Research Paper Tutoring

I have recently begun to reach out to my community as a tutor in a couple of different  areas. While most subjects work best with face-to-face interaction, I think that RESEARCH PAPER WRITING, since it includes deadlines, would be well-suited to an email course. Here is my reasoning for that: I am afraid that if students realize how friendly I am, they may turn in late papers, make excuses, etc.

Part of college prep is getting your student used to working within someone else’s parameters. It is important that they learn to follow instructions for page format, source stipulations, note-taking, draft requirements, length of final document, etc.

However, in these times we’re living in, I realize it is difficult for homeschool families (or anyone else) to squeeze even one more item into their budgets, no matter how much they believe their children really need the class. So, in lieu of offering weekly classes where everyone comes together to meet, this is what I have come up with:

I can create a five or ten week course that your child can take via email. I would help them every step of the way, from narrowing down a topic, taking good notes, avoiding plagiarism, arranging the outline, all the way through to the rough and final draft. I would charge $10 per project if the parents want to help their kids correct grammar and punctuation on the two drafts, and $15 if they wanted me to do it. (I don’t mind, but it is the most tedious part.) At the end of the class, I will send you a PDF copy of my ebookWrite an Outstanding Paper, for free.

The class could be taken one of two ways: via email or Eliademy (especially helpful if you want your college-bound student to get a taste for online classes).

I would like to open this opportunity up to not only my local homeschoolers, but anyone who would be interested here as well. Folks could pay for the course via PayPal (all you would need is my email address). Let me know what you think! Comments and suggestions will be greatly appreciated!

When a Loved One Hurts You

Last night, my pastor delivered one of the greatest messages I have ever heard him preach. It was from 2 Kings 4:1-7:

Now there cried a certain woman of the wives of the sons of the prophets unto Elisha, saying, Thy servant my husband is dead; and thou knowest that thy servant did fear the Lord: and the creditor is come to take unto him my two sons to be bondmen.

And Elisha said unto her, What shall I do for thee? tell me, what hast thou in the house? And she said, Thine handmaid hath not any thing in the house, save a pot of oil.

Then he said, Go, borrow thee vessels abroad of all thy neighbours, even empty vessels; borrow not a few.

And when thou art come in, thou shalt shut the door upon thee and upon thy sons, and shalt pour out into all those vessels, and thou shalt set aside that which is full.

So she went from him, and shut the door upon her and upon her sons, who brought the vessels to her; and she poured out.

And it came to pass, when the vessels were full, that she said unto her son, Bring me yet a vessel. And he said unto her, There is not a vessel more. And the oil stayed.

Then she came and told the man of God. And he said, Go, sell the oil, and pay thy debt, and live thou and thy children of the rest.

My pastor went on to say that oil is a symbol of the Holy Spirit. We are anointed by the Holy Spirit, just as they anointed kings of Israel with oil.

The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed…(Luke 4:18)

Oil was all she had left in the house, but it was the only thing she needed. Just as the Holy Spirit is the only thing we need to sustain us. The empty vessels represent other people in our lives. And here is the gist of the message: it doesn’t matter how many people you pour yourself out to. You will never run out of the Holy Spirit in your life. There will always be enough left over for you.

I have a few friends that are pastors or other types of ministers. I was thinking today about how difficult it must be to be heavily depended on by so many lives. What a burden to feel responsible for everyone’s relationship with God. What a weight to know that your life is a witness to others, that they are looking at you to see if they can find true Christianity. To some extent, every Christian lives under a microscope, but pastors and their families bear the greatest burdens. These people, who are constantly pouring themselves out, constantly sacrificing their time, their sweat, their finances, and their emotions, are taking a great risk by loving the rest of us. I have discovered, over the course of my life, that those who are closest to us have the greatest opportunity to cause us grief. I cannot even think of a good enough term to describe how we make them feel sometimes. Turmoil, vexation, sorrow? None of those words seem adequate.

So tonight, I want to encourage you if you have been hurt by someone you love. My heart especially goes out to those who have made it their life’s work to minister to others, but the rest of us are affected sometimes too. The fact is, people, self-proclaimed Christians, hurt each other sometimes. When someone hurts me, I have learned to compare where they are right now to who I was nine years ago. I was living in a back-slidden condition then, purposefully sinning, and putting my entire family at risk. Yet I was still me. I was still under the grace and protection of God, and He was still working in my life. Not through me perhaps, because I had made myself unavailable to Him, but rather working on my behalf.

So if there is someone in your life that has hurt you deeply and has behaved unseemly toward you, perhaps they are not hypocrites after all – the first conclusion we want to jump to – but a work in progress. Perhaps this is a phase, and God is going to create something beautiful in their lives. I think that God not only looks at the whole person, but at the whole span of a person’s life.

One of my long-standing prayers has been to see people through God’s eyes. Now, some of us get really good at seeing unbelievers and new believers like that (hence the patience and call to deal with drug addicts, etc.). These are people who we view as needing our help. We look at them, and visualize a beautiful future for them, saved from the depths of despair by the majesty of God’s grace. In a way, I think we sometimes self-worship, and believe that it is due to something good in us that brings these folks to God. I think that’s why it is so easy for us to “help” them. Because we get some pleasure out of it and perhaps a pat on the back. That’s how I feel sometimes, even though in reality I know I am nothing, but a hopeless sinner saved by the grace of God. (Only I can know and understand the depths of my own depravity.)

But it’s 100x harder to see “mature” believers through God’s eyes. Especially if they are hurting us, or if they are in the process of indulging in sin. I’m not saying that I’m completely immune to having my feelings hurt by others, but if I can believe that these people are just short-sighted at the moment and are destined for awesomeness (I think of Paul’s conversion and ministry), then it is easier for me to find peace. And I hope that when I sin against others (and believe me, it will happen), they can extend the same grace to me. I hope they can look into my future and envision a time when I am no longer at odds with them, and a time when my sin no longer dictates my words and actions.

Wednesday evening at church, we all shared our favorite verses with each other. This is my favorite (Job 23:8-9):

Behold, I go forward, but he is not there; and backward, but I cannot perceive him:

On the left hand, where he doth work, but I cannot behold him: he hideth himself on the right hand, that I cannot see him:

I believe this means that He is always working in our behalf, even when He seems completely absent. So every negative comment, every health struggle, every relationship issue, – it is all a gift from God to form us into the people He is perfecting. Romans 8:28 says:

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

Embrace it, believe it, make decisions based on it, treat others by it, live it.

The verse following my favorite passage (Job 23:10) says this:

But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.

Again, he is looking at the whole person. He knows your way – your life, your destiny. You can be at peace with everything that happens to you. But keep in mind that this verse also applies to every other Christian on the face of the planet. He is molding them, using their own situations and shortcomings to teach them.

I want to leave you with this, the favorite verse of one of my brothers in Christ. When he spoke the words Wednesday night, it immediately struck a chord deep inside of me (Psalm 119:165):

Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them.

Sincerity

A few blog posts back, I wrote about Discipling our Children. I mentioned four characteristics that I think are missing from modern Christianity. Although maybe it’s not just our “progressive society” at fault; perhaps there have always been a majority of lukewarm Christians. It would be kind of hard to tell by looking at historical documents, however, since mediocre believers generally don’t make as big of a splash or leave a legacy behind them. The world-changers are those who are sincere in their faith and willing to do whatever it takes to help the disadvantaged or reach the lost.

The four characteristics I mentioned were:

1. Sincerity

2. Obedience

3. Discipline

4. Compassion

So today I want to address sincerity. What is sincerity? According to Merriam-Webster.com, sincerity is “the quality or state of being sincere: honesty of mind: freedom from hypocrisy”. And the word sincere means “having or showing true feelings that are expressed in an honest way: genuine or real: not false, fake, or pretended”.

You might ask, what is honesty of mind? I believe that means that you are honest with yourself. You aren’t trying to rationalize or make yourself feel a certain way in spite of what you believe is right. In other words, you aren’t trying to get by with behaving a certain way, all the while soothing your own conscience in order to sleep at night.

Freedom from hypocrisy, what does that mean? I really like this definition. It means we don’t believe or speak one way and act another. In other words, if you go around preaching tolerance, but cannot tolerate the intolerant, you are being a hypocrite. Either you don’t really believe what you are preaching in the first place, or you are offending your own conscience every time you fail to live up to your own standards. (This is not an argument supporting the whole tolerance movement, by the way. Rather, it is an argument against it. There are obviously some things we should not tolerate, but that is an issue for another post.)

How else can we apply sincerity to our own lives? Where do we find a lack of sincerity in the Christian realm?

Are we sincere in our belief? Do we really believe there is a Creator out there that loves us, watches out for us, gives us what we need, and provides a way of salvation? The first, immediate response would be, of course! We’re Christians, aren’t we? But then, if we truly believe that He has our best interests in mind, why do we have so much trouble obeying? Why do we think that our situation is the exception to the rule? Well, I know I’m not supposed to gossip, but… Or, I know I’m not supposed to watch this or go here or do that, but I really want to. It can’t hurt me that much.

I propose that the more obedient we are, the happier we will be. The more rebellious we are, the more miserable we will become over time. The most miserable people I know are those who have made a habit out of making poor choices. They make those choices because they just want to experience a moment of fun or laziness or danger. But one minute of sexual promiscuity, drunkenness, violence, driving recklessly, quitting a job, or yes, even gossip, can be life-changing. Think about the saddest person you know. How did they get that way?

Are we sincere in our trust? We say we trust Him with our eternity, but why do we fear death if that’s true? And if you can trust Him with forever, why can’t you trust Him right this very minute? Trust Him with your job situation or your relationship that’s falling apart. Trust Him with your health and your finances, all the while acting in obedience to His will. If you truly trust Him, you will find that you have no fear. You won’t fear people, situations, or the future.

What kind of Christian are you? Are you sincere? There is one way to tell:

Ye shall know them by their fruits.    ~ Matthew 7:16

Why I Believe

I know that everything in my life adds up. It all makes sense, like a puzzle coming together perfectly. Because of this, and because of the amazing things I read in the Word, and because of the wonderful things that science cannot explain (but the Word of God can), I find it easy to believe in God and to trust Him. Yet, somehow, I have difficulty explaining my belief to others.

I feel that salvation is not an argument to be won – as if I could somehow pass my belief along to others if I could only use the right words. Salvation – and by extension, Christianity – is not merely a philosophy or a way to live; it is something more. It is something that defines every aspect of the Christian’s life, informs every decision. It is a whole-hearted acceptance of the Creator-God and His authority, love, and forgiveness over your life.

I believe that those seeking Him will find Him, and those who choose to reject Him will overlook Him, even if He appears physically before them. (Let’s face it, it’s happened before.) However, I want my words, my actions, my very existence to be a testimony to the fact that He does indeed exist and take part in our lives. I want to be vocal and approachable for any potential seekers that come into contact with me or my writing.

Christ-Centered School Subjects

Last week, someone asked me what I liked the most about homeschooling. It took a little bit of thought on my part, but I would have to say that I like being able to prioritize whatever I want. I also enjoy being able to teach the different subjects around a particular theme. Some folks call them unit studies, but I have never tried those in the traditional sense. Nope. What I am talking about is taking a Christ-centered approach to homeschooling. I have gotten a lot more serious about this over the summer, since Ian revealed to me his desire to be a missionary. All of a sudden, I’m in panic mode. I only have seven years left to train him!! I feel like I’m very far behind.

In an effort to help him learn as much about the Bible as he can, without sacrificing his other studies, we have been trying to come up with some creative ways to incorporate the skills he will need as a missionary into his daily homework. Here’s what Ian and I have come up with so far:

For writing and spelling practice, I use a dictation method. If you’re interested, you can read about it here. However, this year, instead of reading to him from literature books, he has asked me to read from the Bible. He can practice his handwriting and his spelling this way. I thought it was a pretty cool idea, so I agreed.

In an effort to get him to write even more, I have begun to show him what sermon notes would look like. I wrote down a few notes from the Bible chapter we had read together earlier that day, and I let him practice giving the tiny sermon (more like a Sunday School lesson at this point) to me and Jesse. I’m going to get him to the point where he can write his own outline as he reads through a chapter, and then expand it to draw from other passages to support his main idea. He’ll be using cross references (thanks for the idea, Pastor Mike!) and a topical index (I still have to purchase one though), and he’ll also be learning how to deliver a speech.

Science always makes us think about God, no matter what we’re studying. I’ve always told Ian that science is the study of the way God thinks. I read a great quote in a chemistry book a couple of years ago. It said: “Human beings, especially scientists, but also philosophers and theologians, are always suspicious. They have a deep down feeling that things are not just put together randomly, a strange intuition that, underneath it all, there is a conspiracy going on, a great conspiracy of order. That is why chemists started to wonder, and wonder (as Aristotle said long ago) is the beginning of all science.”

For Bible right now, we are reading Begin, a book for new believers that has key passages from Genesis, Exodus, John, Romans, and Revelation. We read a chapter each day and discuss. We are also reading a biography written by a man who (along with his family) was a missionary to the Philippines. This man also happens to be our pastor! (Thanks for the great stories, Pastor Doug!)

So those are the Christ-centered ideas that I have so far.

Here are a couple of extra things I am thinking about to prepare him for his future: Eventually, when I can afford a Rosetta Stone program, he wants to learn Urdu. It’s nice being homeschoolers because his options are so much better. I don’t think Spanish or French or German would serve him well in the mission field he has chosen.

The last idea I have had is to get him tabla lessons. Indian raga have always been fascinating to me, so I was thrilled when I discovered that Pakistan uses the same ones as Northern India.

Do you all have any more ideas? Either for creating Christ-centered studies or for preparing for missions?

Bible Study vs. Bible Reading

The other evening at church, we were talking about whether it’s more important to read through the Bible over and over, or more important to slow down and study passages from it.

Personally, I like the idea of reading through it every year because I think you are more likely to open your Bible every single day if all you have to do is pick it up. If you have to think of a topic, drag out your Strong’s concordance, Vine’s topical, and Matthew Henry’s commentary, I think you are a lot less likely to be in the mood to spend time with God.

I also like the idea of having read the Bible 5 or 10 or 20 times, depending how long you’ve been at it. After a while, it becomes like that favorite movie you can practically quote. No, but really – spending time with God every single day, and working your way through every aspect in which He has revealed Himself, has some pretty amazing benefits.

First of all, you get to know God pretty well – how He thinks, how He loves, how He has planned and labored for our redemption since the beginning of time. For instance, there are certain things I know about my mom or my dad. Certain things about their personalities that go without saying. They would no longer have to tell me that they love me, or that they have my best interest in mind, etc. I just know these things because I understand them. When you read the entire Bible, especially multiple times, you are building an all-around perspective of what God is like.

Secondly, if you can get in the habit of reading for a few minutes every single day, instead of waiting for a chunk of time in which you can sit down and really dive in, you are giving God the opportunity to grab your attention daily. Sure, there will be some mornings or evenings that you are tired and have to prop your eyelids open. There will be some days where you find yourself not really paying attention and needing to reread what you just spent the last five minutes staring at. However, eventually, it’s all going to sink in. Finding a time of day in which you are awake and mentally engaged is challenging, but it can be done.

Thirdly, when people make outrageous claims about the Bible saying this or that, you will know whether they are true. If you are truly paying attention while you read, you will know if you come across anything that just doesn’t seem to jive. Here it will definitely be your responsibility to pray and research and find out what is meant by such a passage, and then you will be able to answer if someone questions your faith in a book that they claim contradicts itself.

Lastly, I think it’s ludicrous for Christians to claim they believe something they have never even read all the way through. Baby Christians, new converts, okay. I get it – you haven’t had time yet. And I know that the Word of God speaks for itself, and when you identify with certain parts, you believe by faith that the rest of it is true. But come on. Seriously, you need to at least be moving toward that goal of having completely read it, and then keep right on going, moving toward the goal of having read it so many times you can practically quote it. I looked at my Kindle reading app, and the average time for reading through the Bible that I have downloaded is 44 hours and 9 minutes. Folks, that’s less than 8 minutes a day. We honestly have no excuse.

All that being said, I am not trying to deter anyone from actually taking a half-hour to an hour a day and studying the word of God. Or maybe you can carve out a couple hours on a Sunday afternoon – whatever works. Just try to form a habit you can stick with. I do believe that there are many insights to be gained by studying the meanings of words in their original languages. I also believe we should study the Bible in light of other Scriptures, and there is something to be said about reading supporting verses in one sitting, rather than as you come to them on your journey through the Bible.

Personally, I study the things that catch me off-guard, or things that are on my heart, or things I think I need a better understanding of. In this way, I use the Bible as a tool, a reference book, a how-to guide for life. I openly admit to not studying in-depth on a daily basis, but when I do, I usually feel compelled to study until I get to the bottom of an issue. This can take hours a day for several days sometimes. It still doesn’t happen often enough for me (in my opinion), so I intend to make some additions to my reading plan in order to study with intentionality (is that a word?).

I spoke with Ian on the way home about how he thinks we should approach Bible study. I said, some folks who study the Bible but don’t intentionally read it through never even get to all of it. How do we fix that problem? Ian said, “Study it in order.” Well, I should have known that was the obvious answer, but didn’t think of it on my own for some reason. So, I think I will start at the very beginning, and study as much as I like after I have read my passage for the day. The studying portion will, of course, move at a much slower pace, but perhaps it will benefit me more. Perhaps studying everything once will have the same affect on my understanding and retention as reading it ten times through.

Do you have any ideas on reading or studying the Word of God? What method do you use? What changes would you like to make?

Train Up a Child: Prayer

Ever since Ian told me that God has called him as a missionary, I’ve been taking his training a lot more seriously. I know that I should have been diligent to train him all along – it’s not like he will always be surrounded by like-minded folks, or that he will never fall into temptation – but suddenly, his Christian development has taken precedence over everything else. For instance, we’ve been praying out loud together every day. The first day, I prayed out loud; the second day, he did, etc. By doing this, I hope to accomplish a few things:

1. Give him an idea about the variety of things we can talk to God about (aka, everything).

2. Teach him to be thankful and worshipful above all things – that these are the most important aspects of his communion with God.

3. Train him to only ask for personal things occasionally. This is not the sole purpose of prayer. I have said before – God is not a vending machine. However, we pray for salvation of the lost pretty frequently.

4. Show him that prayer is not meant to be mindlessly repetitious or ritualistic. Every approach to the throne of God should be fresh and unique to that moment, and our hearts and minds should be focused on Him.

5. Get him in the habit of taking the time to pray. Every. Single. Day. It should be non-negotiable, just like brushing his teeth.

6. Increase his comfort level in praying out loud. As a man, he will be called on to pray in church with some regularity, and as a missionary, he will have to take the initiative and teach others how to pray.

7. It just occurred to me – I should also teach him to be silent for a few moments as well – to give God our undivided attention, and allow Him the opportunity to answer back.

8. We haven’t done this yet, but I also need to emphasize the importance of searching our hearts, admitting to sin, and earnestly repenting.