Back to School—Always!

We will not hide these truths from our children;
we will tell the next generation
about the glorious deeds of the
Lord,
about His power and H
is mighty wonders.

Psalm 78:4, NLT

Even with over three decades in the field of education, I still look forward to the start of another school year. I’m excited for students who will have the chance to gain more knowledge, consider new concepts, and interact with one another.  Whether in public, private, or home-school settings, this season reminds both children and adults of the importance of the learning process.

This learning process is extremely critical when it comes to our spiritual development too.  Everyone, young and old, should keep growing—just as Paul reminded early believers: “I pray for you constantly, asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God” (Ephesians 1:16b-17).  In a sense, we should be experiencing “Back to School” regularly in our journey of faith.

Psalm 78 also clarifies that the older generation must pass on truths about the Lord to the children in their care.  Look at these verses from that psalm which give the rationale for this concept:

For He issued His laws to Jacob; He gave His instructions to Israel. He commanded our ancestors to teach them to their children, so the next generation might know them—even the children not yet born—and they in turn will teach their own children. So, each generation should set its hope anew on God, not forgetting His glorious miracles and obeying His commands.  (verses 5-7)

Notice that the instructions God gave were to be the first agenda items that should be passed on to the next generation.  Why?  So they could learn them, avoid mistakes, and then pass the Lord’s great ways of living on to yet another generation.  In other words, by intentionally instructing the younger generation, adults were offering them the opportunity to “set their hope anew on God.

Over the years of teaching, consulting, and writing, I’ve been asked a lot of questions—particularly about parenting.  I’ve often been astonished when people express their concern about being too intentional about faith.  Some men and women are uncertain about what to share; others are apathetic.  The most surprising conversation I had was with a family member who thought his kids should just “get” faith on their own.  I remined him that we would never expect children to simply “get” reading, writing, or math by themselves—instead, we’re extremely intentional about teaching these critical subject areas.  Boys, girls, teenagers—and adults for that matter—rarely pick up knowledge without some sort of guidance. Indeed, strategic educational effort helps learners all throughout the life cycle.

In our book, Straight Line for Parents:  9 Strategies for Raising Exceptional Kids (Wilke & Wilke, 2012), we talk about “three pillars” for bringing up the next generation:  Faith, Family, and Education.  We specifically list the pillars in this order for a reason.  Faith is the foundation, family is the framework, and education provides the pathway for success.  Ten or twenty years ago we might not have been so definitive—but with over sixty years of combined professional interactions with children and adults and three-plus decades of parenting (and now grandparenting) together, we are confident that these pillars will work for you and your family.

So, how’s your “Back-to-School” process going?  Are you intentionally working to improve your spiritual knowledge?  If so, how?  Is there anything else you might do to guarantee that you are growing “in your knowledge of God”?  What’s happening with the young people in your life?  Maybe they’re your children, or grandchildren, or nieces and nephews.  Perhaps you teach a Sunday School class—or just have neighbor kids with whom you interact.  Could you find some new, innovative ways to “tell the next generation about the glorious deeds of the Lord, about His power and His mighty wonders”?

If you’re not sure where or how to get started, why not read through Psalm 78 to find out what that generation passed on—truths that are still impacting the world we live in today.  In addition, you can read Straight Lines for Parents in paperback or Kindle versions—or pick up a copy for someone you care about.  We also recommend checking out Focus on the Family at www.FocusOnTheFamily.com for fantastic faith-based resources.  Whatever you do, keep learning this Back-to-School season—and all throughout life’s wonderful journey!

Many blessings to you from everyone at Sonkist Ministries!

 

Thought of the Month

 O my people, listen to my instructions.
Open your ears to what I am saying,
for I will speak to you in a parable.
I will teach you hidden lessons from our past—
stories we have heard and known,
stories our ancestors handed down to us.

Psalm 78:1-3

What Makes You Happy?

I have rejoiced in your laws as much as in riches. I will study your commandments and reflect on your ways.  I will delight in your decrees and not forget your word.
Psalm 119:14-16
While researching the Internet for an upcoming blog on optimism, I encountered numerous sites that summed up several studies about what makes people happy.  See how many of these resonate with you:
  • Connections to family
  • Close relationships
  • Good health
  • Generous people; giving to others
  • Being engaged in some type of meaningful work
  • Forgiveness
  • Faith
  • Exercise
  • Interactions with pets
  • Attitudes of gratitude

As I reviewed these findings, I realized that quite a few of the items were ones that God would be pleased with too since many are directly related to our relationship with Him as well as the people and experiences He has created for us to enjoy.  Indeed, Scripture confirms that when our connection with the Lord is strong, we can’t help but discover a true, lasting joy in the process.  Look at this section of Psalm 119 to see what I mean:

Joyful are people of integrity,
who follow the instructions of the Lord. 

Joyful are those who obey His laws and
search for Him with all their hearts.
(verses 1&2)

The message found in these two verses seems counter-intuitive to much of what we find in our current culture.  In fact, the “me” focus of a few decades ago has transformed into a “whatever works for you” mentality.  Today, morals are questioned, social mores morph by the minute, and faith-based thinking seems way off base to many.

Yet these time-tested truths the psalmist shared transcend what may be trending on social media.  Consider these facts shared in this section of Psalms for a minute.  Has following God’s guidelines for great living helped you—or not?  When you’ve felt close to the Lord, did your life seem better—or worse?

And when we consider that list of top items that make people happy, wouldn’t many of them be more uplifting if the Lord was integrally involved?  For instance, how would our experiences with family, friends, co-workers, and community members be if we interacted with one another according to Biblical principles?  Might work be more meaningful—would we be more thankful—could we forgive more freely—if we had God’s assistance?

Summer is a perfect season for reflection, so I encourage you to think about what truly makes you happy.  Remember, God has great plans for you—and being joyful is part of that!  So, contemplate all the good things you’ve got in your life right now.  Make plans for fun, joy-filled activities in the days ahead—and include lots of family and friends so they can be encouraged too.  And, most of all, be sure to set aside time to focus on the One who makes life possible and would love to be part of your joyful journey here on Planet Earth!

Thought of the Month

May all who fear you find in me a cause for joy, for I have put my hope in your word.
Psalm 119:74

I Choose Peace!

But all who listen to Me will live in peace,
 untroubled by fear of harm.

Proverbs 1:33

Like many people, I’ve spent lots of time considering the word “peace”—and certainly never like I did in 2016.  World news was once again dominated by acts of terrorism, and in the U.S., daily broadcasts of everything from politics to local events revealed struggle, strife, and animosity in abundance.

Perhaps, like me, you’ve also spent time wondering if we will ever be able to experience real peace this side of Heaven.  The great news is that God’s Word confirms that we can—we should—enjoy His kind of peace in our day-to-day lives, and this is the message you’ll discover in Sonkist Ministries’ latest book, I Choose Peace!  Here is an excerpt from Chapter 2 that speaks to the thoughts above:

 Like many people throughout history, you may be wondering why God would allow such evil to be perpetuated—especially on members of His forever family. Once again, the rationale for all of this links to the very beginning of human existence. Disregarding God’s guidelines had consequences, and the decision by Adam and Eve to reject God’s wishes, mirrors the rebellious act of Lucifer and the other fallen angels. While time ticks on, the imperfections initiated by the choice to turn away from the guidelines God provided for perfect and peaceful living will continue. However, the Lord is good—He has given us gentle reminders of this reality all throughout His Word, including the verse that started this chapter. Let’s look at John 16:33 again: “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in Me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

In some of His final words to His followers, Jesus spoke of the realities of living in a fallen world—yet He also offered an amazing peace that people can experience by having a personal relationship with Him. Look at the wording again: “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in Me.” It’s as if Jesus were saying, “Sure, life will be hard when I’m gone. You will have your own intrapersonal struggles. People won’t like you because you’re Christians. The devil is at work in the world, and so are his evil forces. But don’t worry! I can help you because I am the One who has overcome sin, evil, and their consequences.”

If we just focused on the consequences sin has had on humanity, we can grasp why peace is so challenging to experience here on earth. This situation might also be pretty depressing as we face the reality that our flawed human state, as well as the devil and his forces, are constantly working against us in our quest for harmonious living. But, as Jesus reminded us, we don’t have to be discouraged—we should “take heart!” In Him we can find true, lasting peace—and that’s exactly what the next chapter is going to delve into in a much deeper way.

 Our prayer is that I Choose Peace! will encourage you in your journey toward finding the Lord’s peace—and that you’ll also be able to share about how to experience the peace-filled life God always hoped His creation would enjoy!

*I Choose Peace! can be found in paperback and Kindle formats at Amazon.com.

Thought of the Month

 If you want to enjoy life and see many happy days, keep your tongue from speaking evil and your lips from telling lies. Turn away from evil and do good.
 Search for peace, and work to maintain it.

 I Peter 3:10-11

Marooned

Once I was young, and now I am old.
Yet I have never seen the godly abandoned …

Psalm 37:25

 Do you remember the story of Robinson Crusoe? The famous book by Daniel Defoe about this character has been popular for almost three centuries because of the compelling tale of the tremendous trails faced by this castaway.

What many of us may not be aware of is that Crusoe was derived from an actual individual who, after being marooned, endured incredible difficulties during his stay on a deserted island.  Alexander Selkirk, a Scottish privateer and Royal Navy officer, was abandoned in 1704 by his ship’s captain after a dispute regarding the seaworthiness of their vessel (Selkirk was correct; the ship soon foundered—and the captain and crew were forced to surrender to enemy forces).

Selkirk had been given few supplies when marooned on the uninhabited island:  a musket, a hatchet, a knife, a cooking pot, a Bible, bedding and some clothes. His survival was aided by skills he had learned in his youth, and he sang psalms and read from that Bible for comfort and encouragement.  Months turned into four long years before Selkirk was eventually rescued.

While most of us probably can’t fathom how we’d fare in those unimaginable circumstances, we can probably relate to Selkirk’s feelings of loneliness.  What do I mean by that? Well, here are a few examples:

  • A parent abandoned you at some point in your life.
  • A spouse left you, perhaps for someone else.
  • You’re in a “relationship,” but the other person doesn’t try to connect with you.
  • You have been caring for a family member, maybe for many years, with little or no support.
  • Your life circumstances are challenging, yet no one else seems able to assist you.

And, as is often the case, this kind of list could go on and on. “Marooned” simply defined means being abandoned or left without aid.  When we examine the scope of our lives, how often—how long—have we felt like this has happened to us?

Yet as we reflect upon this real-life castaway, we can be encouraged by the fact that we aren’t totally abandoned either! Just as God provided for Alexander Selkirk on that island, He also cares for us. No one else may know how alone we feel, but He does! Indeed, centuries before Selkirk, King David wrote numerous psalms about his personal struggles with similar feelings.  Here is one example:

Turn to me and have mercy,

for I am alone and in deep distress.

My problems go from bad to worse.

Oh, save me from them all!

Psalm 25:16-17

Just like Selkirk and King David, you do not have to be on a deserted island to experience isolation—but you also don’t have to get stuck in that state of mind. Ask God for help. Pray, often and always. Search the Word for the Lord’s truths, for there you will find strength in your time of need!

 

Thought of the Month

So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the LORD your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.

 Deuteronomy 3:16

The Old Deluder Satan Law

“Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it.”

 Proverbs 22:6, NLT

Have you ever heard of the Old Deluder Satan Law? If not, you aren’t alone. This 1647 piece of legislation from the Massachusetts Bay Colony is one of three original public education laws put into place in the early days of what would eventually become the United States.

Why would our founding fathers and mothers discuss Satan when establishing a system for public schooling? In brief, they wanted to ensure children would be able to read and understand spiritual truths to counteract the negative forces at work in the world in which they lived. As soon as a town had fifty or more families, they were required to hire a teacher to assist them with this process. Once 100 or more families comprised the town, an official grammar school was to be established based on the foundational principle of creating an intellectual, spiritually-aware populace. The hope was that some of these well-educated children would also be prepared to enter Harvard College, whose mission after being founded in 1636 was to prepare individuals for the ministry.

While our history books are often missing these amazing details about American public education, we shouldn’t miss out on the transcendent message behind this legislation from ages past. First, there’s nothing to be embarrassed about when it comes to the foundation of faith established centuries ago. Our forbearers infused timeless truths into the very fabric of their community, culture, and country. Shouldn’t we, in modern times, be willing to do the same? Second, parents were considered the primary educators of their children. They were responsible for hiring qualified teachers. They were to ensure schools were established—and that those same schools fulfilled their obligation of providing superior education to the young citizens of their day.

Those original settlers were aligned and attuned with what Solomon penned in Proverbs 22:6:  “Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it.” For those of us helping to guide the future leaders of our homes, communities, and country, that instruction is ours to follow and carry out too.

Whether we are parents, grandparents, aunts or uncles, we can inspire children and young people to understand the spiritual principles God has provided for all human kind. His guidelines for great living haven’t altered with changing seasons or shifts in laws and culture. And those of us closely involved with local schools should stay connected! Whether public, public charter, parochial or private, educational institutions need our involvement and input. After all, this is one of our earliest callings as citizens of the great nation we’ve inherited.

This month, schools across America begin planning for the upcoming academic year. As they do so, let’s be in prayer for those engaged in this process. In addition, let’s carefully consider how we can assist children discover the incredible path that leads to success as well as eternal security!

Thought of the Week

 I will teach you hidden lessons from our past—

 stories we have heard and known,

    stories our ancestors handed down to us.

We will not hide these truths from our children;

    we will tell the next generation

about the glorious deeds of the Lord,

    about his power and his mighty wonders.

Psalm 78: 2b-4

A Love-filled Life

I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding.

Philippians 1:9

Did you know that, according to a study done by Pew Research Center, 88% of Americans report that love is still their number one reason for getting married? That’s right, love ranked higher than making a lifelong commitment (81% also ranked this as a “very important” reason) and the need for companionship (76%)— and way over financial stability (only 28%)!

Statistics aside, this month offers a reminder that people of all ages love the idea of love. Store shelves are stocked with goodies and gifts for Valentine’s Day. Card racks are filled with an array of adoring messages you can send. And of course, flower stands seem to pop up on every corner right before the 14th rolls around. This shouldn’t surprise us either since, as creations of a loving God, we seem to be pre-wired with the desire to love and be loved.

In Scripture, we also discover that we are encouraged to express this God-given ability on a regular basis.  Let’s look at Ephesians 5:2 to find one reminder:

Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.

Spend a minute mulling over that first phrase:  “Live a life filled with love.”  What would this look like to you? How would you act toward others if you intentionally strove to fulfill this exhortation each day? How would you hope others might respond if you were living a life that seemed to overflow with loving attitudes and actions?

Obviously, none of us can come close to attaining this type of loving lifestyle without help from the One mentioned in the rest of that verse. Christ’s devotion and sacrifice are beautiful examples of what true love looks like. Jesus totally gave of Himself—without thought of a “return on investment”—so people’s lives could be transformed. That’s why it’s only with His divine assistance, day in and day out, that we can really love others. Indeed, this is a calling given to each of us who follow the Lord:

So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples. (John 13:34-35

Even though you may really want to love like Christ does, it won’t be easy. For instance, what do you do when:

  • Someone you care about doesn’t want to be loved?
  • An individual in your life spurns your love?
  • A person you know mocks you for trying to live in kind, compassionate ways?
  • Somebody says he or she loves you, but then he/she stops?

The list could go on and on. And while I always recommend setting healthy boundaries, you can still have a loving attitude—even in worst-case scenarios. In fact, in I Choose Love! I explain how there are situations and seasons of life when you may need to “love someone from a distance.” In other words, you can still pray for that individual, even if you’ve had to step away from the relationship.

The bottom line for all of us, whether married or single, is that we are designed to be loving beings just like God intended—and He can help us live up to that potential if we let Him. As we do so, not only will our lives be healthier and happier, but we’ll also be setting a great example for others of what the Lord’s love is all about!

Thought of the Week

Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.

I John 3:18

Time to Celebrate!

So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.

I Corinthians 10:31

I want to begin my note to you this month with a question:  How are you choosing to celebrate Christmas?  I use the verb “choosing” deliberately—first and foremost because choice involves intentionality.  Like so many aspects of life, you and I have the opportunity to determine how we will—or will not—commemorate and enjoy this special time of celebration.

You see, there are many positions regarding the remembrance of Christmas.  For some, it is a federal holiday filled with festive decorations, food, and visits with family.  In the retail world, this is a time to entice consumers to buy goodies and gifts in order to get out of the red and hopefully secure a year-end profit.  There are people who prefer to keep the day totally secular, and still others who question if this religious holiday should be celebrated at all.

As Christians, we typically don’t worry about whether or not we should enjoy this season that is set aside to honor Christ’s birth.  Instead, many of us wonder how much—or how little—we should celebrate.  For instance, is putting up a tree and going gung-ho with yard decorations too much?  Is being present at parties, attending plays or ballets, and even hosting gatherings of our own over the top?

The answer for you and me is very personal—as it should be. Each of us ought to seek God’s guidance about everything, including how we will celebrate His amazing gift sent centuries ago in the person of Jesus Christ.  In part that’s why I so appreciate the Apostle Paul’s dialogue found in I Corinthians 10.  After summing up a communique about struggles the believers in Corinth were having in their own culture, he reminds all of us that “whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (I Corinthians 10:31, New Living Translation). 

Friend, this is the bottom line for many of the decisions we face in life.  Is what we are going to do pleasing to the Lord, or not?  Will our attitudes and actions actually bring glory to Him?  What a great metric to measure our choices by!

In Psalm 115, we find another way of looking at celebrating the Lord:  “The dead cannot sing praises to Jehovah here on earth, but we can! We praise him forever! Hallelujah! Praise the Lord!” (Psalm 115:17-18, The Living Bible).  The psalmist saw earthly existence as a chance to offer praise to the Lord.  Those who have passed on aren’t present to share with others what God has done, is doing, and will do in the future—but we can!

What better time to embrace this wonderful opportunity than now.  Christmas gives us the chance to sing His praises and rejoice in the real reason for this season.  And no matter how we choose to do our celebrating, may each of us remember “Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name goes all the glory for your unfailing love and faithfulness” (Psalm 115:1).

Merry Christmas to you and your family from all of us at Sonkist Ministries!


Thought of the Month

Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, “Glory to God in highest heaven,
and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”

Luke 2:13-14

Great Habits Help in Every Season

As I change my calendar to the month of October, I’m looking forward to the routines that lie ahead. There’s something comforting about packing away summer essentials and getting ready for the fall season.  Sandals and shorts are exchanged for sneakers and sweaters, and soon shorter days will bring cooler breezes and colorful leaves.

In our home, we also look forward to exchanging summer décor for autumn decorations.  This usually involves at least one trip to a local farm to find pumpkins as well as apples and cider to be sampled.  These routines have become part of our family’s fall regimen, which offers a reassuring rhythm to our lives.

I’ve been thinking a lot about routines and habits lately—and not simply because of the shifting seasons.  I recently read a book by a famous dancer and choreographer who penned these words:  “Even in the worst of times …. habits sustain, protect, and, in the most unlikely way, lift us up”  (Twyla Tharp, The Creative Habit, p. 243).  This particular reflection happened to be about how she, as a New Yorker, coped with the tragedy of September 11, 2001—but Ms. Tharp has also found that fostering certain habits has been beneficial to many aspects of her life.

I believe the same principle is true for our walk of faith.  By building spiritual routines into our experiences, we create patterns that help us in the good, bad, and in-between times of living.  Actually, from the beginning of His ministry, Jesus made it clear that the Christian walk must be one of routine:  “Then he said to the crowd, ‘If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me’” (Luke 9:23-24, New Living Translation).

What are some of these daily habits—or “take up your cross” activities— that you and I can be developing as we strive to follow Jesus?  Here are a few routines to consider:

  1. Read God’s Word each day. This involves setting aside specific time to get into Scripture so we can find out more about the Lord and how He’d like us to live. As II Timothy 2:15 encourages us: “Work hard so God can say to you, ‘Well done.’ Be a good workman, one who does not need to be ashamed when God examines your work. Know what his Word says and means” (The Living Bible).
  2. Pray daily for the Lord’s provision, protection, and wisdom. Read how the psalmist David started his day: “Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God, for I pray to no one but you. Listen to my voice in the morning, Lord. Each morning I bring my requests to you and wait expectantly” (Psalm 5:2-3, NLT).
  3. Attend church and fellowship with other Christians.We have the example of early believers to follow on this one:  “They worshiped together regularly at the Temple each day, met in small groups in homes for Communion, and shared their meals with great joy and thankfulness, praising God” (Acts 2:46, TLB).
The investment we make in our relationship with the Lord will always pay off, especially as we create routines that will help us know Him on a deeper, more personal level.  And I definitely believe that these spiritual habits will indeed “sustain, protect, and, in the most unlikely way, lift us up!”

May the days ahead will be filled with family, fun, and a harvest of blessings as well as lots of great habits that will help you through all seasons of life.

Happy Fall from all of us at Sonkist Ministries!

Thought of the Month

“See that no one pays back evil for evil, but always try to do good to each other and to all people. Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. Do not stifle the Holy Spirit. Do not scoff at prophecies, but test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good. Stay away from every kind of evil.”
I Thessalonians 5:15-22 (NLT)

Thoughts about Today’s Educational Dilemma

For he issued his laws to Jacob;
    he gave his instructions to Israel.
He commanded our ancestors
    to teach them to their children,
so the next generation might know them—
    even the children not yet born—
    and they in turn will teach their own children.
So each generation should set its hope anew on God,
    not forgetting his glorious miracles
    and obeying his commands.
Psalm 78:5-7, New Living Translation

As long-time readers know, we are big supporters of education.  In fact, education is one of the three pillars to successful parenting we discuss in Sonkist Ministries’ book, Straight Lines for Parents:  9 Strategies for Raising Exceptional Kids.  Steve and I have not only devoted our lives to people-helping, I have also spent over thirty years of my professional career in the field of education.

With that said, however, this Back-to-School season we want to address some concerns which have been voiced to us about changes taking place in the educational landscape across the United States. Let’s begin by sharing one unsettling situation a couple experienced this past school year.  Their first grader came home with a reading assignment about a little boy who looked into a mirror and struggled with the decision of whether or not he was male or female.  The startled parents went straight to school the next morning, hoping that some error had been made with this piece of curriculum. After talking to the principal, they realized this story had indeed been added to the reading program—and school leaders had no intention of removing it. To add to the dilemma, these parents were scolded and told they needed to get comfortable with changes in 21st century thinking!

Needless to say, the parents were upset over the entire scenario. In their mind, this type of curriculum had no place in first grade.  They also felt disrespected and disengaged from their child’s school where changes in policy and programming used to be discussed with parents.  After much prayer, they’ve decided that they cannot let this situation continue without exhausting every effort to either remove this material from the curriculum—or at least make other parents aware of what is happening, perhaps without their knowledge, in their local schools.

Sadly, educational dilemmas are on the increase in our society as more and more “agendas” are being crammed into an already overburdened system.  In addition to reading, writing, and arithmetic, some activists feel the public education setting is an ideal platform to promote their specific programs.  Perhaps even more disconcerting, some of these topics are far-removed from the Judeo-Christian principles which American education has been based upon in decades past.

What can you and I do in the midst of culture shifts that are creating these kinds of dilemmas in the world of education?  Here are a few ideas I’d like to suggest to you:

1. Parents are the primary educators of their children, so embrace that role fully! Even if your children are in private school, part of your calling is to educate your kids—especially when it comes to spiritual matters.Notice the rationale for this found in Psalm 78 above:“so each generation should set its hope anew on God.”  No matter who we are, as believers there is nothing more important than passing on God’s truths to others in our lives!

2. All of us—parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and citizens in general—should be praying for our public schools, private schools, and those involved in home schooling.Pray for the leaders; pray for the teachers.Pray for families.Remember, “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (James 5:16b, NIV).

3. Most public school educators are truly dedicated to doing what’s best for kids, but they are also employees of the government which legislates the policies and procedures they must follow (as a former public school teacher, I am well aware of this fact). So, when you need to address a problem, always try to do so with these thoughts in mind—as well as this great reminder given to us in Colossians 4:5-6:  “Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.”

4. Get more involved in local schools. They need you, and you also need to stay in touch with what’s going on. Here’s an insightful Barna article you may want to check out for additional thoughts on this topic:https://www.barna.org/barna-update/culture/681-public-schools-christians-are-part-of-the-solution#.V3_AZpBHaK0.

5. If you aren’t happy with your children’s school, look for other alternatives. For example, I have been very involved with charter schools for the past six years. More of these publicly-funded school options are opening in communities across the country, which, according the National Center for Education Statistics, are now serving the needs of more than 2.5 million U.S. students. Most of them offer smaller class sizes with specialized programs, and many are thrilled to have families involved in the educational process! For further reading, check out the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools at http://www.publiccharters.org.  There are also many alternatives for families that would like to home school, and some charter schools support students who are involved in these “independent study” programs.

Yes, there are dilemmas in many parts of society today, including our educational institutions. We hope the thoughts above will give you some new ideas on how to head into this Back-to-School season so you can make a difference in the lives of children—even those “not yet born.”

Many blessings to you from everyone at Sonkist Ministries!

Thought of the Month

Little children were brought for Jesus to lay his hands on them and pray. But the disciples scolded those who brought them. “Don’t bother him,” they said.

But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and don’t prevent them. For of such is the Kingdom of Heaven.” And he put his hands on their heads and blessed them before he left.

 Matthew 19:13-15, The Living Bible

Good Summer Reads

Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
Colossians 3:16, NASB

There’s something about summertime that spurs us to search for a good book, fall into a hammock or lounge chair, and get lost in literature for a few hours on a lazy afternoon. The problem is there are so many books to choose from these days—how can we select the perfect one for those precious moments we’ve got for summer reading?

Below you’ll find some suggestions that will not only offer you great information but also truths based on Biblical principles. See if any of these pique your interest:

 
For Men and Women:

A Lineage of Grace: The Stories of Unlikely Women Who Changed Eternity by Francine Rivers

Sons of Encouragement: Five Men Who Quietly Changed Eternity by Francine Rivers

*I’ve read many books by Francine; she’s amazingly talented and never disappoints her readers!

 
For Devotions:

Jesus Today by Sarah Young

*If you liked Jesus Calling, you’ll enjoy this one too!

New Beginnings: Daily Devotions to Develop the Greatest Romance by Rebecca Wilke

*A devotional written for couples at all stages of their marriage.

Grace Notes: Thoughts on Prayer by Laura Georgakakos

*This author shares from her heart to draw you closer to the Lord.

 
For Parents:

The New Dare to Discipline by James Dobson

*Everything Focus on the Family publishes is designed to strengthen families, and this book has touched millions of lives.

Straight Lines for Parents: 9 Strategies for Raising Exceptional Kids by Steve & Rebecca Wilke

*After raising our children into adulthood, we wanted to share our strategies for great parenting based on the pillars of Faith, Family, and Education.

 
Classic Christian Reads:

Hind’s Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard

*Written in the 1950s, this allegory will inspire you to think deeper about your walk with the Lord.

The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

*A satire that provides insights into human weaknesses—and how the enemy likes to take advantage of those.

 
Something Different:

The God-Shaped Brain: How Changing Your View of God Transforms Your Brain by Timothy Jennings, M.D.

*Brain research meets Biblical truths!

Everyone Communicates, Few Connect: What the Most Effective People Do Differently by John Maxwell

*I haven’t found a Maxwell book I didn’t like—and this one helps with both personal and professional growth.
We’ve included some of our Sonkist books above, but there are many more you may wish to peruse in our Products section or by visiting Amazon.com. Sonkist is a self-funded ministry, so our proceeds go back into publishing more faith-based resources as well as giving free materials to people and other ministries here in the United States and abroad. Thanks again for your support over the years!

Most importantly, as the verse above from Colossians reminds all of us, let’s stay plugged into God’s Word this summer! May His truths “richly dwell within you” so that you’ll be encouraged—and you can inspire others in your life too.

Happy Summer from all of us at Sonkist Ministries!

Thought of this Summer

For the word of the Lord holds true,
    and we can trust everything he does.
He loves whatever is just and good;
the unfailing love of the Lord fills the earth.

Psalm 33:4-5, NLT