Reb Bradley v Family Ministries
ISSUE #3 – December 2005
Christmas Greetings from Reb
As the year comes to a close I find myself wanting to share with you some changes I will face in the new year.
When I retired from pastoring last year I had to separate Family Ministries from my church. In doing so FM went from four full time workers to one full time employee (me) and two part time volunteers. We lost one of those volunteers last month, and the other will leave for a paying job in January. That will leave me, the non‑administrator that I am, with the duties of overseeing all production, phone reception, bookkeeping, shipping, warehousing, and purchasing, as well as writing, speaking, and web‑management. I know I am looking at doing the impossible, so I am asking those who love us to pray for God’s intervention.
I am praying a great deal right now, asking God how He wants to resolve our situation. He is definitely blessing the fruit of our ministry materials, as well as the conferences and seminars, so it is my hope that He has people in mind to help make our office functional again. Greater financial support will allow us to hire workers. Any prayers you would like to send up on our behalf -- I would appreciate it.
This month, as promised, I have included the 3rd installment of the article “Solving the Crisis in Homeschooling.” I jump right into the article, so I encourage you to go back and read last month’s article to help relay the foundation.
Stay in touch,
December Article of the Month
Solving the Crisis in Homeschooling Part 3
If you missed the first two installments of this ongoing article, you can read them on our website. To get there click here or go to the Family Ministries home page and click on the link for Monthly Email Newsletters.
Over the last several years my wife and I have heard from many in the homeschool community who have watched their wonderful homeschooled children grow up and make choices contrary to their parents’ values. After several years of examining what went wrong in our own home and in the homes of so many conscientious parents, God has opened our eyes to a number of critical blind spots common to homeschoolers and other family-minded people. The following is a summary of those things we have concluded are contributing factors. (A complete presentation can be found in my new CD series “What I REALLY Wish I Knew When My children Were Young.”)
1. Dreams for the children are really about the parents (November Newsletter)
Preoccupation with results often leads to emphasis on outward form. When we are preoccupied with achieving results it is natural to admire the results others seem to have achieved with their children. We like the way the pastor’s kids sit reverently in the front pew and take notes of their father’s sermon, so we go home and begin to teach our children to sit reverently and to take notes. What we don’t know is that the pastor’s kids conduct themselves with reverence and attentiveness not because he “cleaned the outside of the cup” and simply drilled them to do so -- he lived a genuine love for Jesus that was contagious, and watched as the fruit was born (Matt 23:26). Parents are destined for disappointment when they admire fruit in others and seek to emulate merely that expression of fruit in their own children. Fruit is born from the inside -- not applied to the outside.
Imagine that the fruit you desired was the edible variety, so you went out into your yard and planted an apple tree. Just suppose that one day, while you were waiting for the apples to begin growing on your tree, you caught a glimpse of a neighbor’s apple tree. You noticed in admiration that its branches were laden with big, luscious apples. What would you do? Would you run to the produce market to buy some apples, then go home, and in the dead of night, tie them onto your tree? If you did, the sight of your tree might really impress your neighbors. But that is not what you would do. You would likely go to the neighbor and ask how he cared for and fertilized his tree to produce such fruit. It is the same with our children – luscious fruit will be born from what we put into them – not from what we tie onto them. As a matter of fact, in no time, the fruit that we put onto our children will rot and fall off.
In the homeschool community I have observed that there can be a great emphasis on outward appearance, whether it is dressing for excellence, modesty, grooming, respectful manners, music style, or an attitude of sober reverence in worship. Some even take their children down a country path of humble fashions, raising food, and making bread. Nothing is wrong with any of these things, but we must be careful – we can model for our children outward changes and easily fall into molding their behavior and/or appearance, while missing their hearts. In some circles emphasis on the outward is epidemic.
(A friend of mine, a homeschool mom, just passed away of cancer. In the week before she died, I asked her if she had any regrets in her life. She told me she wished she had baked less bread – she said if she had it to do over again she would buy bread and spend more time with her children. She had invested time and energy in pursuing the “path” because she thought it was part of the spiritual homeschool package.)
Let us not forget that Jesus came against the Pharisees for their preoccupation with what they felt were legitimate expressions of spirituality. They measured holiness by what was avoided and by what would be seen by others (Mat 6:1-2, 5, 16; 23:5-6, 23-28; John 7:24). The Pharisees were earnest in their religion, but they were preoccupied with outward expressions of holiness rather than hearts of humility and love (Micah 6:8) that would bear genuine fruit. I find it fascinating that in the gospels there is not one mention of Jesus coming against immodesty, even though among his followers were prostitutes and the like. Jesus emphasized cleaning up the inside while the Pharisees were the ones preoccupied with cleaning up the outside. We must ask ourselves: Which are we more like – Jesus or the Pharisees? Even now do we justify ourselves, insisting we emphasize cleaning up both the inside and the outside?
I know that some react strongly to these assertions, so let me emphasize that I do want my wife and daughters to adorn themselves modestly. God did address it once in the New Testament (1Tim 2:9), but we must ask ourselves, is it possible that we have elevated modesty, or other issues of outward form, higher than Jesus did? If he never mentioned modesty, but instead emphasized the importance of a changed heart bearing outward fruit, should we not follow his example and concentrate on reaching our children’s hearts? He did mention modesty in 1 Timothy, so let us dress our daughters modestly, and teach them the value of keeping private that which should be, but let us be careful of thinking that just because they look moral on the outside that they have God’s values on the inside. Concurrently, let us also be careful of measuring everyone else’s enlightenment by what we have decided is modest, spiritual, or holy.
4. Tendency to judge
One of the side effects of focusing on keeping the outside of the cup clean, is that it becomes easy to judge others by our personal standards. You see, in setting standards for our family, each of us must work through a process of evaluation and analysis to decide what is safe, wise, or permissible. Once we become convinced of our personal standards, not uncommonly, it follows that we believe they should apply to others as well.
One of the things that characterized the Pharisees was that they created their own standards of holiness related to outward appearance, and then belittled others who didn’t hold to their standards. Jesus spent a lot of time exposing the Pharisees for their shallowness and their self-righteousness judgments, yet, many of us homeschoolers have inadvertently followed the Pharisees’ path -- we have overly elevated outward form and we have condescended to those who appear less enlightened.
One of the ways that will reveal if, in fact, we have gone the way of the Pharisee, is that when we believe we have achieved results with our children, we become proud of our accomplishments. In our pride, we then judge others by those areas in which we feel most successful. If we would never permit our baby to make a peep in a meeting we will feel distain for any mommy who allows her baby to fuss. If we would never dream of watching TV, we will feel sorry for the pastor and his “lack of enlightenment” if we know he has a television with satellite hookup. If a child calls us by our first name instead of Mr. or Mrs., we marvel at his parents for his lack of upbringing.
It is a fair assumption that if we make preeminent for our families issues of outward appearance (such as humble fashions, modesty, and grooming) we will likely condescend to those who don’t hold to our standards. If we are proud of our children’s public etiquette and conduct, it will be easy to belittle those who don’t measure up. If we condemn everything but our preferred music style, we may pity or cut off all those who hold to a different standard in music. Standards in these areas are subjectively derived and based largely on personal opinion, yet if we believe we hold to God’s opinion, we may count others as being in error or at the very least misguided.
It is easy to miss this area of pride because we may not express our judgments “arrogantly”. We may not say something condemning like, “My goodness, I couldn’t believe it when I heard the Smiths say they were putting their oldest children into school next year! They’re sacrificing their children for convenience. Seems to me they’re either compromising or giving up. I was afraid this would happen when they began attending that new church!” Instead, we may wrap our judgments in compassionate sounding words, “I’m so grieved to hear about the Smiths’ decision. How far they have fallen -- it’s so sad. We’ll pray that they see the light again! I hate it when the devil deceives God’s people!” Arrogance wrapped in compassionate tones can be especially deceiving.
Typically, when we belittle others who don’t measure up to our standards, we will also imagine others are judging us. Consequently, we will find ourselves frequently being defensive. We assume that others will think lowly of us for some perceived inadequacy, so we offer unsolicited explanations and clarifications for us or our children. For example, let’s say we walked past a TV at Sears and saw something of interest – when we tell others what we saw, we are careful to clarify that we saw it at Sears and weren’t watching a TV at home. When judgment is in our own heart we imagine it is in others. (And when we are among likeminded judges the judgment is not just imagined – it is real.)
If we live under fear of judgment, not only will we tend to be on the defensive, but whenever we are in a public setting where our children might be “watched,” we will put pressure on them. If that setting is church, preservation of our reputation will require our children always be on their best behavior. If they sit there silently when everyone else is singing a hymn, we look down with intensity and whisper, “Sing! Show some respect to God.” If they wiggle too much we scrunch up our face, squeeze their leg, and say, “Sit still!” If they draw pictures while we see other children listening to the pastor we quietly instruct them, “Put that away and pay attention.” Obviously, nothing is wrong with wanting our children to respect God, control their bodies, and listen to Bible teaching, but fear of judgment is the wrong motivation. Besides, if we do succeed with molding our children’s outward behavior to be impressive in public, we will easily condescend to those whose children’s behavior is not.
It is important to note that when pride is working its work in us, we sincerely believe our personal opinions reflect God’s utmost priorities and standards. We validate ourselves since we know we keep those standards, and by the same standards others are validated or invalidated in our eyes, as well. For example, if we are self-validating, we may decide that since we have chosen to homeschool, anyone who won’t homeschool, doesn’t love their children enough to sacrifice for them. If we are self-validating, it means that since we think we understand the true definition of modesty, anyone who doesn’t dress according to our standard is carnal or unenlightened. A self-validating person is justified in their own eyes and in the eyes of those with whom they fellowship.
What we believe to be our “enlightened” perspective becomes a filter by which we gauge others’ spirituality, and therefore limits our options for fellowship. We develop a very narrow definition of what we call “likeminded” people, based on the outworkings of our values and opinions. For example, if we think drums are carnal and have no place in worship, we might walk into a church and decide we cannot fellowship there if we spot drums and no organ – the drums completely discredit the church to us. Or a Bible teacher is entirely discredited in our eyes, because he does not use our preferred Bible translation, or prays with what we feel is insufficient sobriety. Or we meet someone and immediately trust their spirituality simply because they homeschool, dress to our standard, and require quick obedience of their children. It is easy for us “family-minded” people to elevate our opinions and personal convictions and make them grounds for fellowship. But are we on a path to exclusivity when we will no longer associate with those who will be with us in eternity? Is it possible we have lost sight of fellowship based on love and devotion to Jesus, and have substituted personal standards and a narrow view of Christian liberty?
There are several serious consequences of raising children in a home marked by pride and judgment. Our example of emphasizing the outward and making critical, judgmental remarks about others will impact our children negatively.
a. They may learn from our example to judge others and grow up with our shallow values. If we don’t know that our values are shallow we will regard our children as virtuous and be proud of them. When our children point out to us the parenting mistakes, shortcomings, or spiritual blindness of others, do we correct them for their arrogance or do we affirm them for their “insights”? We mustn’t be pleased when our children seek our affirmation by noting the failings of other parents or children – we must direct them into an attitude of compassion and respect.
b. If they do not learn to judge others from our bad example, it may be because they fear our judgments of them. They feel they are just like the ones they hear us judge, so hide their real values from us. We mustn’t be surprised if they act like they embrace our values during their teen years, when in fact, they are simply seeking to avoid discipline and lectures. In reality they have closed off their hearts to us and will likely leave home as soon as they get the chance.
c. It is also possible that they see the shallowness of our “religion” and are not attracted to it in the least. Christianity is not a system of do’s and don’ts – it is following a wonderful Savior who gave his life for his people. A legalistic faith consisting primarily of “avoid this, wear that, and attend this” is not attractive to most children. Such children grow up full of knowledge and rules, but lack attraction for the Lord Jesus. They may identify themselves with Christ at an early age, but it is possible that the Christianity they learned from us was characterized by religious rules and doctrines. They will eventually forsake their identification with Christ because they grew up under the weight of religious standards, but lacked the grace and power to carry them out. Many such young people have forsaken “religion,” and still need to find Jesus and the grace of salvation.
I want to suggest that this area of pride and judgment is a difficult one to identify and renounce. By its very nature pride acts as a filter for our thinking and therefore, our perceptions. We feel self‑justified. So I pray, even at this moment, that God will open our blind eyes and bring freedom to us all. If we are able to leave a judgmental outlook behind we increase the likelihood of our children finding in us the beauty of our Savior, Jesus.
Next issue: Part 4 ... Points 5 & 6
5. Behavior-oriented focus
6. Over-reliance upon sheltering
Finances: We appreciate those of you who responded to our appeal for financial help last month. The donations helped us through the month. Because of the time of year, speaking opportunities are few, and we continue to find ourselves in a very lean financial place. Reb feels quite blessed that he hasn’t had to find another way to support his family yet. Although speaking opportunities are few in December, ministry demands remain great. We anticipate God will provide through your gifts or through other means. Please prayerfully consider being a ministry partner with us. (We are a tax-exempt 501-C3).
Seminars: Since Reb no longer pastors a church he is more available than ever to present seminars. Consider arranging a seminar for your fellowship.
New Materials: In the future it is not merely our goal to survive, but to expand our ministry. We hope through the generosity of your giving to be able to hire another director, which will allow Reb time to complete several unfinished books he is writing. We hope, with gifts, to fund the publishing of a book version of the booklet Dating: Is it worth the risk? It is already written and typeset, and merely awaits funding.
We’d love for you to partner with us in providing help to families.
Testimonies from ministry friends
“Wow! My husband and I attended the ... conference! Listening to Beverly, I could have bet that she had been living in my head. I thought, "Oh my gosh! This woman must have undercover cameras in my home! (And my heart and mind too!)" I was extremely encouraged to say the least. My oldest child ...we started praying for him (and with him) that Jesus would "bind-up his broken heart". What a different child we now have. (He's 7 years old.) In the meantime, God is doing big things with his mommy too! God is delivering me of a lot of sinful "hang-ups" which is the true root of my frustration with the kids) ... I want to thank you Beverly for being so transparent with us. I can say that I left the conference resolved (spurred by the cleansing conviction of God) to model true, Christ-like love to my children. I wish I could give you a hug!” V.P.
“Dear Pastor Bradley, We have recently been introduced to your material. It is truly changing the way we are living our lives. We are saddened by the reality that we are coming across this a little late for some of our children. We've been Bible reading Christians for over 20 years and never have heard some of this. It's great! We are consuming all that we can find, and sharing it with everyone who is teachable. Thank you for your commitment to the family. Sincerely, D. & C. J.”
“I have just finished listening to your tapes on courtship and marriage, and they have been life changing! I believe God has used your tapes to show me the truth of what the Bible teaches about a godly union! I have gone down the wrong path of dating one too many times in my life. I believe with God's grace I don’t have to go there anymore. ... Thank God for you, and all of those who work with you to help the family!!” K.
Ministry Prayer Needs
-- Financial stability for the ministry. Pray for God’s provision, so that we can continue unimpaired.
-- Opportunities to minister in churches and at Home School Conventions.
-- Reb and Bev need the Lord’s guidance as they seek to discern God’s will for the direction of this ministry.
PO Box 266 Sheridan, CA 95681