Monthly Archives: March 2016

The Importance of Academics in the Life of a Disciple

One of my favorite books is Love Your God with All Your Mind by J.P. Mooreland (1997). The title comes from Matthew 22:37, in which Jesus was asked to identify the greatest commandment, to which He replied, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” As the title of his book implies, Mooreland challenges believers and the church to not forget engaging the last thing in this list – our minds – when it comes to loving God.

Mooreland claims that “the mind is the crucial component in the spiritual journey” (76). If we stop for a moment to think about the importance of thinking (a process called “metacognition”), it’s hard to identify something more influential in discipleship than the mind. What capacity do we use to read and study God’s Word? To understand our faith? To learn from others? To teach others about God? To share our faith?  To discern truth? The answer is obvious. Without engaging our minds, it would be impossible to do any of these things, and impossible to grow in our knowledge and relationship with God.

Academics are important in the life of a disciple of Christ, because they engage our minds by sharpening, stretching, and challenging our thinking about God in a myriad of ways. In science and math classes, we can love God by learning about His awesome creation and how the universe is perfectly designed. In language arts, we love God by learning the skills we need to read His Word and to communicate effectively with others. In history, we love God by learning how all of human events fit into the arc of the Gospel – creation, fall, redemption, and (coming soon!) glorification. If it’s true that God has something to say about every subject, and every subject has something to say about God, it follows that studying these subjects – when they are taught from a Biblical worldview – helps us to love God with our minds.

Of course, loving God with our minds – especially when it comes to that academic subject that isn’t our favorite – is not always easy. Neither is discipleship! But Mooreland writes: “Nothing that is worth doing is pleasurable or easy in the early stages of learning how to do it. But through regular practice, patient endurance, and proper mentoring, skills emerge and habits are formed that enable a person to be good at the activity in focus… If we are to love God adequately with the mind, then the mind must be exercised regularly” (119-120). Parents can encourage their children in this process not only by supporting them in their homework and schoolwork, but also by asking questions about the way things work, reading together, memorizing scripture, playing board games, taking educational trips, and finding out more about something that interests their students (cataloging foreign coins, baseball cards, and Shopkins are favorite activities in our house). And, try to limit “mindless” activities (we know what those are!) whenever possible.

Whether at school or at home, we need to create space and time for learning, thinking, and stretching our children’s minds, because – just like their hearts and souls – they need their minds to love God fully.

Moreland, J.P. 1997. Love Your God with All Your Mind. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress.

Loving Your Children By Loving Your Spouse

The heart of a child is found in the security of his/her mother and father. Research conducted by The University of Dartmouth Medical School along with a team of pediatricians and neuroscientists found that “a baby’s brain is biologically already formed to connect in relationships”. Certainly, parental attachment is one the first individual relationships a child experiences. However, the model of the love that mom and dad share with each other is the first connected relationship a child observes.

Security and identity are formed as children experience the atmosphere of love and respect shared by the two most relational influences of their lives, their parents. They are secure in the marriage covenant relationship shared by their parents. Children are conceived, born, reared and blessed within the spiritual protection of covenant. Children are blessed as a result of a stable covenant marriage in which children see, hear, and experience the security of mom and dad’s love towards each other and in turn, towards them.

The relationship they observe in their parents, models for them the most basic and intimate understanding of relationships. The most important relationships, husband and wife, as well as father and mother, influence the relational DNA of children. Children learn about future relationships by observing their parents. It is that simple. Studies have shown that even before birth, children respond to the voice and “atmosphere” established by their parents. Relational blessing into their lives begins at conception, through pregnancy, at birth and through all stages of childhood. By witnessing the love shared between mom and dad, they are equipped to step into their own relationships.

Perhaps I could go out on a limb and infer when Paul says; “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. [Eph 6:4] Love their mother and so extend security for them. It could be actions that convey love to the next generation.

Teaching Our Children About Forgiveness

In the Bible, forgiveness is certainly a prominent theme and something Jesus commands us all to do. Therefore, it’s an essential concept we must teach our children. Yet, the act of forgiving does not come easy for most of us. Far too often, our natural instinct is to hold grudges against those who have wronged us. However, choosing forgiveness over anger and resentment is liberating and ultimately brings us closer to God and to one another.  So, how can we teach this important concept to our children?

Reflect Upon the Forgiveness Offered to Us Through Jesus

Understanding and accepting the fact that Jesus paid the ultimate price for our sins on the cross so that we might have a relationship with God, repenting of our sins and accepting the forgiveness offered to us, allows us to develop an “attitude of forgiveness”. That change in attitude enables us to change our behavior towards others.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  John 3:16 NIV

Teach Children that Forgiveness is Something Jesus Commands Us to Do

The best reason to forgive is because Jesus commanded us to forgive. We learn from Scripture that if we don’t forgive, we will not be forgiven.

“For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Matthew 6:14-16 NIV

Demonstrate Forgiveness to Our Children

When our children hurt us in some way, we must offer forgiveness rather than turning away, no matter how hard it may be at the time.  (Keep in mind that offering forgiveness is not the same thing as excusing bad behavior. It merely creates a healthy atmosphere for discussing and fixing that behavior.)

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as Christ God forgave you.”  Ephesians 4:32 NIV

Teach Children the Consequences of Choosing Not to Forgive

We should help our children understand that holding onto hurt, anger and resentment hinders us from connecting with God and may even take a toll on our physical health. While on the other hand, forgiveness releases us from heavy burdens and brings us closer to God and to each other.

“Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Colossians 3:13 NIV

References:

Fairchild, M. (n.d.) What does the Bible Say About Forgiveness? [Blog post]. Retrieved from: http://christianity.about.com/od/whatdoesthebiblesay/a/bibleforgivenes.htm

Schlauch, K. (2016, March 8). Christian Parenting Tips: Teaching Forgiveness. [Blog post]. Retrieved from: http://www.libertychristianschoolmd.com/blog