Punishment, education or discipline (godly parenting)

discipline 2

Discipline has got a bad press.  It has become synonymous with punishment and punishment has become synonymous with abuse which society condemns.  It is no surprise that society has swung to the opposite end of the spectrum and is overly permissive, giving their children whatever they want thinking this is loving.  Christians have rightly seen the error of permissiveness but often just counter this by talking about discipline in terms of “firm but fair” punishments.

But no matter how fair the punishment is it’s still missing the point as it assumes that discipline is about punishment!

Discipline comes from the Latin word discipulus which means pupil, from which we got discipina which meant instruction and then the word disciple – a follower, a learner:

discipline
In fact it wasn’t until the thirteenth century that the word became associated with punishment and it was due to a perverted understanding of being a disciple – that the body was bad and so must be punished by scourging.

Principally parents are called to disciple their children in the same way that Jesus discipled the twelve and Paul discipled Timothy and others in the churches he established.

However, once we get this idea the next mistake we make is to confuse discipling primarily with instruction and knowledge.  That if we tell our children what to do, if we give them the right information then they will make the right choices*.  After all the “expert” in the world’s eyes is the one who has studied and got a PhD.

This idea is not Biblical it’s Greek.  It comes from Plato’s dualistic worldview that said the spiritual realm (which included the mind) was good, but the physical realm (which included the body) was bad.  This was one of the reasons why discipline ended up as self-flagellation because the ‘bad’ flesh had to be punished!

The Biblical/Hebraic worldview is holistic.  If you want to teach someone you show it.  Jesus didn’t just give the disciples teaching and knowledge.  The disciples lived with him they saw, for example, how he healed and then Jesus sent them out to do the same.

This is why repeatedly Christ said “follow me” not “listen to me”.

This is why we as parents should not be saying “do what I tell you” or “do as I say (not what I do)” but like Paul we should be saying “imitate me as I imitate Christ” (1 Cor 11:1 NKJV) and “for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel.  Therefore I urge you to imitate me” (1 Cor 4:15b-16).

During a prayer time when I was despairing about one of my children I felt God say “be the change you want to see”.  So like Jesus and like Paul I need to live my life openly in front of my children.  I need to model the life that I want them to emulate because God has designed us for discipleship – for copying others.

For example, I want them to learn how to depend on God so I need to show them my dependency on God.  This is why I don’t use a satnav even though I am hopeless at directions.  It puts me in a position where the children see me calling out to God for help in finding the way.  It puts me in the place where I need others to help with map reading.  It puts in a place where I’m on the edge and have to depend on the Spirit to not get frustrated and call for help and if I mess up then my children will see me apologise to whomever is helping. A comfortable life will never come close to modelling this.

* How many times have parents read “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” (Prov 22:6) and thought this is principally about teaching them the bible and sending them to Sunday school.

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.

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 #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.

Principle #1: Good (Teach your children godly sexuality part 7)

Godly sexuality

Now we’re going to apply the theory of God’s goodness of our sexuality to three 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 positively affirms/blesses God’s good creation.

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 meaning of the gift.  So a response might start something like this:

“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, affirm it’s goodness and the reason for that – but notice we’ve also put it in the right context: marriage.  This last part will be covered in the next post when we talk about the second principle: the holiness of our sexuality.  And more details on the how will be covered in the third principle that will be blogged later.

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.

Questions about growing up/parents bodies
Your daughter comes into the bathroom whilst you (mum) are dealing with a period. The daughter sees the blood on the tissue and says “have you cut yourself mummy?”

Current response: get out! this is private!

One of your children comes in whilst you’re having a shower and asks “will I get hair on my body when I get older?”

Current response: You shouldn’t be looking – get out!

What does it mean to be male/female?
One of children (age 3) states proudly “Daddy, boys have ‘willys’ and girls have ‘ginas’*”

Current response: we don’t talk about other people’s body parts!

*At some point you’ll have to decide what to name to give to your children for their genetalia.  In our household we used ‘gina’ as a nice form of vagina.

Exploration/questions about their bodies
Your son exclaims “Look dad! When I pull back my skin on my willy there’s a purple bit!”
Your daughter exclaims “Look dad! I’ve got a willy too!” when she opens up her parts and reveals her clitoris…

Current response: Stop that! It’s dirty!

I hope this has been a useful exercise to see that if we only mention sexuality in a negative way then we assign negative value, ie  a curse to what God has created and deemed very good.  Secondly, we not only stop cursing of the goodness of sexuality but actively replacing it with blessing, as just saying nothing speaks volumes and can allow the seeds of doubt about its goodness to be planted– just as if a parent never said “I love you” despite their loving actions.

Principle #1: Good (Teach your children godly sexuality part 6)

Godly sexualityIn our previous post we saw that our sexuality is good because it reflects the:

  • community of the Trinity
  • oneness of the Trinity
  • love of the Trinity
  • delight & joy in the Trinity
  • joy of the Trinity in Creation
  • ultimate ecstasy of our union with Christ

So we need to communicate the goodness of our bodies and our sexuality to our children.  We need to affirm and bless in our children what God blessed in creation.
But the truth is we might not know its goodness – intellectually we can see what I’ve said is true but we don’t feel comfortable – we don’t know the “without shame” (Gen 2:25).

We live in a fallen world – when Adam and Eve disobeyed God they broke fellowship with God – and so history is man trying to replace that gap, that pleasure with something else and so see sexuality as god.

But fellowship was also broken with each other – they lost that sense of unconditional love – and so hurt/rejection can lead to us to see our sexuality as gross.

And your parents will have been affected and then passed on their beliefs to you.  Those around you at school, work or church will have also assigned a value to sexuality which may have influenced you. And finally any sexual experiences you may have had will also affect your core beliefs.

So before we look at how to apply the first principle to situations with our children we’re going to spend a little time reflecting on the inheritance we were given and asking the Holy Spirit to highlight the lies that you have believed about His good gift.  This is important because as we mentioned in a previous post: it’s hard to pass on wholeness if you’re not whole yourself.

Did you see your parents celebrate the goodness of God’s gift with each other?

Positive – on a rating of 1-10 how positive were your parents’ responses to your sexuality?

How did that make you feel about your sexuality?

Satan is the “father of lies” (Jn 8:44) who seeks to “steal and kill and destroy” (Jn 10:10).
Ask the Holy Spirit to highlight specific occasions where you believed a lie.

We need to replace lies with truth so that we can be transformed (Rom 12:2) and that truth will set us free (Jn 8:32).  Ask Jesus, the truth, to speak the truth about His good gift in each of these situations.

How have these lies affected your marriage and your response to your children’s sexuality?

Ask the Father to restore what has been lost and make it new (Isa 61).

My prayer for you is that our glorious God meets with you and bring you healing and transformation.  After this it important to maintain and walk in the freedom you have received and how we act flows out of what we believe (“For as he thinks in his heart so is he” Prov 7:23a NKJV). One way to help you replace core beliefs is to write down the truths that you have learned and declare them aloud as faith comes by hearing the word of God (Rom 10:17).  In the same way when Jesus was being attacked about his identity (“if you are the Son of God”) he quoted scripture out loud (Mat 4:3, 6).
If you need further help then I do recommend a Sozo, or Restoring the Foundations, or Freedom in Christ as helpful ministries.

Feel free to comment below or if you prefer to ask something privately then do contact us via our website.

Next time we will start applying the truths we have learned about our sexuality to common scenarios faced when parenting.

Principle #1: Good (Teach your children godly sexuality part 5)

Godly sexualityIn the previous three posts we talked about how we can establish firm foundations in your heart, in your marriage and with your children. We are now ready to move onto the four principles of how we communicate godly sexuality to our children.

Our first principle is that God created our sexuality and declared it to be very good.

So why is it good?  Let’s take a look in Genesis:

So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” … God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.
(Gen 1:27-28, 31a NIV)

First we see that our sexuality (“male and female”) and sexual intimacy (“be fruitful and increase in number”) were created before the fall and therefore they were made pure, unspoilt and therefore good.

Is that the only reason it’s good?  Well we know that everything was made through Him [Jesus] and for Him (Col 1:16).  Creation is an extravagant love gift to Jesus from the Father and so it is good because the Father only gives good gifts (Lk 11:13; Jas 1:17).

But in addition we see that:

For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.  (Rom 1:20a)

So God’s divine nature is made known through creation or as David says “The heavens declare the glory of God…” (Ps 19:1).  Hence Creation is good because it brings glory to God as it speaks of how amazing He is.

But unlike the animals who were simply called into existence by God’s spoken word, all of our bodies were personally formed by His hands (the word “formed” in Gen 2:7 is used of a potter with clay). and declared “very good”

So why do our bodies, our sexuality and our sexual intimacy give Him such pleasure and glory?  Because unlike animals we’re made in His image and so our sexuality is theographic (not pornographic) as it reflects the glory of our Trinitarian God.

Let’s look at six ways how…

Firstly our sexuality reflects the community of the Trinity.

Since God is a community of Father, Son and Spirit and we are made in his image (Gen 1:27) this is why God said “It is not good for the man to be alone” (Gen 2:18a) and He says “I will make a helper suitable for him.” (Gen 2:18b).  Like man but not like man  – male and female in His image (Gen 1:27).

But we are not only male and female as God “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life” (Gen 2:7) and God’s breath represents the Holy Spirit (eg Job 33:4; Jn 20:22) .

So we are also a trinity (male, female and Spirit) like the God we image* .

Secondly our sexuality reflects the oneness and intimacy of the Trinity.

Jesus prayed  for us “that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you…that they may be one as we are one” (Jn 17:21-22; see also Jn 14:10; 17:11) .

So there is unity, oneness and intimacy in the Godhead.  Since we are made in the image of God, man was first made one (Gen 2:7) and then from that oneness man was made two (Gen 2:21-22) but designed to become “one flesh” again (Gen 2:24; Mt 19:6a):

Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh. Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame. (Gen 2:22-25 NIV emphasis mine)

And hence Adam wants to re-unite with the missing part of himself that the women embodies and become whole and completely himself and be the full image of God.

We’ll talk about this much more when we look at the second principle.

Thirdly, our sexuality reflects the love of the Trinity.

In Jn 17:24 we see that the Father (the lover) has been eternally loving the Son (the beloved) by the Spirit (eg Rom 15:30) and so John declares that “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (1 Jn 4:8).  So we are created as lovers in the image of God.  Adam (the lover) was made to love Eve (the beloved) by the Spirit.

Again we’ll talk about this much more when we look at the second principle.

Fourthly, our sexuality reflects the delight and joy found in the Trinity.

God made our sexuality and intimacy to be pleasurable as it reflects the delight and pleasure experienced within the Trinity† .

In fact the bible is the story of three marriage celebrations: Adam & Eve at the beginning, the marriage supper of the Lamb at the end and the marriage song of Solomon in the middle:

Your breasts are like two fawns, like twin fawns of a gazelle that browse among the lilies. … Your lips drop sweetness as the honeycomb, my bride; milk and honey are under your tongue. The fragrance of your garments is like the fragrance of Lebanon. You are a garden locked up, my sister, my bride; you are a spring enclosed, a sealed fountain. Your plants are an orchard of pomegranates with choice fruits, with henna and nard, nard and saffron, calamus and cinnamon, with every kind of incense tree, with myrrh and aloes and all the finest spices. You are a garden fountain, a well of flowing water streaming down from Lebanon.
She: Awake, north wind, and come, south wind! Blow on my garden, that its fragrance may spread everywhere. Let my beloved come into his garden and taste its choice fruits.
(Sgs 4:5, 11-16 NIV)

Here we see them celebrate and enjoy God’s good gift without shame.  This is the way God made it and He is pleased when His children enjoy His good gifts: “For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving” (1 Tim 4:4).

Fifthly, our sexuality also reflects the joy of the Trinity in creation.

Our Three-in-One God was complete and needed nothing but he chose to create life out of love for His Son (eg Col 1:16) to share that love, and that creation was a joy and delight.  We can see this in the angels shouting for joy (Job 38:7b) during creation.  This joy and delight was also experienced in the Trinity, for example Jesus personified by wisdom at the Father’s side in Proverbs:

Then I was constantly at his side.
I was filled with delight day after day,
rejoicing always in his presence, rejoicing in his whole world
and delighting in mankind.
(Prov 8:30-31)

Since we are made in his image – a husband and wife are complete but they too desire to have children to love.  And we mirror the joy and delight in the Trinity by creating life out of our sexual intimacy.

Finally, our sexuality reflects the ultimate ecstasy of our union with Christ

Jesus is “the Desire of all nations” (Hag 2:7 NKJV) and the pleasure of our marriage consummation is meant to be a shadow of our ultimate ecstatic union with Christ:

Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting:
 “Hallelujah!
  For our Lord God Almighty reigns.
 Let us rejoice and be glad
  and give him glory!
 For the wedding of the Lamb has come,
  and his bride has made herself ready”
(Rev 19:6-7)

Then Christ and the church will become “one flesh” (See Eph 5:31-32)‡ and our souls will be satisfied as with the richest of foods (Ps 63:5).

We will not find ultimate satisfaction in our spouse (or any other part of creation) as it is only in Jesus that we will find the end to all our deepest longings.  Amen.

* Note that the number three is also the Hebrew number of completeness.  You can see this in the Hebrew language which doesn’t have a word for more or most.  So if something was more holy you would say “holy, holy” and if it was the most holy you would say “holy, holy, holy”.  Saying it three times indicates the entirety of something.  I don’t think it’s any coincidence that this ties in with the Trinity.

†  If you’re anything like me you might struggle with this point.  God having fun – surely He’s sombre and only interested in serious things?  But we see this joy and delight throughout the bible.  God ordains celebratory feasts in His law.  David speaks of joy and pleasures at God’s righthand (Ps 16:11),  God rejoices over us (Is 62:5 or Zeph 3:17b), Jesus was accused of being a glutton and a drunkard (Lk 7:34) and was full of joy (Lk 10:21) and wants to give us life to the full (Jn 10:10) and faced the cross for the joy set before him (Heb 12:2).  The fruit of the spirit is joy (Gal 5:22), the Kingdom of heaven is righteous, peace and joy (Rom 14:17) and when Jesus returns its a wedding feast (Rev 19:7).  And in creation we just see the duck-billed platypus and we know.  And we in His image are gifted with a sense of humour.  

‡ If anyone asks you “what is heaven like?” the theologically correct answer is “better than sex”.  I recommend the excellent book “Fill these hearts” by Christopher West.  This whole area will become the subject of our future “Godly Desire” blog.