A Blog Devoted to Encouraging Homeschooling Mothers

A Blog Devoted to Encouraging Homeschooling Mothers
The Burts in 2013

Monday, January 27, 2014

Strange Fire ~ by John MacArthur

Most American Christians have heard the name John MacArthur, and many have perused his resources, including his multiple Bible study guides. He certainly knows the Bible, and can quote chapter and verse on most any subject. I was interested to see what Mr. MacArthur might have to say about the Holy Spirit. What I found in the book Strange Fire wasn't what I expected or hoped to find; much of what he has written here disturbs me. And not in the way he intended his readers to be disturbed.

The introduction covers a long, complicated history of the charismatic movement. As always, MacArthur is straight-forward and even, at times, downright blunt in sharing his opinions (which are not stated as opinions...he seems to feel his opinions are cold, hard facts). I prefer to be a little more delicate when approaching subject matter with which I do not agree...and out of respect for the ministry the author has built over many years, I will try to keep this review less "blunt" than this book!

While I agree with much of MacArthur's stance about the charismatic movement on the whole (and Benny Hinn's ministry specifically) I must say that I don't fall into the camp of his beliefs about the Holy Spirit. For example, on p. xvii of the Introduction, he says, "All who are faithful to the Scriptures must rise up and condemn everything that assaults the glory of God." I'm not faithful solely to Scripture; I'm faithful to Jesus, my Savior and my King. A person can be faithful to Scripture and not to Jesus (just look at the modern-day cults permeating our society) but I doubt very much a person can be faithful the Lord Jesus and not also to His Word.

I mentioned that I did agree with certain aspects of Strange Fire. One example is from p. 16 of Chapter One. The exact quote reads, "Pentecostals and charismatics elevate religious experience over Biblical truth." I have found this to be true of most charismatics I know. The danger I see in adhering solely to this form of Christianity is the constant need for something "new". Add to this the "showiness" of the messages and the worship, and you have an unhealthy balance that often leaves believers disillusioned, empty and confused. Speaking in tongues is the most commonly objected to trait of the charismatic movement - and I find the most simple way to address this is to remind those on either side of the issue that speaking in tongues is AN evidence of the Holy Spirit, not THE evidence. (Look up verses about the Holy Spirit and you'll find plenty of Biblical evidence that there are many gifts of the Spirit.)

Some extremes of this movement make for an unhealthy Christianity ~ as do many aspects of John MacArthur's personal beliefs as taught in this book. John MacArthur mentions in Chapters 3 & 4 the need to test the spirits (1 Thessalonians 5:21-22). That's what I am aiming to do with this book review.

I truly hoped this book would teach more about living life, daily life, by being more yielded to the Lord, or Spirit-led to put it another way. But I'm afraid MacArthur's strong distaste for anything even vaguely charismatic has clamped off the Spirit's flow in his teaching and ministry.  What does he think our Lord meant when He said in John 16:7, "But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you." ? Living life without direct, constant and immediate access to the Holy Spirit is like living the Christian life without Christ's power and strength. Frustrated is the word I'll use to describe a life lived in such manner.

As a student of Francis Schaeffer and David Mullholland, I feel John MacArthur's intentions are good,  but he has a certain measure of humanism that plays into this book. And he seems to have failed to grasp the hard truth that we do not in any way control our relationship with God; it is His relationship to control. I suspect Americanized, humanistic Christianity lends itself readily to the false notion that we are in control of our relationship with the Lord, so it isn't a surprise to see it in Strange Fire. I would reckon the author would strongly disagree with me, and would likely use humanistic arguments to exert his control! But the Word of God can stand on it's own without MacArthur's control and commentary; it also stands alone to disprove aspects of the charismatic movement.

MacArthur does not seem to adhere to the belief that the Holy Spirit speaks to people as individuals. There is grave danger in his reasoning, and aligns more with the Mormon view of the Holy Spirit than the Biblical New Testament view. Who speaks to John MacArthur when he's writing a book or preparing a sermon? Other studious theologians? And what to do with men like A.W. Tozer, C.H. Spurgeon, and E.M. Bounds? What to make of J. Hudson Taylor, an entire life and ministry spent seeking, listening for, and actually hearing the Holy Spirit's daily will for him and the hundreds of orphans in his care? What does he do with Paul's writings? If the time in which the Spirit had free and open range in the individual has passed, then what on earth do we do with New Testament teaching? I fear he not only marginalizes the Holy Spirit, and does not know how to have a personal, intimate dependence upon the Lord...upon the Holy Spirit, who is fully God. (I strongly dislike MacArthur's reference to the Spirit as being the third member of the Trinity for a reason...) I would liken him to something of an intellectual bully - he will make you pay if you disagree with him.

One last example of the extreme attitude displayed in Strange Fire comes from p. 115 of Chapter 16. Comparing any type of modern prophecy with a Magic 8 Ball, Tarot cards, or a Ouija board is an example of his intellectual bullying. Why, then, do 1 Corinthians 14:1, Romans 12:6-8,  and Ephesians 4:11-16 list prophecy as a spiritual gift? The Holy Spirit's work in my life is nothing like the devil's work through the supernatural, dark forces listed above. In fact, I feel very sorry for Mr. MacArthur. Living the Christian life without the Spirit must be exhausting and nearly impossible to maintain. No wonder his book has such a negative, caustic feel. He has attempted to write a book on the Holy Spirit without the Holy Spirit's input!

On my "Page Turner Scale" of 1 to 5, I gave this book a 1.

Disclaimer ~ I received this book free of charge for review purposes from BookSneeze. All opinions shared here are solely my own.

Jan L. Burt
author of The Homeschooling Mothers Bible Study

Psalm 19:14

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer.  (Prayer based on Psalm 19:14)

When I pray this, I am always instantly convicted and filled with a need to please my Lord. When I pray this for others, I am heavily burdened with a desire for them to know Him more and more, in such ever-increasing measure that their heart's meditation is refocused on Him and Him alone.

When you're in the middle of a difficult homeschool day, this is the perfect prayer. If you're late getting dinner started, this is the perfect prayer. On those days when your entire family is down and out with the flu, this is the perfect prayer to pray. It will center your heart and mind on glorifying the Lord with your words and in your heart, and it opens the door for the Holy Spirit to lead and guide you moment by moment.

Why not join me in making Psalm 19:14 a verse that you pray back to Him on a regular basis? I promise you won't remain the same if you pray this way! He is true to His Word, it always accomplishes what He wills, and it never returns to Him void.

My prayer for you today is that the words of your mouth and the meditation of your heart would be acceptable in the sight of your strength and your Redeemer, the Lord who loves you so.

Lord bless you today as you homeschool for His glory!

Day 302 done :)

Jan L. Burt
author of The Homeschooling Mothers Bible Study

Monday, January 13, 2014

Growing Great Kids by Kate Battistelli

As a mom to five terrific kids, I'm always looking for resources to grow me as a parent and as a home educator. Of course, my primary source of encouragement is God's Word, but I also invest in materials that will bless me and  - hopefully - benefit those around me. Growing Great Kids is one of those resources.

Parenting is tough; and if you take it seriously, it's doubly tough. Each child has their own unique set of talents and struggles, likes and dislikes, needs and greeds...and it's the job of the parents to raise them for God's glory through the all the ups and downs of life. Those who homeschool have the added pressure of preparing their children academically. It's much more than a full-time job; for me it's a calling, and God has been gracious to equip me with all I've needed to fulfill that call. The book Growing Great Kids appealed to me not only for my own benefit, but also because it seemed like a perfect fit for my fellow homeschooling mothers.

Written by Kate Battistelli (mother of recording artist Francesca Battistelli), this book has 15 chapters and is 256 pages long. When I read "Successful adults don't happen by accident" in the Introduction, my interest was piqued. I totally agree with this statement! Mom and Dad have lots to do with the future success of our children - and not just success in material terms, but success spiritually. You can be rich and poor at the same time, but a good name is truly a better treasure than pure gold.

Kate Battistelli is frank about the amount of prayer and dedication that goes into raising great kids, and she understands that God doesn't make cookie cutter children. Whether you have one child or ten, each one is unique and will need something unique from you as parents. It's been a key part of parenting in our home, and it has worked well. Let your children grow up into the person God intends them to be...and don't expect them to all be the same in any way other than an expectation that they love and seek to glorify their Lord.

Growing Great Kids covers topics like "Gifts & Calling", "Parent's Words", "Purity", "Diligence", "Humility", "Integrity" and "Parenting Traps". As you can tell, Kate Battistelli has done her homework and hasn't left out any key fact of parenting! And her story is very personal, so you feel like you can relate to her life when you read this book. Even the layout of the pages was refreshing to me (I read it as an eBook, and often the look of the pages can be annoying to me...but not this eBook!).

I can't think of anything I would add to Growing Great Kids, other than perhaps the perspective of someone who has raised more than one child. By that I simply mean each addition to the family poses it's own set of changes, and I've found over and over again that my character has grown and improved as each of my children has brought new challenges my way. Kate does an excellent job of providing solid parenting advice for any family, no matter the size. But I wish there was something in the book from close friends or relatives who have raised multiple children.

If you're interested in growing in your parenting abilities, I think Growing Great Kids is a book you'll benefit by reading. Keep your child in their proper place, behind God and your spouse, and you'll be well on your way to raising a really great kid. And remember success by the world's standards isn't everything (honestly, success by the world's standards isn't anything) but success in God's eyes is worth laying our lives down.

Lord bless you as you homeschool for His glory!

On my "Page Turner Scale" of 1 to 5, I gave this book a 4.

I received a free copy of this book to review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations. I am part of The CWA Review Crew.

Day 301 done :)

Jan L. Burt
author of The Homeschooling Mothers Bible Study  

Ingredients for Success - 10 Best Practices for Business and Life (by Joseph James Slawek)

As a SAHM who homeschools her children, I probably don't appear to be the logical choice to review a book on business practices! But in all actuality, homeschooling mothers have more than one full-time job that they're juggling at the same time. Children in multiple different grades, combined with the role of guidance counselor, multiplied by all the "typical" things a mom takes care of on any given day. Speaking personally, there are days when I wonder if my daily tasks could possibly be any more taxing were I in the official "working world".

The book Ingredients for Success (10 Best Practices for Business and Life) by Joseph James Slawek is a short book that's long on encouragement. The author is a very successful businessman who provides an approach to business (and life) from a Biblical perspective. Referencing Matthew 25, with a focus on Jesus' parables found therein, Mr. Slawek offers business advice from a uniquely Christian perspective. (If you aren't sure which parables are found in Matthew 25, I encourage you go grab your Bible and read that chapter.)

These ten practices are doable for most anyone, and while you doubtless find your line of work and personal story to differ from that of the author, the lessons learned by reading this book will have an impact on your work. They may even make a big difference in your personal life. An example can be found in his principle to "Tell the truth to define reality and fight denial".  I like this idea of using truth to fight denial. Our culture is a world of Internet-linked hand held devices...which has become a constant way to avoid reality and live in a state of constant denial for many people. While he isn't speaking directly to this problem, I drew a parallel that spoke to my heart. How many moms, even homeschooling mothers, live in that place of denial where they *believe* they're fulfilling their call to motherhood but in reality they're spending hours each day on smart phones and tablets? Telling the truth about this common problem pushes back the darkness that denial brings.

I could go on and on with the nuggets of wisdom I've gleaned from Ingredients for Success, but I would rather you read it for yourself and extract your own truths. Subjects covered range from planning ahead to preparing to give an account, expressing gratitude to being courageous. No matter your line of work, and even if you are a stay at home, homeschooling mother like me, the book Ingredients for Success is worth reading.

Look for it at Amazon HERE.

On my "Page Turner Scale" of 1 to 5, I gave this book a 5

Disclaimer ~ I received this book at not charge for review purposes. All opinions shared here are solely my own.

Day 300 done :)

Jan L. Burt
author of The Homeschooling Mothers Bible Study

Praying for Boys (Asking God for the Things They Need Most) by Brook McGlothlin

I have one son (and four daughters!) and he is the you can imagine that he is an overprotective brother who didn't get an excess of rough-housing when he was growing up. Don't doubt that he was ever anything less than all boy. He was all boy and is now a 21-year old man. He wrestles in college, so maybe he is making up for the lack of rough-housing during his younger years!

The book Praying for Boys (by Brooke McGlothlin, known best for her site is written for mothers of one son, or a dozen. Whether a newborn or a high-school student, this book can guide moms in praying with clarity and direction for their sons. And don't they need it! Not because our sons are destined for bad things, not because we as moms doubt them, but because we live in a westernized, post-Christian culture that works hard at keeping boys from ever becoming men. Especially God-fearing, God-honoring men. Our sons need us standing in the gap, interceding for them. Praying for Boys helps get that job done.

In the early portion of the book, Brook McGlothlin addresses head-on the problem of modern American churches being filled with men who have no idea what it truly means to be a man. That's a hard truth to hear, as a wife and as a mother. But men can be real men, and we can help our sons get to that point by praying over them daily. We can help them find their self-worth in the Lord. And the way we do that best is by praying - not by nagging or nit-picking, but praying.

Brooke's writes as a mom who loves her Lord and her sons. She takes her role as a mother seriously, and she takes her sons to His throne room in prayer as a result. Her words are trustworthy, because they speak truth and point consistently to Jesus. She is someone you could sit down and have coffee with, but rather than chatting about life in general or gossiping about such-and-such or so-and-so, you would pray with her for our sons. Here's one quote from Praying for Boys that reveals why I love this book ~ "If we were to get serious about praying for our sons, what could God do? The possibilities are endless." (from p. 35)  What a thought-provoking idea! What could God do if we would get serious? Why not find out?

Buy this book; read it.  And then, above all else, PRAY.

Find it at or your local Christian bookstore. Or consider giving it as a gift to a new mom of a sweet baby boy. They'll be blessed by the gift, and so will their son...for a lifetime.

On my "Page Turner Scale" of 1 to 5, I gave this book a 5

Disclaimer ~ I received this book for free from Bethany House for review purposes. All opinions shared here are solely my own.

Day 299 done :)

Jan L. Burt
author of The Homeschooling Mothers Bible Study

Friday, January 3, 2014

Encouraging Moms Who Homeschool

Today I'm just re-posting my most read post - and my prayer is that it will be an encouragement to homeschooling mothers as they begin the new year.

A Homeschool Mom's Devotional (# 1)

Colossians 4:17 tells the reader to "be sure to carry out the work the Lord gave you".
How can this be applied to the enormously busy lifestyle of a homeschool mom?

First of all, we must always remember that the Word of God has the answer for our every need and we can trust fully in God to use His Word to lead us, guide us, correct us, and bless us.

Keeping that in mind, let's consider what this verse is saying. We are told to carry out, or complete, the work the Lord has given us. We are wives, mothers, homeschoolers. Those three BIG job descriptions come immediately to mind when I think of homeschooling mothers. Applying God's Word to our life means carrying out our work as wives, as mothers, and as homeschoolers.

When I am exhausted from another long day (or long week, long month, long year, etc.) I still must honor the Lord by blessing my husband. Maybe that means having a hot meal on the table when he arrives home from work. Perhaps your husband would prefer a few minutes to read the paper to unwind from work when he gets home. Does he dislike baskets of laundry sitting around? Then fold and put away the laundry before he gets home each evening. Does it bless him if you set out his clothes for work the next day? By all means, do it! This is the work the Lord has given us to carry out, and we cannot fully receive God's great blessings if we aren't doing what He has asked us to do.

Secondly, let's apply Colossians 4:17 to motherhood. It is a blessed job that pays rich dividends, isn't it? And yet it is a tiring job that demands our all emotionally, physically, and mentally every single day. One of the best ways I have found to carry out the Lord's work as a mother is to focus on TODAY only. I can't drag yesterday's junk and tomorrow's worries into today if I want to be a godly mother today. It's just that simple! To complete today's work, I must be about today's work. No other work can be done today, after all, so why waste precious time on what is futile?

And lastly, carrying out the work God has given us as women who homeschool means we need to actually be teaching our children. This begins with God's Word in our home. There is never a day when my children's first assignment is anything other than the Bible. I have used a variety of curriculum to facilitate Biblical studies in my 14+ years of homeschooling, and I can honestly say that God has blessed them all. On their own, before they start the school day, my older children read their Bibles. And my two youngest daughters read their Bibles at night. We also have family devotional time in the evening, led by my husband, and family prayer time each evening. So "Bible curriculum" is not the only time we study the Bible in our home; but it is the first lesson my students work on each day for school. This really does pay off great dividends ~ my son texted me from college this week to let me know that his Old Testament class is his absolute favorite course this semester. He says his professor "blows his mind every class" and that it is "ridiculous how good the class is". I'm sure this class would have been a blessing to Gage if he hadn't done some sort of Bible study daily in our homeschool; but the foundation laid by years of daily discipline have made it a much richer blessing.

Beyond making God's Word central to everything we do in our homeschool, I set apart time each week to seek the Lord's guidance and ask for His clear leading for each and every thing involved in our homeschool. For me, that is central to completing the work He has given me. I've found that time spent listening for His voice as I plan each week's school work, the road before me is much smoother than it ever would be by my own devices.

May the Lord richly bless you as you seek to homeschool your children for His glory!

Day 298 done :)

Jan L. Burt
author of The Homeschooling Mothers Bible Study

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Dessert to Your Door ~ My Fun New Venture!

If you know much about me, you know I like to bake...and cook...and write...and read good books...and homeschool. But of all those things that I really enjoy doing, there is one that stands out. That one thing would be baking.

When I'm having a really tough day, or it's been a long week, or I just feel like doing something to unwind and not "think" about all the stuff I probably need to be thinking about, well, that's when I like to bake. There is something soothing about the hum of my KitchenAid mixer, something I can't really explain logically. I am simply, instantly relaxed when I bake.

Well, combine my baking habit with several college-age young people and my own family members, and I've found out which of my baked goods are the most delicious. (I don't eat any sweets these days, after my pre-diabetes diagnosis several years ago - so I rely on the taste-tests of others.)

The four most enjoyed desserts I bake are: Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread, Whole-Wheat Banana Bread, M&M Sugar Cookies, and Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp. No one ever complains about these tasty treats (except my father-in-law, who hates chocolate and announces it loudly any time he lays eyes on my Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread, LOL!)

What do you get when you take my love of baking and add it to my eldest daughter's upcoming college trip to NYC? A way for others to buy my baked goods and help support Alexandra's trip! Yup, I've ventured into the world of selling my desserts...

To see the new venture, click HERE.  Maybe I should say, "To support my relaxation therapy habit, visit my website..."  However you slice it, I'm excited about trying something new. And hopefully others will benefit as well.

Lord bless you in the coming year!

Day 297 done :)

Jan L. Burt
author of The Homeschooling Mothers Bible Study