Wired for intimacy part 1 (godly sexuality)

wired for intimacy 1

Before we had our first miracle baby we read the book “The Social Baby” which shows that even from birth babies are wired to seek faces over other images:

“Within minutes of birth, the baby will turn her head to the sound of someone’s voice, when another sound, even if of the same pitch and intensity, will not attract her attention…the baby is also attracted to faces…Given a choice between looking at a face-shaped pattern, and one with the arrangement of eyes nose and mouth scrambled up, the newborn baby will spend longer looking at the face”

wired for intimacy

Recent research has now identified that the part of the brain used for recognising faces is far more developed in babies and is almost equal to that of adults by even 4 months.

As Christians we don’t believe that this design is merely for survival, we believe that the things made reveal God’s divine nature (Rom 1:20a) for “The heavens declare the glory of God” (Ps 19:1).

In the same way the physical tabernacle was “a copy and shadow of what is in heaven” (Heb 8:5), this physical realm is a shadow of the spiritual realm.  A baby seeking the face of his/her parents is a shadow of the reality that we as children of God (1 Jn 3:1) are designed to seek the face of our Creator.

“I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters says the Lord Almighty” (2 Cor 6:18)

In the Father’s face we are going to find the love, affirmation and protection that we need.

A baby know this – they take delight in looking at faces.  Children know this as any parent who hears a their child say “look at me!”.  This is why God instructed Aaron to bless the Israelites with the phrase “the LORD make His face shine upon you” (Num 6:23-25).

To have God’s face turn from us is to be cursed and cut off from our hearts desire (eg Ps 27:9; 2 Chr 30:9).  Babies know this – they become distressed if there is no response from a parent’s face (you can see an example in this YouTube video).

We are wired to seek the Father’s face, to have His face shine upon us and to have Him respond to us.  But not just a father’s face but the mother’s face too:

“A babies vision is a little blurry at birth but within a week a baby can focus on objects about 8 to 12 inches from his face which is the distance between a mother and baby’s face during feeding.”

One of the names for God used in the Old Testament is “El Shaddai” which is translated as “God Almighty” in places like Gen 17:1 and Gen 49:25.  Now shaddai could be come from the root “shadad” which means powerful (hence Almighty) or “shad” which means breast.  If it is the latter root then “El Shaddai” could be translated as “many breasted one” (sources: here and here).  Implying that God, like a mother, is our comfort, our sufficiency, our nourisher.

Given the current environment there are parties that sit firmly on both sides, each fiercely arguing that their version is correct translation.  The complementarians will argue that it’s a powerful, strong masculine God, the egalitarians will argue it’s a nurturing, tender, feminine God.

I believe that both are incorrect.  Each side only sees one part when both parts are needed*.  You see we are made male and female in God’s image (Gen 1:27) and only both together represent the fullness of God”†:

“Male and female created he them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam” (Gen 5:2 KJV).

Adam was created in the image of God as one being – both male and female (Gen 2:7).  This is a shadow of the heavenly reality of the Father and the Son being intimately one (Jn 10:30) and indeed his nature of Oneness despite many opposing characteristics (eg grace/mercy vs truth/judgement).

Adam was then separated into two: male and female (Gen 2:22-23 the word rib is literally “side”) as a shadow of the plurality of the nature of God (both in the Trinity and His nature).  But designed to become one again (Gen 2:24).   Hence the fullness of the image of God on earth is male and female together as one.

So babies are wired to look into the face of their parents and receive all the love, affirmation, protection, comfort, nourishment from them.  This is the shadow of the spiritual reality of us as God’s children looking to Him (whose nature includes both masculine and feminine aspects) and receive all that we need from Him, our all-in-all:

No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him.They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.” (Rev 22:3-4)

* Why then does Jesus say we should call Him father and why is Jesus the Bridegroom if God is both masculine and feminine?  This requires us to understand how sexuality reflects the relationships in the Godhead and between God and man, which will be covered in a later post.

† So does that mean that only married people image God?  Not entirely, because ultimately the one flesh union of a husband and wife is also a shadow of the union of Christ and the Church (Eph 5:31-32).  Perhaps this post might help.  And so if you’re single, you image God by being one with the Body of Christ becoming one with Christ.

Repetition is important (teach your children godly sexuality)

Children with a burnt cooking chicken in the kitchen. Smoke. Fac

So here I am, I’ve given workshops to parents about how to teach godly sexuality to their children.  I live these principles in my own life.  I don’t shy away from talking about sex and regularly have God-focussed conversations with my children about how our sexuality is good and holy.

It’s all too easy after you’ve had one conversation with your children about sex to pat yourself on the back and congratulate yourself on a job well done.  But just because you had “the talk” doesn’t mean they actually understood what you said.

This was brought home to me when one the mother of a friend of my youngest son said he had told her son that babies were made by the man peeing in the woman’s china.

I was mortified.  I was also humbled and repented of my self-satisfaction.  I learnt an important lesson that day:

Repetition is important, repetition is important and did I mention repetition is important.

I mentioned in a previous post about how talking about sexuality with our children should be “the talks” and not “the talk”.  Well this is another reason why.

It’s just like discipleship – understanding is something that happens gradually over a period of time it’s never a one-time brain dump.

Father may we never tire of sowing into our children’s lives until they grow into a mature knowledge of you, your creation and your nature.

Calling out your child’s true identity (godly parenting)

calling out (big)
In a previous post on godly parenting we briefly mentioned prophetic calling out of our children.  I want to look at this topic in a little more detail here.The classic example of this is the story of Gideon.  When the angel of the LORD appears to Gideon he speaks out his identity:

The Lord is with you, mighty warrior” (Judg 6:12)

But hold on a second!  Where is Gideon when the angel of the LORD speaks to him?  He’s hiding from the Midianites by threshing wheat in a winepress!  The angel calls him a mighty warrior when he is anything but.  Then the angel of the LORD (=Jesus) commands him to rescue His people but Gideon makes excuses:

“How can I save Israel?  My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.” (Judg 6:15)

We can see that Gideon sees himself as small, weak, insignificant and doesn’t see what God sees at all.  So God promises to be with him, but he needs a sign and brings an offering which is burnt up.

So Gideon now knows God, the creator of the universe, is with him and so everything’s going to be OK, right? Wrong!  His first task: tear down his father’s altar to Baal and Asherah pole

“But because he was afraid of his family and the men of the town, he did it at night rather than in the daytime” (Judg 6:27)

So still scared.  Next task: raise an army.  But this is where he asks for two more signs with the fleece (Judg 6:36-40).  OK, so personal visitation by Jesus and three signs.  Surely he’s not scared now!  Wrong!  And God knows this which is why he says:

“If you are afraid to attack, go down to the camp with you servant Purah and listen to what they are saying.  Afterwards you will be encouraged to attack the camp” (Judg 7:10-11a)

He does and hears one of the Midianites speaking of a nightmare and the other explaining that it was about the sword of Gideon…God has given the Midiantes and the whole camp into his hands” (Judg 7:13-14).  Only then does Gideon step into his destiny that God knew all along: the mighty warrior.  He routs the Midianites and slaughters them in an act that is recorded forever.

God saw who Gideon truly was and spoke it over him – he affirmed and called out who he was going to be rather than who he currently was.  This is the Spirit of prophecy – calling forth things which are not yet to become true.

Prophetic calling out is not merely encouragement nor the power of positive thinking but speaking the truth of their identity. 

I’ve had well meaning Christians who confuse prophecy with encouragement and thinking by saying something encouraging and adding “God says” on the beginning will make it more than that.  For example, my wife has a degenerative condition that means she is becoming more and more disabled both physically and mentally.  A Christian brother gave me a word that “God says you’re going to have the best Christmas ever.”  It wasn’t – it was one of the hardest ones as my wife’s pain level was so high that she couldn’t celebrate much and my stress level was high trying to care for her and organise Christmas.  This word left a bitter taste.  Why would God say something like that which wasn’t true?

Prophetic calling out is speaking the truth of our child’s identity.  Since Jesus is the truth (Jn 14:6) and the Spirit of prophecy bears testimony to Jesus (Rev 19:10) – ie it speaks truth.  So prophecy will speak of the truth of our children’s identity – it will require us as parents to get on our knees and ask for God to open our eyes to the truth about our children.

Just like when the army of Aram surrounded the city where Elisha was and his servant panicked.  Elisha prayed that his servant’s eyes would be opened to the truth – and then he saw the army of God encamped around and outnumbering the enemy (1 Kings 6:17).  Once they saw this truth then how he approached the situation changed as they knew that victory would be theirs.

Once Jesus reveals our children’s true identities we can then affirm and call out who they will become in Christ and keep our eyes on the prize, the author and perfecter of our faith (Heb 12:2) who will finish the good work he starts in our children (Phil 1:6).

An example is my eldest son Josiah William.  My wife and I prayed over the nine months about the right name: Josiah means “YHWH is my healer” and William means “protector”.  Given that my wife and I were infertile and despite treatments had no children until the church prayed for us, Josiah was the right name for our second child.  But whilst we saw a glimpse of truth, God opened our eyes to even more.  God became our healer through Josiah in two other ways: The hospital was clinically negligent with the delivery of our first child and the trauma of that was still fresh in my wife’s mind.  But God brought healing of that trauma through the fact that Josiah slept almost solidly for a week.  There was no crying, just a baby that you could put down in any position and have him sleep.  The second way was that God brought healing to our marriage through Josiah.  As I mentioned in a previous post my wife had clinical postnatal depression and was put in a psychiatric ward and I had a nervous breakdown.  Our marriage never really recovered and we were sleeping in separate beds for some time before my wife packed the car and our little girl and drove to the office to tell me she was leaving me.  I so grateful to God that He helped me make one of the best choices of my marriage – I said I would do what it takes to fix this – I would even go on a marriage course.  And we did and it was the beginning of the turnaround in our lives.  And Josiah’s conception was week 5’s homework.

God gave us a glimpse of who Josiah’s identity was – it was natural that we would sow into this and call out the healer and protector that God had made him to be.  One day I found myself saying “You know Josiah, God has made your someone who will protect other people’s lives – and I believe that one day you will save your brother’s life”.  And it came to pass that he did when he pulled his brother out of the way of a car that was going to hit him.  God through Jesus revealed the truth about Josiah and I have the privilege to speak that truth and see the Spirit make it reality.

This is so much easier said than done as it’s all too easy to limit our view to the present actions of our children rather than the future man/woman that they will become.  That’s why we need the Spirit to help us see who they truly are going to be in Christ.  God didn’t lose patience with Gideon and say “For goodness sake!  How much more confirmation do you need that I am with you?”  Why?  Because He could see who Gideon was going to be and knew it would come about.

May the Father speak to you now as you think about your own children.  May He reveal their true identity to you and may you have the persistence to keep on blessing the Spirit’s work in your children by calling out this identity no matter how outlandish it may seem.  In Jesus’ precious name.  Amen.

An alternative ending to the Orlando shooting

**Content warning: this will be an honest account of some of my sexual struggles during my life and may not be appropriate for minors nor for those of a sensitive nature**

How long do you need to spec a gay bar before committing an atrocity?  1 day, 1 week, 1 month…how about 3 years?

This is how long Omar Mateen had been visiting the Pulse gay nightclub before he shot and killed 49 people.

People are naturally looking for an explanation of what happened.  For some it’s about lax gun controls, for others its about hatred of gays, for some it’s simply about a mentally unstable man.  I’d like to offer a different commentary based on parallels in my life.

The Qur’an is clear that homosexuality is a sin.  Yet Omar had been attending this gay nightclub for at least 3 years and had been having conversations with gay men via a gay dating app.

I would like to suggest that Omar struggled with the issue of being attracted to men and yet knowing it was wrong.  Islam offers no grace, no help to stop sinning, only law.  You must not do this.  What do you do in this situation?  How long can you live under such condemnation before you finally flip and lash out at yourself (through cutting or suicide) or at others (through abuse up to murder).

I understand a little of Omar’s struggle.

I never felt affirmed as a man.  I felt that I was a disappointment to my father and didn’t measure up.  My father-in-law also didn’t see me as a man and whilst I remember joking in my wedding speech that “it’s not so much losing a daughter but gaining a womany-bloke” the truth is I didn’t feel like a “proper” man.  Getting married didn’t fix that.  Nor did becoming a father.  I felt the constant need for approval of a father-figure that I never received growing up.

During my early marriage I acted out by looking at pornographic images of women. I knew it was wrong and I hated myself for it.  I used to take out my anger on my wife.  Often as a defensive mechanism because if she got too close she would expose who I really was and I didn’t want that.  So I’d make out that it was her fault.

However, whilst early exposure to pornography and subsequent masturbation had hardwired my brain to women the yearning for manly approval grew and became more sexual.  I started fantasising about kissing certain men when I was talking to them.  I needed to feel loved and wanted by these men.  But I knew that this was wrong too*.  And I hated myself for it.  I tried to suppress it but it kept coming back.  Just like the way I projected my self-loathing onto my wife due to my pornographic addiction, I projected my self-loathing about my same-sex attraction onto gays.  I would see homosexuality as the unforgivable sin and loathe them in my heart.

Given the similarities between my life and Omar’s – the overbearing father, the religious upbringing I know that this could have easily been my story.

Some will interject now and say “you need to accept these desires as natural and reject this outdated religious bigotry”.  However, to quote CS Lewis:

“He (Satan) always sends errors into the world in pairs – pairs of opposites.  And he always encourages us to spend a lot of time thinking which is the worse.  You see why of course?  He relies on your extra dislike of the one error to draw you gradually into the opposite one.  But do not let us be fooled.  We have to keep our eyes on the goal and go straight through between both errors”

My story ends differently.  Instead of denying my desires I didn’t just accept them and act on them, I expressed them to Jesus.  I honestly told him about my struggles.  As I admitted the truth, I brought these desires into the light and that was when the transformation began.  He opened my eyes to the fact that it was only men in authority that I wanted to kiss.  It was because of my feeling so unmanly, so unworthy, so useless that was the root of my desire to be accepted and loved by authority figures.  Jesus has all authority (Mt 28:18), he is above every power and authority (Eph 1:20-22; Phil 2:9-10) and he loves me (Jn 15:9,12).  As I have been receiving the approval of the ultimate authority I have become more whole.  As I have drunk deep of Christ’s masculinity I have become more manly.  As I have received the Father’s love and approval my desires for men have simply faded away.  I have become complete and whole in Him who is my all in all (1 Cor 15:28).  I know that without this grace I could have very well been Omar.

Omar, I’m sorry you didn’t discover this third way.  I’m sorry you didn’t receive this love and grace that transforms.  I’m sorry that others paid the price for your self-hatred.

Can I recommend my friends blog article on the Orlando shooting that expresses something of the heart of God here.

* It’s not the purpose of this article to defend the traditional Christian view of homosexuality.  Others have done that adequately elsewhere.  Any plain sense reading of passages such as Rom 1:26-27 and a correct understanding of hermeutics will support this.  However, we mustn’t get pushed into the false dichotomy of if I don’t agree I must hate gays.  Hopefully this article expresses this a little though I think Michael King’s post on the Orlando shooting that I recommended above expresses it beautifully.

God will never give you more than you can handle and other myths (teach your children godly sexuality part 17)

God will never give you more than you can handle...Welcome to the last post of our basic course “teach your children godly sexuality”.  We have looked at four principles:

  1. Good – because our sexuality reflects the nature of our three in one God
  2. Holy – because it reflects God it is not ordinary
  3. As you walk along – we tell stories and answer questions in everyday life
  4. Nothing is impossible – God can redeem all things and gives us wisdom for all situations

To finish this series I want to tackle the myth that “God wouldn’t give you children if He didn’t think you could handle it”.

The hospital was clinically negligent during the birth of our first child.  I remember the blood steadily dripping into the bucket, the junior doctor taking an age to stitch up my wife after the tears, the colour draining from my wife’s face and then that doctor calling in for more help.  As it was our first baby we thought this was normal.  My wife’s  friends all said that a baby was wonderful and left her feeling inadequate.  I was in a stressful job and was no support.  Truth be told: I actually put more demands on her during this time.  When she told the doctor about her depression he told her to pull herself together.  She spiralled into clinical postnatal depression.  She tried to kill herself and was taken into a psychiatric ward.  I was left holding the baby and had no support from work.  After pouring out my heart to my boss he told me he didn’t want me staying at home moping and so I carried on going to my stressful work and had a nervous breakdown.  This was the beginning of our parenting journey.  This, along with the deaths of two of our children (Rachel and James) and the moment when my wife had packed up the car drove to my office and told me she was leaving, was one of the darkest periods in my life.  I couldn’t handle it.

You see the phrase implies that we have all it takes.  That by striving hard or by having the encouragement of friends we can make it.  It’s simply not true.

If it was then we wouldn’t have to ask God for anything as we’d be self-sufficient. We would be able to live independently of God.  We’d be repeating Adam and Eve’s sin of being the gods of our own lives.   It is the spirit of pride.  The same spirit that led to Satan’s downfall.

The truth is we depend on God for everything.  In Christ all things hold together (Col 1:17).  We are breathing now because of Jesus.  We’re not independent – moment to moment we exist because of the grace of God.

When God chose the people of Israel for His own, He sought to train them up.  As they travelled through the desert they had no food.  They were dependent on God’s manna from heaven.  If they took more than they needed it would become full of maggots (Ex 16:20).  They had to daily depend on God’s provision.

Jesus summed this principle up when he taught us to pray:

“Give us today our daily bread” (Lk 11:3)

We have to ask God daily for what we need.  It isn’t given automatically.  Daily we have to express our dependence on Him.

“I am the vine; you are the branches…apart from me you can do nothing” (Jn 15:5)

Doesn’t this verse make you want to add a qualification to it?  “Of course I can do some things – it’s talking about spiritual things or it’s talking about getting into heaven or…”.  Whatever you believe is the exception to this rule is where you believe you are independent of God.

Let’s return to raising godly children and teaching them about godly sexuality.  All the principles in the world aren’t going to achieve this.  Only with God’s help can we do this.

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Phil 4:13 NKJV emphasis mine)

Did you know muscles only grow when they are damaged.  It’s the repairs of the microscopic tears that cause the growth.  This is a physical reflection of a spiritual reality.  Only when we are stretched beyond what we can bear do we grow.  Why?  Because then we acknowledge our dependence on Him and call on Him to transform us.

In life we will experience storms and anything built in our own strength will fall flat.  Sometimes in His grace God will allow you to experience events that show our need for Him*.  If we call on Him they become places of growth.  If we don’t they become places of destruction.  I never want to repeat those dark days but I am genuinely grateful for them, as it pushed us into Him and our lives were transformed as a result.

There was the time my friend at church was distraught as their child was refusing to eat and nothing they could do was working.  It had been several days and she was tearing her hair out.  We cried out to God for help.  We recognised that we couldn’t do anything.  We called out to Him and He transformed the situation.  Their child began eating from that moment.

There was the time my middle daughter was experiencing night terrors.  I as a Father could do nothing but call out to God and ask for help.  But a quick prayer didn’t seem to make a difference.  I found I had to stay by her bedside praying in tongues for about 10 minutes, dependent on Him, before the transformation came and her cries in her sleep turned into squeals of laughter.  And I had to repeat this every night for about a week.

All we need, all we have is found in Him.  Run to Him daily and receive what you need.  Amen.

It’s part of the problem of living in the West with the deceitfulness of wealth (Mk 4:19) that we can end up disowning God (Prov 30:8-9) thinking we have it all.  Why do you think the poor are rich in faith (Jas 2:5)?  Because daily they realise their dependence on Him.
* Please understand that I don’t believe God sends us trouble as He is a good father who gives us good gifts (Jas 1:17; Lk 11:11-13).  However, in this fallen world we will experience trouble.  And particularly since Satan hates marriage, sex and children (as they most reflect our God) he will seek to kill, rob and destroy them (Jn 10:10).

Principle #4: Nothing is impossible (teach your children godly sexuality part 16)

Freedom sky copyWe’re on the last of our four principles in our current series on our basic course of “teach your children godly sexuality”.

Previously we talked about communicating the goodness and holiness of sexuality to our children and then how we can do that in a holistic Hebrew way.  Our last principle is a daily reminder that nothing is impossible for God (Lk 18:27).

In our last post we talked about how God can redeem all things no matter how dark they may seem.  And redemption doesn’t just remove the pain but transforms the memory or situation into a source of grace.

But God doesn’t just transform past mistakes – He is working in our present parenting:

Jesus is wisdom incarnate

“…Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.  For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom…” (1 Cor 1:24b-25a)

There will be times when as parents we just don’t know what to do.  Our human wisdom has run out.  But the end of our wisdom is just the beginning of God’s.

One of our children kept getting out of bed at night.  They would just come and stand on the landing.  So we tried carrying them back to bed several times a night.  We tried talking to them about it.  Then we tried the getting cross.  Then we tried putting a stairgate at their door so they couldn’t come out their room – but they still get out of bed and stood at the barrier until they were so tired.  We even tried smacking.  None of these methods worked.  They would still get up.

My wife and I fell on our knees in prayer before our all wise God, crying out “we don’t know what to do!”  I know, I know.  We should have asked before.  But this was our point of desperation.  You could almost hear the Father saying “great! now I can do something”.  He gave us revelation.  He simply said “leave his door open”.

“I’m sorry?  That’s a crazy idea!”

Don’t God’s ideas sometimes seem completely irrational to our way of thinking?  Rather like Naaman being told to wash in a dirty river to cure his leprosy (2 Kings:5:10-12).  But you know what?  We did it.  Why?  Because we were desperate and had run out of ideas.  We admitted that without Him we could do nothing (Jn 15:5) .

So we left the door open and they stayed in bed.  The same thing happened the next night and every night after that.

Something so simple, so “foolish” turned out to be the key.

I honestly think that had we not been at that point of desperation we would have dismissed such a thought as something stupid and certainly not of God.  We would have simply assumed that God was silent.  Perhaps being a desperate parent is a good thing, because it is only then are we able to receive all that God has for our children.  After all, He loves them and knows them better than us.

What is it that you are desperate for answers for your child?  Cry out to Jesus now – admit that you don’t know and receive His wisdom.

Do you have a story of receiving God’s wisdom for a situation with your children?  Share it below to encourage other parents on their journey.

Principle #4: Nothing is impossible (teach your children godly sexuality part 15)

Freedom sky copyToday we blog the last of our four principles from our basic course of “teach your children godly sexuality”.

We have already covered that we need to communicate that sexuality is good and that it is holy.  Then we looked at how we communicate these two messages in a holistic Hebrew way.

So what more do we need?  We need to be reminded of Jesus’ comment to the disciples:

“What is impossible with man is possible with God.” (Lk 18:27)

So we need to fix our eyes on Jesus not on statistics or news stories or human thinking.  We need to fill our minds with His great works and read testimonies of how Jesus does the impossible so our faith rises as we realise that He is able to do far more than we could ask or imagine.

God can renew all things

Nothing that happens is beyond God’s ability to redeem.  Whether we’re struggling with something that happened in our upbringing or a sin that we committed. Or whether we worried for our children that have experienced some trauma or other experience.  Nothing is impossible.  God can renew all things so that like Joseph we can say:

You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. (Gen 50:20)

Let me give you an example from my own life.  One scene from my childhood that used to hold me captive was where my earthly father lined me and brothers up to find out who had done something wrong.  When all of us denied doing it I remember him screaming sarcastically how “Mr Nobody” had done it.  I think that we were all punished but it’s harder for me to remember that now as during a prayer time I was recalling this scene and asked for Jesus to show where He was.  I saw Him lined up next to us boys and when my father asked who’d done it – Jesus stepped forward and said “I did”.  Not only has the pain of this memory been removed but it has now become transformed in a place of glorious encounter with Jesus.

Can you see that like Joseph, God is not just going to enable us to forget our pain or even just come to a place where we can forgive those who hurt us – He’s going to transform the pain so that it becomes a source of grace.  We see this also in Isaiah:

…and by his wounds we are healed (Isa 53:5b)

Jesus wounds are a source of grace to us.  Jesus’ wounds are not something he has to forget or erase or just forgive – they have become glorious.  So much so that we see in Revelation 5 the whole of heaven worshipping the lamb who was slain.

This is true for us and our children – where there is wounding through relationships or sexuality there is not just healing available but there is a renewing so that it becomes a source of grace and healing to others.  Why are my wife and I passionate about bringing help and healing to others in the area of sexuality?  It’s because we have received grace to deliver us and transform us from our sexual dysfunctions, abuse and addictions.  So we are passing on the overflowing grace that we have received.

So be encouraged.  Nothing is impossible for our God!

Don’t live in fear or what may happen to your children, God is bigger.  Yes we’ll do our best – but we have a God who can transform even the worst situations.

Bringing about the changes

So if there’s trauma in your life or your children’s then seek help. We recommend sozo, restoring the foundations, liebusters and freedom in Christ as great places to find healing and transformation.

If there’s sin then confess it – bring it into the light. He already knows – but there is something powerful about confessing it that brings healing (Jas 5:16a). Be honest with God: I remember a conversation with God I had many years ago where I was honest with Him about how I liked a particular sin. There was such power released by that admission – much more than a “pretending” which never touched my heart.  It was then that change began to happen in my life.  Even more powerful is confessing with other brothers and sisters in Christ.  An army doesn’t send in one soldier at a time to battle the enemy.  They go together – so too with us fighting against sin.

Confessing sin destroys its power over us.  It wants to keep us ashamed and isolated.  So too with our children – keep the channels open and withhold judgement – we want to be someone they can come to when they get in a mess.  As their confession will help set them free.  And if we want them to confess to us then we should be modelling confession to them.  I regularly have to apologise to my children for the times when I “lose the plot”.  This doesn’t undermine my authority as a father – rather it shows that there is a higher authority that I submit to.  And as a result because of this my children feel able to confess their problems to me and receive forgiveness.

Finally, with regard to sins that we as parents committed growing up we naturally want our children to not repeat the same mistakes that we did – but instead of being honest with them it’s so tempting to hide our past and so deny our children the grace we’ve received.  We can end up saying things like “don’t do that…” which is powerless to help them change (Col 2:20-23).  Instead we need to reveal a little of our past to them – this doesn’t mean we tell them everything – but at the very least we can say “I made some mistakes that I regret and I don’t want you to make the same mistakes that I did”.  We can then tell them of the changes that God has brought about.  Suddenly our past is a source of grace for our children rather than something hidden and replaced with law.

Principle #3: As you walk along (teach your children godly sexuality part 14)

as you walk along copy

In our last post we began to look at the how of communicating the goodness and holiness of our sexuality.  We saw that it’s not “the talk” but lots of “talks” in the messiness of everyday life as it comes up.

We’re now going to tease this out a little bit in three short posts.

Be there and be first!

Since most our conversations about sexuality will come from answering questions/dealing with situations as they arise we need to be askable parents.  I don’t think I know of any parents who didn’t inwardly baulk when their child asked them something about sexuality.  But believe me: it’s far easier answering them when they’re little rather than having this conversation for the first time when they’re teenagers.  Just take a deep breath, pray for wisdom and talk as naturally and as matter of fact as you can.

However, sometimes certain topics don’t come up – whether because the child hasn’t thought about it or because they are shy and don’t like asking.  In which case we as parents need to initiate a conversation.  A simple way to do this is to say something like “when I was your age I used to wonder about…” or “when I was your age I used to worry about…”.

Don’t assume that no questions means that your child is not thinking about things!*

It might be worth drawing up a checklist of topics that your want to cover with the ages that you feel are appropriate (yes really! I’ll do one at some point in the future to share). Then you can tick them off as you cover them.  This is important because ideally we want to be the ones giving the first message about sexuality.  So in the UK children will get the “plumbing” science lesson about sexual organs in Year 7 so it needs to be covered by then at the very latest.  Otherwise we have to undo a lot of confusion.

A simple example that really brought this home to me was when one of my children listened to Jonathan Park story about aliens which used the bible to prove (yes really!) that they couldn’t exist.  They were adamant that this was true – as it was the first message they had heard.

So let’s ensure that the first message they hear about sexuality is about how special it is because it reflects God’s glory!

Think about your own experience of this:

When did you first hear about sex?  What was the message portrayed?  

OK.  Now it’s your turn to practise being an askable parent by answering this tricky question I received from one of my children.

Dad, why does my willy get hard sometimes?

Talks not “the talk”

We’ve already mentioned in this post and the last one that we respond to questions as they arise and give answers that are not only godly but also age-appropriate.  So we won’t ever have “the talk” but lots of little talks.

It may be tempting also to breathe a sigh of relief after you’ve “covered” a topic but repetition is important.  Children will ask the same questions again for reassurance and also we can never be sure that they’ve actually learnt what we’ve said.

I learnt this the hard way.  We worked so hard with our oldest child on giving godly responses to the many questions she asked when she was young and we’d covered all the topics so I secretly congratulated myself on a job well done.  However, it turns out in conversation with her some years later that she had forgotten everything we had said and because she was older and bit more shy about these issues (especially so since we hadn’t been talking about them because we thought we were done) – she stopped asking us and started asking others instead.  Hence she started all sorts of contradictory ideas.

Stories are better than facts/rules/morals

Facts are dry and don’t engage the soul whereas stories draw you in and teach concepts in a much deeper way than ever “objective” facts could hope to do.  This is the Hebrew way of life – sharing their collective story with their children, for example the Passover meal (Ex 12:24-27) or telling stories of why memorial stones are placed there (Josh 4:2-7).  Much of the Bible is written as narrative/story and Jesus taught ideas through parables/stories (eg  “what should I do to inherit eternal life?” Lk 10:25-37).  A story invites our participation whether it’s true or fictional.

For example, one of our girls was flirting with a boy who was, quite frankly, treating her appallingly.  But she just couldn’t see this.  So I made up a story called “The Princess and the Crocodile” where a princess who loves pets wants a crocodile but her father refuses saying it won’t be a good pet because it won’t love her back.  So she decides to go to the river and well, let’s just say her father had to rescue her from a sticky situation…

Our children also view any stories about us (especially about when mummy and daddy were courting) as something extra special and so they are powerful messages.

However, it isn’t always appropriate to share specifics so we may say something like “before I was a Christian I made some wrong choices about…which I regret now and so I want to make sure that you don’t make the same mistakes I did”

But just like we talked about in our post about godly parenting, we don’t have to be perfect.  We just have to point to a perfect saviour.  For example: “I struggled with that too…but God helped me…”

This is easier said than done, particularly if you have shame about something.  Like Adam and Eve we want to cover it up but still want to prevent our children from making that same mistake.  However, what will happen is that we’ll simply end up preaching at them which will turn them off and will then cause them to repeat the same mistakes as us!  The only way to break the cycle is confession to God and then humility to our children!

Here’s some questions for personal reflection:
Think of a story that your parents told about themselves before they were married.
What effect did this have on you?

Is there something sexual that you did that you now regret?
Confess it to your Father and receive His forgiveness and healing.
How can you communicate this mistake to your children in a sensitive way that will help them to break the cycle?

Now let’s see if we can apply this principle to helping our children:
Think of a story from your life that you can share with your children about:

  • A worry you had about your body when growing up
  • A hard lesson you learnt about sexuality being holy/about character

I hope you’ve found this post helpful.  Feel free to share any comments, stories or experiences below.

Principle #3 As you walk along (teach your children godly sexuality part 13)

as you walk along copy
We have now seen that when teaching sexuality we should ensure that our answers walk the line between declaring it’s goodness and also it’s holiness.  The third principle looks at the how we communicate these truths.

The first problem we have is that in our culture we have absorbed what is called the Platonic divide.  That is that there is the important spiritual realm and the separate and less important physical realm.

In an earlier post or on this YouTube video we saw how this view had corrupted understanding of the value of our bodies and our sexuality.

However it also created the so-called sacred/secular divide in our worldview.  Sacred stuff such as meditation, prayer and going to church are important but everyday stuff such as paying bills and shopping is not.

We can therefore see church on Sunday as important and the rest of the week as mundane.

We can have our family “devotion” time and then the rest of our time is unspiritual.

Similarly we can end up having “the talk” about sex from a Christian point of view separate from everyday life.

However, this is not the Hebrew godly view of the world that has no divide (or if you prefer posh words it is holistic or theocentric).  This view is that God is intimately involved in everything.  He didn’t create the world, wind it up and then stand back to watch (except for the occasional special event).  For example:

“in [Jesus] all things hold together” Col 1:17b
“The Son is…sustaining all things by his powerful word” Heb 1:3
“My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.” Jn 5:17

It is not God’s involvement that can be limited, but only our awareness of it*.

For example, it was only when Moses was just tending sheep but when he met God there it became holy ground that he had to take his sandals off (Ex 3:1-5).

When Jacob ran away and feel asleep exhausted on a rock he encountered God through a dream and awoke saying “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.”  He renamed the place bethel which meanshouse of God and anointed the rock with oil (Gen 28:10-18).

Similarly any place or an event has the opportunity of becoming “holy” when we encounter God in it.  For us, one such moment was on the day we discovered that one of our babies had died.  This was the second of our babies to die and we were distraught.  More so, because the hospital was so uncompassionate.  My wife and I had decided to name our baby James and we drove in a darkened daze to a garden centre to buy a tree to plant in our garden so we could remember him.  We were directed by one of the staff to the apple trees to discover they only had one type of tree in stock.  Its name?  James Grieve.  The love and compassion of God crashed into our grief torn hearts and made it a holy moment that remains with us now 7 years later.

How does this relate to teaching our children?  Recall the passage in Deuteronomy where it says:

“Listen, Israel: The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! You must love the LORD your God with your whole mind, your whole being, and all your strength.  These words I am commanding you today must be kept in mind, and you must teach them to your children and speak of them as you sit in your house, as you walk along the road, as you lie down, and as you get up. You should tie them as a reminder on your forearm and fasten them as symbols on your forehead. Inscribe them on the doorframes of your houses and gates.” Dt 6:4-9

If we read this with a dualistic mindset we will think this means “teach our children the bible” wherever we go.  But if we understand that God is everywhere, that everything was made for Jesus (Col 1:16) and the heavens declare the glory of God” (Ps 19) then this will mean that everywhere we go the glory of God is there ready to be discovered and shared with our children.  Not as a lecture but as a beautiful celebration of the glory of God.

For example we might see a flower opening we could share with our children how that reminds us that we need to open ourselves up to the Son who shines His love on us and warms our hearts.

Specifically because we’re made in His image our sexuality reflects the glory of our Three-in-One God there is nothing else that can tell us so much about God!

So we won’t have “the talk” but lots of “talks” in the messiness of everyday life as it comes up.  Each time celebrating the glory of our God that is revealed.  Nothing heavy but just a conversation simply delighting in the way God made it good and holy.

More to come in the next post….

*I’m sure I got this phrase from a book – but I can’t remember which of the many books I’ve read!  If you know then please tell me via the comments and I’ll properly credit the author.  Thanks!

Principle #2: Holy (Teach your children godly sexuality part 12)

So far in this course we have looked at how two principles: our sexuality is both good and holy.  We’re now going to apply both of these principles to two of the four broad areas that arise with children aged 2-11:
  • Exploration/questions about their bodies
  • Questions about growing up/parents bodies
  • What does it mean to be male/female?
  • Where do babies come from?

For each of these areas I give some examples of common situations that arise.  For each scenario I have also included a fairly typical parental response.

First I would like you to see what message the typical parental response is giving and what the consequences of that response will be.  Then I would like you to come up with a response that both brings out the holiness of God’s creation whilst also positively affirming/blessing its goodness.

Let’s recap the example we looked at in a previous post:

For example:
Your son/daughter (age 4) has his/her hand down his pants/knickers and is gently playing with their genitals.

A typical parental response would be to say:
“What do you think you’re doing? Stop that at once – it’s disgusting!”

What is the message that this response is giving?
Well firstly the response forgets that this is a child who has no idea that what they’re doing has any “adult” sexual connotations.  It simply feels nice and comforting.  So the parent’s reaction will seem quite over the top to their child.  Coupled with this will be the message that either feeling nice is bad or my genitals are bad or both and is likely to lead to guilt or shame about their sexuality or sexual feelings.  In addition, it will make them unlikely to come to you if they have any questions or concerns in the future – which will lead them to seek answers elsewhere which may be inappropriate.

So what is a better response?
Firstly, we need to affirm that that God made our sexual organs pleasurable as a gift to us (however, this is not the full response – but you’ll have to wait until the next post before we can do that!) and then we need to point to the true meaning of the gift (ie its holiness).  So a response might start something like this (goodness in green and holiness in purple):

“I see that you’re touching your …”

“Does it feel nice?”

“Did you know that God made our … to feel nice?”

Yes it’s true.  Daddy God gave you this gift to share with your husband/wife when you grow up because it will help you experience the joy in Heaven when the world was made.

I hope this helps you see the kind of conversation we’re going for.  Honest, affirming its goodness and the true meaning.  More details on the how to communicate will be covered in the third principle that will be blogged in the next post.

OK, your turn now.  Here are some situations and a typical parental response.
Identify what message the current response gives and its consequence and then be.  Then I would like you to come up with a response that positively affirms the goodness of our sexuality and displays its holiness/true meaning.

Exploration/questions about their bodies

You catch your daughter flashing her knickers to the boys.

Current response: stop that at once! We don’t flash show our private parts to other people!

You catch your child taking clothes off with a friend

Current response: Put your clothes on!  God says you only take off your clothes with your wife!

Your child finishes a story with ‘Johnny was mucking around again at school. He’s such a dick!’

Current response: I never want to hear such filthy language again – go to your room!

Where do babies come from?
Your son aged 8 asks “But how does a baby get inside mummy?”

Current response: The man puts his willy inside mummy’s vagina.

The balance between the two principles of goodness and holiness is key.  Saying it’s good without mentioning holiness (like the world) will just lead to indulgence.  Saying it’s holy without mentioning its goodness (like the church has done but with a legalistic view of holiness) leads to shame.  Mentioning both is the secret to all our conversations with our children.In our next post we’ll look at the third principle of teaching our children godly sexuality: “As you walk along…” which covers the how in more detail.