Saturday, September 25, 2010

Train Up a Boy With Quality Books

Yesterday's Wall Street Journal has an excellent article titled "How to Raise Boys Who Read" by Thomas Spence. Spence cites a recent report from the Center on Education Policy that says more boys than girls score below the proficiency level on the annual National Assessment of Educational Progress reading test, going as far back as 1992. Spence writes, "The male-female reading gap is found in every socioeconomic and ethnic category, including the children of white, college-educated parents."

Spence goes on to name some of the ludicrous titles of "books" that are promoted to young boys; boys who supposedly have lost the love of reading once held by previous generations of males. Titles that pander to bodily functions, Spence points out, are replacing quality writing as a way to "just get 'em reading," as one school librarian justifies it. (Mark 8:36 comes to mind: "What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?")

The real culprit, however, behind the demise of boys wanting to read is video games and the parents who allow them to replace a good book. Video games are more popular with boys than girls, explaining the reading gap between the two. Spence quotes Dr. Robert Weis, a psychology professor at Denison University, who found that boys with video games at home spend more time playing them than reading, and their academic performance suffers.

Unless parents remove or don't allow video games in the first place, or closely and authoritatively monitor their use, this trend is bound to continue. That means parents must actually be the adult that a parent is supposed to be and say "no" to kids who want to keep playing on the computer or PlayStation. And that means parents also set a good example and get off the computer themselves.

Reading has been a major part of my life and my sons' lives since all of us can remember. I read Dr. Seuss to my sons as infants, and read to them out loud long after most kids were done being read to (if, in fact, they were read to at all). And when my sons began reading on their own, they didn't need dumbed-down bathroom humor books to entice them. Every boy I know who has been exposed to C.S. Lewis books has loved them.

Mr. Spence also makes a comment near and dear to my heart when he points out, in the last paragraph of his essay, that "there is no literacy gap between home-schooled boys and girls."

Read Thomas Spence's entire essay here:

"Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it." Proverbs 22:6

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Sojourner Truth

One of the ways our faith is emboldened is through reading about how other Christians who came before us stood strong in their faith.

One of those people is Sojourner Truth, a woman born into slavery in 1797 in New York who went on to be one of the first, if not the first, black women in America to ever win a court case (when she sued to win her son back from slavery).

One has to read her story to fully appreciate the hardship and terror she experienced as a slave and an abolitionist. Yet her Christian faith in God never wavered, even in the face of personal ridicule such as the time a white man said to her that her anti-slavery speeches wouldn’t do any good and that “I don’t care any more for your talk than I do for the bite of a flea.” Sojourner’s response was to laugh and say, “Lord willing I’ll keep you scratchin.’” Such was her focus on God and His grace that she was able to turn the other cheek and not answer reviling with reviling.

Sojourner visited personally with President Abraham Lincoln, which her biography describes like this: “He showed her around his office, pointing out a Bible a group of Baltimore blacks had presented to him. She held it in her hands and traced the big gold letters—THE BIBLE—with her finger. Although she couldn’t read it, she knew the words in it by heart.”

Sojourner’s biographers show how she lived her life to counter those who misused the Bible to support their own agendas. She relentlessly pressed forward “to do battle using God’s own truth.” Though she suffered unimaginable physical and mental abuse and horrific separation from family members sold away from her in slavery, she came to know Jesus Christ and let Him sustain her and guide her words and actions. If ever there is victorious Christian living, it can be seen in Sojourner Truth.

“Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.” 2 Corinthians 4:1-2

Thursday, September 16, 2010

This Time Things Will Be Different...or Will They?

“Ideals are always difficult to translate into reality. For that reason, many attempts to make real life fit an ideal seem to end in compromise.” The editors of “The American Experience” text series

We all do it: get a vision in our head of what the new job, house, marriage, city, car, school, committee, etc. will be like. And for most of us, the expectations we hold are positive--which is a good thing--but also a bad thing when our high expectations aren’t met. Then we feel let down, frustrated and wanting to either cut and run or give-in, throwing conviction and integrity out the door.

The Christian life, however, affords a way to bring our expectations into proper perspective by first checking our motivations with God by whom we can test everything. That’s so important when we’re dealing with people and building relationships. When we check our motivations, ask for our sins to be revealed, seek encouragement and ask for discernment from the one and only source of wisdom and truth, we become equipped to manage expectations and bring them in line with God’s will. For instance, we can determine whether the new venture is something we should even be involved with; we can see the new boss or mother-in-law from God’s perspective; we can pray about a weakness we ourselves have as well as pray for others; and we can daily read God’s word that will shed light on the fact that we will indeed have tribulation, regardless of our situation, but will also have guidance on overcoming and recovering from it.

Ideally, we’d never have to be patient or long-suffering. Ideally, it would never be ourselves that is the problem. Ideally, the new job, house or city would provide a fresh beginning with none of the problems of the past. Many people feel downright entitled to these ideals. But since this sort of perfection has never been the case for anyone in life, it won’t be the case for us, either--no matter how hard we try to convince ourselves.

Jesus Christ and His Word can grow us into spiritual maturity so that we can humbly yet confidently go forth realistically, knowing that life most certainly will throw the usual strife our way, but we can remain joyful, patient and true to God through a steady trust in Him.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6

“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil. May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24

Saturday, September 11, 2010

In Remembrance

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." Matthew 11:28

Friday, September 3, 2010

How Do People "Know" God "Isn't" If They've Never Given Him a Try?

This quote came to me yesterday afternoon, and goes along nicely with yesterday's post about spending time with God. It's from Tony Evans of the Urban Alternative:

"Faith is about believing that the One you believe in is believable. The way you find out if the one you believe in is believable is by knowing and experiencing Him." Tony Evans

Read the rest of Evans' short devotional here:

Many people have ideas--even strong opinions--on the Bible, Jesus, Church and God but have never read the Bible, met Jesus, attended church (or more than one church) and never taken the time to even discover truthfully who God is. They just repeat things they've heard since childhood, accept the secular humanist non-belief of liberal college professors or make up their own conclusions so they can justify how they are living their life. I should know, as I've done all of these things.

Until I decided, like journalist, Christian author and apologist Lee Strobel, to: pick up the Bible with a mind seeking honest answers; attend Bible-believing churches that were completely different than my childhood "church;" objectively see that my university had a huge agenda in shoving its unbelief down my throat; and finally answer God's call to be born again in Jesus and get to know Him and who I could be in Him--before I did all these things--I was walking around with unfounded opinions that I had never taken the time to investigate. I had never experienced True, Biblical Christianity. In the words of Proverbs, I was a fool.

"My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God." Proverbs 2:1-5

"The discerning heart seeks knowledge, but the mouth of a fool feeds on folly." Proverbs 15:14

Thursday, September 2, 2010

What Will We Give Up to Spend Time With God?

Yesterday marks the beginning of my favorite four months of the year. But for many, September through December are months of busyness: kids back in school, end-of-year budgets at work and Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Pastor Charles Stanley has some words regarding busyness:

“God loves you and wants you to experience the peace and freedom that come from knowing Him intimately. But that can happen only if you spend time with Him. You can’t hear the Father’s voice when you’re rushing from one place to another…It’s easy to get wrapped up in all of the things we think we have to do today. But trust me, spending quality time with God is the most important. There is no substitute for this. And when you make the conscious decision to put away all of the gadgets and worries that distract you and then focus your whole attention on the Lord, He will bless you beyond measure. He is ever-present in every circumstance and will bring His light of wisdom into your heart when you seek His guidance. You simply have to slow down and listen.” Charles Stanley

The devil and/or our sense of self-importance will attempt to put the notion in our heads that we “don’t have time” to be in Scripture or to pray consistently. Don’t buy it. It’s like I told my son, when he was considering not being in the symphony this year because he “didn’t have time” to practice his clarinet. I said, “If you want to practice, you’ll make time for it. Get up an hour earlier, socialize an hour less in the evening, or eliminate time spent watching YouTube. If you want to play clarinet, you’ll make time to practice.” My son must spend time with his clarinet if he wants that symphonic relationship to bear fruit. Likewise, we must spend time alone with God so He can bear fruit. Nobody can do it for us.

Do we truly thirst after God? Are we letting TV, idle chatter on Facebook and Twitter, surfing the internet (guilty), and bumming around stores (guilty) get in the way of meeting one on one with God? Are we substituting committee and volunteer work (been there) for an intimate prayer life? Do we let politics and causes keep us from personal time in God’s Word? (done that). Even other pursuits, like working-out, gardening, cleaning the house or reading newspapers mustn't replace time spent in prayer and the Bible (I often pray while I bike, or worship God as I listen to Christian music while I run or walk. But I still need that daily time with God through His Word, and to be honest, I find that some prayers must be said in stillness and quiet.)

Stanley says, “God’s deepest desire is that we would desire His fellowship above everything else.” And that’s important, because I’ve found that the more I’m with God, the less of me there is. And the less of me there is, the less “busy” and more productive I am through the power and grace of God working in me.

“What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him…” Philippians 3:8-9