Friday, November 9, 2007

Selective Sampling

Before the days of neatly illustrated and labelled guides included in many of the finer varieties of boxed chocolates today, eating those special treats really was a guessing game! The Historian laughs about it now, but it caused some very real frustration in his growing up years.

Each year at Christmas time, a box of these lovely chocolate treats would appear in their home courtesy of his caring Grandfather. After the box was first received, carefully opened and passed around, it was set aside for future enjoyment. That is when the problems began, for often the next opening of the box would reveal villainy!

It was the clandestine work of my husband's one and only older sister, who had very definite opinions about which chocolates she would and would not eat. Without the written guide to aid her, she developed her own system of identification - she took a small bite out of the bottom of each and every chocolate! Those she liked, she ate. The rest were placed back in the box for some unsuspecting party to discover with dismay.

Not too many younger brothers care to eat treats already sampled by their older sisters, even if they were just nibbles! I suppose their Mother eventually had to do her duty and finish off the box, since it would never do to let it go to waste!

In the course of my Bible Study, and through some comments on my blog and others, I have begun to think more about the 'samples' we are choosing for our family. There have been times when we have been strongly encouraged to allow our children more 'freedom' in order to teach them about 'the world' we live in and help them to think 'critically'. In other words, we have been asked to expose our children to things that we consider to be inappropriate simply to give them an opportunity to learn about the various attractive ways that lies can be packaged, and so avoid them.

This kind of thinking has often puzzled me. While I do agree that I, as a Christian, am to be a thinking, informed individual, I do not find it logical to assume that 'sampling' the world's offerings will accomplish this goal. I certainly don't feel it will accomplish it in our children's lives. In fact, we intentionally shield them from many things that they are just not ready to know about this world we live in. Our children possess an ignorance that we are bound to protect. They will grow up soon enough, prayerfully to become mature thinking adults in due time.

At this point in their up bringing we certainly encourage them to be lively thinkers, asking thoughtful questions and digging deeply for answers. Dinner table discussions are often great times of teaching and learning. Our goal at this time is to teach them diligently from God's Word, so that their days are saturated with the Truth that we are living for. We take the admonishment in Deuteronomy 6:1-2 seriously and strive to teach God's statutes and commandments daily. We weave Scriptural principles into our everyday conversation as naturally as breathing. Prayer is becoming something real to them, and their devotion to God's Word is growing. It thrills my heart to see our Dreamer laying on her bed reading her Bible completely of her own accord, or to hear our Storyteller recount a Biblical event in far more detail then I myself can.

We want them to know the Truth so well that they will be able to spot falsehood or erroneous thinking without hesitation. We see this skill already beginning to form in our 10 year old girl, and it is very rewarding to know that she is taking what she knows to be the truth of Scripture and using it to measure what she is hearing, seeing, learning and listening to her friends talk about.

We are very careful to make sure that when something is truly a Scriptural principle we share the passage that we take the principle from and often have them work to learn a verse that supports our position. These types of principles are foundational truths that can be universally applied to all Christians in all circumstances, and not just to our family. At other times, we make choices based upon, but not specified in, Scripture, and these we also make clear. "This is something we have decided for our family, based in this principle from God's Word, however, not every Christian family is going to do things the same way, but this is our family's position at this time."

Teaching our children to live purely in an impure world requires deliberate diligence. First, we have to model it. Not so easy. We are the adults, edging towards maturity, and yet we still make poor choices at times. We want to be thinking and informed, aware of the culture we live in, and be relevant to it, so that we are able to the understand and speak to needs of those around us. At the same time, we are to be separate, seeking to live holy lives, to walk in integrity. For this reason we guard our hearts and minds, we put on the full armour of God, and we avoid many of the pleasures of this world.

A couple of nights ago, our Bible Study leader asked us what the world sees that is different about Christians. The 12 women in the room had a really hard time coming up with a list. The two things they came up with seemed pretty insignificant - not swearing and not drinking. Even that isn't accurate, if the truth is known! It was pointed out that even 50 years ago there would have been a much longer list of 'distinctives' that would be obvious to the world around us. I understand that many of the things that used to be distinctive were things that Christians did not do, many of which were 'legalistic' rules. Some of these rules birthed rebellion, since the principles behind the standards were not taught. So the rules were 'bent', then 'relaxed' and finally dropped. In seeking to be relevant to the world around important distinctives have been lost.

Yet, we are still called to live in the world but not be like the world. Jesus prayed for Believers, knowing that we would always face the struggle of living in a world where we don't belong. He asked His Father to strengthen us so that we might maintain our testimony, thus glorifying the Father.

I like the way The Message puts it John 17:13-21 where Jesus is talking to His Father:

'Now I'm returning to you. I'm saying these things in the world's hearing so my people can experience my joy completed in them. I gave them your word; The godless world hated them because of it, because they didn't join the world's ways, just as I didn't join the world's ways. I'm not asking that you take them out of the world but that you guard them from the Evil One. They are no more defined by the world than I am defined by the world. Make them holy—consecrated—with the truth; Your word is consecrating truth.'

I find in my own life that I don't need to 'sample' what the world has to offer in order to know that it isn't for me. I am fairly aware of what is good for me and what isn't. I find enough sinful habits in my own flesh without developing a taste for the habits of the world! I daily struggle with wrong thinking, self-centered living, careless words and a lack of passion for the things of God. And that's the short list. I don't need to know what the world is into to know that it isn't going to help me become the woman of God I desire to be. I do know where I need to be 'sampling' - in fact feasting - daily, and that is in God's Word.

Matthew 10:16 says, "Behold I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; therefore be shrewd as serpents, and innocent as doves."

I will not bury my head in the sand. I will not be afraid of the world, but I will not knowingly be pursuing it's fading pleasures or finding my entertainment in things that I know will suck me in to wrong thinking. I will try to learn to be relevant and informed, but I will strive also to live a life that is distinctively different - and that includes passing up what the world has to offer, and developing my taste for the wonderful goodness of God. I will keep on seeking internal devotion in a world of continual commotion! I want to be the kind of Christian who is known for what I stand for and not just for what I stand against. I long to have the reputation of a woman who fears the Lord and who exhibits love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control. I've got much yet to learn!

Psalm 34:8

Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good;

Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!


  1. I LOVE this post. I am right with you on all of this! Our job as parents is to protect our children's hearts and to train them in the way they should go. The world's ways are NOT the way they should go. People who work for banks have to learn how to spot counterfeit money. They are not trained by SHOWING them counterfeit money, but rather by extensively studying REAL money! The same holds true for our children, just as you said. They will know when something is inappropriate or wordly when they know the Word of God and the Truth.

    I, too, have been saddened at the similarities between Christians and the world. In our attempt to be "relevant" we have become just like them. Lately I have found myself becoming stronger in my convictions than ever, refusing to be involved in anything that would bring reproach. There have been times that it has caused conflict in some of my relationships with other Christians, but I believe that it will be a testimony to them of how Christians ought to live while on this earth.

    Thank you for posting this. It has really encouraged me to hear another Christian with the same conviction that I have in this area.

  2. Just a wonderful, thoughtful, challenging post honey. You certainly are a great woman of faith, and I bless the Lord for YOU daily. "He alone is faithful."

    Thank You ! ! !

    Keep up the good work.

  3. Vicky - Thank you so much for your comments - it means so much that you read my post and have added your 'amen'! This post has been on my heart for over a week, but wouldn't 'come together' quite like I wanted it to. I'm glad my rambling has been an encouragement. You are not alone! It's amazing that you used the counterfeit illustration because that was on my mind too.

    Iron sharpens iron - I know it isn't easy to be in conflict with other Christians, but we need to challenge one another in love towards a deeper commitment to the things of Christ.

    We only have one life to live, and this is our mission field. I think sometimes we float comfortably along and forget that there is a Spiritual battle taking place.

    Heffalump - I'm glad you're in agreement - especially since these are these are your grandchildren!!!

  4. Wow, what a powerful post. Your strong convictions are refreshing.
    They are filled with Biblical principles which you have learned and are trying to follow with all your heart. I am reminded of 1960 when I was dating a young man who was a clean living church goer but didnot have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
    The Baptist Church I worshipped at and brought my boyfriend out to meetings at had a real concern for my future with this young man. Their concern led them to approach me more than once and gently warn me that the Scripture was very clear as to unequal yoke. One of them went so far as to quote 2 Cor. 6:14: "Do not be yoked together with unbelivers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?.....come out from them and be separate." A few months later those concerned Christians prayed my boyfriend to Christ!
    How things have changed. But I am very thankful for you and your family's desire to live a separated
    life striving to please God, not man and not being afraid to speak the truth when challenged to do otherwise. God will surely bless your efforts!

  5. A couple of weeks ago a sister from my Church spoke to me about her children and my son Sean. Sean is 9 and so is her daughter Molly. She said that she was hoping when Sean and Molly turned 18 that he would take her to her "Debs ball"

    I know this seems a bit pre mature but there are not too many Chrisitans where I live. I told her that my husband and I have no plans to allow Sean to go to a Debs. I don't know what happens in the US but here it starts with a party in the girls home with drink supplied, then off to the dance in a limo with lots of other kids with drink, then they dance the night away and get home some time the next day.

    Now I know that Molly's parents wouldn't have drink (I think) but I don't want Sean to even see the inside of a dance let alone be there watching all the other young people do what they do.

    I an not an eloquent person but I recognise a good argument when I see it... and yours is a good one.

    I will read it again and it will help me put into words what I know is right. We are right to keep our children pure, as best as we can. We have to trust God. It is hard bringing them up in an obviously un-worldly way, but God can see the begining from the end and I just hang on to that.

    Many many thanks. Ruth

  6. Ruth - I'm glad this post was a help to you. It took me a long time to put into words what God had laid on my heart - I'm not eloquent either! I ramble too much! I pray that raising your Sean to live purely in an inpure world will encourage and strengthen your own walk with God, as it has for our family.


Thank you for taking the time to comment! I so enjoy reading your comments when you kindly share your thoughts!