In, Not Of: A letter to my girls’ teachers explaining why we’re so different from other Christians

December 23, 2017 at 6:55 pm (More than Mediocre) (, , , , , , , )

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As mankind continues to fall deeper into darkness and further away from God’s truth, we Higgins find ourselves trying to figure out how to live IN this world, but not be OF it.  Even in the bubble of Christian education, we must continually resist the compromise of God’s truth that we’re expected to gladly embrace.  God’s “church” has strayed so far from His ways in pursuit of a more “comfortable” doctrine, that most do not even recognize His ways anymore, let alone follow them.  We’ve somehow forgotten that HE made the rules…and  He defined them for us clearly in scripture…and no matter how much “greasy grace” we sprinkle on top of our thoughts and actions, or how much time we wander around aimlessly trying to “find ourselves” and attempt to play by our OWN rules that scripture actually opposes, we will ALL one day be held accountable to whether or not we played the game of life by GOD’S rules. 

God’s approval and our spending eternity with Him is pretty important to the Higgins family, so we have zero desire to waste time or energy playing by any man-made rules that can’t possibly help us win the game.  Instead, we spend every spare second we have learning God’s revealed winning strategy for this game of life.  We are consumed with knowing the Creator of this game, His ways, His expectations and His heart and reasoning behind each instruction.  We read and study His instruction manual constantly in order to know exactly how the game works: where dangers and curses lie, where blessing and favor can be found, what pleases the heart of our Heavenly Father and was angers Him and why.  We walk out our faith quite differently than most.  First and foremost, we’re not RELIGIOUS.  We don’t follow empty instructions that man has made up that add to or take away from the word of God.  Instead, we walk in RELATIONSHIP with the one true God, following the instructions He alone gave that have been preserved for us through the Bible.  We engage ourselves in un-ending pursuit of HIS truth and we boldly stand up in support of the truth we have already acquired—even when it’s not comfortable. 

I will never forget the day I returned from Christmas break years ago as a 5th grader.  My teacher went around the classroom asking each child to name something they had received as a Christmas gift.  I watched in sad confusion as my young classmate, Dennis, jumped from his seat and ran out of the room crying.  Our teacher followed him and returned to the classroom shortly after, explaining that Dennis was of a faith that did not celebrate Christmas.  Over the years, Dennis and his struggle with the emotions of having to live in but not of the world, have come to mind many times.  Nobody wants their kid to be the “Dennis” of the class; different than everyone else, ridiculed, misunderstood.  Yet God tells His followers in Isaiah 51:7 not to fear the disapproval of men.  Neither to be afraid or feel distress when they speak to us abusively with scorn or criticism.  We’re either FOR God or we’re AGAINST God.  There’s no riding the fence.  This God-fearing mom is just another “Dennis” married to another “Dennis” and we’re raising four “Dennis” kiddos.  We are NOT of this world and we cannot pretend to be. We tell our kids all the time that we are different than the world-and it’s a GOOD different.  However, in a school setting with a majority of children who are somewhat familiar with the ways of popular religion but who are not actually following through in a relationship with or in obedience to God, this can get a bit messy.  Glory’s teacher has had MANY opportunities to explain to the other children why God wouldn’t want us to allow certain things into our hearts and minds through the television.  He has standards of holiness for our eyes and our ears and it is not okay to watch or listen to whatever we want after we have come into a saving relationship with Him.  Some things may be just fine, but others definitely have to go!  The unacceptable old ways and patterns have to stop in order for us to be transformed into new creations.  If we hold onto all of the old, then we essentially remain unchanged.  That’s a problem!  Likewise, the high school kids have never once considered that you become more holy by spending time with the One who is holy!  They don’t know the word of God or how it applies to them today.  They don’t understand God’s Feasts or His sacrificial system or their roles in years past or in all of mankind’s future.  These differences in the Higgins family continually bring up new “situations” at the school so this Mama Dennis decided that it might really help the teachers out if I wrote them a letter explaining our beliefs and the heart behind the decisions we make as a family.  I sent it to the principal and asked her to read it and pass it on to the girls’ teachers and to my great surprise, she said she did.  I thought I’d share it here on the blog with friends and family for those of you who don’t quite understand who we are or why we do what we do either.  

 The letter is posted below.  It’s a little long, but what it speaks of literally changed our lives forever.  May it spark a curiosity in your heart to forever search out God’s absolute truth and fully embrace it -even if you find that it goes against everything man’s doctrine has taught you to believe.  May the Bible come alive and leap off of the pages into your heart like never before.  

Love and blessings to all,

Julie

Dear teachers,

My three daughters, Alyssa Joy, Grace, and Glory began attending [the school] this year.  We are so grateful for Christian education and are beyond blessed for the opportunity Mrs. K extended to us for our girls to be a part of your wonderful school.  Many of you have already become aware that we’re a bit different than most families of the Christian faith and I understand that this sometimes causes an “awkwardness” in the classroom.  I apologize for that and would like to take a few minutes to write to you all to explain our beliefs and clear up any confusion you may have regarding them.

  First and foremost, we are Bible-believing Christians.  We believe in salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.  All three of our girls have come to the realization that they are sinners in need of a savior.  They have received forgiveness of their sins, given their lives to the Lord, been baptized, and are walking in a personal relationship with Him.

  In order to have a greater understanding of our Christian heritage, their father, William, and I have studied the Jewish (Hebrew) roots of Christianity since before our girls were born.  Most people don’t even realize that there was a vital connection between Christianity and Judaism that was severed centuries ago, but 2000 years of Jewish history, culture, language, and customs literally form the root of Christianity.  Once that severing took place, Biblical Judaism and Biblical Christianity, which God intended to be one, went their separate ways.  Our family realizes that the Bible is not about “Jewish” or “Christian” things.  Rather, it is about divine, eternal, and universal things-and therefore applies to all people.  However, the ability to understand it correctly requires a deep awareness of and comprehension of the people, nation, and culture through whom God chose to reveal His ways and His word.  While Christians in America view the Bible and all of life through a Western mind and worldview, the Bible was written by Abraham’s descendants, who had a Hebraic culture, language, and worldview.  This western perspective has caused great misunderstanding and misinterpretation in the church for many years-as we have been trying to understand and interpret a Middle-Eastern book through a 21st century western mentality.  The Bible is the divinely inspired word of God, given to mankind in the form of a Jewish book and we Higgins choose to study it that way.

 I know that some of you have been trying to figure us out for a while now.  We are not Jewish by blood and you can rest assured that we do not believe that we are Jews.  J  We simply study the Jewish roots of Christianity to better understand our Savior.  Jesus was a Jew born into a Jewish family in the Jewish village of Bethlehem in the land of Israel.  He lived and ministered as an observant Jew, read the Jewish scriptures, spoke Hebrew, wore Jewish clothes, ate only biblically kosher food, kept the Jewish Sabbath, celebrated God’s commanded feasts, followed Jewish customs, and most importantly, He kept every law of God.  Our goal as Christ-followers is to pattern our lives after His, and to become more like Him in character and actions.  Had God chosen a different people group and set them apart to testify of His integrity and to give credence to the absolute authority of His scriptures, we’d be busy learning His ways as expressed through them.  Yet, the Bible reveals that God’s great plan for salvation was originally for the Israelites alone, the House of Israel and the House of Judah (Jeremiah 31: 31) and that everyone else was separate from the Messiah, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and were strangers to His new covenant.  (Ephesians 2:11-12) Yet, in His great love and goodness, He extended an invitation to any who would join themselves to Him and His ways to be “grafted” into the new covenant that He made with His chosen people, Israel.  (Romans 11:11-31) We did not “replace” them, but were “included” into the covenant that God made with them. 

Our family has always kept the Feasts of the Lord, as recorded in the Bible, simply because God commands that they are to be celebrated FOREVER.  That was easy enough for us to understand, as He did not call them the Feasts of the Jews, but of the Lord.  And since we all had chosen to embrace His offer to be “grafted in” to His new covenant and His ways, we just naturally celebrated them.  However, like many, we had always been taught by the Western church that the law (actually translated “instructions”) of God was done away with when Jesus came.  Believing that, we, like most Christians, didn’t really think that much of the Old Testament was relevant for today and never really taught our children to value it either. 

We moved from Texas to Oregon last October to dis-engage from many of the distractions of the world and start a new way of life pursuing the truth of the Bible and spending time that used to be dedicated to television to instead truly seek out the Lord and learn His ways.  It was at this point, when we actually started digging deep into the word of God and not just relying on the tiny snippets of scripture from a church sermon here or there, that we began noticing that much of our “Christian” belief system did not actually line up with the divinely inspired word of God.  That’s a real problem when you genuinely love the Lord and want to follow Him in obedience!  After months of researching the original language of the scriptures as well as just taking time to compare portions of scripture and of actually READING what it says without an agenda and stripping away any “added” teaching or theology passed down by our denomination, we came to realize that there is much more to the Bible than we ever thought possible!  Specifically, the Lord opened our eyes to the fact that His good and perfect law (as defined in Psalm 19:7 and all throughout Psalm 119, as well as throughout the rest of the Bible) is STILL good and perfect and is NOT some sort of “bondage” that our world has twisted it into. 

So many people instantly jump to the conclusion that if you value the law in any way, you must also believe that mankind can obtain salvation by trying to keep the law.  Nothing could be further from the truth and the scriptures confirm this and make it very clear that salvation is a gift from God and CANNOT be earned by keeping the law.  However, scripture (as well as Jesus Christ Himself) also makes it very clear in multiple passages that His coming was not to bring the law to an end, (end as in, “it’s over and done with” kind of end) but rather that He came to live the law out for us as an example to learn from!  His journey as a man on this earth was the fulfillment of the law in the sense that the literal WORD OF GOD (including all of the law/instructions) was now a breathing, walking, talking human who could now teach the people by example in everyday life!  He was the FULFILLMENT, or goal, of the law…not the end of it!  God never finished giving His law at Mt. Sinai.  The people were scared and begged Him to stop so He told them He would send a prophet like unto Moses to them instead.  That was Jesus Christ and He walked God’s law out perfectly before the people day after day.  This is extremely difficult to discern while one is filtering all of scripture with a “lens” of doctrine passed down from the church that says that “We’re not under the law, we’re under a new covenant of grace.”  However, when you read the front of the book, and you realize that grace has been there all along from the very beginning and was not in any way a new concept, and that the new Covenant that God made was DUE TO the people BREAKING His law (not because there was any problem with His already declared perfect law) and that He said this time, rather than the law being just words and teachings passed down from generation to generation that are easily broken and forgotten, He was going to write His law, or instructions, on the hearts of the people and give them the Holy Spirit so that they now would actually be capable of following through with His original instructions, or law.  (Ezekiel 36:26-27) Likewise, there would be no excuses for intentional sin, as the Holy Spirit and their own consciences would now either accuse or defend their actions against the same law found in the old covenant that was now written on their hearts in the form of a new or renewed covenant.  (Romans 2:15) And not only that, He told them that His law is EASY to follow and not beyond anyone’s reach, (Deuteronomy 30:11) unlike the Oral Law that the Pharisees had come up with that built fences (rules) around fences (rules) around fences (rules), practically making it impossible to follow. 

When we began to see all these things, we decided to become a neutral party and go back and read the text of the New Testament with a 100% clear lens as a filter, not leaning either direction.  It was absolutely astounding how differently the text now read.  Not only did we find multiple instances of NEW TESTAMENT believers continuing to follow God’s law or instructions as given to Moses on Mt. Sinai, we also found Jesus himself still following this law that He supposedly came to do away with.  We found Paul, Jesus, and Stephen all being FALSELY accused of NOT keeping the law and strong defenses that they were indeed following it faithfully.  We found Peter making a declaration that Paul was very difficult to understand and a warning that many would twist his writings on the law to actually PROMOTE lawlessness –just as the majority of the churches in our world today do!  And we also found him warning us in advance NOT to fall into those false teachings!  After a careful study of all of Paul’s writings we came to realize that there are actually SEVEN laws that Paul made reference to and our assuming that he is referring to God’s law when actually talking about the law of sin and death makes him out to be a liar and a hypocrite and directly opposed to God’s commands and everything Jesus Christ taught-which we of course know is not true.

  I say all this to explain that our family came into a new awareness of and respect for the law of God.  Our little Higgins world was flipped on end when we realized that all this time we’ve had access to something extremely valuable and have just absolutely been ignoring it!  Suddenly, we had this insatiable appetite to read and understand the books of the Old Testament.  Day after day we began to unsurface new treasures hidden in the books we had always thought didn’t really apply to us.  We began to see that the entire Old Testament-all of the strange customs and very, very specific ways God required things to be done—they all point to Jesus Christ!  The only instructions the people had at the time, (the New Testament not yet penned), they were pictures and shadows and types of things to come so that God’s people would recognize the Messiah when He arrived!  We began to learn the holiness and character of God and that He’s nothing like our current world paints Him out to be- a schizophrenic Deity that originally rewarded strict obedience to His law/instructions with great blessing and favor and severely punished and even cursed any who transgressed it but suddenly and without warning reversed the entire system and everything He ever taught after his son died on the cross and now considers His good and perfect law to be a form of bondage and therefore does not expect anyone to actually follow it.  We found that there is absolutely no Biblical support for this flawed logic.  In fact, God gave us the scriptures and declared that they are ALL profitable for teaching and instruction and reproof, both Old and New! He describes Himself and His ways in extreme detail in His word, so His people will KNOW Him, His ways, and His character and will not fall into such deception! 

We realized the importance of following ALL of the ten commandments-not just nine of them-and we started honoring the Sabbath.  This was very difficult for us at first-especially for me because I am a work-a-holic.  Yet, in just a short period of time we came to experience the tremendous blessing that comes with following this often ignored instruction!  Now we look forward to this special day set aside for rest and time with our Creator with GREAT anticipation!  We understand now that the Sabbath is what actually sets us apart from the rest of the world as His people.  (Exodus 31:13) Yet strangely, many of the same Christians who agree that we should carefully follow the laws of not murdering, stealing, or committing adultery that are printed in the same list just inches from the one that commands us to honor the Sabbath, think we are “extreme” and “legalistic” because we keep the Sabbath on the actual Sabbath.  Yet no one seems to think that it’s “legalistic” of us to not murder their child or sleep with their spouse…why is that?

We learned how the Lord makes it very clear in scripture that He is not to be worshipped in the ways that other gods are worshipped or at the times that other gods are worshipped.  (Deuteronomy 12:30-31, Deuteronomy 18:9-15, Exodus 23:24, Jeremiah 10:2, Deuteronomy 12:1-8, Psalm 78:58) We learned of the appalling and detestable origins of many of our current holidays.  They say ignorance is bliss….No longer being ignorant of these things, we were forced to make a choice.  The ways and traditions of man, or obedience to the true and living God to not participate in these things?  You might have guessed that we chose the latter and here we are with children who have never celebrated Halloween (because that one we’ve always known was tied to pagan practices) but have always celebrated Christmas and Easter and Valentine’s Day.  They now know the truth and want no part of it, but they still have to live in a world full of people that either do not yet know, or do not care.  That part has not been as smooth of a transition as we would have liked.  They are still trying to process everything we have learned this past year for themselves and still have a difficult time putting into words in a way that is not offensive to any of their friends or authority figures these beliefs that make us so different from everyone else. 

Absolutely we value our precious Savior’s birth and we do celebrate Him in our hearts and in our home.  But we can no longer declare that “He knows our hearts” and that “our intentions are good” while throwing our Holy Savior’s birth celebration into a pagan mix that originated from the celebration of other false gods (namely the sun god who has also conveniently stolen His day of worship and moved it to Sun-day.)  That would be like my husband declaring that he has decided that he’ll move the celebration of my special birthday to the same day as one of his ex-girlfriends’ birthdays and telling me not to worry because as his wife I know his heart in the matter and it’s not really about her at all to him.  He just prefers to celebrate me on her day.  It’s not an act of love and devotion, but an insult, and it’s just not something we can continue in as a family truly desiring to please and honor the Lord.  William and I have great Christmas memories with our own children and extended families.  Our past Higgins Christmas celebrations have always directly pointed to the birth of the Messiah (not Santa or materialism or commercialism), yet we’ve come to realize that it’s not about us or how WE FEEL about anything.  It’s instead about how the all-powerful God of this universe feels about it.  So we have let go of following the traditions of men like some other “traditions” found in Mark 7 that made Jesus so angry with the Pharisees.  Our desire is to do life HIS way, despite what our traditions have always been and no matter how near and dear we hold them to our hearts. 

Since starting school, our girls have been asked everything from if we are Jewish, if we are even Christians, to if we are Seventh Day Adventists.  But the simple truth is, we’re just Christ followers who actually do what He commands us to do in the Bible.  We don’t do it to try to earn salvation.  We do it out of love and because God never intended for the grace that Jesus’ death on the cross brought to mankind to be twisted into a license to willfully sin.  Oh, that grace exists when we unintentionally fall short after coming into relationship with God through His son, Jesus, but scripture is beyond clear in Hebrews 10:26-30 that a sacrifice no longer remains for those who go on deliberately sinning after receiving the knowledge of the truth.

 Jesus tells us that if we love Him, we’ll obey His commands.  And His disciple, John,  tells us that any who say that they follow Christ but do not obey His commands are liars and the truth is not in them.  I hope after reading this, you will have gained a better understanding of our kiddos and the things you hear them talking about or the things we choose not to participate in.  Our heart is only to be obedient and therefore express love to God in the way that He clearly instructed us to and not in man-inspired ways that we *think* or hope He might find pleasing and acceptable.  Our heart is never to judge, condemn, or disapprove of others or the way they live out their faith.  We are simply in the process of letting go of many things we once genuinely believed to be true (due to our “busy-ness” and lack of studying the scriptures) and we’re replacing them with the actual truth that can be found in God’s word after removing the blinding “scales” of misunderstanding and misinterpretation.  We appreciate your patience and of course your prayers as we continue to seek the Lord wholeheartedly.

 

Blessings from our family to yours,

Julie

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