”
The Sunday edition of our local newspaper publishes pictures of couples celebrating their anniversaries. I always enjoy this feature and especially love the ones that show a picture of the newlyweds on their wedding day next to a current picture taken for the anniversary. How often I am blessed as I read the short accounts of their lives, stories that, in a few words, reflect decades of childbirth, employment, family losses, and future plans. Usually the warmth of the relationship that brought them to the day of celebrating 25, 50, 60 or, sometimes even 70 years of marriage is reflected in their faces. Inevitably, the struggles and pain that were a part of their journey shows in the lines and wrinkles.
I have often thought that I would like to sit down with these couples and ask them, tape recorder running, what the secret has been to their success in marriage, what wisdom they could impart that might be helpful in 2007. After all, if the statistics show that more than 50% of marriages today, even among Christians, end in divorce, we need to know how to maneuver around the obstacles that can take us off the path of wedded bliss and into the thorny bushes of destroyed marriages.
I have many books in my personal library that discuss the marriage relationship, from writers who talk about preparation for marriage to those who are advocating one position or another on the topic of the roles that husbands and wives are to play in the home. But, as I have been considering what words of encouragement I could offer for homeschooling mothers in light of marriage, I keep thinking about the fact that marriage is a temporal institution, it is for today but one day it will pass away and what will remain is the brother and sister in Christ relationship that believers will share throughout all eternity. It is from that frame of reference I want to look at God’s word.
On this blog, you will see that I frequently refer to the “one anothers” of Scripture, those passages that are commands to Christians for their relationships with each other. I believe that they are some of the most practical and easy to understand portions of the Bible, though they aren’t always the easiest to obey, especially within the marriage context! We need to remember that the Holy Spirit is the one who imparts God’s grace to us, enabling us to show that same grace to our husbands, our brothers in Christ. I would encourage you to look up all the one anothers listed in the New Testament, read them in context, and study them. Next, we will break down these verses into the three types of commands that I call the “nurturing commands,” the “iron sharpening iron commands” and the “blanket commands.”
I have a friend who is a very spiritual person. In fact, her greatest desire is to be certain that I, too, walk the same path of faith that she walks. She frequently sends me literature in the mail or stops by my house with a packet of inspirational material from her church. From time to time, we have engaged in lengthy discussions about life and about faith. But, inevitably, we come to an impasse and for only one reason: I have purposed to hold every teaching up to the entire counsel of God as found in His Word, the Bible, and she has not. She believes that the Bible is helpful and that parts of it, at least the parts sanctioned by her own church, are profitable. However, every single discussion we have had about the Lord and about living as a believer in Jesus Christ comes back to the place that God’s Word takes in our lives. If we are to become growing, faithful followers of Jesus, we must begin by having faith in Christ alone for our salvation, knowing that faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.
One of my favorite passages of God’s Word that instructs believers in how to have fruitful spiritual lives is 2 Peter 1:2-10. This is what it says:
“May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.
For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.”
My first response to these verses is one of great hope. They were written by Peter, the disciple who, so many, many times, failed in his walk with Christ, even to the point of denying him. Peter often acted rashly and was forever needing to come back to Jesus, seeking forgiveness in repentance. How encouraging it is for me to know that such wonderful words from God were penned by the disciple whose life was like my own, given to disobedience and faithlessness!
Peter begins by telling us that grace and peace will be given to us in large measure through knowing God and Jesus and by the power of the Holy Spirit. And not only that, but it is given to us for all things. Isn’t that an amazing thought, that God has granted us the ability to bear fruit in all areas of our lives? We do not have to live in, as John Bunyan called it, the “slough of despair.” God gives us everything we need for life and godliness!
Peter goes on to tell us that to this glorious gift of faith, we are to add virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection and love. This looks like a list that will take a life time to achieve and that is because it will! Because we live in human bodies, in a fallen world, and continually battle a sin nature, we sometimes ride the receding tide of an advancing wave. In other words, we might take a step back before we take several steps forward. But in the end we have the promise of God that He will bring us to completion.
As I look at that list, I know, first hand, some of the very temptations that homeschooling moms are prone to have that keep us from growing spiritually. We become too busy to study the Bible in depth. It becomes easier to simply depend on the pastor, church elders, a great radio teacher, or your husband to do the studying and explaining of Scripture. But Paul commended the Bereans for their self-study. Each of us must find some time to read the Bible, to learn how to use a Strong’s concordance or any number of online Bible study tools. (One of my favorites is www.crosswalk.com.) God’s desire is to work in your heart individually and we must remember that Scripture tells us that all will stand before the judgment seat of Christ. Perhaps you feel that you are too busy with housework and homeschooling to set aside time for individual study. Do you remember the story of Mary and Martha? Martha was miffed at Mary for spending so much time at Jesus’ feet while she did all the kitchen chores. But Jesus reprimanded Martha, telling her that Mary “chose the better part.”
Maintaining self-control is also a challenge, I believe, for moms, and one continual challenge is dealing with our own bodies. We struggle with hormones that fluctuate up and down and all around from month to month, pregnancy to pregnancy, all in between, and, as I am now finding, to the end of the age! The result is that we desire to do the right thing, to live godly lives, but somehow fall back into saying things we don’t mean to say or doing things that cause pain and hurt to our husband or children. But remember this: God knows our weaknesses and still His desire is to protect us and bring us through these trials. Isaiah 43:1-2 contains this amazing promise: “But now, this is what the Lord says, He who created you, O Jacob, He who formed you, O Israel. Fear not, for I have redeemed you, I have summoned you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you, and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned, the flames will not set you ablaze.” Could that passage also be talking about hot flashes, I wonder?
I also know that there is comfort in food and lack of self-control in this area can be a real concern. Regular exercise and healthy eating choices (“Oh great!” you say, “and just when she gave us such yummy recipes!”) give us a positive outlook and help us maintain a good attitude.
Peter continues to admonish us to be steadfast. The word translated in the Greek from this passage is “hupomone” and it literally means a cheerful, hopeful, constant patience. A very real part of spiritual growth is trusting that God, in His sovereignty, has only one plan for our lives, there is only a plan A, no plan B. We are to be continually trusting in this truth, remaining hopeful and cheerful in all that we do.
A while back I heard an awesome sermon about ”hupomone” where the pastor tells this story. A farmer had a mule who became old and useless to him. Rather than kill the animal outright, the farmer decided to dump the animal into an old abandoned well. With each shovel full of dirt that landed on that old mule, the mule said to himself, “Shake it off and step up.” What great advice for us on days when we are discouraged!
For a homeschooling mom, I cannot stress how important it is to remain steadfast because we set the tone for the entire family! I will just briefly list a few things that help to keep us steadfast: regular worship at home and with other believers, staying in the Word, avoiding friends, relatives, or online sources such as blogs that weigh you down, criticize you, or offer unattainable goals for your life, reading inspirational writings, such as biographies, and listening to music that causes you to praise God rather than concentrate on yourself.
Peter also tells us that brotherly affection and love are to be goals that we have as we grow spiritually. Love is not an emotion or a feeling; it is an act of the will. But as we purpose to put others before ourselves, an amazing thing happens. We begin to feel love for that person. Deliberately doing loving and kind things for others, praying for others, and setting aside our personal rights in deference to another will all result in feelings of tenderness, compassion, and goodwill toward them.
Peter concludes by telling us that if we do not have these spiritual qualities, we are spiritually blind and in need of spiritual healing. John Newton, author of the hymn Amazing Grace, had experienced a horrific life as a slave trader until God miraculously reached down and touched his heart. “I once was blind but now I see” were the words Newton used to describe the work of Jesus Christ in his life. Let this be said of homeschooling moms who are purposing to walk lives of faith, bringing glory to God and a testimony of grace to our children.
“If you lack assurance of God’s love and of your own salvation, take heed that you do not say, I shall never be assured; take heed you do not say, I shall haver have a promise; take heed you do not say, I shall never have the testimony of the Spirit bearing witness with my spirit that I am a child of God. Do not say, thus, I shall never be helped; I am in a sad condition, and I shall never be better; I am in an uncomfortable condition, and I shall never be comforted; I lack assurance, and I shall never have assurance. Beloved, this you cannot say, for who knows what God will do? His ways are in the deep, and His footsteps are not known.” William Bridge
Next we will look at the topic of husbands and wives growing in grace together.
Over the past month I have been writing about the six traits of strong families as discovered by the Stinnett-DeFrain study. Today I am beginning a series of articles addressing the importance of having spiritually healthy families. I plan to include discussions that I pray will be helpful to you as I believe that a strong family life can only occur when family members are living spiritually healthy lives. I also believe that a spiritually healthy environment must be discovered and nurtured intentionally if we are to be productive and if our children are to carry this lifestyle into their own homes.
In the next couple of weeks I will be addressing the topics of personal spiritual growth, the spiritual lives of a husband and wife, evangelizing and discipling our own children, finding and recognizing a spiritually healthy church, the very real dangers of spiritual abuse in churches, and ending the “swinging pendulum” homeschooling families experience as they try to find a balance between homeschooling-hostile and homeschooling-friendly churches.
Since I talked about my family history of cooking and the value of family meal time on my podcast this week, I thought I would share four of our family’s favorite recipes that I mentioned. I hope you all enjoy them.
Mollie’s Wedding Fruit Slush ~ 3 dozen
I first served over 300 of these wonderful treats at Mollie and Aaron’s wedding reception. Two years later, Clayton and Stacie requested this for their wedding so Mollie, Janell, and I whipped them up in Bakersfield, California! Now they are a staple at holiday brunches and summer parties at the Campbell home.
1 12 ounce can frozen orange juice, prepared as instructed on can
1 12 ounce can frozen lemonade, prepared as instructed on can
2 or 3 16 ounce cartons frozen strawberries with juice ( sometimes more strawberries just seems like the thing to have!)
2 large cans crushed pineapple
4 mashed bananas
2 cups sugar
(You can use 1 can apricot nectar in place of lemonade)
Mix well together and put in individual cups to freeze. I typically use small clear plastic punch cups and put them either on a cookie sheet or in the cartons that containers of yogurt come in at Aldi. At Christmas I like to serve this for brunch and will freeze the slush in pretty glasses.
Clayton and Sam’s Neighborhood Cracked Wheat Bread (2 large loaves)
Clayton and Sam tantalized their neighborhood friends with this bread, fresh out of the oven and drizzled with melting butter and peanut butter!
1 cup milk
2 TBS. oil
2 tsp. salt
2 TBS. molasses
2 TBS. yeast
2 cup warm water (110 to 115 degrees)sprinkled with dash of ginger and 1 tsp. sugar to help yeast activate
1 cup rye flour
1 cup cracked wheat
4 to 6 cup sifted all purpose flour (add until dough leaves sides of bowl and forms one ball)
Scald milk and add shortening, salt and molasses. Cool to lukewarm. Sprinkle yeast on warm water in large mixing bowl and stir to dissolve. Stir in rye flour, cracked wheat, 1 ½ cup flour and milk mixture. Beat with electric mixer at medium speed for 2 minutes, scraping bowl occasionally. Stir in remaining flour, a little at a time, to make a dough that leaves the sides of the bowl. Knead for about 10 minutes, until satiny and elastic. Place in lightly greased bowl, turning once to grease top. Cover and let rise in warm place until doubled, about 1 hour. Punch down, cover, and let rise again for 45 minutes. Turn dough onto board and divide in half. Shape into loaves and place in 2 greased loaf pans. Cover and let rise again until doubled, about 45 minutes. Bake in 375 degree over for 40-45 minutes, covering with foil last 10 minutes to prevent excessive browning. Turn from pans onto wire racks. Brush tops of warm loaves with melted butter. Serve to young boys while still hot!
These brownies were the perfect gift for wedding guests! We wrapped them in hot pink striped tissue paper and boxed them in tiny boxes handmade by Aaron’s sister, Gracen. The beautiful outside was a tantalizing invitation to the glorious chocolate treat inside!
1 cup butter
8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
4 large eggs
½ tsp. salt
1 cup white sugar
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
1 cup flour
2 cups walnut or pecan pieces, optional
Set oven rack in middle and preheat to 350 degrees. Bring a saucepan of water to a boil and turn off heat. Combine butter and chocolate in a heat proof bowl and set over pan of water. Stir occasionally until melted. Whisk eggs together in a bowl and then add salt, sugars and vanilla. Stir in chocolate and butter mixture and then fold in flour. Line a buttered 13 X 9 pan with buttered parchment paper or foil. Pour batter into prepared pan and spread evenly. Bake for 45 minutes, until top has formed a shiny crust and batter is moderately firm. Cool in pan on a rack. Wrap pan in plastic wrap and keep at room temperature or refrigerated until next day. (Can be frozen at this point.) To cut brownies, unmold onto a cutting board, remove paper and replace with another cutting board. Turn cake right side up and trim away edges. (Save trimmings and freeze in a baggie to crumble over ice cream another day!) Cut brownies into 2 inch squares.
Calico Cheese Ball (makes 2)
This cheese ball is the perfect salty balance to the fruity slush.
2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened
½ cup softened butter
1 cup olive juice (brine from green olives)
1# shredded cheddar cheese
1 package (or 1 TBS.) powdered Ranch salad dressing mix
1 cup finely chopped green onions
1 cup finely chopped green pepper (can use some red pepper for color)
1 cup finely chopped green olives with pimento
1 cup finely chopped pecans, optional
Cream together first 5 ingredients.
Add vegetables, mix well and form into ball. Roll in pecans if desired.
Chill well. (This is really best if left overnight to chill.)
Remove from fridge 30 minutes before serving. It is great served on crackers or with bread sticks and can be made ahead and frozen, too. Just wrap in plastic wrap and then foil before you place in freezer.
One of the “one another” commands of Scripture is to show hospitality to one another. It is so important, in fact, that more than once the apostle Paul lists”being given to hospitality” as a requirement for leadership in the church. If we are to be given to hospitality, it must begin at home with our children as we serve them….Listen here for this week’s podcast entitled 32 Years Over a Hot Stove.
The apostle John wrote “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth” and that is the heart’s cry of every Christian mother. In our own home, our prayer has been that our children would never know a single day when they were not believers and we continue to pray that they will live lives of purpose and repentance, growing in God’s grace daily. But sometimes we, as parents, wonder why our children do not respond to the truth of Scripture as we present it to them, though we know they have professed Christ as Savior.
When I was in high school, I had a dear friend, Curt, who was absolutely brilliant. He was also not a believer and could articulate quite well why he didn’t believe in the redemptive work of Christ. While he was studying at a large, secular university, one night he was alone in his room at his fraternity house and picked up a Bible. By the time he had read through the Pentateuch, the Holy Spirit had convicted him of his need for a Savior. God’s written word went straight to my friend’s heart and soul, drawing him to salvation. Because he was a very cerebral sort of person, I believe God used the written word, straight from the Bible, to draw Curt into a relationship with Him.
I have another friend who suffered terribly at the hands of abusive parents. Every time she has made giant strides in her relationship with the Lord it has come through building genuine, loving relationships with other believers who have shared the word of God and have testified to its power in their own lives. For others, God has used His gift to us of music that, when sung, has presented His word in fresh ways to communicate His love and grace.
I believe that our children are unique and precious souls who will receive God’s word to each of them in their own ways. Isaiah 55:8-11 gives us this promise: “for my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, “declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eaters, so is my word that goes out from my mouth:” It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”
Our responsibility as parents is to discover the special ways that God’s word touches our individual children and how best to prepare them to hear and receive it. If your children are researchers at heart, showing them how to use a Strong’s concordance will thrill them and give them the opportunity to experience the delight of discovering the intricacies of God’s word. Helping them memorize verses such as Jeremiah 31:3 and 1 John 3:1 will speak to the heart of those children who respond best to words of affirmation. Teaching them in word and in deed by giving gifts to God and others will prepare their hearts for receiving God’s gift of Jesus and will show them the joy of serving others in His name.
We must also do all that we can to not discourage them from responding to His word. Sometimes Sunday mornings can be the most tense and unspiritual hours of the week. I know, first hand, that setting out clothes on Saturday night, preparing, ahead of time, a delicious and special Sunday dinner, giving everyone a nutritious breakfast, and playing soothing music helps to prepare all of us for worship.
I also believe that the best place for a child on Sunday morning is sitting next to his parents during worship. Learning how to pray corporately, enthusiastically singing songs, hymns, and spiritual songs, and showing them how to take sermon notes all prepare a child’s heart for receiving the word. Sometimes we think they aren’t old enough to get anything out of the service, but the spirit of God speaks to their hearts and spirits in ways we cannot understand. My mom tells the story of being just a small child on her mother’s lap during a revival service and, to this day, remembering the spirit of the Lord as it met her little heart in that place!
I know that there are certain stages of infancy and childhood when a little one is just too wiggly or has just discovered his vocal chords. That is when you spend time walking him around the church narthex, just trying to keep him still. And, of course, those same little ones will have their hearts hardened if their little cheeks are squeezed or their thighs are pinched so that should never be something we do. But creatively and gently showing them God’s love and graciously treating those noisy little ones in the same manner you would treat an elderly person who “whisper shouts” all through a service will say more to your children than words could ever say.
We will do well to remember two things: God in His timing and in His own way, brings His elect to the knowledge of Christ. And, as parents, our role is to prepare the soil of their hearts, to receive His touch.
May 4 Homeschooling in the Milieu (part 2) ~ Joy Nuesken continues as my special guest on today’s program
May 11 Homeschooling in the Milieu (part 3) ~ Joy Nuesken, back by popular demand, continues as my special guest on today’s program
May 18 Mother’s Day Tribute ~ Motherhood comes in various shapes and sizes. This podcast features my own adoption story and commentary on becoming a mom.
May 25 ”As for a man, his days are as grass” ~ remembering veterans and those who have gone before us