Last week, Alfie Evans died after his life support was withdrawn by Alder Hey Children’s Hospital after a legal battle with his parents Tom Evans and Kate James.
Alfie had suffered seizures in December 2016 and has been on life support since then. Brain scans showed “catastrophic degradation of his brain tissue” and doctors at Alder Hey believed that further treatment was not only “futile” but also “unkind and inhumane”. His parents disagreed and thus the four month legal battle for the life of Alfie Evans began. The public nature of this battle through the high court, Court of Appeal, Supreme Court and European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) brought it to the attention of the world. Even Pope Francis weighed in and gave Italian citizenship to Alfie and hoped for immediate transfer to one of their hospitals which was denied by the courts as the ruling had been made by then. Unfortunately, because of the “flight risk” the courts then denied the parents the right to take Alfie home.
Who decides the life of Alfie Evans?
Social media has made this a battle between the evil State and the loving parents:
How dare the state overrule the wishes of the parents! Parents are granted the “inalienable natural right to protect the life of their children”. How dare they remove basics such as Oxygen and, for a time, water when these are not medical treatments but the essentials of life.
Then there are those who object to Mr Justice Hayden’s ruling that says that Alfie’s life was futile which riles the pro-life side that believes all life is sacred.
But yet this same State has overruled parents who denied their children blood transfusions (as they were Jehovah’s Witnesses) and has also overruled parents who wanted to take their children abroad to euthanasia centres.
Who gets decide the life of children?
Whether that be through cutting them short through euthanasia or artificially extending them through life support.
I won’t pretend this is easy and the closest my wife and I have come to this nightmare was with our baby Rachel. She was an ectopic pregnancy and when my wife was admitted to hospital in agony they discovered the cause and prepped her for immediate surgery to remove the “problem”. We were overruled as the hospital saw that continued pregnancy would kill my wife.
Who gets to live – my wife or my baby?
But as is often the case in life, we are presented with a false dichotomy and are forced to choose.
You see our children’s lives and indeed our own lives are not ours.
They are a loan from God.
We are accountable to God for all the days of our lives and our children’s lives and it is Him that we should seek counsel from.
Not the State and not ourselves.
Back to that hospital room where my wife and I were weeping over the hospital’s decision. We knew that her life was not ours to take. We called out to God, we begged Him to take Rachel before they did.
And in His graciousness we experienced His peace that was beyond anything we can describe and contrary to the anxiousness we had been experiencing just moments before. And in His mercy we found out afterwards that Rachel had burst the fallopian tube and was already dead before they operated.
And in His infinite love and care he sent an angel to visit my wife after the operation – but that’s a story for another time.
When facing these trials let us not get sucked into the world’s two choices and end up demanding our rights, but instead call out to the One from whom all life comes and to whom we are accountable.
Father, I ask for You to send your angels to encamp around Tom Evans and Kate James and their family. Give them Your peace that passes all understanding and help them to grieve well. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Some years ago, one of my daughters was a bit sweet on a boy who lived in our local neighbourhood. At first, I thought she was just going out to play with his sisters, but then I could see that she was openly flirting with the lad even though she was only about eight years old at the time.
Whenever she saw him, she would go outside and hang around. But it wasn’t until a chance observation that I realised this boy was treating my daughter appallingly. In addition to his nasty behaviour toward her, he was using her affection to get her to do whatever he wanted. I tried talking to her about the issue, but she just couldn’t see it.
Why lectures don’t work
In the West we pride ourselves on Greek logic and rational thinking. Christians in particular are caught up in this and so we teach truth via clear explanations and facts.
But it doesn’t work.
Be honest. How many sermons can you remember? How many lectures from your parents can you remember? In fact, how many of your university lectures can you remember?
If you do remember anything then I can pretty much guarantee it is because you remember a story or illustration or you remember how you felt.
You see information is great for the mind but it doesn’t engage the soul.
Facts are dry and don’t engage the heart 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 redemption story with their children.
For example, telling their children the story of Israel’s redemption through the Passover meal (Ex 12:24-27) or telling their children the story behind the memorial stones placed by the river Jordan (Josh 4:2-7). Indeed much of the Bible is written as narrative/story of God’s interaction with people and then Jesus primarily taught truth through parables.
Stories, unlike facts, draw us in and invite our participation whether they’re true or fictional.
A great example of this is the story of the Prodigal Son (Lk 10:25-37). What more needs to be added to the narrative that would help us understand the Father’s love? It perfectly carries the message as is.
You see parables aren’t merely illustrations for the message – they are the message.
It is imperative that we let the story do its job and don’t reduce it to a moral.
Those who tell the best stories will have the most power. Many criticised C S Lewis for “wasting time” writing the Narnia books. But history tells us the power these stories have had in shaping and inspiring people.
Facts and warnings weren’t reaching my daughter and so I needed something else that would communicate the danger of giving her affection to someone who was mistreating her.
So I made up a story called “The Princess and the Crocodile” where a princess who loves animals 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 she gets in a sticky situation…
This opened her eyes to the reality of her situation and now five years later, I’ve expanded the tale, and have released it as an ebook to help other parents teach their children to realise how precious their love is. It is my prayer that it will help children to only give their heart to those who will value it.
This is an abridged version of Kevin’s excellent teaching. The PDF of the full version is available to download here or you can download an mp3 of me reading it here or watch/listen to it on YouTube:
From Torment to Tormentor
What do you when you are a grown man and you have monsters coming out of the closet and things touching you in the middle of the night? Well that was my experience in the early nineties. You see, at that particular time in my life, God was introducing me to a gift called discerning of spirits. Needless to say, I did not enjoy this training period but God used it to teach me about the badge of authority we have in the name of Jesus that makes demons tremble. Eventually, it was me doing the harassing.
This all happened my single days. Then I found a good “thang” and we had children. One of them started showing signs of prophetic gifting very early and spoke of seeing things. It became apparent to me that I needed to train my children because I now knew that the monster in the closet was very real.
How to Convey the Idea
Jesus is Everyone’s Boss…Even Satan
First I taught my children that Jesus was like the Chief Police Officer. To really make this idea stick, I also told them that Jesus being a police officer meant that there were bad people who were breaking God’s laws. I them told them that these law breakers are spirits called demons. That really stuck with them and embedded Jesus in their minds as one with power to force bad things to do right.
You Are His Deputies
The next thing I did was teach them that as followers of Jesus Christ that we too are police officers. I then explained to them that as police officers we are also responsible for making sure the demons stay in line. To reinforce this idea I obtained three toy badges, one for each child. I then pinned it to them. Then I made them wear them around the house to solidify in their minds that they are indeed the ones in power over the demons.
I also used the substitute teacher to help them understand the concept of the deputy. I explained to them that the Bible says that Jesus went away to His Father to prepare a place for us, and as soon as He was ready He would come back for us. I then explained to them that in order for Him to leave He had to leave someone in charge to deal with the law breaking demons. I further explained to them that those people who were to take Jesus’ place is them…the Church. To make it plain for them I said, “When you go to school and the teacher is not there, who is in charge? They said, “The substitute!” Then I said, “So are you telling me that the substitute can assign homework? They said, “Yes.” Then I said, “Can they tell you what to do and send you to the office if you disobey them.” Again they said yes. Then I said, “So you agree that the teacher has given the substitute all of the same powers that he/she has.” Agreeing again, they said, “Yes.” Then I said, “That is what you are…Jesus’ substitute. And as such you can tell demons what to do and they will obey you.” I told them that the demons were not going to obey them per se, but they would respect the authority they have as a substitute. I ended saying, “That is what a deputy is, He is a substitute for the chief police officer.”
After teaching my children this lesson, demons decided it was time to test their understanding. Their goal is to try to steal the idea from our heart before it blossoms into understanding that we effectively use (Matt 13:19). So my children began to have different kinds of encounters. Now again, these encounters were not unique for my children. My oldest daughter was only 8 when she first reported to me that something was touching her in the night. She said, “Demon, leave me in Jesus name.” My daughter said that the touching stopped and to this day it has not happened again.
Bringing in Reinforcement
Modelling the Truth
Your children will have to see you walk out the truth in the same way that the disciples saw Jesus modelling His teaching for them. They saw Him cast out demons. They saw Him heal the sick. That’s why Jesus could give them power and send them out to do the work without Him being present.
Children do what children see! Why should they believe in the power of God that never seems available to you?
That means that you must be prepared to assist them in reinforcing their authority. One time all four of them were attacked with sickness. All four! So I went to each one of them and with confidence and calmness commanded the spirit to leave them and it did. As you can imagine, that was a confidence booster for them to see what they were taught come to life.
Now I can do this because I God has taught me some things that make this possible. If you want to know what He taught me you can hear the teaching yourself on my YouTube channel.
Restating the Truth
You are also going to find that some challenges are too big for their faith. The disciples also crossed paths with a boy that had a demon that did not respond to their authority or faith. But yet a few chapters before they were casting out demons with no problem. It is logical to assume that the resistance of the demon to their authority caused them to lose the faith they had earlier. Hence Jesus’ statement regarding them having “no faith.” When these moments occur take it as an opportunity to teach and model for them how to keep growing and going forward. I do a lot of reinforcing and restating the idea of authority in Christ.
If a farmer plants a seed and waters it but goes out the next day looking for a crop and becomes discouraged, we know s/he is impatient. A good farmer knows that it takes time, patience, and persistence to get a good crop. And let me tell you, as they get older, they will get tired of the reminder, but stay with it. My children roll their eyes sometimes but they also lay hands on each other when it is required.
Reinforcing What is Right
Lastly, you will need to reinforce standards of righteousness and stress the importance of holiness. I know that as Christians we are holy but Peter also reminded us to “be holy.” Paul also says, “be angry and do not sin, nor give place to the devil.” He seems to indicate that while sin has lost its power over the believer, it has not lost its appeal to the demonic. We must understand that there are some things that attract monsters to our closet.
Here is an example. My daughter is an incredible artist. One day her arts teacher gave her an assignment to draw a still life. So she chose to draw a Buddha statue. Nearly half of the way through the drawing she came down with a cold. I asked her if she had attempted to get rid of it. She said yes but it won’t go. So I prayed for her and it would not go. So I said, “Lord, what is going on here.” This developed into bronchitis. God reminded me of the passage “you should not create any graven images”. I thought, “Really, Lord. You are holding her accountable for an art assignment?” So I told her what it was and why it was there. At first she gave me that “here dad goes again” look, but she believed me. Anyway, afterwards we prayed together repenting and asking for forgiveness.
The next day the cough started to subside and a day later the mucus was completely gone; it had cleared up on its own. My daughter got to see first-hand the relationship between sin, demons, and sickness.
Teaching them About Spiritual Warfare
One morning I came into my daughter’s room and I noticed that just over her bed was a shadowy figure. Since I knew what it was I rebuked it, but I did wonder why it was there.
However, it would come back from time to time and I also started to notice that my daughter was referring to herself as “weird” and her view of herself began to deteriorate.
I needed to teach her the battlefield in her mind. To do so I used the last supper: In John 13 we see Satan’s mode of operation. First, he gave Judas an idea, “And supper being ended, the devil having already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray Him.” Then Judas’ acceptance of that idea gave Satan access to his life, “Now after the piece of bread, Satan entered him.” Jesus then speaks to Satan and tells him to do what you do quickly. Judas now yields to the will of Satan, “Having received the piece of bread, he (Satan through Judas) went out immediately.”
This shows my children the importance of guarding their thought life. Sometimes the negative voices are demons trying to gain access to their lives and bend them to its will.
Lastly, I teach them that Satan is a liar and that lies bind us but truth frees us. Lies are chains in the spirit and truth are keys in the spirit. Knowing this I speak truth against those lies that the enemy tries to sell my children. If you children suffer from low self-esteem that is affecting their behaviour, it is because there is a lie from hell that is giving the spirit access to your child. Find the lie and speak truth to it. It will break the spirit’s hold.
What They Really Need to Know
Sin opens the gate an allows evil to come in. That means that even though we know that God forgave and forgives us for sin, that does not mean that Satan respects those boundaries. He will see an open gate as an invitation to come in and bite you.
The blood of Christ is the legal right you have to freedom. Though sin may let Satan into our lives, repentance and the blood of Christ closes the gate and prohibits Satan from holding it again you.
Choose your battle and choose your weapons. Sometimes they will come up against things that they don’t have the faith for and getting in your bed is a good option!
Sin does not diminish your authority, only your faith can do that. A crooked police officer is still a police officer with authority. Similarly, sin does not give Satan authority over them – it is God who corrects them not Satan. This is important so they don’t live in fear of being trapped by a spirit claiming to have rights over them due to some area of their life that God is still working on.
Reinforce the role of the Holy Spirit as a helper. God has provided them with a team to help them win – they have the Spirit, angels and that all of heaven behind them.
Teach them the process. Satan gives them an idea; a lie. They believe the lie. The acceptance of that lie makes them bendable to Satan’s will.
Teach them the truth about what God says through His word about them. Understanding “the truth” about who they are, what they are created for, and their spiritual position. gives them resistance power.
Hopefully, this will article will lead to an improvement in your quality of life, quality of sleep, and the betterment of your relationship with God and your family.
This post will use the bad language that one of my children said.
The purpose is that you can experience the horror but still see how to respond in a godly way.
“I have to teach you a great new card game the boys taught me at my camp!” my eldest boy said excitedly at the dinner table, “It’s called cocksucker.”
Time stood still.
“I’m sorry?” I managed to splutter whilst chocking on a piece of potato.
“cocksucker” he said again.
Maybe my wife and I had misheard, “cobsucker?” I asked hopefully.
“No, COCKsucker,” he said again.
OK….he clearly means the very word we wished he had never mentioned to all of us.
Now the main problem with being a Christian parent is that we can all too easily react to the world’s darkness rather than acting from a Kingdom perspective. The light is so much more powerful than darkness – and so we don’t need to be afraid of what our children pick up. But we do need to turn on the light and help them see things in the light of truth.
I wanted to shout “how dare you use that filthy language in my house!”
Now whilst this would have vented my anger and satisfied my righteous indignation it wouldn’t have helped my son (or the rest of the children gathered round the table) what that word meant and why it was unsuitable. Nor would it have helped him make good choices in the future.
Instead he would have learnt to not share his excitement, to keep quiet about words he hears at school or (in this case) “Christian camp” and then go and seek answers elsewhere.
I want my children to come to me and ask me about what they pick up in the world so that I give (what I hope is) godly wisdom and advice. This means that I first have to become unshockable like Jesus.
Jesus often knew what people were up to (eg the woman at the well Jn 4:17-18 and Jesus anointed by the sinful woman Lk 7:39) and he hung out with tax collectors and sinners (Mt 9:10) and would have heard coarse language from these common people. Yet we don’t see any mention of him reacting or being shocked by sin. Why? Because sin is no threat to him – he is a threat to sin. He knew since the foundation of the world (Rev 13:8) that sin was a defeated enemy.
So I needed to have a calm and candid conversation with our son that went something like this: “cock is a slang word for a man’s penis. It’s used to describe how it’s not something precious made by God but something that is used to go anywhere and do anything just like a cockerel struts around and does what he wants. So you can see what cocksucker will mean. However, the phrase cocksucker us used to say that they will do want they want and you must suck it up – you must be their slave.”
My son went rather pale at this point when he realised how they had treated him.
“So I think they weren’t being very kind to you.”
My son received this information and was then able to make a wise choice about the word and to his credit he calls the game President instead.
Now in our case it was clear that he had no idea what the word meant. Sometimes a word might be said to see what reaction it gets or as deliberate defiance. The first time it occurs we need to have a conversation like the one above and then subsequent times it occurs we can take appropriate disciplinary action.
Good word bad word project
Walker Moore in his excellent parenting book “You want to pierce what?” (which was developed further in his “Rite of Passage Parenting”) talks about the “good word bad word” project he did with his sons. He got a big bit of paper and divided it into two columns – one for good words and the other for bad words. Each evening they would discuss words they had met at school that they were unsure about their meaning. He asked them not to repeat a word they’d heard at school until that point in the day he had told them the meaning and they could decide which column they would go in. If it was a bad word then they chose two good words to replace it and put them in the good word column.
In three years we had every swear word in the English language on the chart. Eventually we had no more words to add to the bad word column. It’s amazing the communication barriers that go down when you are writing down filthy words with your children. We also, however, wrote words that carried confusing meanings. We were able to talk about subjects like homosexuality and abortion before our children reached nine years of age! Opening up this kind of communication gave my children the knowledge that their parents would not over-react or be shocked at anything they wanted to discuss…without this project, my boys would have endured years of seeing Dad seethe with anger over words they heard at school, and the only lesson they they would have learned would have been, Don’t say the bad words in front of Dad. Instead they learned that there are things that are good and things that are bad, and they must developed the skills to know the difference.
These skills were then applied in other areas of their lives.
Firstly, let’s not be naive and think our children won’t encounter these words in their lives – we cannot shelter them from the world – indeed we are supposed to be in the world (but not of it) not separated from the world in a bubble. How can we be salt and light if we keep our salt and light separate.
Secondly, let’s not react to bad words – Jesus is more than able to save sinners and cleanse us from every wrong doing.
Thirdly, let’s train them – disciple them – and give them the tools they need to make great choices.
“Of course not!” I hear you say, “After all, every good and perfect gift is from above” (James 1:17).
Would you curse a gift that God has given your children?
Again I’m sure you would say no.
But the truth is, we often do.
Our bodies are gifts from God.
“Ah yes John, but sin has entered the world and brought sickness”
True, but I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about the correct functioning of our bodies as designed by God. Specifically I’m talking about periods and nocturnal emissions.
How often do ladies complain about their periods and say to their daughters: “You’re so lucky you haven’t got them yet!”
That is cursing our daughters. We are giving them a fear of becoming women. We are also telling them that God has made something horrible. That God is not good.
How often do us men say nothing to our sons about nocturnal emissions? How often do we leave them confused and feeling ashamed of this natural function?
We are cursing our sons. We are letting them think bad of something good. We are letting shame infect their sexuality – which causing them to either embrace shame as an identity or to reject their sexuality as horrible. Neither is blessing God’s gift to them.
We need to celebrate our children becoming women and men. We need to help them embrace God’s calling (which includes their bodies) for their lives.
But how can we do this?
As I have mentioned before the first principle* is to affirm the goodness of our bodies.
For my daughters I would have a conversation something like this:
“Would you put a new baby in a cot with dirty old sheets?”
To which my daughters would reply “Of course not!”
“Absolutely. We always give a new baby fresh clean sheets. In the same way, every month your body changes the sheets of your womb to get ready for a new baby. It throws away the old ones which come out of your ‘gina (our abbreviation for vagina) as a period.”
In addition, I want to mark their first period as a special moment in their life. And so we talk about when they have their first period daddy will take them out to a restaurant of their choice to celebrate. We often talk about this and discuss where they might go and what they might choose to eat. It creates such an anticipation in them and last week I had the pleasure of talking the second of my daughters out for her meal. She had such a blast and I have never seen anyone eat quite so much.
For my sons I would have a conversation something like this:
“Suppose you’ve got a brand new phone with GPS tracking to use on a mountain climb. Would you check that it works before you start your journey or would you just turn up and try it on the day?”
To which my son would (hopefully) reply “I’d check it.”
“Absolutely, checking it works is a good strategy to ensure that we don’t have problems on the day. In the same way, God has designed your body to check that your willy works for when you are married. When you’re sleeping it tests it out by making sperm and shooting it out. This means that you’ll wake up with sticky stuff in your pants but it’s a sign that your body is working well.”
In addition, I want to mark what could be a source of shame as a special moment in their life on their journey to becoming a man. However, my eldest son who likes food says he’d much prefer to go to a skate park to celebrate. So be it.
But as Christians we can go further than just celebrating our bodies as good. For we are made in God’s image and so our bodies are also holy. And this was the second principle.
You see everything was made to glorify God and so that means that our bodies tell us something about the nature of our God. The aspect I want to focus on here is how our bodies reflect the redemption story.
Jesus death has brought cleansing for our sins. Specifically it is His blood that cleanses us for “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Heb 9:22).
This is the first part of our new birth as Christians – we are forgiven and made holy so that we are a fit dwelling for the Holy Spirit.
This is the meaning of a woman’s period. The shedding of blood symbolises Christ’s blood being shed to bring forgiveness of our sins. In fact, the Hebrew word for female (nĕqebahH5347) comes from the root word meaning pierced (naqabH5344) and we know that Christ was pierced for our transgressions (Is 53:5).
Every month women are given a physical reminder of the cost of our redemption – which is easy to lose sight of in our sanitised world far removed from animal sacrifice or killing animals for food.
After the period is complete a Jewish woman would have their mikveh, a ritual bath as the rite of purification. This is our baptism by water symbolising our repentance and death to sin and our old way of life.
The second part of our new birth as Christians is that we are born again of the Spirit (Jn 3:3). Just like God breathed his breath = Spirit into Adam to give life to his mortal body, so too Christ’s Spirit is given to us to give us new life. We receive Christ’s imperishable seed† (1 Pet 1:23) we become Children of God (Jn 1:12-13; 1 Jn 3:1,9) and ultimately receive new imperishable bodies from that seed (1 Cor 15:38, 42,44).
This is the meaning of the man’s sperm. The Greek word Paul and Peter use for seed is sperma (G4690). The ejaculation is symbolising the new life that Christ gives us. And in the same way that children grow up in the image of their parents (Gen 5:3) by genetics and can’t do anything to change that, we grow up into the likeness of God through the fruit of this same spirit (Gal 5:22-23) – it is a fruit – a natural consequence of being his children. In fact, the Hebrew word for male (zakarH2145) comes from the root word meaning remember (zakarH2142). It can mean “to mark (so as to be recognised)” which would reflect the fact that the Spirit marks us out as Christians, but it can also mean “a call to remembrance” which isn’t just a mental ascent but a call to action – which is why it is used when referring to circumcision as well as man or God taking action when they remember something. This speaks of how faith without deeds is dead – we are called to live out our new life. We are called to like our true Heavenly Father‡.
In the same way that only together do male and female make up the complete image of God (Gen 1:27), only together do they symbolise the full story of our salvation.
Father, forgive us for the ways we have disparaged our bodies because we have lost sight of the true meaning. We renounce and break off any curse that we have put on our bodies or our children’s bodies. We bless our bodies in Jesus’ name and receive them as a good and holy gift from you. Help us to celebrate the gift of our bodies, let us cry out to you in praise for how they speak to us of the forgiveness and new life you offer us. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
*Click here to be taken to the overview of how to teach your children godly sexuality.
I was walking with my youngest son to the garage to pick up our car from its service when he asked:
“Dad, are willy’s rude?” “Not at all – God made them so they can’t be rude.” “But when I say willy at school I get told off. So they must be rude.”
I could see the logic. I also had to do some on the spot thinking….
“OK. What’s the coolest present you can imagine?”
He thought for a while and then replied “A minion’s pizza!”
I have no idea what that is – and frankly neither did he – but it combined two things that he loves together so it must be cool.
“So imagine one of your friends gives you a minion’s pizza and you throw it on the floor. And your friend says ‘That’s so rude!’” “So is a minion’s pizza rude?” “NO!!!!” “But they said it was. So it must be rude.” “It’s not rude” “Well why did they say it was then?” “Because I of what I did with it.” “Exactly. God made willys and so they’re not rude – but you can do rude things with them like talk about them in a bad way. So just like we treat a special cool gift like a minion’s pizza in a special way – we need to treat our special cool gift of willys in a special way too.”
This kind of conversation captures the two principles of teaching godly sexuality – we affirm it’s goodness and we affirm its holiness (and also here and here).
Just affirming one of these two would lead to disaster whether that be worldly hedonism or religious repression. So it’s important to express both.
I hope this conversation proves helpful – if you want to add your thoughts below then please do so – or if you want a godly answer to a question your child has asked then do also comment below.
The wife was only about 13 or 14 and was naïve and inexperienced.
She married a husband who was much older than her and was a manual labourer who only just managed to keep them off the bread line.
They were so poor they couldn’t even afford a goat that is the traditional celebration meal for their first child.
For most of their life they lived in a “dodgy” town which the rest of their country looked down upon. In addition, due to an incident they became social outcasts in their community.
This incident also nearly caused the whole marriage to be called off – in fact the husband had to be persuaded before he’d even consider going ahead.
So clearly the couple had weaknesses and lived in an area and environment that wasn’t brilliant for bringing up kids. Their parenting wasn’t much better.
They lost their eldest child and only noticed after a whole day! It took a further three days of searching before they found him!
In addition, they didn’t get their eldest child – in fact, they thought he had lost his mind and said as much in public and tried to take charge of him.
These two incidents show some serious weaknesses as parents and I question anyone who thought they were suitable for adoption. Yet this was the couple God entrusted with His beloved Son.
These were the imperfect parents who were raising His perfect Son.
And just like they messed up we are going to mess it up.
Now don’t get me wrong. This isn’t going to be one of those motivational posts that say “don’t worry about it – God has trusted you with your children so you must have what it takes and everything will be fine.” That would do you and your children a disservice.
We are going to mess up yet God still calls us to be parents. How do we move forward in such a contradiction?
For example, I regularly say “I’m sorry I messed up and lost my temper. Daddy God is so much more patient than your earthly daddy. Will you pray for me that God will make me more like Him.”
Similarly, when my children mess up, I forgive them and pray with them that the Father would transform them too – we are all on a journey together of being transformed from glory to glory.
Whilst saying sorry is helpful there are still consequences of our mistakes that a sorry can’t fix. But, we have a God who can redeem our mistakes. There are so many times I have prayed for my children as they slept that he would undo the damage of my mistakes and He has been so gracious. He delights in restoring all things and transforming them into the likeness of His perfect Son. Despite the illnesses, brokenness and dysfunctions my wife and I have walked through our children are becoming whole.
“The homemaker has the ultimate career. All other careers exist for one purpose only – and that is to support the ultimate career. ” CS Lewis
So when you mess up and the Accuser starts giving you grief don’t seek solace in platitudes – seek the forgiveness that is freely available through Jesus’ blood and the transforming power that is freely available for you and your children through our union with Him.
Father, thank you that there is grace. Thank you that everything we need is available in You. Give me my daily bread for parenting my children and forgive my sins as I forgive my children’s sins. For Yours is the power to transform situations and the glory that comes out of your redemption, for ever and ever. Amen.
If you want a light-hearted look at Mary and Joseph as parents I did a short skit on this:
When I started this blog I sought to share the revelation that God had been giving me on my journey to sexual wholeness and I wanted to help others on the journey and help parents communicate a godly view of sexuality to their children. I am so grateful for the many messages from readers who have benefited from my writings and my vulnerability. Thank you so much and I hope I can continue to bless you in 2017.
So in order from least to most views here are the top ten posts of the year:
As parents it’s easy to despair and think all is lost. This post spoke on the reality of our God who is able to redeem all things – not just so we are healed/fixed but so that the mistakes become sources of grace to others. (169 views)
This post was aimed at parents to help see that sometimes bad behaviour is actually an immature gifting that needs to be directed to its true purpose. However, many people found this post as a source of grace for them on the journey to maturity – whereas before they had berated themselves – they actually saw they were stamping on their giftings/callings. (1846 views)
God loves celebrations, festivals and feasts. In the Old Testament God proscribes seven annual feasts for the Israelites:
Day of Atonement
This is in addition to the New Moon feasts, Sabbath year feasts and Jubilee feasts. Indeed part of their tithe was a saving to celebrate these occasions (funny how Pastors don’t mention that part!). God loves celebrations as it’s a reminder of His goodness and faithfulness to us in the past and it’s a taster of the heavenly wedding banquet to come.
As Christians who are like our perfect Father, we should also be a people of celebration. However, Christmas has been taken by society and changed into a consumerist beast.
As a parent I want my children to experience a godly celebration but I don’t want them to get sucked into a selfish mindset and miss the grace that’s available to them.
Here are some ideas which I hope will bless you and your family and enable you to redeem this celebration and put Christ back into Christmas.
We never wanted to lie to our children about Santa as they may then think we were lying about other aspects of Christmas or Christianity. However, we also didn’t want them to miss out on this aspect. So how do we redeem this?
On Christmas Eve we read them the story about St Nicholas about how he gave his money to help the poor (here’s the Amazon link to the book we use but it’s out of print and the prices quoted are just silly). After reading about it we then do the same as St Nicholas. We put some money in envelopes†, one for each child and then ask the children to ask the Father to tell us which house number to deliver to and what message he would like to say. We then go out together and post them and run away giggling.
In addition, we still do stockings at home. Our children also get to pretend to be St Nicholas to us. So I give them the presents for my wife’s stocking and they get to wear a beard and put them in her stocking. She then goes into her room feigning surprise – “who has put presents in my stocking?” and the children giggle. We then repeat this but this time she gives them presents to put in my stocking.
We then tell them that we will return the favour when they are sleeping. “Will you wear the beard, daddy?” “Of course” I reply winking.
Who’s birthday is it?
It’s so easy in the excitement of giving and receiving presents that we forget whose birthday it actually is! So two things that we do to help. The first is that just like at any other birthday we have a cake and we sing happy birthday to Jesus.
As is normal on a birthday, we give presents and tell the recipient how much we love and appreciate him. But this time it is Christ’s birthday, so we “give gifts to the Lord!” After a time of prayer and praise, we take turns to bring our presents to Jesus. It may be a new song, a newly written poem, a personal Scripture, a drawing, painting, or performance of a new drama. One time a group got together and bought a table-tennis table for the rest of the community. They figured God would delight in seeing the enjoyment their brothers and sisters got from it! All of us choose the most personal way we can of expressing our great love for Jesus and our joy at being able to celebrate His birthday.
So typically the children make some craft or put on a show. I often write a song or poem and my wife creates something beautiful. It’s a great opportunity to ensure Jesus takes centre stage.
Personally I love the advent candle that has the names of Jesus on – that we burn at dinner and talk about. However I saw this picture and thought it was fab:
Alternatively, we just prepare a Christmas hamper for a local needy family and deliver it to the recipients. We have an excellent local charity called Besom, who allow us to actually deliver the hampers. This is so important as I want the children to experience the joy of giving and meeting people whom something we take for granted means so much.
I want to ensure that my children aren’t insulated from the world around them – they need to experience first hand those who have less to balance out media which shows those who have more and fuels the spirit of covetous. To quote one of them after a visit, “why don’t they have any carpet in their house daddy?” – such a precious question to talk about how much we have.
Waifs and strays
Usually we pick up those who are on their own and invite them to stay over Christmas Eve and share Christmas with us. Jesus’ birth brought in all sorts (shepherd’s renowned for their lies and Pagan astrologers) and Jesus himself was a refugee in Egypt. God is the friend of the widow, orphan and the foreigner (eg Dt 10:18) and so our celebrations should, just like in the OT, welcome those:
Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” (Lk 14:12-14)
Giving starts young
It’s easy to think that our children need to be older until they can give gifts – or that we buy it for them to give to their siblings. But to quote King David “I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.” (2 Sam 24:24).
We want our children to experience to cost and joy of giving. So they might make something or, a common idea in our family, is to give a token that says something they might do for the other. Such as one of their chores around the home (eg laying the table or washing up) or a game or treat that might do (eg take them to the park to play soccer or play a board game with them for 30 minutes).
We have a budget that we won’t exceed (if you’re interested it’s £10 for all of their stocking and £30 for all of their other gifts). For many years we spent a silly amount of money on stuff that didn’t really bring happiness. Once we brought in the budget it not only simplified this Festival and removed the covetousness, it also forced us to be creative and thoughtful with our budget (See the tokens idea above). We let our children know this budget – so when they ask for outrageous things we can simply say that it’s outside our budget but we can give you the £30 cash towards it and you can save up. This instils the concept of saving and working for reward. Though often the children realise that just having cash won’t be as much fun.
This last idea we’ve just started. Often our children would compile lists of what they want. But we have found that these are driven by fads, ads and wants. So we experimented with asking them not to make lists. This does two things. First it forces us to think and listen and ask ourselves what would bless them. It’s so easy to just throw money but not thought. Secondly, we get to help our children experience a taste of our heavenly Father who knows us intimately and gives us good gifts. They learn to trust that we love them and know them well enough to choose things that will match the way God has made them (eg one year I bought my eldest son some wood and nails as God has given him such a practical gifting – he then used this to make a skateboard ramp).
I hope that these ideas help you out – if you have any more ideas then please do share them in the comments below to bless other parents. May you experience God’s love during this season.
† We go for £50 in each envelope as we want people to experience a taster of the lavishness and the overwhelming grace available to us through Jesus and also so the children see that we give away to others more than we spend on each of them.
*Please note that I am an Amazon affiliate which means I receive a small commission if you buy a book after using my link. This helps me offset the costs of publishing. It doesn’t influence my recommendations of the books I recommend though.
A couple of weekends ago I took my son on a dads & lads weekend. Since the car journey was about 4 hours to get to the activity centre I brought some conversation starter questions with me.
One of them was “what is something I always say to you?”
His reply to me was eye-opening. Without hesitation he listed off “drink more, you look tired you should go to bed early tonight and get off your electronic devices”.
He spoke the uncomfortable truth. Now each of these are important to me and it would be so easy for me to justify my nagging:
A friend of mine got kidney stones and was in agony. He warned me to drink more to prevent the same happening to me.
At university I stayed up way too late which meant I was too tired to deal with life and as a consequence got into all sorts of problems.
I had an addiction to computer games which meant that in the early years of my marriage my wife was a computer widow.
Surely these are legitimate concerns. But the truth is my nagging doesn’t come out of wanting the best, it comes from a place of fear. I am concerned/worried/fearful (whatever I choose to call it) about their future and rather embarrassingly I realise that I haven’t taken these issues to God in prayer.
And so this is why this post has been delayed a week. Sure I could have written what we should all do without actually doing it – Christians have been doing this for centuries – but I thought I would actually taste and see that the LORD is good and then pass that on to you.
Whenever something threatens us or those we love we always have two choices. We deal with it in our own resources or we go to the place where change actually happens: on our knees (2 Cor 10:4-5).
If we choose the former and take control we will get stressed, we won’t be at peace because the truth is that we have no control over how the future will turn out. We’ll end up nagging our children (or worse) out of fear. This will do one of two things: they’ll think we’re over reacting and therefore ignore us and get their guidance from others (who may not have their best interests at heart) or they’ll become captives to fear too. Neither of these are what we want for our children.
Where do we go from here?
Firstly we need to be honest with ourselves and our Father about our fears. They need to be expressed to Him not to our children. We don’t need to play games with Him as He already knows what we need before we ask Him (Mt 6:8). So why pray at all if He already knows? Because by expressing our fears to Him we deepen intimacy. We open ourselves up to more of His presence in our lives and that’s when we start to experience His peace and transformation.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:6-7)
So why don’t we ask God for help? Or why do we ask for help but still try to keep control of the issue? Because fundamentally we doubt either His goodness or His power or both.
We don’t have to be anxious as He’s a good father who gives good gifts to his children (Mt 7:11). He isn’t frightened but laughs at the plans of His enemies (Ps 2:4). God created Adam and Eve even though Satan had rebelled and would seek to lead them astray. He wasn’t worried as Christ was slain before the foundation of the world (Rev 13:8). The solution was already available before the problem even arose! There is no contest between light and dark.
If you’re still struggling with seeing His goodness or power then in Philippians it says:
“Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy think about such things” (Phil 4:8)
Unplug the news and internet clickbait that feeds our fears. Read testimonies and plug into what God is doing around the world. As you do, then your hope will rise as you realise that He is good and He is on the throne and He can bring about transformation that you seek.
I’m not writing this as someone who just says these words. There are two times which stand out in my life where I experienced the “peace of God which passes all understanding”. The first was when I was friends with my wife-to-be. I was her teacher and she was my student. We had both knew from God that we were going to marry, but we also wanted to do things right. So we were waiting until she left school before we would date. We were open about this and went to the head of the sixth form to let them know. However, being careful one of my other students saw us in a car together. We were worried that they would assume that something sordid was going on and we were so fearful of what would happen despite us doing the right thing. I remember getting on our knees together and praying. My wife had a picture of angels surrounding us in protection and I felt that Psalm 34 was for us which was the same message:
I sought the LORD and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame. This poor man called and the LORD heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the LORD encamps those who fear him and he delivers them. (Ps 34:4-7)
The peace of God hit us like a wave. And the outcome? The student saw us both in the car but was somehow blinded so that they didn’t recognise my wife-to-be even though they knew her very well. Amen.
The second time was when my wife was rushed into hospital in excruciating pain. There they discovered that my wife had an ectopic pregnancy and were going to rush her into surgery. We were devastated. We didn’t want to have to choose whose life to take and we begged that God would receive Rachael before she went to surgery. We phoned our church for prayer and I remember in the midst of this maelstrom a peace descending on us – a calmness that we just couldn’t explain given what was happening around us.
The outcome? My wife had a visit from a kind doctor who said he had watched the surgery via the uplink and showed her images of Rachael who had burst the fallopian tube and had died. Though it was sad we were so grateful to God. When we asked to see this doctor again, no-one knew of him. When we asked if we could have maybe a photo from the uplink video we were told that there was no video taken. The Father in His infinite goodness sent my wife an angel to give her comfort and let us know that He had answered our desperate prayer.
I won’t pretend it was easy as we walked through our grieving process but I bought worship DVDs that we sat and watched with the volume up so our senses were filled with songs of Him. We sought out worship songs of lamentation so we had something to sing to Him in this time when we couldn’t sing many other songs. And He met us there over this time.
We’re nothing special. The same can happen for you so that you can experience a feast in the presence of our enemies (Ps 23:5). We can feast on His goodness and provision whilst our fears are looking on. God loves our children more than we do. He has better plans for them than we do.
So what happened with my son?
Since prayer I have found myself calmer inside. Even though I still have boundaries on the time he can spend on his devices I’ve found that it’s coming out of a place of peace and so I’m more flexible and kinder than I was when I was in total control*. I am operating now out of a place of faith that God has good for my son and am working in light of that rather than out of fear of the worst. It’s meant that our relationship has improved – there’s more fun – it’s weird that by giving up control I have found more freedom to love.
I’ve also been honest about my failing my son by not trusting God’s working in his life and asked him to pray for me if I start losing it again. Which he does. I don’t need to fear this as I’m not the boss, God is. And my job as a parent is always to point to the true Father than I am a mere shadow of.
May you experience the same freedom as you give your fears to Him. May you operate out of a place of peace as you trust that He has the ending already known even if the route is not the one we would have chosen. In Jesus’ precious name. Amen.
Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ But he refused saying ‘people will pretend to be your friends and take advantage of you and you’ll end up losing everything. Stay at home where you’ll be loved.’ The son did so, as he had no funds to go elsewhere but he always resented it and never learned the true depth of his father’s love for him.”
If you enjoyed this post, you may also like this one where I talk about God renewing all things.
*Please understand that this is not a blind faith that says everything is going to be ok and does nothing to bring about God’s holy will – we are co-workers with Christ we pray “your kingdom come, your will be done”. The difference is whether we are operating out of faith or fear, out of trust or control. And that makes a difference to whether we are parenting with grace and the spirit or law and the flesh.