Tough Question Monday

Why Do I Need to Memorize Scripture?

Tough Question

My older daughter earned a sword last night. No, we don't have some kind of weird rewards system at our house. She earned it at AWANA. Last night, she finished up four years of Truth and Training, memorizing more than 500 Scripture verses, and our AWANA program rewards that accomplishment by presenting each kid with a beautiful, handmade wooden sword. (If you're unfamiliar with the AWANA program, you can check it out here.)

Why a sword? Because God tells us that His word is like a sword. Ephesians 6:17 calls God's word the sword of the Spirit, and Hebrews 4:12 says "Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart."

God's Word is a weapon in the fight against Satan. And make no mistake, we (and our kids) fight battles against him every day. Knowing God's Word by heart makes that battle a little easier. It's a weapon in our arsenal, along with prayer and the Holy Spirit that helps us make good decisions and walk away from temptation. Knowing God's Word influences our actions.

Psalm 119:11 says, "I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you." If our kids don't know what God's Word says, they can't follow it. They can't use it as a weapon to fight off temptation and to make the right choices.

It's important that we read the Bible to our kids, but it's also important that we help them memorize it. Because when temptation and choices arise, they may not always have a Bible handy. Some decisions require a split-second choice based on knowledge and understanding that we already have. We want those choices to be informed by the Scripture our kids have in their hearts. When there's no time to look for the answer in the Bible, we want them to already have Scripture to pull from in their minds and their hearts.

Memorizing Scripture is one of the most helpful disciplines we can teach our kids. Not because there's a magic number of verses to memorize that make you a better Christ-follower than someone else. Not because it's another thing to check off the list. But because it makes a difference in their lives. It becomes a tool they can use to help them follow Jesus even when the going gets tough.

No matter the age of your kids, if they can talk, they can memorize Scripture. They can learn Scripture using songs and games. They can learn Scripture through a formal program like AWANA. Or they can learn Scripture through deliberate teaching at home. However you choose to help your kids memorize Scripture is great. The method isn't important. The result is.

Why Does God Have So Many Rules?

Tough Question

Obey your parents. Don't steal. Love each other. Don't lie. The Bible is filled with commands for us to follow and to a child, it can seem like following Christ is just a list of rules. If we're not careful, our kids will think the following Jesus is more about following the rules than it is about following Him.

I have a child who balks at the rules. She's not a fan of authority in any form. If we present following Jesus to her as simply a list of rules to follow, she's not interested. And she shouldn't be. If all God cares about is whether we follow His rules, then Christianity is no different than any other religion in the world.

The truth is, there are a lot of commands in the Bible, but God is less concerned with our ability to follow the rules than He is with our hearts. God is interested in having us commit our hearts to following Him. If we do that, then because we love Him, we will want to follow the path He's laid out for us.

Following Jesus is first and foremost about having a relationship with Him. It's about deciding that His way is better than our own and allowing Him to be in charge of our lives. When we do that, following His commands will naturally follow.

You can explain it to your kids like this. Choosing to follow Jesus is a lot like choosing to join a sports team. When you join a sports team, you voluntarily commit to following the coach's directions. It's the same thing with following Jesus. You don't have to follow a list of rules to have the abundant life that Jesus promises in John 10:10, you simply have to follow Jesus. Following His commands will be a natural outgrowth of choosing to follow Him.

It's also helpful to remind our kids that all of the commands in the Bible are there for a reason. God is either trying to protect us or to bring glory to Him. When He told the Israelites not to eat certain foods, He was protecting them as many of the foods He told them not to eat carried disease. When He tells us not to lie or steal, He's protecting us from the consequences of those choices. When He tells us to love each other, He's bringing glory to Himself by letting others see His love through us.

When your kids get caught up in the "rules" of following Jesus, remind them that God cares about their hearts and their choice to follow Him. If our hearts are in the right place and we are choosing to follow Jesus, then following His commands will naturally follow.

Why Does God Care What I Say and Do?

One of the first Biblical accounts our kids learn at church is the account of Moses and the Ten Commandments. It's an easy story for young kids to visualize. A guy goes up on a mountain and comes back with 10 rules written on two stone tablets. Even the youngest child can picture that in his head.

Yet, too often, our kids get stuck on the "rules." They get the impression that God is simply a God with a list of rules to follow. Don't lie, don't steal. Obey your parents. Be kind to others.

There's nothing wrong with any of those commands. God says to do those things and many others, but it seems that a lot of the time, our kids miss out on understanding why they're supposed to follow God's commands. God becomes a God of rules to them instead of a God of grace. Many kids see God as a big policeman in the sky waiting for them to do something wrong so He can write them a figurative ticket.

That's not how we want our kids to see God because a faith that is based on following the "rules" is a faith that will falter. None of us can keep all of God's commands all the time. If we could, there would have been no need for Jesus' sacrifice on the cross.

Our kids need to know that God cares about their behavior, their choices and their words because they are a reflection of who He is. We can't earn our way into heaven by doing the right things. We can only live abundantly here on earth and have eternal life in heaven if we choose to accept Jesus' sacrifice on the cross, believe in His resurrection and follow Him.

When we choose to follow Jesus, we're saying that God's way is better than our own. We're saying that God's commands are important. We're saying that we want others to see Jesus in us. John 13:35 says, "By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." Our love for each other, which we show by our actions is an indication of our love for God. When others see us putting the interests of others before our own, when they see us speaking with kind words when we could choose harsh ones, when they see us feeding the hungry and clothing the poor, they see a reflection of who God is.

God doesn't need us to follow His "rules" so that we can spend eternity with Him. He bridged that gap with Jesus' sacrifice. He wants us to obey His commands so that we can draw other people to Him, so that they, too, can spend eternity with Him.

Instead of focusing only on God's commands with your kids, focus on the reasons for following those commands. Help your kids understand that their words and actions are a reflection of God to the people around them.

Why Doesn't God Speak Out Loud?

An audible voice. We'd love to hear one from God. We read the Old Testament and see all the places where He spoke out loud. Moses got a burning bush. Abraham got visiting angels. Samuel got woken up in the middle of the night. Belshazzar got handwriting on the wall.

Our kids hear these Old Testament accounts of God speaking audibly and visibly and wonder why God doesn't speak out loud anymore. Did He lose His voice?

The answer to that question is an emphatic "no." God hasn't lost His voice. If God chooses to, He can speak just as audibly today. I've never heard God's voice speak out loud as He did to Moses. I've never seen handwriting on the wall, but I beleive that God is just as capable of doing both of those things today as He was thousands of years ago. He simply chooses not to.

The people of the Old Testament didn't have the Bible. Most of them were illiterate, so having the Bible wouldn't have helped them anyway. They were from oral cultures where the accounts of the things God did were handed down by voice. If God was going to speak, He had to do it in a way that people could understand and relate to. In that time, an audible voice was the best option.

God still speaks to us. He just speaks to us in a different way. He gave us the Bible so we would have His word written down. We can read it any time we want, so God can speak to us through the words He's already given to others. We also hear God's voice through other people. Our pastors and our kids' children's worship leaders are good examples of people who speak the word of God to us.

We also hear from God through prayer. Part of prayer is listening for God's voice. We need to teach our kids that prayer is not just listing off a bunch of things we want God to do for us. It's also listening for the things that God wants us to do. That's a hard skill to learn. We have to be quiet and focused if we want to hear God's voice, which often comes in the promptings and yearnings of our hearts.

It would be so easy for us if God spoke audibly like He did for Moses or Elijah. But when God speaks in the quiet of our souls, it forces us to pay attention. It forces us to build a relationship with Him so we recognize His voice. The trick to hearing God's voice today is knowing His voice. In John 10:27, Jesus says, "My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me." If we aren't listening, if we aren't spending time with God so that we know what His quiet voice in our souls sounds like, then we'll miss Him.

God may not speak audibly or write on the wall very often anymore, but He does still speak. We just have to be listening.

Do I Really Have to Love Everyone?

Learning to get along with others is one of the toughest parts of growing up. My daughters are both struggling with this right now. It's hard to let someone else have their way. It's hard to make a compromise with another person. It's hard to love people who are mean to you.

A common complaint around here is "But they were mean to me first." It's human nature to want to get our own way. It's natural to want to ignore people who are mean to us. Revenge is often the first thing that comes to a child's mind when they have been wronged.

But God teaches a different story. He commands us to love everyone. He even says we have to love our enemies. What? Even as adults, we have a tough time with that command. Just because it's difficult doesn't mean it's impossible, though. Jesus tells us in John 13:34-35 that He's shaking things up. He's doing away with the Old Testament law that says "an eye for an eye" and replacing it with love: "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."

Jesus didn't say love your friends. He didn't say love the people you like. He didn't say love people who are nice to you. He said love one another. In Matthew 5:44, He tells us to even love our enemies.

That's some tough stuff. We fail miserably at that as adults. How an we expect our kids to do it? It seems like an impossible command. That's where God comes in. We can't love our enemies on our own. We can't love our friends all the time on our own. We have to have help. Only God's love is enough to cover over the wounds of an enemy so that we can love them.

When your kids are struggling to love someone, help them ask for help. Encourage them to talk to God any time mean thoughts about that person come to mind. Encourage them to let God fill them up with love so that they have enough love to cover over the hurts the other person has caused. Remind them that we don't have to love everyone out of our own strength. We simply have to let God love others through us. When our kids know they don't have to love everyone on their own, it becomes a whole lot easier to love those unlovable people in their lives.

Yes, God does say we have to love everyone. Lucky for us, we don't have to do it alone.

Is It OK to Question God?

I was trying to read the newspaper yesterday while I was waiting for lunch to cook. My 11-year-old came in the room and started asking questions about another article on the page I was reading. Frustrated that she kept asking questions about an article I hadn't read, I looked at her and said, "I don't know. You'll have to read it yourself." Kids ask questions. They are fountains of curiosity. And sometimes that curiosity gets on our nerves. Sometimes we get tired of the constant barrage of who, what, where, when, why and how.

When it comes to questions about faith and God, we sometimes shy away from our kids' questions. We make them think it's not OK to have questions. We think our kids should just take what we have to say about God, Jesus and faith as gospel truth. We may not know all the answers, and we may be scared our kids are struggling in their faith when they start to question God.

But questioning God and their faith can actually be a healthy process, if we allow our kids to do it in an open manner. If we choose to answer their questions and encourage them to find the answers themselves, our kids can actually come out the other side of a period of questioning with a stronger faith.

My younger daughter is my child who questions God. She struggles to reconcile a loving God with the evil she sees in the world. She wonders if miracles could really happen. She tries to make a really big God fit inside her ability to understand Him. And she asks questions.

Sometimes those questions scare me. I worry about her faith. I wonder if she's going to walk away from it all when she's older.

But why do I worry? Do I think that God is not strong enough to stand up to the scrutiny of a 9-year-old? Do I think He's never had anyone question Him before? God isn't worried or troubled by her questions, so why should I be?

Wrestling with God can actually help our kids to come out changed and stronger in their faith. Just look at Jacob. Genesis 32 tells us that Jacob actually physically wrestled with God. In the morning, He was a changed man. He went from being Jacob to Israel -- the father of God's chosen people.

It's OK for our kids to question God. It's OK for them to wrestle with Him. God is big enough and strong enough to stand up to their scrutiny. And in the process, our kids just might end up with a stronger faith because they've wrestled with God and God has won.

What Does It Mean to Forgive?

Forgiveness. It's a big word for little brains to wrap themselves around. We encourage our kids to practice forgiveness, but do we ever really stop to make sure they know what it means? When my daughters were in second grade, they had a teacher who understood the concept of forgiveness. Whenever two kids were embroiled in a situation where one needed to ask forgiveness, she always had the forgiving child reply to the apology with the statement, "It's not OK that you did that, but I forgive you."

You see, too often forgiveness gets confused with approval. When you forgive someone, you're not approving of what they did. You're simply accepting their apology and releasing yourself from the bitterness and anger that goes with unforgiveness.

Sometimes, we lead our kids to believe that forgiving someone fixes everything, and sometimes it does. However, forgiveness doesn't always lead to a restored relationship. Sometimes it simply means that we remove the bitterness, the grudge that we've been holding toward someone. Forgiveness releases us from the burden of anger and bitterness, whether it restores the relationship or not.

Forgiveness simply means refusing to carry a grudge. It doesn't mean that what the other person has done is OK. It doesn't mean that you automatically return your trust to the person who has broken it. Forgiveness is often more about us and less about someone else.

It's so important for our kids to understand forgiveness because without God's forgiveness, we would all still be held responsible for our sin. 1 John 1:9 says, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." God forgives us, so we should forgive others.

Kids aren't generally gracious forgivers. How many times have you watched your kids stand with arms crossed while one child says, "I'm sorry," and the other grumbles, "That's OK"?

Help your kids understand the importance of forgiveness by reminding your kids that God chooses to forgive our sins. Remind them that forgiveness is a choice and that carrying a grudge only hurts the person carrying it.

Tough Question Monday: What is Mercy?

I've been going to church all my life. I decided to follow Jesus when I was 10 years old. I've known how to speak the "lingo" for as long as I can remember.

But I was an adult before I understood what mercy is. I don't want my kids to have to wait that long to figure mercy out. Mercy is one of the central characteristics of God. It's because of His mercy that He chose to bridge the gaping chasm that our sin creates between us and God.

As often as we throw the term mercy around, I have to wonder how many of us understand what it truly means. And how many of our kids are missing the concept completely?

Mercy is not getting what you deserve. Sounds simple, right? But what does mercy look like in the context of God? And if we're supposed to be imitating God, then what does it look like for us?

Mercy put Jesus on the cross. You see, our sin separates us from God. The consequence for sin is death, according to Romans 6:23. Our sin should have put us on the cross, but God chose to send Jesus to pay that price instead. We deserved death; we got life. That's mercy.

Help your kids wrap their heads around the concept of mercy by giving them a demonstration of mercy. When your child does something wrong, offer to serve their consequence for them. Explain that in this one instance, you are showing them mercy. You are not giving them what they deserve. Instead, you're  taking their punishment for them, just like Jesus did for us.

I'm not recommending that you never discipline your kids, but if you show them mercy in a one-time, visible way and explain why you're doing it, your kids will have a picture of what mercy looks like. They won't have to wait until they are adults to figure out exactly what mercy means. They will know because you have shown them.

It's so important for all of us to understand mercy because without God's mercy, we'd all be stuck serving the eternal consequence for our sin -- separation from God forever. Instead, we can look forward to spending eternity with Him -- all because He showed mercy to us.

Is It OK to Get Angry?

We all have different ways of dealing with anger. I'm a get-it-out-in-the-open-and-deal-with-it kind of person. My husband is a hold-it-all-in-until-you-explode person. My younger daughter is an erupt-like-a-volcano girl, and my older daughter is a pretend-nothing-happened conflict avoider. No matter how we deal with anger, we all get angry.

Some of us, though, have been sold a myth when it comes to anger. We've bought into the lie that "good Christians" don't get angry. They're always calm, rational people who never see red. We find unhealthy ways to deal with anger because someone has told us that God doesn't want us to get angry about things. And then we teach that to our kids.

The truth is that anger is a God-given emotion. God gets angry. Jesus got angry (check out the overturned tables in the temple). If God and Jesus get angry, then anger can't be a sin. It's how we deal with anger that gets us into trouble.

Anger can actually lead to good things. When we're legitimately angry about something and not just flying off the handle because we're frustrated, grumpy or tired, anger can be the driving force behind change. We have laws against drunk driving because someone got mad about it. We have homeless shelters and food pantries because someone got mad that there was nothing to help the homeless and the hungry. We have laws against child abuse and for car seats because someone got mad about children dying. Anger, when appropriately directed, can be a good thing.

It's when we let anger get the best of us that we run into problems. Ephesians 4:26 says, "In your anger, do not sin." When we're angry, we have to work extra hard to make sure that we're not letting anger take over our actions. When we let anger take away our ability to treat others well and to think through a problem before reacting, we are more likely to sin. We say things we don't mean and do things we shouldn't. When anger talks, sin happens.

As we teach our kids to control their anger, we need to make sure that we're not teaching them that getting angry is wrong. What we do need to teach them is that anger is a lot like fire. When a fire is controlled in a fireplace or a fire pit, it's a useful tool. It keeps you warm, provides a nice atmosphere and can even be used to cook food. When a fire is out of control, though, it causes mass amounts of destruction. An out-of-control wildfire can destroy homes, lives and wildlife. It can take hundreds of firefighters to control it. Anger is the same way. Once it's out of control, it can take us a long time to get it back under control, and it can leave devastation in its wake.

Help your kids understand that they don't have to live life without getting angry, but they do need to ask God to help them to control their anger so that when they are angry, they don't cause irreparable harm to others.


What is Grace?

Grace. It's a term we throw around a lot. We talk about God's grace to us in sending Jesus. We describe God as gracious. We know it's one of the core principles of our faith. But do we know how to explain it to our kids?

Sometimes, we think our kids understand things but they don't. We think they've caught what we want them to know just because they've heard it said over and over again, but that's not always true.

My older daughter has to do vocabulary homework for her language arts class nearly every day when they're reading a novel. Some days, she asks me for help, and I'm often astonished to discover that she doesn't know the definition of words that I think she knows. When it comes to the idea of grace, we don't want our kids to miss out on understanding the awesome magnitude of what God has done.

Grace is unmerited favor, to which most kids would say, "What?" Grace simply means not getting what you deserve. We offer other people grace when we don't return a snide comment. We offer them grace when we forgive them for a wrong done against us. We offer grace when we choose to ignore a slight. In all of those situations, we don't give the other person what they deserve.

Grace is important because God offered us grace by sending Jesus. Sin separates us from God. We can never bridge the gulf between us and God created by our sin. Romans 6:23 tells us, "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life inChrist Jesus our Lord." When we sin, we deserve an eternal death -- being separated from God forever. If God gave us what we deserve, we would never be able to bridge the gap between God and us. However, grace means that God sent Jesus to die in our place and rise again so that the gulf between us and God could be closed forever.

You can explain it to your kids like this: The next time your child does something wrong, offer to serve your child's consequence. Tell your child that you want to give him a tangible example of what grace looks like. Talk about how your child deserved that consequence just like we deserve death for our sins, but your grace means that he doesn't have to serve that consequence just like God's grace means that we don't have to be separated from God forever because Jesus took our place on the cross.

Grace isn't a hard concept for kids to grasp. We just have to make sure that we've taken the time to explain it in a way that they can understand, and we don't just assume that our kids have figured it out on their own. As I've discovered with my older daughter's vocabulary homework, hearing a word isn't the same as understanding what it means. Take some time to make sure your kids understand grace. Its definition has eternal importance.


Tough Question Monday: Why Does Bad Stuff Happen?

My daughters think Adam and Eve were the dumbest people ever to walk the planet. They had it all. Life truly was perfect, and they threw it all away for an apple. The apple couldn't have been that good.

With one bite of an apple, they changed the world they would live in and the one we get to live in. My younger daughter likes to blame Adam and Eve when bad things happen in her world.

She's not too far off -- although there's plenty of blame to go around. One of the most common questions for kids to ask is "Why does God let bad stuff happen?" And that's a tough one. It seems like if God loves us as much as He says He does, He would protect us from all the bad stuff in the world. Tragedy would never touch our lives.

But that's not how it works. When Adam and Eve chose to take that apple from the serpent and take a bite, sin entered the world. When it did, it brought big consequences. We're still living with those consequences today.

Our kids are right when they ask questions about bad things happening. God could protect us from it. He's big enough. He's powerful enough. He could protect us from the bad stuff in the world, and I'm convinced that sometimes He does. However, the condition of our world, the bad things that happen are all a natural consequence of sin -- of choosing selfish ambitions instead of God's ambitions. While God forgives our sins, He doesn't always protect us from the earthly consequences of that sin. If He did, then we would never be able to recognize our need for a savior.

Bad things happen -- people get sick, people hurt each other, people die -- because that is the natural consequence of sin in the world, sin that goes all the way back to that first bite of the apple. When our kids ask why bad things happen, our answer simply needs to be that sin causes all of it, which is why we need Jesus. While following Jesus doesn't protect us from every bad thing in the world, it always gives us an assurance that it will all turn out right in the end. We know the end of the story, and we know that God triumphs over evil and sin. No matter what things happen to us in this life, we have the assurance that we will spend eternity with God.

As much as we would like to, we can't shelter our kids from bad things that happen. We can't put them in a bubble. We can't guarantee that following Jesus will keep their lives free of tragedy. What we can do is offer our kids the hope that God is in control. Look at Job, God knew every horrible thing that happened to Job. And in the end, He blessed Job more than He could imagine. Job 42:10 says, "After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before." On the other side of the storm was a rainbow. No matter what happens to us, God knows about it, and He is always there to offer comfort and strength.

So, when your kids ask why bad things happen, explain to them that it's all about sin. Then remind them that God has saved us from the eternal consequences of that sin even if we still have to live with the earthly ones.

With Whom Should I Be Friends?

Welcome to Tough Question Monday, where we tackle some of the difficult questions that our kids ask. If you have a question you’d like to see answered in this space, leave a comment or post on the Facebook page.

As my younger daughter was getting ready for bed last night, she asked me, "Is it OK to be friends with Jewish people?"

"Whoa, where did that come from," I thought. I was pretty sure we've always taught our daughters to be friends to everyone, regardless of race, color or creed.

"Of course it is. Why?" I asked.

"One of my friends is Jewish," she said.

As we dove into the heart of the issue, I finally realized that my daughter was confused about the admonition in 2 Corinthians 6:14, which says "Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?"

God wants us to be friends with anyone, regardless of their beliefs. Jesus hung out with lots of people who didn't believe what He had to say. He spent time with people who were actively looking for reasons to kill Him. He didn't just spend time with them. He loved them and shared His teaching with them. He ate with tax collectors. He talked to prostitutes. He walked among the lepers. Jesus didn't discriminate about who He spent time with because Jesus came for everyone.

My daughter and I talked about what being "unequally yoked" really means. We most often hear about it in terms of marriage -- not marrying someone who doesn't share your beliefs. And that's an important point. When both people in a marriage aren't following Christ, it's hard to move in the same direction as a couple. It's hard to share about your faith if your spouse doesn't believe.

But that verse does also apply to friendships. While God doesn't want us to be unfriendly to anyone, He does want us to choose our closest friends wisely. As our kids are getting older, we want them to choose their inner circle of friends well. Not being unequally yoked in friendship means that the people we choose to ask for advice, the people we choose to  let have heavy influence in our lives should be followers of Jesus because it's important that we get wise counsel from people who have the same source of wisdom that we do. Otherwise, we might get counsel that seems wise by the standards of the world but contradicts God's wisdom.

While Jesus spent time with people who didn't believe what He had to say, His closest friends were all followers of Him. They believed in Him. They gave up everything to follow Him. His disciples were His closest friends, and even though they sometimes offered bad advice, they're hearts were always seeking after Jesus.

So, as your kids choose their friends, be sure to have a conversation about friendships and how they affect us. Be sure your kids know it's OK to be friends with people who believe and think differently than they do, but be sure they know they want their closest friends, the ones they seek advice from, to also be following Jesus.

Was Jesus Really God?

Welcome to Tough Question Monday, where we tackle some of the difficult questions that our kids ask. If you have a question you'd like to see answered in this space, leave a comment or post on the Facebook page.

At Christmas, we spend a lot of time focusing on the fact that Jesus came to earth as a person. We talk about the tiny baby in the manger. We tell our kids that Mary was His mother, and Joseph was His father. We talk about how Jesus was just like them, a little baby, then a child, then a man. And sometimes, we confuse the snot out of our kids.

You see, when we focus on Jesus' humanity and forget to focus on His divinity, our kids can get confused into thinking that Jesus was just a man, which makes it hard to believe that He could do all those miracles. It makes it hard grasp that He was God in human form. It's a tough concept for adults to grasp, and it's even harder for kids because they don't have the capacity for abstract thinking.

So, how do you answer the question, "Was Jesus Really God?" besides with the obvious, "yes!" Our kids need to understand the evidence for the fact that Jesus is God. In human form Jesus was as divine as He was human. When you're confronted with this question, offer your kids this evidence.

His mother and father believed He was divine. If anyone knows all your faults and foibles, it's your parents. If Jesus had not lived up to His claims to be God, don't you think His mother and father would have told everyone He was crazy? Don't you think they would have produced evidence that He wasn't sinless? Instead, Mary and Joseph encouraged Jesus in His ministry. His mother sought Him out at a wedding where the host had run out of wine and begged Him to do something about it -- because she believed He could.

Jesus did things only God can do. Jesus raised people from the dead. He healed the sick. He turned water into wine. These aren't simple magic tricks. No magician I know can speak and have the person in front of him be healed. I've never seen anyone raise someone else from the dead. Jesus had the power to do these things because He is God.

Jesus died for His claims to be God. Generally, if someone claims to be something they are not and are threatened with punishment or death, that person will give up his claim. But Jesus died a horrible death because He claimed to be God. Few people are willing to die for a lie.

The tomb was empty. Jesus rose from the dead. When the women went to the tomb that morning, His body was gone. There was no other explanation that made sense. The tomb was guarded by Roman soldiers. There was a huge boulder in the way. No one could have taken His body without someone else knowing. Yet, the tomb was empty because Jesus rose and then appeared to hundreds of people.

As we talk with our kids about Jesus, we have to remember to help our kids focus on His divine nature. When we put too much emphasis on His humanity, our kids can begin to wonder if Jesus truly was God.

Why Did God Make It So People Can Sin?

Two weeks ago, I promised that I would use Mondays to answer the tough questions our kids ask in this space. Last Monday, I felt compelled to share something else, and yesterday I was traveling with my daughter at a hockey tournament and didn't get a post up at all because I left my computer at home. Sorry about that. So, today, I wanted to get started on that series, even though it's Tuesday.

Understanding sin is a basic concept that our kids have to understand in order to grasp the enormity of what Jesus did for them. Yet, it's inevitable that our kids will eventually ask the question, "Why did Adam and Eve sin?" It's a great question. If God can do anything, then why didn't He just make people without the capacity to sin? Why make imperfect people?

It all comes down to glory. God is interested in bringing glory to Himself so that people can recognize Him as God. Isaiah 48:11 tells us that God wants all the glory due Him: "For my own sake, for my own sake, I do this. How can I let myself be defamed? I will not yield my glory to another."

God is amazing. The things He does are beyond what we can understand, and He is worthy of all the glory we can give Him. However, if God had created us without any choice in whether we follow Him, then we wouldn't bring Him glory. The choice to follow Him, the choice to praise Him, the choice to tell others about Him is what brings Him glory.

If God had created us without the ability to choose to follow Him or not follow Him, then we would be little more than robots. If our only choice was to follow God and praise Him, then we wouldn't bring Him glory because we didn't have a choice to do so. When we make a decision to follow God, to choose His ways over the ways of the world, that's when God is glorified.

So, God gave Adam and Eve a choice in the perfect world He had created for them. When they chose to eat the apple, they chose not to glorify God. But if they didn't have that choice, they wouldn't have glorified God either.

The act of praising and following God by itself isn't what glorifies Him. It's the choice to do so that creates the glory.

So, when your kids ask why God made it so people can sin, remind them that it's all about the glory. And giving glory to God comes from choosing to follow Him and praise Him.

Tough Question Monday

Did Jesus really do miracles? How do I know the Bible is true? What if we're wrong and there is no heaven? Is Jesus really coming back?

These are all questions I've been asked by 9-year-old in the last two months. She's my kid who has to examine everything. She has to understand it all as well as she can. She has to ask questions until she can wrap her head around things. And sometimes she asks questions that are hard to answer. Sometimes she asks questions that make me think really hard.

I would love for my daughter to just quietly accept faith. I would love for her to have a rock-solid confidence in God. I would love for her not to question everything we believe. But that's not how she's wired. That's not how God made her.

God made her to need to ask questions, to understand things for herself. He made her an investigator. He made her inquisitive and tough. He made her that way knowing that at 9 1/2 years old she would start to question things. She would struggle to understand Him. She would want Him to be proved real.

In the midst of all of these questions, I discovered something. I learned that in all of my parenting, in all of my teaching, I had failed in one critical area. I had focused all of my time and attention on making sure my daughters know that Jesus loves them, that He died for them and that He rose again. But I failed to give them any tools to defend their faith. I failed to give them the knowledge they would need to answer others when they were questioned about what they believe.

So, my daughter and I are spending a lot of time doing some basic apologetics. We're covering the answers to all those questions at the beginning of this post and more. I'm doing my best to give her the tools to live out the words of 1 Peter 3:15: "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have."

As tough as it is to answer all of those questions, it's important. While it takes faith to follow Jesus, it also takes knowledge and understanding. Our kids have to be absolutely convinced of the truth of Jesus and the Bible. We can't give them our faith. They have to have their own. All we can do is give them the tools and the  understanding to make the decision to have faith. The ultimate choice is up to them.

I want to help you give your kids those tools this year. As I struggle through answering the nearly constant barrage of questions my younger daughter has, I plan to share the answers with you, so you're prepared to answer your kids' questions. Every Monday this year, we'll look at a tough question that kids ask about God and Jesus and we'll answer it, so you can be prepared when your kids ask it.

I'd love to hear some of the questions you or your kids have that you'd like to see answered in this space on Mondays, so leave me a comment or head over to the Facebook page to let me know what your question is. Then, join us here every Monday as we enter into a yearlong quest to answer those questions on Tough Question Monday.

Linking up today with The Better Mom and Graceful.