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Encouraging Fathers


Each year as we (Peter Frogley and I) prepare for this series of seminars, we ponder what God would want us to speak about or to focus on. Sometimes that requires a lot of sifting in prayer, but sometimes, although prayer is always important, it is very clear. A number of things have happened recently to make it fairly obvious what we needed to concentrate upon.

Most of the events have a legal flavour and, whilst I am not a legally qualified person, I believe it is important to understand the basics and be prepared for possible eventualities. So not in any particular order, here are some of the things which have happened.

1. In WA families have been summonsed and one family has already been found guilty of failing to observe the registration requirements of the law there. That case is subject to appeal processes as we speak so of course I can't talk about the details.

2. Also in WA, their new Education Act was passed in the Parliament by a conservative (i.e. non-Labour Party) government and is now awaiting proclamation to become effective. In my opinion it makes that State's laws the most repressive and anti-homeschooling of all.

3. Other cases against home educators are in progress and/or subject to negotiation between the legal people in both NSW and Qld.

4. In SA that government is conducting a review of their Education and early childcare/kindergarten legislation.

5. In Vic the Labour Party won a cliff-hanger election, and Ms Mary Delahunty is now the Education Minister. The broad thrust of Labour's education policy is to focus on centrally-controlled, government-provided, publicly funded education.

6. The November referendum resulted in a convincing vote to retain our present Constitution. Some proponents of change have expressed the opinion that a major school-based education campaign is the only way to deal with this major stumbling-block to "national reform."

The overall trend in all of this is that our freedom to choose an education according to Biblical standards is being challenged in most states of this nation.

God's Calling: The Family

(Gen 1:28 NIV) God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground."

(Gen 17:5-7 NIV) No longer will you be called Abram ; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you. I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you.

(Mal 2:15 NIV) Has not the LORD made them one? In flesh and spirit they are His. And why one? Because He was seeking Godly offspring. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth.

(Eph 3:14-15 NIV) For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom His whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name.

What else do we need to see from God's Word to realize that God is very interested in families and the whole idea of family, which of course He created?

We all began life in a family, we all have a place in a family, and whilst we may not all be called to public ministry in the church, prominent public life, large-scale business or government, we are all called to exercise a ministry within a family. Fathers, are you aware that God has established the family as one of His primary places of delegated authority in this earth? Much of the New Testament deals with the church, and a lot of our daily news seems to deal with governments, but God's focus began with the family of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden and will end with the city of God, populated by countless people worshipping their God.

In between, the temporary institutions of church and civil government rise to prominence because of sin-God withdraws Himself from sinful mankind and invokes indirect rule as He works out His redemptive plan. Church and government will recede when Jesus returns to restore God's direct rule. However, as we are told in Ephesians, God's whole family in heaven will remain, taking their leadership from God Himself as the Father of all His people.

So fathers, we have a very important calling: to display the Fatherhood of God to our wives and children so that they are prepared for Jesus' return and our submission to the direct, visible leadership of Father God.

I found an excellent summary of some of these aspects of fatherhood in "Fellow Workers" for February, a newsletter of Matthias Media in Sydney. I have obtained permission from the author, Tony Payne, to reproduce them for you and you can collect a copy at the end of this session. Let's now move on to see how that calling might work itself out in our homeschooling.

Conviction or Preference?

For a few minutes, I want to talk about the difference between homeschooling as a preference and raising our children in Godliness because of a deeply held conviction born of the spirit of God and resolutely planted in our hearts.

I believe that we must remain vigilant and defend the responsibilities we have. Sadly the time is coming when even in Victoria we may have to battle for those things which we take for granted today.

Someone, somewhere may have to stand up in a court of law and defend their existence as a Christian, possibly without the so-called "protection" of the anti-discrimination laws. Would you be prepared to go to Court to defend yourself? And if you don't think you would bother because it sounds a bit too much, let me suggest that this kind of thinking operates on the basis of preference for homeschooling among a range of options.

On the other hand if you consider that this is too much to face alone, but that whatever comes you cannot imagine doing anything else except raising Godly children who will be shining examples of the Jesus Who is your King of Kings, then you are working from the only sure foundation-a conviction that God has called your family, and you cannot imagine disobeying or disappointing your Lord. So, you may not be any more knowledgeable than someone else with a mere preference, but you will be infinitely better prepared to face whatever comes.

Spiritual Headship

Fathers, in your Priestly role it is time to begin leading your families in prayer for home education around Australia. Pray for all the leaders, and for the legal people who will lead the battle from the front lines. But beyond that pray for God to strengthen your heart and sharpen your mind to withstand the attacks of the enemy who is behind all this.

Let me encourage you to ponder a few questions while you pray. What would you do if it became compulsory to register and have your curriculum approved by an educational expert before you could teach? What would you do if this process was extended to ensure that you used the same curriculum as applied in State schools? What would you do if you knew that you could lose your children if you did not comply? If you consider that this has not yet happened in Victoria, I should remind you of the infamous kidnapping of children of the "Family" group about five years ago.

Second (and related to this), you have a Protective role in your family. Fathers, you are primarily the one whom God will call to account for the influences which affect your wife and your children. You need to be aware of the outside factors and decide to allow some, and restrict or prevent others. Do you vet the TV and radio programs that are broadcast into your home? The newspapers and magazines? Do you exercise proper authority over the guests and visitors who enter your home? Do you encourage Godly influences into your home and restrict ungodliness?

Dads, we usually do a reasonably good job of Providing for our families and supporting them in material ways- especially outside the home. But what spiritual input do you provide for your children? What do you do about the choice of curriculum for your homeschooling? Are these jobs which you leave to your wife? Should that be so?

Supporting Our Wives

Do you support your wife (even if she does the main work of actual teaching) by ensuring that your children respect and obey her in all things? Do you lead by example: that is do you respect her and acknowledge her skills in the home? Do you praise her before your children (i.e. in public as well as in private) so that they know who's side you are on? Do you avoid wife jokes which disparage and put down your closest partner? As a couple do you keep your differences to yourselves and sort them out in private?

Moving on to a touchy subject even in the church: do you aim for your family to live modestly so that you can actually afford to remain on one income? There is a "standard" Australian lifestyle which almost demands two cars and two incomes to support it all. As families plan to homeschool, they need to consider this aspect very carefully. But Dads you were called to be the providers, and I would hope that you are in for a pleasant surprise when you crunch the numbers.

Are you aware for instance that most second incomes yield only about 40% maximum of the actual salary or wage quoted? After basic tax, loss of family payment and spouse tax rebate, and with added expenses (second car or public transport, meals etc), it's no wonder families get frustrated. The second income looks so attractive for making ends meet-then someone moves the ends!

Even if your job takes you away from home, you might be able to plan for a lifestyle demanding less taxi-ing about, and you may even be able to exchange two cars for one! Mums, you may discover (if you haven't already) that being at home allows you to do more with your own hands, and that you therefore spend less on having others (like supermarkets or department stores) do it for you.

One of the things I hope we all learned from the Y2K computer bug business was to become less dependent on government and other man-made systems and more dependent upon God Himself.

Time: Quality or Quantity?

Isn't it sad that the church seems to be still behind the world in family-oriented teaching? Daniel Petre, former head of Microsoft Australia, has written a book in which he says: "I was constantly torn between 'doing the right thing' at work and attending late-night meetings and weekend work retreats, and my deep-seated belief that I should be spending more time with my children and wife."

There was a theory prevalent a few years ago about spending 'quality time' with children. It was little more than a psychological massage to busy parents (like Daniel), and it was based on the mistaken notion that a small quantity of 'quality time' was equivalent to or better than a large quantity of 'being-there' average time. It is in fact exactly the same as that gym slogan "time-efficient fitness" and was marketed to the same excessively busy people, who eagerly swallowed the lie of "time-efficient parenting."

Sadly for a whole generation or more of children who have already missed out, there is no substitute for spending average time in large quantities with your children. I recall a long time ago a book of meditations called "Three Mile an Hour God." The wise author chose a title reflecting walking pace because he recognized this fact: it takes time to build our relationship with God. Likewise our relationships with others, particularly our children will require quantities of time. "Time efficient parenting" simply doesn't work when you are teaching your son or daughter to ride a bike.

I have a brother-in-law who is works as a computer consultant with one of the big accounting firms. He is highly skilled, in great demand and works a lot interstate. I pray for him because there is certainly a need for Godly men in business, but he recognizes and struggles with this conflict of time priorities, just the same as I do. Nobody looks back from their deathbed saying "if only I had installed one or two more systems " but many ponder "if only I had spent more time with my children"

Some tips on time that I have gathered over some years:
For Dads who work out of home:

For Dads working from home or based at home:

For all Dads:

Family Worship

I asked a question earlier about what kind of spiritual sustenance you were providing for your family. Let me expand on that a little here. As I implied before, there is a great danger in homeschooling, even for Dads who work from home.

Following in the footsteps of our earthly Adam, we can duck our responsibility and shove it off (along with the blame for any failure) to someone else. This happens far too often today doesn't it? When someone asks what has become of the children the answer they get goes "well, it's those mates they run around with," or "it's the rubbish they put on TV" or "the Christian school didn't do " or "that set of homeschool books was supposed to cover that area " But is God going to be impressed by such answers?

Churches have been operating Sunday Schools for about 220 years now. I have a rather jaundiced view of the net result of Sunday Schools and you are welcome to differ from me on that score. From my perspective, I see that Sunday School has become another means by which parents (mainly fathers) avoid their responsibility to pass on the faith to their children.

Within the last ten years or so, however, there has been a new move to restore a concept older than Sunday School: Family Worship. This was designed to train up children to take their place in full worship services in church. A couple of people here can give you some excellent online references for further investigation via the Internet. Let me just quote the Rev Brian Abshire in the USA who says:

"The Directory [of Family Worship] sees the church's role as not primarily educating the children, but ensuring that such education takes place in the home. It "appoints ministers and ruling elders in each congregation to take special care that these Directions be observed and followed." Furthermore the leaders were to reprove or censure those who did not keep them.

He declares straight away that this is hard work, and I agree. We have begun to work towards this in our own family, although we have barely taken a few halting steps. We try to teach our young ones how to sit in church without entertainments and distractions, and we try to look briefly at the passage we are reading whether it's Genesis, Psalms or a New Testament letter. However, I am still struggling with my own laziness and ingrained attitudes.

Relationships, Service & Evangelism

I seem to be challenging standard notions a fair bit today: now I am going to take a swing at some of the 20th century's cherished methods of evangelism.

How many of us are (or have been) in churches with a strong emphasis on the idea that "evangelism is for everyone"? And how many of those churches have organized evangelism training classes according to some method or other for husbands and wives, for young adults and for teenagers - all in their separate groups? And how many know of Scripture Union Beach Missions, Theos Missions, CSSM, Navigators and the like?

Praise God for the fruit of all that work! But have you wondered at the extraordinary effort that goes in and compared it with the results? Ever wondered what proportion of the harvest is lost a short time later? Let me suggest that as families we might be able to evangelize more effectively, even if it would appear to be a slower approach.

As I said before there is no substitute for time in the building of relationships. We see a lot of people in the world around us (and in the church) falling apart for lack of caring, loving relationships with those closest to them. Whether it's in smaller circles like family, friends and local community or larger spheres like workplaces and government, the symptoms are manifest.

As people of the living God focusing on rebuilding our families, we have a golden opportunity to "let our light shine before men" in service and involvement as a family, maybe even combining families for greater impact. Do you sense a call from God to visit the elderly, the lonely, shut-ins or the sick? Serve as a family! Have you ever noticed the magnetic attraction between young children and grandparents? Why not consider volunteering for a regular day doing Meals on Wheels? Imagine the joy your children could bring to the life of a grandmother whose grandchildren are all interstate! A number of churches have found a way of redistributing day-old bread to those in need. Could you, as a family, collect bread from a bakery or hot-bread shop, bag it up and distribute it?

Now, if your family can bless others cheerfully, demonstrate the joy of the Lord, and show respect for one another and concern for others, then there may be opportunities to answer questions like "How come you're all like this?" And Fathers, if you have been training up your children in God's Word as well as their Maths and English, even your children could, in the words of 1 Pet 3:15, "be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have." And they could do it with gentleness and respect. And I haven't even mentioned direct family to family evangelism.

Within your church, you could win people over to a more family-oriented program by demonstrating your family-oriented enjoyment of the Christian life. Wherever you may be serving - as a Bible Study leader, elder, on the oversight or Business Committee, you could begin to show a more family-oriented approach, as the Lord leads you. How about leading by example: have your children sit with you throughout your services and take notes during the sermon? Discuss them at home and compare them with your own.

Youth Group leaders, consider how you could convert your Youth Group into a whole family activity by inviting the parents to join in. (And if you feel embarrassed about inviting them, what might that say about your program?) Plan social nights for the whole family based on a theme. In our church we have had themes such as music, games, history, international, Aussie, careers, 20 Questions.

If you are pastor of a church (or training to be one), you might think about how much the church's program copies from the world and reinforces worldly values by separating family members. Have you compared your sermons with your children's talks? If you ask your congregation what they recall, do they tell you about the children's talk? Oops! But maybe you could expand that into a sermon and teach everyone from the one set of notes! Do you already circulate a sermon outline for your listeners, with space for them to take their own notes? What would it take for you to start dong that?


To close, let me remind you of what I have put before you:

God's Calling

Conviction or Preference? Given the things that have happened recently, we need to seek God to ensure that we teach our children out of a solid Biblical conviction rather than a mere preference which can be abandoned at short notice.

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