Take a look at some great counseling resources from 2012.
As I write this article, our nation has just experienced the tragedy which took place on December 14 in Newtown, Connecticut. Like many of you, I watched the news unfold and was heartbroken as reports came in of the horror which these beautiful children and their teachers endured. As a husband of a teacher and a father of a child of this age, my heart grieved for the family, spouses, parents and siblings who now are left to make sense of the senseless.
I was blessed that my son’s (Eli) teacher took the time to talk to her students about what happened and make herself available to answer any questions the children may have had. I had sought over the weekend to shield my children from the media surrounding the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary, thinking that, in some way, I would be doing them a service. However, the more that I thought of it, the more I realized that what was needed was for me to discuss with my child concerning why such terrible things happen. Such a conversation will be difficult, but necessary in order for your child to have a healthy view of God, sin, evil and the coming salvation.
When discussing the reality of sin and evil in our world with our children, we must keep in mind several things:
1. Let your children lead the discussion.
We parents love to plan. We plan activities, vacations and sometimes even conversations. In this discussion, allow the children to lead what you talk about by letting them ask questions. What I have discovered is that it’s best to let my kids ask what they want to know and avoid pushing them into more information that they may not want or even be ready for. Your kids may want to know why God allows bad things to happen, but this may not be the time for an in-depth discussion on the results of the fall and original or inherited sin. Use wisdom in discerning the age-appropriateness of your content and give them the freedom to ask.
2. Don’t be afraid of not having all the answers.
More than your wisdom, your children will appreciate your authenticity. We often feel that if we as parents are unable to answer each of their questions, then the Christian faith will somehow look silly to them and that they may begin to reject the God of the Bible altogether. However, the genuine parent who expresses his or her lack of understanding in such a deep matter communicates to the child a greater understanding of faith. Faith is not having all the right answers to every question, rather, it is about trusting and abandoning your limited understanding to One greater than you can even think (Isa. 55:8-9). Make sure to communicate to your child that while we may not have the answer, God, whose mind is infinite and unlimited, certainly does. Our job in these situations of uncertainty is simply to trust Him.
3. Highlight the gospel.
Above all else in these discussions, take your child down the road that leads to Christ ultimately fixing all that is broken in this life. I remember having this type of conversation with Eli when Jill’s mother, Linda, passed away suddenly from an aggressive form of brain cancer. Innocently, he asked how it was possible for Grandma to be with Jesus in heaven when we had just buried her. God, in His grace, allowed me to take this question and point it back to the fulfillment of the gospel. “Buddy,” I said, “Because Grandma believed in and loved Jesus, she is in heaven with Him right now. And when Jesus comes back, Grandma will get her body back and she’ll be beautiful and healthy again.” This response led to some great discussions on how this will happen and opened up my son’s eyes to a wonderful Jesus and big gospel.
There are certainly more tips you could add to this list but what I wanted to do was to get you thinking about how to have these types of conversations with your children. In our hearts, we all hope that we can shield our children from the pain and evil of this world, but sadly, this is impossible. All we can do is be ready with the truths of God’s word and the genuineness of our hearts so that our children may also run and cling to the One who has endured ultimate evil and suffering so that someday, the pain and evil of this life could be seen as only temporary (2 Cor. 4:16-18).
I enjoyed the following video from The Gospel Coalition on two levels. For starters, I appreciate the candor of these three men in relating their own mistakes. I never want to take myself to seriously since I am completely fallible.
Second, I myself have brought some doozies to the pulpit and feel relieved that I am not alone.
How about you? What preaching / teaching goofs have you offered up lately?
Tucked away in the third chapter of Genesis is the reason. Take a look at it.
Did you see what I see?
You might be reading this and thinking: “Isn’t this chapter about the fall of humanity into rebellion and sin? How is this about Christmas?”
Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made.
He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.
And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
The LORD God said to the serpent,
“Because you have done this,
cursed are you above all livestock
and above all beasts of the field;
on your belly you shall go,
and dust you shall eat
all the days of your life.
I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel (Genesis 3:1-15 ESV, bold mine).”
Did you see it that time?
In the midst of the judgment of God to the serpent, He makes a promise to the man and the woman that what they have done will be undone by one of their offspring. Someday, they are told, that this offspring will destroy that power of the enemy and fix everything that they ruined because of their sin and rebellion.
The promise of Genesis 3:15 is what makes Genesis 4 so tragic. Take a look for yourself: Adam and Eve have a son they name Cain which means “gotten.” Eve celebrates as she names her firstborn son, seeing in him a fulfillment of God’s promise to fix their self-induced exile from paradise. Furthermore, the birth of Abel brings more rejoicing in that now there are two options for the promise to come to pass.
You know the rest of the story: Cain kills Abel. “Option One” removes “Option Two” from the equation, thus eliminating all hope for repair. Joy dissipates as the reality of their failure sets in once again. However, hope returns at the birth of their third son, Seth (Gen. 3:25) and the promise has a chance at fulfillment again.
Fast forward into history a bit from this point and you’ll see the fulfillment of this promise. A peasant couple from the backwoods town of Nazareth travel to the small village Bethlehem to participate in the government-forced census for the entire Roman kingdom. They are weary from travel and stressed about making this journey.
Oh, I almost forgot. The woman is pregnant and ready to go into labor at any moment.
You know how this story goes…
No rooms available.
Space in a cave where animals are kept.
As much as we have heard and even told this story, we seem to think that this is the beginning of the gospel. The truth is that not only is this NOT the beginning, it’s not even the end.
It’s just the middle.
The story of the birth of Jesus is the middle of the gospel. Granted, without it we have no life, death and resurrection of Jesus which makes salvation possible. Nevertheless, the gospel does not begin nor does it end with His birth. The Christmas story finds its root in the promised offspring of the woman who was to come and fix all that the first man ruined by his rebellion. The apostle Paul understood this when he wrote some 50 years after the birth of Jesus:
Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous (Rom. 5:18-19, ESV).
Did you see that?
…many will be made righteous.
Through our faith in Christ, we are declared righteous, but not yet made righteous.
That’s what Paul means in Romans 5:1 when he says that we have been “justified by faith”. To justify means to declare a verdict of “not guilty” even though all the evidence leads to the contrary. So you see, we are declared righteous by faith in Christ with the future hope of being made righteous at His return (1 Cor. 15:53-57; Rom. 8:23).
This Christmas, let’s remember in the midst of the hustle and stress of shopping and get-togethers that the reason for it all is God being true to His promise so long ago before Jesus’ birth. He would send a Savior to fix all that the first couple ruined. He has come to declare righteous the guilty and to justify the ungodly (Rom. 4:5).
And in this, rejoice this Christmas.