Josh Christophersen

Reign In Life

3 Things The Church Is Not

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(Image Credit: Swedish National Heritage Board)

Sometimes in order to best understand what something is, it’s helpful to understand what it’s not. Here are three things that the church is not:

1) The church is not something you attend.

Saying that a church can be attended implies that the church is a building, a service, or a meeting.

This is not true.

The church is people. And those people certainly meet and/or provide services in buildings, but those meetings, services, and buildings don’t define what the church is.

Let’s think of it in another way using football.

A football team is not something you attend. You can attend a football game, practice, press conference, training camp, party, draft, etc., but you can’t attend a football team. Why? Because a football team is a group of people.

Church is not something you attend; it’s something you become a part of.

Attending implies consumption. Being a part of something implies participation.

No one attends churches. You’re either a part of a church or you’re not, and attending meetings and services doesn’t necessarily mean you are a part of a church.

You can attend meetings and services and not be a part of a church, but you can’t be a part of a church without participating in meetings and/or services.

2) The church is not everywhere.

If the church is people then of course the church is everywhere because people are everywhere, right?

Wrong.

The church is not anywhere two or more Christians are gathered. Matt 18:20 doesn’t say “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there is church“. It says “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”

Two Christians in the same room, office, coffee shop, golf course, beach, or church building, doesn’t constitute the church any more than two or more people in the same place who play football constitutes a football team, any more than two or more people who own guns and camouflage constitute an army, or any more than two people who can articulate opinions about how life and society should work constitute a government.

I think Christians often times confuse the church for the kingdom.

The kingdom, since it’s the domain of Christ’s rule, can be taken anywhere. The church however, since it’s a specific group of people functioning and relating to each other in very specific ways, is not everywhere.

An ambassador can go anywhere and represent the rule of his government, but where two or more ambassadors are gathered doesn’t automatically constitute an embassy.

3) The church is not just a community.

“Community is the beautiful by-product of well lived family, but family is not the by-product of community. We know this because family automatically creates a community like an apple tree makes apples, but communities do not automatically generate family.” (Ben Pasley)

You can have community without family, but you can’t have true family without community.

The bible never calls the church a community, but it does call the church a family (Gal 6:10 NIV), and a community is not the same as a family.

Community is on your terms. Family is on God’s terms.

You can pick your community, but you can’t pick your family.

For example, I could choose a community of a limited amount of friends to hang out with and do life together who I get along with and enjoy, with no particular person in the group having any authority to lead within the community, and call that church.

Or I could live as family with a group of people regardless of whether I enjoy them or not (much like brothers and sisters) and submit to leaders within the family (much like parents) with no control over whether new people become a part of the family, and call that church.

Community falls short of what the bible describes as church.

20 Myths Christians Believe About Money

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(Image Credit: Tracy Occ)

The following is a list of twenty myths that Christians believe about money and what the bible has to say about them.

This a longer post than usual. At the average adult reading speed it will take 4-5 minutes to read.

1) Money is the root of all evil

This is one of the most misquoted verses. It actually says that the “love of money is a root of all kinds of evils” 1 Tim 6:10

2) I don’t have to give to the poor

“Whoever closes his ear to the cry of the poor will himself call out and not be answered.” Prov 21:13

“Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.” Luke 3:11

“Whoever gives to the poor will not want, but he who hides his eyes will get many a curse.” Prov 28:27

3) The amount I give has nothing to do with income

“Now about the collection for the Lord’s people.. On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income” 1 Cor 16:1-2

“If the readiness is there, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have.” 2 Cor 8:12

“Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the Lord your God that he has given you.” Deut 16:17

4) Money has nothing to do with honor

Paul’s first letter to Timothy has a whole chapter talking about financially providing for widows and elders and he uses the word honor in reference to their financial provision:

“Honor widows who are truly widows.” 1 Tim 5:3

“Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages.”” 1 Tim 5:3,17-18

“Honor the Lord with your wealth.” Prov 3:9

5) How much blessing I receive has nothing to do with how much I give

“Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.” (2 Cor 9:6)

“Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed.” (Prov 19:17)

“Those who honor me I will honor” 1 Sam 2:30

6) My heart can be into God while refraining to give him my treasure

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matt 6:21

7) How I handle money has nothing to do with whether I can be trusted with true riches

“If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches?” Luke 16:11

8) Preachers shouldn’t get paid

“Do you not know that those who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in the sacrificial offerings? In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.” 1 Cor 9:13-14

“If we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too much if we reap material things from you?” 1 Cor 9:11

“Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages.”” 1 Tim 5:17-18

9) There’s nothing in the bible about giving regularly

“Now concerning the collection for the saints: as I directed the churches of Galatia, so you also are to do. On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come.” 1 Cor 16:1-2

10) I need to give God 10% of my income

Tithing (giving 10%) is part of the law and Rom 6:14 and Gal 5:18 say that we are no longer under the law.

11) I don’t get to decide how much to give

“Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” 2 Cor 9:7

12) I shouldn’t give when that’s all I have

“In a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part.” 2 Cor 8:2

Jesus said, “this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.” Mark 12:43-44

13) If I give then I won’t have enough

“I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent … And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Phil 4:18-19

“Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work…He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.” 2 Cor 9:7-8,10,11

“Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce; then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine.” Prov 3:9-10

14) I should give God what’s left over after my other expenses

“Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce” Prov 3:9

15) Giving isn’t something I can get better at

“But since you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you—see that you also excel in this grace of giving.” 2 Cor 8:7 NIV

16) If I have an abundance, I shouldn’t be expected to help the needy

“Your abundance at the present time should supply their need, so that their abundance may supply your need, that there may be fairness.” 2 Cor 8:14

“…begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints.” 2 Cor 8:4

“For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make some contribution for the poor among the saints at Jerusalem.” Rom 15:26

17) God doesn’t give me money specifically to be used for giving

“He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness.” 2 Cor 9:10

18) It’s not the church’s job to supply the needs of the saints

“Contribute to the needs of the saints” Rom 12:13

“Now concerning the collection for the saints: as I directed the churches of Galatia, so you also are to do.” 1 Cor 16:1

“There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.” Acts 4:34-35

19) I can be in the faith and not provide for my family

“But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” 1 Tim 5:8

20) I can serve both God and money

“No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” Luke 16:13

What’s Your Godliness Training Plan?

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It’s not uncommon for people to have a diet plan or a workout plan. Especially at the beginning of a new year, millions of people make plans to train their body.

Part of the reason it’s so common to have a diet or workout plan is because most people know that if they don’t have some sort of plan to lose weight and/or to workout, that they won’t.

Benjamin Franklin said “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!” and Antoine de Saint-Exupery said that “A goal without a plan is a wish.”

Although many Christians believe these things to be true when it relates to physical training, unfortunately many don’t apply these principles to spiritual training.

The apostle Paul said it best in his first letter to Timothy:

“Train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” 1 Tim 4:7-8

If we plan for things that have “some value”, how much more should we plan for things that have “value in every way”, in both this life and the life to come?

What is your godliness training plan?

Do you have one?

Paul goes on to say the following in a subsequent letter to Timothy:

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” 2 Tim 3:16-17

So Paul commands us to train ourselves and then points out the specific, useful tool that God has given us to accomplish our training: the bible.

So what’s your plan to get in the bible? What’s your training plan?

If you’re serious about training yourself to be Godly, then you should be serious about getting into the bible.

What are you going to read or study? When are you going to do it? How often? What time? How long?

Consider reading through the bible in a year. Study something you want to improve in. Practice bible meditation. Pick a portion of scripture and keep rereading it over a period of time.

Your options are endless.

Don’t let yourself get spiritually lazy this year.

Get a plan and start training!

(Image Credit: A&A Photography)

How To Legally Get Healthcare Paid For As A Christian Without Insurance

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My family and I have been members of Samaritan Ministries since 2009. Samaritan Ministries is more than 200,000* Christian members sharing more than $20 million* per month directly, one household to another, to meet each other’s health care needs. It’s based on the bible’s command in Galatians 6:2 to “bear one another’s burdens.”

It’s not insurance. It’s health sharing.

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King Saul And The Great Commission

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Jesus, upon leaving this earth, left us with what many refer to as “The Great Commission” (Matt 28:19-20). The Lord Jesus sent us on a mission and said to “go”.

In 1 Samuel 15 we see similar language used in God’s interaction with King Saul.

In 1 Sam 15:3 we begin with God telling Saul thru Samuel to “go”. And God gave specific directives of what he wanted him to do.  Saul chose to partially obey and felt so good about himself that he built a monument to himself (1 Sam 15:12).

Samuel confronted Saul and said, “the Lord sent you on a mission and said, ‘Go'” (sound familiar?). He asked him why he disobeyed God in his partial obedience and had done what was evil in the sight of the Lord (1 Sam 15:18-19) by not destroying everything, including the sheep, the oxen, and King Agag.

Saul tried to spiritualize his disobedience by saying that he did what he did to sacrifice to God. Samuel responded by saying, “to obey is better than sacrifice” (1 Sam 15:22).

Saul finally admits that his partial obedience was sin and that he did it because he “feared the people” (1 Sam 15:24).

In God’s economy, partial obedience is disobedience.

Now back to us.

The Lord has sent us on a mission and told us to “go”, just like he told Saul. Like Saul, he gave us specific instructions on what he wanted us to do: make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything Jesus commanded.

Are we only partially obeying, doing almost everything that God said but neglecting to make disciples?

If partial obedience was evil in the sight of the Lord for Saul, is it not also evil when we partially obey by neglecting to make disciples?

Do we, like Saul, spiritualize our lack of effort to make disciples by listing all of the sacrifices we make for God: “I get up early to spend time with Jesus. I go to church almost every week. I give money regularly. I’m the first person to serve when there’s needs. I show up at all the prayer meetings.”?

And do we do it with a bit of smug religious superiority, building a virtual monument to ourselves in our own minds, for our exemplary show of commitment?

Jesus said, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matt 4:19) and he commanded us to go and make disciples. If we are obeying in other areas but disobeying in this area because, like Saul, we “feared the people”, then we, like Saul, need to call it what it is: sin. It’s evil and it’s disobedience.

We need to repent, turn to the Lord for the courage, boldness, love, and power that he gives through his Spirit to those who obey (Acts 5:32), and then radically reorient our lives around shared mission to particular people and places.

“And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’” (Matt 28:19-20)

(Image Credit: The U.S. National Archives)

Fishers Of Men Or Keepers Of The Aquarium

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Jesus said, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matt 4:19)

Kermit Long said, “We’re no longer fishers of men, but keepers of the aquarium, and we spend most of our time swiping fish from each other’s bowl.”

Are we “fishers of men”?

Are we “making disciples”?

Or are we only “keepers of the aquarium”?

The final words of Jesus while he was on the earth were to “go and make disciples”. (Matt 28:19)

Final words are important. Jesus used his to command us to make disciples.

Are we obeying?

Allow me to engage you hypothetically for a moment.

There are roughly 315 million people in the United States at the time of this writing. Let’s just say for conversation sake that a little less than 1% were followers of Jesus (3 million). If those 3 million spent one year and each made one new disciple; then after one year there would be 6 million. Because a disciple is made by teaching them to obey Jesus commands, and Jesus commanded us to make disciples, these 6 million disciples would be seeking to make new disciples.

Let’s say that after one more year, each one made one disciple. So now after two years the 6 million has multiplied to 12 million. Keeping on the same track, after three years there’d be 24 million, after four: 48 million, after five: 96 million, after six: 192 million, and after just seven years of every disciple making one disciple by the end of each year, the entire nation would be converted.

In only seven years.

How many Christians are in the US?

How long have they been here?

What are we doing?!?

Has keeping the aquarium replaced being fishers of men?

Jesus said follow me and I’ll make you fishers of men.

If we’re not fishing for men, are we really following Jesus?

(Image Credit: State Library Queensland)

Making The Impossible Possible By Making The Invisible Visible

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Roger Bannister’s record breaking, under 4 minute mile finish.

“For years, so many athletes had tried and failed to run a mile in less than four minutes that people made it out to be a physical impossibility.” (History.com)

On May 6, 1954, in Oxford, England, Roger Bannister became the first person to do it, finishing in 3 minutes 59.4 seconds.

Two months later, John Landy ran a mile in under 4 minutes in a race he lost to Bannister.  Steve Scott has run 136 sub-four-minute miles in his lifetime.  The current record is held by Hicham El Guerrouj, who ran a time of 3:43.13 in 1999. In 1997, Daniel Komen of Kenya ran two miles in less than eight minutes, doubling up on Bannister’s accomplishment. (Wikipedia)

For so long, a four minute mile was never accomplished and then in the 60 years after accomplishing it, the record is blown to smithereens.

What happened?

This quick glance at history would lead you to believe that it was impossible to run a mile in under four minutes prior to May 6, 1954, and then somehow possible after.

But we know that’s not true. It wasn’t impossible before May 6, 1954.

It was just invisible.

The impossible is made possible when the invisible is made visible.

On May 6, 1954, the impossible was made visible by one, making it possible for many.

This is true for so much more than running.

It’s true for the person…

…who doesn’t believe it’s possible to have joy without health until they see a man w/ no arms and legs radiating supernatural joy.

…who doesn’t believe it’s possible to be joyful without being married until they see a single person full of genuine joy.

…who doesn’t believe there are any good men out there until she sees a man treating a woman like a queen.

…who doesn’t believe that God is a loving Father until they see an older man displaying the unconditional, adoptive, love of a father.

…who doesn’t believe that children are a blessing rather than a nuisance or inconvenience, until they see well behaved, joyful, and orderly kids.

…who doesn’t believe that kids can sit still and be well behaved without entertainment until they see a large family eating at a restaurant in an orderly way without any electric devices.

…who doesn’t believe it’s possible to have more than two kids without going crazy until they see a family with 9, happy and in their right mind.

…who doesn’t believe it’s possible to date or be engaged, without sinning sexually with their body until they see a couple’s first kiss on their wedding day.

…who doesn’t believe in distinctly different gender roles until they see a man and a women displaying them rightly.

…who doesn’t believe Christianity is anything but superficial hallelujahs until they see worship in the midst of suffering.

…who doesn’t believe marriage can last until they meet an elderly couple still holding hands and being affectionate after 60 years of marriage.

…who doesn’t believe that church is anything more than a joke until they see true authentic spiritual family.

…who doesn’t believe that God heals the sick until they see a person lay hands on a sick person and they get well.

…who doesn’t believe that prophecy and dreams are given by God to people still today until they are told of a prophetic word or dream that “reads their mail”.

…who doesn’t believe that God is real until they meet him in their neighbor.

Roger Bannister will be remembered for demonstrating to the world that the seemingly impossible feat of a 4 minute mile was possible.

What invisible possibility are you aiming to show the world?

Are You Helping Or Partnering With Your Church?

I want to use the following illustration to distinguish the difference between helping and partnership.

Just about everyone can relate to moving from one house or apartment to another.

When a person moves they try to enlist helpers.  Many times, different people can help for different amounts of time, depending on their schedules.  One might be able to help for one hour, another for three, etc.  When you’re moving you’re thankful for whatever help you can get, because the more help you get, the better it usually goes.

A helper works for a set amount of time, sometimes under certain conditions (“I’ll help if there’s donuts there.”), and then leaves.  If after all the helpers leave, there is still more to move, the home owner/renter has to finish on his own.

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If you’ve ever moved you can probably relate to this.

But have you ever had partnership during a move?

Partnership is different from helping.

Partnership commits to keep working as long as the home owner/renter keeps working – sometimes longer.  Partnership doesn’t give a time limit.

Partnership takes the same responsibility as the home owner/renter.  A partner doesn’t have conditions because he knows that the mover doesn’t have conditions.  He knows that whether it rains or shines, whether there’s help or not, donuts or not, he has to get all the stuff from one house to another by the end of the day.

A partner stays after everyone else leaves.  A partner isn’t concerned with the clock; he’s concerned with finishing.  A partner is setting up beds after everything is moved because he knows how tired the home owner/renter is and he doesn’t want him to have to do it alone.

Partnership doesn’t let someone do it alone.

Now I want to relate this to the church.

The church, at least in America, has very many consumers, some helpers, but few partners.

  • Helpers use they’re gifts when it’s convenient for them.  Partners use their gifts whenever they can, regardless of whether it’s convenient or not.
  • Helpers help when asked or if signed up for something.  Partners are always looking for opportunities to help out.
  • Helpers help when they’re around but make out of town plans with little or no regard to how or if it will affect the church they’re apart of.  Partners check to see what’s going on during the time of the planned trip and ask the question of whether or not it’s a good time to be away from the church.
  • Helpers only believe they’re presence matters at a gathering or meeting when they are signed up to do some help, otherwise they believe that they’re presence doesn’t matter.  Partners see themselves as part of a body where every part matters and their presence is important.
  • Helpers only give money if there is some left over after coffee, restaurants, movies, trips, and debt payments.  Partners give first before all other expenses.
  • Helpers fulfill tasks regardless of relationships.  Partners fulfill tasks because of relationships.
  • Helpers show up as long as something else doesn’t come up.  Partners refuse to do things on nights that they’re committed to being with the church.  Instead they ask if they can do what they’re being asked to do, another night.
  • Helpers minister to others at planned events and church meetings.  Partners minister to others whenever they get the chance, regardless of whether it was officially planned or part of an event.
  • Helpers serve in the nursery because it’s their week to do it.  Partners serve in the nursery because kids are important and because they value parents being able to hear the word of God preached without distraction.
  • Helpers come to prayer meetings.  Partners come to prayer meetings with faith and expectation.
  • Helpers show up, but not necessarily on time.  Partners are on time or early so that they can do what needs to be done and so that they don’t miss anything.
  • Helpers give money sometimes.  Partners give money regularly and are inquisitive about the state of the church’s finances, so that they can take care of needs.
  • Helpers help when they’re not tired or frustrated.  Partners help even when they are tired or frustrated.

 Are you helping or partnering with your church?

(Image Credit: Scott Vandehey)

Why A Lot Of Christian Accountability Is Lame And What To Do About It

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Is it just me or is a lot of what’s done in the name of Christian accountability super lame?

This is a typical Christian accountability conversation:

“How are you doing?”

“I’m struggling with XYZ.”

“Me too.  Let’s feel bad together and do nothing to change.” OR “Let me lecture you and/or try to fix you.”

This is lame #1

Asking someone how they are doing is a bad question.

You hear it all the time, right?

“I heard Jimmy is doing bad.”

“Do you know how Jimmy is doing?”

“Oh he’s doing really good right now.”

The reason that talking this way is lame is that it implies that “doing” is what is most important, and whatever constitutes “doing good” or “doing bad” is completely subjective depending on the one who’s saying it.

This is lame #2

Accountability centered around what I’m “struggling” with puts the focus on me and creates fertile ground for condemnation and self righteousness.  The last thing a person needs is more self focus.

This is lame #3

There’s nothing worse than taking the time and effort to bear your soul with another person for accountability, only to leave feeling worse than when you started, or convicted with no clue of how to get out of what your in.

Consider An Alternative Approach

How about approaching it like this:

“What is God currently saving you from?”

“God is saving me from XYZ.”

“How is he doing it?  How are you accessing gospel power to save you from the power of sin?”

The bible teaches that salvation isn’t just a past and future event, but a present one as well. (1 Cor 1:18, 15:2, 2 Cor 2:15, Acts 2:47).  Everyone who has put their faith in Christ is “being saved” from the power of sin.  This is also called sanctification. (2 Thess 2:13)

If that’s true and the gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes (Rom 1:16), then we should testify of God’s current saving power.

Truly effective accountability emphasizes the need for salvation and the way to receive it now.  Truly effective accountability should result in a person leaving the conversation full of faith in Christ.

Just the words themselves make a difference: “I’m struggling with” vs. “God is saving me from” puts the focus on God and off of us.  Talking about our sin with the focus on us brings shame.  Talking about our sin with the focus on God’s saving power brings humility, joy, and liberation.

Instead of the focus being on how I’m doing, it needs to be on what I’m believing.  We access the power of the gospel now in the same way that we accessed it when we first met Jesus – by faith.

It’s no longer “how are you doing?” but rather “how are you believing?”.

The bible says that the saints conquered the devil by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony (Rev 12:10-11).

What if our times of Christian accountability consisted of testifying about the precious blood of Jesus’ power to save us from the present power of sin and how we practically access that by faith?

(Image Credit: SDASM Archives)

Public School, Private School, Or Home School? [VIDEO]

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Josh McPherson, pastor of Grace Covenant Church, does an excellent job answering this question.

It’s an important question for every parent to seriously consider.  How we choose to educate our children is no small deal.

HT: Shane Pionkowski

(Image Credit: The Library of Virginia)