Shared by permission from Focus on the Family. Authored by Max Lucado.
I don't care how tough you are. You may be a Navy Seal who specializes in high altitude skydiving behind enemy lines. You might spend each day making million-dollar, split-second stock market decisions. Doesn't matter. Every parent melts the moment he or she feels the full force of parenthood.
The semitruck of parenting comes loaded with fears. We fear failing the child, forgetting the child. Will we have enough money? Enough answers? Enough diapers? Vaccinations. Education. Homework. Homecoming. It's enough to keep a parent awake at night.
Fear distilleries concoct a high-octane brew for parents, a primal, gut-wrenching, pulse-stilling dose. Whether Mom and Dad keep vigil outside a neonatal unit, make weekly visits to a juvenile prison or hear the crunch of a bike and cry of a child in the driveway, their reaction is the same: "I've got to do something." No parent can sit still while his child suffers.
"Now when Jesus returned, a crowd welcomed him, for they were all expecting him. Then a man named Jairus, a ruler of the synagogue, came and fell at Jesus' feet, pleading with him to come to his house because his only daughter, a girl of about twelve, was dying" (Luke 8:40-42).
Jairus was a Capernaum community leader, a synagogue ruler. Mayor, bishop and ombudsman, all in one. The kind of man a city would send to welcome a celebrity. But when Jairus approached Jesus on the Galilean shoreline, he wasn't representing his village; he was pleading on behalf of his child.
Giving our kids to God
Jairus isn't the only parent to run onto Gospel pages on behalf of a child.
The Canaanite mother. The father of the epileptic boy. Jairus. These three parents form an unwitting New Testament society: struggling parents of stricken children. They held the end of their rope in one hand and reached toward Christ with the other. In each case, Jesus responded. Deliberately. Quickly. Decisively.
Note to all panicking parents: Jesus never turned one away. In the story of Jairus, Jesus made the father's prayer his top priority. He heeded the concern in the parent's heart.
He will do the same for ours. After all, our kids were His kids first. "Don't you see that children are God's best gift? The fruit of the womb his generous legacy?" (Psalm 127:3, The Message, a paraphrase). When you look at your children, you look at God's most generous endowment. They upstage any divine grace He gives. Before they were yours, they were His. Even as they are yours, they are still His.
We tend to forget this fact, regarding our children as "our" children, as though we have the final say in their health and welfare. We don't. All people are God's people, including the small people who sit at our tables. Wise are the parents who regularly give their children back to God.
Parents, we can do this. We can be loyal advocates, stubborn intercessors. We can take our parenting fears to Christ. In fact, if we don't, we'll take our fears out on our kids. Fear turns some parents into paranoid prison guards who monitor every minute, check the background of every friend. They stifle growth and communicate distrust. A family with no breathing room suffocates a child.
On the other hand, fear can create permissive parents. For fear that their child will feel too confined or fenced in, they lower all boundaries. High on hugs and low on discipline. They don't realize that appropriate discipline is an expression of love. Permissive parents. Paranoid parents. How can we avoid the extremes? We pray.
Prayer is the saucer into which parental fears are poured to cool. Jesus says so little about parenting — no comments about spanking, breastfeeding, sibling rivalry or schooling. Yet His actions speak volumes about prayer. Each time a parent prays, Christ responds. His big message to moms and dads? Bring your children to Me. Raise them in a greenhouse of prayer.
When you send them off for the day, do so with a blessing. When you tell them goodnight, cover them in prayer. Pray that your children have a profound sense of place in this world and a heavenly place in the next.
Parents, we can't protect children from every threat in life, but we can take them to the Source of life. We can entrust our kids to Christ. Even then, however, our shoreline appeals might be followed by a difficult choice.
How Jesus Responds
As Jairus led Jesus through the crowded streets, "someone came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue ruler. 'Your daughter is dead,' he said. 'Don't bother the teacher any more.' Hearing this, Jesus said to Jairus, 'Don't be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed' " (Luke 8:49-50).
The hard reality of parenting reads something like this: You can do your best and still stand where Jairus stood. We need to know what Jesus will do when we entrust our kids to Him.
He unites the household. Jesus includes the mother. Up until this point, she has been, for whatever reason, out of the picture. But here, Christ unites them. He wants Mom and Dad to stand together in the struggle.
And He banishes unbelief: "Now all wept and mourned for her; but He said 'Do not weep; she is not dead, but sleeping.' And they ridiculed Him, knowing that she was dead. But He put them all outside" (Luke 8:52-54, NKJV).
God has a heart for hurting parents. Should we be surprised? After all, God himself is a father. What parental emotion has He not felt? Do you find yourself wanting to spare your child from all the hurt in the world? God did. And yet, He "did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all — how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?" (Romans 8:32).
"All things" must include courage and hope.
Some of you find the story of Jairus difficult to hear. You prayed the same prayer he did; yet, you found yourself in a cemetery facing every parent's darkest night. What hope does the story of Jairus offer to you? Jesus resurrected his child; why didn't He save yours?
God understands your question. He buried a child, too. Death wasn't a part of His plan, and He hates it more than you do. God resurrected His precious one and will do the same with yours. Your child may not be in your arms, but your child is safely in His.
Others of you have been standing where Jairus stood for a long time. You've long since left the water's edge of offered prayer, yet haven't arrived at the household of answered prayer. At times you've felt like a breakthrough was nearing, that Christ was following you to your house. But you're not so sure anymore. You find yourself alone on the path, wondering if Christ has forgotten you and your child.
He hasn't. He never dismisses a parent's prayer. Keep giving your child to God, and in the right time and the right way, God will give your child back to you.
Article has been posted by permission from Focus on the Family.
One of my family's favorite Christmas traditions is setting up the manger scene, which has been in my family for generations. My niece Allie eagerly helps us arrange the different pieces. She studies the placement of every angel and shepherd.
Allie loves to ask questions, and our manger scene usually prompts a few. "Did Jesus get cold?" she will ask. "Did Mary have a blanket to cover Him, or were the swaddling clothes warm enough?" One Christmas, my niece asked a more profound question: "Uncle Alex, why did baby Jesus come?"
"That's a great question, Allie," I said. "A very important one." My mind began cycling through the different possible responses. He came to fulfill prophecy. To display the power of God, yet identify with humanity. To conquer death, defeat Satan and demonstrate that He loves us all.
But before I could answer, Allie asked another question, one that paved the way for the best answer to her first one: "Why did Jesus have to die on the Cross?"
Why did Jesus come? Why did He die? I've always loved the inquisitive minds of children, but my niece asking these questions at the same time presented an interesting mix of innocence and insight. Those two questions really are inseparable. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came to earth to die. And when we help our children understand the reasons behind this mission, Christmas becomes all the more meaningful.
The bigger Christmas story
Every Christmas, families around the world read the story of Christ's birth found in the Gospel of Luke. It's a great tradition, but it's important that we help our children understand the backstory to the events in Luke 2. The full Christmas story begins thousands of years earlier in the Garden of Eden, with the temptation and fall of the first two human beings.
In Genesis 2:16-17, God gave Adam a single command: "You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die." We soon learn that Adam and Eve, deceived by the Serpent, did eat the forbidden fruit, and God evicted them from the garden. While Adam and Eve did not keel over dead that instant, God told them that physical degradation and death had now become part of the human experience.
By disobeying God, Adam and Eve brought sin into our world. And as a result, a sin nature — or a bent toward evil — was passed on to the rest of humanity. Every human being — from Adam to all of us — is hardwired to follow his or her own will instead of God's.
We are all part of the Fall
Do your children recognize that they share in this sin nature, that they have their own bent toward evil? I think many children (and probably many adults) think of sin and evil as terms that describe someone like Hitler, a drug dealer or their Uncle Leroy who divorced six wives. Help your children recognize that their personal sin nature is not measured against the evils they see on television or in history books, but against the perfect goodness of the Creator. Not one of us matches His righteousness.
God defines sin as selfishness, anger, untruthfulness, and so on. These "minor" sins are as incompatible with His glory and presence as the things that most of us would say are "major" sins, such as murder, robbery, adultery. And when we choose to sin — when we choose our way instead of God's way — we face the same consequences as Adam and Eve: physical and spiritual death and an eternal separation from God.
Our job as parents is to help our kids recognize the simple truth of Romans 3:23: "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." When your children begin to recognize their own sin nature, that they themselves fall short of God's glory when they disobey or speak with disrespect or don't tell the truth, then the need for God's grace through Jesus becomes more apparent.
Younger children may need a concrete example of how much higher God's standard for righteousness and purity is than ours. One way to illustrate this is with a cup of sugar. Show your children the sugar as you measure it out, and then pour it into a bowl. Let them dip their fingers in the sugar and taste it. Now add a tiny pinch of salt. Mix it in and let your children taste again. The amount of salt won't affect what they taste, but they still know it's not pure sugar anymore. Explain that, like the salt, our sins — even "tiny" ones that don't seem to be that big a deal — may not be detectible to us, but they are still there, making us impure in God's sight.
Our sin nature is unacceptable to God. But He loves us so much that He wants to help us fix our problem. And that, ultimately, is why Jesus came. God sent His Son as a gift to rescue humankind from sinfulness.
The cost of the gift
One question always seems to surface whenever young children or teenagers begin to grasp the reality of sin: If God really loves us and wants to fix our sin nature, why doesn't He just forgive us? Why did Jesus have to die?
I always tell young people that God takes sin very seriously. As you read and discuss different Bible stories as a family, keep that point at the front of your discussions: God takes sin seriously. Sin is always a serious act against God that requires a consequence.
Hebrews 9:22 puts this in stark terms: "Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins." Before Jesus came, God established a sacrificial system of animals so that people could offer payment for their sins. But these sacrifices were a temporary and incomplete payment. While they symbolically pointed toward the need for Jesus, there could be no final, perfect sacrifice until One came who had no sin nature.
When our kids ask why Jesus died, we can tell them that there was no better option available to God. It was either this or destroying every sinner. But because of His great love for us, God took all of our deserved punishment upon himself.
All of this is probably a longer conversation than what you'll have as your kids set up the manger scene or decorate the tree. But understanding why Jesus came and died is the cornerstone of our faith. It needs to continue to be the foundation of our faith conversations.
Jesus Christ was born for a purpose.
Alex McFarland is the director of the Christian Worldview Center at North Greenville University and the author of The 21 Toughest Questions Your Kids Will Ask About Christianity.
Making Good Transitions
From High School to College
Saying Connected to the Body of Christ
The vision and mission of New Covenant Academy is to prepare students to academically and spiritually succeed in a post-secondary world. In order to accomplish such a goal, the high school Bible department has begun focusing on students’ college transitions. Statistics have shown that between 40-60% of Christian students who go on to college become inactive in their faith during those years. Moreover, 33% of those who become inactive in their Christian faith are shown to never dawn the door of a church again. This problem of inactive faith during a graduate’s college years can be seen in the following scenario for most Christian students.
Traditional preparations for college often includes:
Parents, churches, and schools prepare to send their student off to college. In doing so, the student is put through rigorous college preparation courses in school, becomes part of extra-curricular activities to promote his or her diversity, and is put through college planning seminars. Colleges are then examined and visited. Degree options, major and minors, are laid out and chosen. Applications for financial aid and scholarships are sent filled out and sent off. Everything is now set-up and planned out. The student knows where they want to attend, what degree he or she wants, and how to pay for it.
From all the research I have conducted, this is the typical scenario for both Christian and non-Christian students. So, what is the difference between the Christian and non-Christian scenario? Nothing! That is the problem. At what point are Christian parents, teachers, mentors, or pastors going to respond, “Great job planning for college! Now where do you plan on going to church? What churches did you visit while visiting college campuses? How do you plan on growing spiritually while you are growing academically?” This is what New Covenant Academy is now doing different.
What NCA Bible Department is doing to reduce the church attrition rate
Unlike the multitude of Christian schools around the country that I have contacted during my research, New Covenant Academy has begun focusing on this college transition as a fulfillment of its vision and mission statements. During Bible class, students are given the research assignment to locate churches in the area of their choice colleges and look up campus ministries as found on each campus. Contact with pastors and campus ministers is made through email or by phone. A spiritual plan is developed by each senior to help students to be proactive when they reach their college campus rather than reactive. College campus ministers are asked to attend classes for a time of Q&A to help them navigate the uncharted waters of the freshman college campus. The hopes of such a curriculum adjustment is to drastically reduce the 40-60% church attrition rate to something much lower.