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Legalism in your Family - Issue 347
July 04, 2014
Hi there! ....


This week has been a very relational week, we intended the kids to study, and mostly that was interrupted or redirected! Last weekend we went out to a local waterhole and enjoyed God’s creation with my mum and dad. We had another family pull in for a visit – they are living in their caravan though sharing with us during the day and especially the evening meal. We’ve had a few meals around the campfire, and last night we enjoyed pizza and a movie night. During the week Daniel worked with waterproofing and tiling the new bathroom, and whenever he was at home he spent most of his time writing a story and illustrating it. Naomi studied, helped pick up some of the overload that happens when there is a lot of coming and going, though I think the highlight for her was some serious painting time. Naomi and I spent a little time in review (mid-year review) and are looking at her long term goals, strengths and weaknesses and are working towards a tweak in her studies which will start in a month or so. I find it important to keep reviewing these highschool years as they are changing so much as a person, and their studies need to reflect those changes.

Live life with your kids!

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This week I highlighed a previous blog post Speaking words of Life You might like to catch up on that one too if you missed it a while back.

Legalism in your Family

How is a family who likes order, who believes in obedience, who loves God and wants to follow God’s ways for living going to achieve these things in their family? It is easy to make rules and create a structure to ensure that we have order, obedience, training etc in our home and it is easy when these things are there to think we are doing family life in a way that pleases God. The Pharisees made that mistake. The Pharisees were legalistic – they had a system of rules and regulations that they trusted in for salvation. Jesus came to change all that.

Legalism is where we emphasise the law instead of the life, where we focus on the letter of the law rather than the spirit, where we look at the externals not the heart.

I heard someone painting a picture by telling this story (and I can’t remember who) that way back in Israel’s history God’s law was given to each family. This law was given by God and it had its purpose. Somewhere along the way there was a godly man who really wanted his family to follow God, so he created a practice that helped his family do the right thing. There was nothing wrong with this practice, it was helpful. Maybe it was reading the ‘Scripture’ at breakfast time. Over time, those kids grew up, and they did love God and obey his commandments, so they too followed their father’s footsteps and had ‘reading the Scriptures at breakfast’ and then the next generation and the next all did the same. Before long it became something more than a tradition that their forefather instigated, it became a law. (Now this is only an example because I’m not particularly well studied in knowing which laws the Israelites created, except I know the Pharisees listed a lot!) The point of the story is to see that laws that we create can come from a good heart, and even a good practice, but it doesn’t mean it reflects God’s heart.

There is nothing wrong with putting a structure in place in our family that helps us do the right thing. But when we start to place our trust in that practice, our trust that our kids will be right with God, we will put so much weight in the importance of that practice, that we won’t deviate from it at all – most likely out of a fear that our children will walk away from God, or do something else that we wouldn’t like (like wear immodest clothing, watch inappropriate movies, make wrong friends, spend their time unwisely, etc)

What are you putting your trust in for your children’s hearts?

  • Do you trust family traditions and practices you have established as a part of your family culture?
  • Do you trust the friends that you have carefully selected for your kids?
  • Do you trust the books and movies you allow into your home?
  • Do you trust the structure of your day?
  • Do you trust the church that your family attends?
  • Do you trust God?

Sometimes when we say we ‘trust God’ it is a bit like a bandaid; a trivial or flippant or cop-out expression. But let’s test it: what will happen in your family if you don’t follow through on one of your family practices? Will that create a stress in your heart? Especially if a month goes by without getting time for that special activity? What about if your husband doesn’t agree, or find time for it – do you start to unravel, thinking there is no hope for your family? What if you find out your kids have been reading inappropriate books, or seeing stuff online do you freak out and dish out the guilt and punishments or do you trust God to change the heart and renew the mind?

Trusting God isn’t a passive thing where we just hang and wait for God to intervene. Trusting God is about our relationship with Him, interacting with him. We cannot trust a person whom we don’t know, we can think that they are reliable, we may have confidence in their reputation but we will only trust a person we know. When Jesus tells us that love is more important than anything do we believe that enough to live it out? When God’s word tells us that Jesus was grace and truth, and that we are to be like Jesus – do we seek to be grace and truth?

One of the tests that I put on myself is that when things go wrong what is my reaction? Do I tighten the rules, redefine the structure, increase the supervision? Or do I go to God and cry for help, do I go to God with my child, and together we pray and ask for God’s wisdom. Having structure and family practices aren’t a wrong thing – they are helpful. But if we place our trust in those things, we are just like the Pharisees – they didn’t think they needed a saviour cause they were doing all the right things but they didn’t have a relationship with Jesus.

Some trust in chariots and some in horses but we will remember the name of the Lord our God… I learnt a song with these words when I was a child. How often the song comes back to me – mostly just this line. It is taken from Psalm 20. I remember my dad explaining this one to me – horses are the creation and chariots are things that man made, but we are to trust in God alone. The horse and the chariot aren’t bad things – we just aren’t to put our trust in them.


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Blending Life with Lessons e-book - Does your everyday life challenge your homeschool ideas? This is my journey as I discover that it is possible to disciple my children in today's busy lifestyle.




Heart Focus Parenting book/e-book - A heart focused parent will keep their attention on their child's heart for God, instead of on external behaviours.






Restoring the Heart, Mind and Soul of Christmas Do your Christmas celebrations line up with what you believe? Do your celebrations help your children learn more about Jesus?

This e-book is based on a workshop I held for a couple of years to help families see that Christmas can be a significant tradition in our family life. If we are intentional about how our family celebrates we have the opportunity to use this time to teach our children about Jesus, and his love for each one of us.




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Until next week

Belinda Letchford
Living life with her kids in Australia!


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Live life with your Kids newsletter is about being a deliberate parent, about enjoying family life and using the opportunities that happen to teach and train your children in righteousness (right living with God). I hope that you will find regular encouragement as you live life with your kids!

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