A couple of weeks ago, tragedy struck the Thomson household.
We thought it might be coming, but it was still a shock. The signs had been there – but I suppose, if we’re honest, we were in denial. We just didn’t think it would happen like this. It was too soon.
Our dear goldfish, Sparkly, shuffled (or floated) off this mortal coil.
Okay, so perhaps we’re not as upset as we made out there. Sparkly appeared in our lives after the grandparents took our toddler to the annual town moor fair. He arrived back happy, full of sugar and clutching this small, orange aquatic creature with a huge grin on his face (that’s the toddler, not the fish).
The grin on our face may not have been quite so sincere given this was unexpected and not particularly wanted.
Nevertheless, after it’s brief life with us (and it’s significant dent in our bank balance!), we had grown quite attached to our fishy little friend. Our toddler had given him his official birth-certificate name, Sparkly, and he’d even given him a variety of other names, playing with his proper name. Our favourite was probably “Sparkelina”. Cute.
When everything went (literally) belly-up for Sparkly, we had two options. The easiest option was to head on down to Pets at Home* (*insert your pet shop of choice), buy a similar looking fish and pop it in the tank – our toddler would be none the wiser.
Or the more difficult option was to tell him what had happened.
And that’s what we did.
We decided that instead of taking the easy dodge (which might have been the right thing to do at other times), we would use it as an everyday opportunity to talk to our toddler about the gospel. We wanted to raise the subject of death, in an age appropriate way. You just never know when he might need to understand death and the comfort of the gospel in a more significant situation.
So down comes our toddler, and we break the news to him that Sparkly has died, and that we won’t see him anymore.
He took it surprisingly badly. “But I love him”, he said. “I want to see Sparkly”, he said. He even said “but Jesus can make him better”. Whilst that’s technically true and totally adorable, we didn’t fancy fishing him out of the wheelie bin at that stage.
Instead we sat down with our little one, hugged him, and spoke to him of the New Creation. We told him about the world that we’ll one day live in. The world where there will be no more tears – no more sadness or pain. No more death. We told him that Jesus will make this new world, and that those who love Jesus will be there with him, forever.
It didn’t totally remove the sadness. It never does. But we hope it took at least some of the sting out of death.
That’s what the hope that Jesus offers does. Is death still sad? Of course. Jesus wept at the grave of Lazarus – angry tears at this foreign thing that should not be in the beautiful world he created. He cried even knowing that he was about to raise him. He cried even knowing he was one day going to remake this world. Because death is unnatural, jarring and wrong.
But Jesus’ weeping wasn’t a hopeless weeping. Nor does ours need to be.
For those who know Jesus, death is not the end.
We didn’t get in to the ins and outs of whether Sparkly would be in the New Creation! But we did try to show our little one something of the difference that the gospel means when death rears it’s ugly head.
Gospel in the everyday – it’s these everyday moments that give us opportunity to show our children how the gospel impacts real life. They’re not always easy, but they’re worth fighting for.
Father’s day is an annual event – it’s a day set aside to celebrate and honour Fathers. It’s a day that is celebrated in many countries across the world (mainly on the third Sunday in June, though this does vary), and it seems that in some places it has been celebrated since as far back as the Middle Ages.
The origins of the day vary from country to country… apparently in France it came about because in 1949 a company selling lighters wanted to increase their sales – father’s who were most deserving of winning a lighter were to be put forward, and the winner was decided on la Fête des Pères (Father’s Day), the third Sunday in June. This date officially became Father’s day in France 3 years later.
There are various traditions associated with the day, but in most cultures it includes children spending time with their father, and giving gifts. In Germany, it’s traditional for groups of men, on Father’s day, to go on a hike pulling small wagons with wine or beer. It’s often used as an opportunity to get drunk. This tradition may find its roots in the 18th century, where Christians performed ascension day processions in farmlands. Men would be seated in a wooden cart and carried in to the village plaza where the mayor would be waiting to award a large piece of ham to the father with the most children!
So why are we telling you these things about Father’s Day here on Gospel-Centred Parenting (other than the fact that it’s mildly interesting)?
Well we thought it would be good for us to think about three ways that we can help our children engage with the gospel on the occasion of Father’s day.
The reality of fatherhood should serve as a picture for us, pointing to and telling us something about what our God is like. Isn’t it incredible that our God chooses to identify himself as a father – as Father of Jesus, and (through adoption) as our father too! Father’s Day must be his day too then – why not develop a tradition with your children that will help you to remember that Father’s day is His day first? Be creative with what that could be…
Maybe pray to him over breakfast, giving thanks for your adoption?
Or make it a tradition to bake a cake and decorate it with the words “Happy Father’s day, God!”.
Perhaps you could always give a small financial gift to a charity working in something close to our Father God’s heart – mission work, or something working with widows and orphans?
Or maybe you could just make sure you always buy a Father’s Day card for God too, and get your children to write in it something that they’re grateful to their Father God for from the past year?
Help your children be grateful for fathers. If the father is still present in your children’s life, that is a kind gift of God and you shouldn’t take it for granted, and nor should your children. Broken marriages are tragic and prevalent in our society, and other families have lost fathers through death. Help your child to be grateful for their father, if he’s still present. in their lives.
The gospel should work out into our lives to give us compassion like our heavenly Father. So if your children are old enough, help them to pray for children who are without a father. Similarly, if there are couples you know who have been unable to have children, pray for them. Or pray for single men in your circle of relationships – in your church or neighbourhood or friendship group – for some of them who long for children of their own Father’s Day may be a hard day as it highlights to them the lack of their own children. Maybe you could make it a tradition for your family to include some of these people in your day somehow? Have them round for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Organise an annual walk and make sure to invite some of those who might be struggling with Father’s day.
Father’s day is something that will come around every year. Why not try to help the gospel shape the day and thus make it a day that will help you and your children grow in your appreciation of the gospel, and in their gospel-heartedness.
Do you have any more ideas for a gospel-centred Father’s Day? Why don’t you let us know what you’re getting up to tomorrow, by commenting below or on our Facebook page.
If you’re a parent you’ll be acquainted with tears.
Tears of joy when the two lines appear on the test. Tears when the hormones surge and you feel overwhelmed at all the changes that are happening to your body. Tears of gratitude when you see the vertebrae of your baby’s spine on the scan. Tears when they wiggle and kick inside you just as you were afraid of the worst. Tears when the contractions get stronger. Tears when the pushing gets tougher. Tears when the baby gulps down their first breath and screams at the top of their lungs. Tears when they lie peacefully in their cot next to you and you think, “They’re actually here, I’ve never seen anything more beautiful in my life.”
Tears. Tears. Tears.
Tears when the social worker asks intrusive questions and makes you doubt your suitability for adoption. Tears of fear before your interview with the panel. Tears after an argument because the pressure and uncertainty is straining your marriage. Tears when weeks roll into months and you still haven’t had the phone call of the perfect match. Tears when you meet your child for the first time. Tears when you take them home and show them their bedroom, and introduce them to the dog, and tell them where their toys are. Tears of relief when you get the court ruling that you are the legal parent.
Tears. Tears. Tears.
Tears of frustration when they defy you for the millionth time because “no” they do not want to eat their cereal and would much rather scream at the top of their lungs. Tears of fear when they have disappeared and you can’t find them and you know there’s a busy road outside… and tears of relief when you find them hiding in the food cupboard! Tears of sadness when they are left out and rejected by their peers. Tears of joy when they sing in the school play. Tears of pride when they finally learn to ride their bike without stabilisers.
Tears of disappointment when they lie to you. Tears of worry when they retreat into themselves and keep you locked out of their heart and room. Tears of anger when they treat you appallingly. Tears of fear when they don’t come home when you are expecting them and they don’t answer their phone. Tears of pride when they pass their driving test. Tears of joy when they are wearing their gown and hat and you’re not entirely sure how it’s happened but your baby is a (somewhat!) responsible adult who can live independently and who has just graduated with a degree. Tears of sorrow and joy as they say their wedding vows.
Tears. Tears. Tears.
The life of the parent is a life marked by tears.
The life of a child is a life marked by tears.
Tears express lots of things for a child.
Hungry tummy, scared to be alone, teething pain, scraped knees, hurtful words, losing a game, disappointment, sickness bug, being disciplined, failing, being left out, nightmares, chicken pox, braking an arm, having to share, injections, facing exams… so many reasons to cry. Life is hard. Kids learn that pretty quickly.
Tears. Tears. Tears.
The other day that familiar sound rang through our house. Running feet, head impacting wood and an almighty scream! Our pre-schooler picked himself up and started running again, this time to me. He buried his face in my neck. Between sobs he exclaimed “kiss me better!” So I did what any parent would. I kissed his head. I held him until his body stopped shaking. I told him I was here with him. And I waited for the sobbing to subside. Then when he had quietened down I looked at his face. Red. Blotchy. Wet. I wiped away his tears and kissed his cheeks. The salty taste lingered on my lips and in my mind I was transported to a future moment.
“Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!”
You see our parental instinct to kiss away the pain and wipe away the salty tears is just a tiny reflection of the Father-heart of God. God collects our tears in a bottle and keeps track of our sorrows (Psalm 56:8). And one day he will wipe away every tear from the eyes of his children – forever. He can wipe them away forever because he is recreating this world into a world where all the sad things will end. Where, as Samwise Gamgee wonderfully puts it, all sad things will come untrue.
There are some lovely things in life that bring tears of happiness. But many tears of pain are shed too. It’s a sad reality of life.
But one day that will no longer be the case.
So next time you wipe away your child’s tears (or even one of your own), let it be a gentle yet wonderful reminder to you of the gospel. Let it remind you that God sees your tears. Let it remind you that God sympathises with you as the one who knows our suffering and has been there with us. And let it remind you that God will one day wipe away the final tear of sadness from your eyes, and then tears will be no more.
We thought it would be inspiring to hear about how Christians parent their children in different parts of the world. There are many similarities in gospel-centred parenting world over, but there are also many differences depending on our cultural context. Read the introduction to this series here.
We’re excited to hear the story of a missionary couple living in South Sudan in this post. For safety purposes, they asked to remain anonymous.
Where do you live and what’s it like?
SouthSudan. Amongst a rural people-group of agriculturalists in a remote and hilly region.
What are some of the challenges and opportunities that you face in Christian parenting because of your context?
We are missionaries here and so our days and life are shaped around telling our friends and neighbours about Jesus. The community is currently very open to us sharing the gospel so it is easy to talk of Jesus freely and openly both at home and around the villages. We are part of a team with other Christian families so all our daughter’s peers also know Jesus. Because our environment is so isolated we have a lot of control over what she sees and hears. There is no TV/internet or secular input aside from the local African traditional beliefs.
Some of the challenges include being away from a wider support network, such as Grandparents, to get advice/support. We are in a team of mixed nationalities, some of whom parent in quite different ways, so though we are all Christians this can be very challenging at times. Our daughter is often overwhelmed by attention from the local people who are fascinated by a little white girl with blond hair, which makes it a constant tension between loving and not offending our neighbours but also loving and protecting our daughter. It can also be hard to balance our ministry responsibilities alongside spending quality time with her, especially to stimulate and educate her when she must often play alone.
What do you do to encourage your daughter to love Jesus?
We pray for her, that she may know and love Jesus herself. However much we would like to, we can’t make it happen. We hope we demonstrate our own love of Jesus in our own lives, our marriage and our wider relationships. We do our own ‘kids church’ every week, sometimes twice weekly, where we sing songs together, read a Bible story and pray to God. Singing is something our daughter loves so it is easy to share Christian music with her e.g. Colin Buchanan*/Emu music. We try to include God in everything we do daily, so when out for walks we talk about the things Daddy God has made, or we explain when we are out telling Bible stories in the villages that it is so our friends can know King Jesus too. With limited resources we have found having ‘Beginning with God*‘ from the Good Book Company a helpful resource.
It’s so interesting to learn about parenting in different contexts. It helps us to analyse our own contexts where we our bringing up our children. We hope you’ve found this post inspiring and helpful.
Where we live in the UK we don’t have to worry about a lack of good Christian resources, or fear that our children will face isolation because of their faith/race. But we do face challenges like secular messages being communicated to our children through the internet, TV and even the school communities around them. Evangelistically there are challenges too, with many people being suspicious or apathetic to Christianity.
Reflect on your own context for a moment. What challenges and opportunities face you as you seek to live for Jesus and share your faith with your children?
We’d love to hear your reflections! Please fill in the form below to take part in the series yourself.
We’ve written a guest post for Sunsine Lenses. Here’s a little excerpt from it:
“Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No it’s…
That sentence could be finished with any number of superheroes at the moment, as they seem to have taken over the Thomson household. Our 2 ½ year old is obsessed! Somehow, he knows the names of multiple superheroes, without ever having watched any superhero movies or programmes.
Most of us love a good superhero, don’t we? We love the idea of someone superhuman; someone who can come to the rescue when we’re most in need; someone who will battle for justice against the forces of evil.
Earlier in the year we had the joy of attending the lovely wedding of some friends of ours.
Reu is at an age where he doesn’t really appreciate the finer details of weddings yet. He didn’t really see much of the ceremony – he was intent on swiping the pretty sequins off the table next to us, and playing with the bouquets of flowers that were attached to the barriers. In the end daddy took him out to play during the talk so that we weren’t too disruptive!
But one day, when he’s a bit older and more civilised (will that day ever come?!) we look forward to chatting to him and Bo about the significance of marriage. We wanted to share some ponderings to perhaps help you chat to your children next time you’re at a wedding.
It was such a special day, that reminded us of even more special realities.
As we watched the stunning bride walk down the aisle in her white dress – her Father beaming and delighted – it pointed to the greater meaning of marriage. As we saw the groom with eyes filled with wonder and awe at the beauty of his bride – it pointed to an even more magnificent love story. As we heard our friends vow to love, cherish and honour each other for the rest of their lives – their vows of commitment spoke of the unconditional love of another. Weddings point us to a wonderful reality embedded in the history and future of the universe – the thrilling reality that God loves the people he has made in an even more intense way than how a groom loves his bride. All human weddings are a picture of a greater love.
The First Ever Marriage
When the boys are older, we’ll be able to tell them that the first wedding happened at the very dawn of time. After God created the cosmos for his glory and our enjoyment, he created a companion especially for Adam. The first marriage was similar to every other marriage since. God the Father presented his daughter to Adam. He walked her down the aisle to her groom. God’s heart was full of excitement and satisfaction as he gave his beautiful daughter to her husband.
“The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”
Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals.
But for Adam no suitable helper was found. So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. 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.
Genesis 2:18 – 26
Christ and the Church
And we’ll be able to tell them that the love that a husband and wife have for each other (whether mummy and daddy – or any other bride and groom that they see) are a picture of Jesus and his church. We’ll be able to explain to them that Jesus loves the church deeply – that he loves his people so much that he died for their cleansing. That Jesus makes it possible for his bride to wear a sparkling, snow-white wedding gown of righteousness. You see Jesus, like prince charming in Cinderella (but in a much more wonderful way), made it possible for the church to discard her rags of poverty and disgrace and be clothed in a ball-gown fit for a Queen.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body.” For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
Marriage Supper of the Lamb
And then we’ll be able to tell him that there is a wedding day to come, where we, the church, the bride of Christ, will be united to our wonderful bridegroom Jesus. At long last, we will live with our God – never to be separated again. We will enjoy the ultimate wedding day as the beloved of Jesus and we will feast and celebrate at a banquet fit for royalty – for that it what we have married into.
“Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out,
“Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”
for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.”
Weddings are such wonderfully happy occasions – entire days set apart to celebrate covenantal love. They feel so indulgent don’t they? We wear beautiful outfits, we revel in the affection that the bride and groom have for each other, we feast on cake, we laugh and reminisce, we drink delicious wine and we dance the night away. That’s totally appropriate behaviour when we are celebrating a wedding. How wonderful that the joy that we feel at a wedding day is just a drop in the ocean compared to the joy that we’ll feel on our wedding day to Christ.
It has a lot to answer for. The nesting instinct is the reason Cathy decided to scrub the grout of the shower with a toothbrush when 38 weeks pregnant with Reuben – a ridiculous urge (what baby inspects grout?!) and very un-Cathy-like!
What is nesting? It’s the strong desire to prepare your home for the arrival of a newborn baby, including decorating, cleaning and reorganising.
Now that the nesting instinct has hit us again, we’ve been beavering away decorating Reuben’s big boy bedroom, the little one’s nursery, and we’ve got plans for the play room too.
For Scott (who enjoys DIY and a thorough sort-out) the desire to nest comes from the sensible reasoning that, with the arrival of a newborn, it is impossible to keep a vaguely tidy house never mind attempt DIY! So, let’s get it out the way now.
Cathy, on the other hand, is finding that she is waking up in the middle of the night and devising never ending to-do lists: “buy fabric for curtains; paint the chest of drawers; clear out unwanted stuff for the charity shop; stock up on new-born nappies; check we’ve got all the sections of the breast pump…” the list goes on and on. Are hormones responsible? Most probably!
You couldn’t normally accuse us of being overly organised, tidy or house proud. Don’t believe us? Just look through the glass in the front door and see the shoe-strewn floor, paperwork-littered sideboard and assortment of toys, nappy wipes and the nearly dead plant.
But getting things ready for our new arrival is really exciting. We can’t wait to meet our little one, and as sentimental as it sounds we want everything to be just right for his/her arrival. We thought the instinct to nest might not be so strong second time round, but we’re finding it’s even stronger! Even though our home will look like a bomb has hit it a few hours after the baby moves in, the desire to create a lovely place to welcome our new child into is very strong. Where does this instinct come from?
“The opening chapters of the Bible describe God creating the universe. Just like a parent meticulously preparing a nursery with mobiles and furniture and murals, God hung the stars in the sky, sculpted the mountains and rivers and brought the landscape alive by adding birds and fish. Everything was ready. The world contained all that a beloved son or daughter could possibly need. The only thing missing was the child. So God creates human beings to enjoy all that he has prepared for them.”
It’s a wonderful picture of creation.
How often do we think about the fact that God harnessed his creative power and channelled it into creating a perfect habitat for us – humanity? God sees us as the crown of creation. God wasn’t only making a universe to display his power, but he was lovingly making a home for us – his people, his children. It’s pretty mind-boggling to think about.
Much of our behavior in nesting is normal (perhaps not the toothbrush incident…). It’s part of what it means to love our children. We haven’t met little miss/master Thomson yet, but we already love them. We prepare a room, a bed, a play space for them out of love, anticipation and excitement. We image God in creation.
So if you are awaiting your own new arrival, then as you prepare your home for your little bundle, remember that you image our God who in creation was, in a way, nesting for us. How loved we are!
Jesus is Nesting
But here’s another wonderful truth. There’s a sense that God hasn’t stopped nesting. He’s still doing it today.
You see, shortly after creation, God’s children broke his heart and decided to live in rebellion against him. The people that he made started to destroy the beautiful home that he had made for them. They started to destroy each other. They even destroyed themselves. Sin ravaged creation and left it bleeding and broken.
But the story didn’t end there.
God decided to rescue and redeem the people that had rejected him. And more than that, he decided to rescue and redeem the creation that he made for his people. How? Through the amazing life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
“15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on
earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him,20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross”.
Jesus has reconciled a people to himself, and is reconciling all things to himself. The blood of Jesus is effective not just in dealing with sin (though it wonderfully does that!), but in bringing restoration to the whole of the creation that he has made.
One day that work will be complete. Here’s what Jesus promises:
“ ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God, believe also in me.2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.4 You know the way to the place where I am going.’”
Right now, Jesus lovingly prepares a place for his people. He’s nesting. He gets the rooms ready for us to move into. He waits for us with anticipation and excitement. He can’t wait to welcome us into his father’s house. To welcome us into the family home.
So, as we nest for our baby, we image Jesus and remember how much more wonderfully he does it for us.
As we eagerly anticipate the arrival of our little one into our home, we pray that this would remind us of Jesus, the one who created our earthly home, who prepares our heavenly home, and who draws up the architect plans for the new creation – our eternal home. What amazing love he has for us!
If you know us, or have read this blog before, you’ll know that we’re expecting our second child in August.
If you’ve had children of your own, or even had friends or relatives who’ve had children, you’ll know how exciting the countdown to the new arrival is. Thinking about this new baby often occupies your thoughts. What will they look like? Will it be a boy or girl? What will their personalities be like? When will they come? “Expecting” is exactly the right word to use.
Recently we’ve been reflecting on this time of waiting and have been struck by the echoes of the gospel that resound. As we said in our “Gospel In The Everyday” introductory post, we shouldn’t be surprised to see something of the truth of who God is in the world he’s created and in the rhythms and patterns of the world, all of which speak of his glory. We’re excited about how God, in his grace, has been using this time that we’ve been expecting to remind us of something of the gospel. We hope you’ll be encouraged too.
When Is He Coming?
In 1 Thessalonians 5, Paul writes to a church who seem to be in a bit of confusion about the return of Jesus. He writes to them to urge them to be aware that Jesus will return, and to stay alert to this reality as they go about life, as the exact date and time of his return is unknown.
To help them get their heads round it, Paul uses two illustrations. He describes Jesus’ return as being like a thief in the night. The point is clear. If we knew exactly when a thief was going to come, then it wouldn’t be a surprise. We wouldn’t be sleeping and allow them to just stroll in and steal. But the fact is, we don’t know when a thief will come. It’s a shock to us. Just like Jesus’ return.
Then he uses an unexpected illustration. He talks about Jesus’ return coming suddenly, like labour pains come to a woman. (Paul uses this illustration negatively – it’s a warning to those who don’t know Jesus. But hopefully you’ll see that this illustration can be helpful to Christians too.)
Now, we always thought this illustration a little odd. You see we do know, don’t we, when a baby is coming? 9 months gestation, and all of that?
Well yes, but we don’t know exactly when.
We know that the baby will come, but the exact date and time is a complete mystery (unless you have an elective C-Section of course… but that wasn’t a possibility when Paul was writing!). If you’re a parent you’ll remember that all too well – those days in the run up to the due date when you were itching for it to happen – itching to know when you’d finally meet your precious little one. Crossing the days off the calendar, knowing it will be soon, but just not sure when. And then suddenly, seemingly out of the blue, the waters break and it’s happening.
Now do you see Paul’s point? That’s just the place we’re in as Christians. We know Jesus will return. We eagerly anticipate that date. But when exactly that date will be is a mystery.
The Greater Meeting
So, as we wait expectantly to meet little miss/master Thomson, we want to use the sense of anticipation and expectancy to remind us of an even greater meeting to come that we’re also waiting for. We know with certainty that that day will one day come when Jesus will return. When exactly will that will be, we don’t know. But it will come. We will one day see him face to face. And so, as Paul goes on to urge the Thessalonians, we want to live in the light of that wonderful and certain future reality.
If you’re expecting then next time you find yourself eagerly anticipating the arrival of your little one, why not let that prompt you to ponder the reality of the coming return of Jesus? Do you know a Christian who is expecting? Maybe you could point them to this post as a helpful reminder to them of the gospel in the everyday?
This winter was our first with a toddler – it felt like it lasted years not months! Seemingly endless rain, wind and bleak grey days forced us to spend many a Saturday in an artificially lit, soulless soft-play centre. Don’t get us wrong, we love soft play – Reuben’s occupied while we eat cake: what’s not to love?! But surely most would prefer to sit outside a stately home in the pleasant afternoon sun – cuppa in one hand, scone in the other? (Yes we are being stereotypically British here… but we’re unashamed).
So, given the recent upturn in weather, we’ve really been trying to make the most of it.
Daffodils, ducklings, blue skies! It’s almost like we feel more human by being able to step outside and feel the sun on our face, the grass beneath our feet and the stick in our mouth (no we don’t have a dog – it’s Reu who’s partial to a good stick at the moment).
Speaking About God Through Spring
One of the greatest joys of spring, however, is the opportunity it gives us to talk about God.
God’s attributes are wonderfully displayed by the beauty of this season:
He’s kind and generous, giving us good gifts like sunshine and cherry blossom.
He’s creative, designing the intricacy of the bluebells and marigolds.
He delights in beauty and is the source of all pleasure, as seen in the frolicking of the lambs and the dance of the bumble bees as they skip and bounce across the meadow flowers.
So much about this season indicates joy and life – fauna and flora are teeming, wiggling, bursting with life – and all of this points to the kind and generous character of the mastermind behind it.
Worship Through Spring
In case you’re thinking that using these things to talk about God is overdoing it a bit, consider this: Worship happens all the time on a sunny day in Britain.
“Isn’t this weather glorious!”
“Oh look at the baby animals, aren’t they gorgeous!”
But often, if we look into our hearts, our worship is of the things themselves. And we can very easily pass that on to our children too. We sometimes fail to see that these good gifts all point to the self-giving, delightful creator behind them. As the puritan Jonathan Edwards said, the universe is “full of images of divine things, as full as a language is of words.” So if spring is so beautiful, then just imagine how lovely he is!
Why not determine, next time you experience one of these joys of spring with your children, to point them to the glorious giver behind it?
“Look Reuben at the little ducklings that God made, aren’t they beautiful!”
“God loves to give us things like strawberries Reu, because he loves to see us enjoying delicious things – that’s just the sort of God he is.”
“Look at the variety of the things that God has made – those graceful butterflies, and this slimy, wiggly worm, he’s so inventive!”
This is all exciting, but we think we can go even further.
Spring And The Gospel
More than simply talking about attributes of God from spring, there are also opportunities to chat about the gospel.
In spring we see a powerful illustration of the resurrection.
Winter can be bleak. Chilly winds, snow-laden scenes, hibernating animals and naked trees. The darkness creeps into the daytime, pushing the daylight out. All around is death and decay, as many plants and wildlife don’t survive the drop in temperatures. The frost comes to kill, and it comes to stay for months on end.
But then one day, after a long silence, when light and life are almost forgotten, new life suddenly begins to break through. Buds appear on the tree. Green shoots start to poke through the hard ground. The birds find their voices once again. Rays of sun break through the clouds, the temperatures rise, and we all know the seasons are changing and spring is on the way.
C.S. Lewis captures this beautifully in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. Enjoy this quote below of when the White Witch’s curse of an endless winter is suddenly broken by Aslan’s presence.
“Every moment the patches of green grew bigger and the patches of snow grew smaller. Every moment more and more of the trees shook off their robes of snow. Soon, wherever you looked, instead of white shapes you saw the dark green of firs or the black prickly branches of bare oaks and beeches and elms. Then the mist turned from white to gold and presently cleared away all together. Shafts of delicious sunlight struck down onto the forest floor and overhead you could see a blue sky between the tree tops […] “This is no thaw,” said the dwarf, suddenly stopping. “This is Spring. What are we to do? Your winter has been destroyed, I tell you! This is Aslan’s doing!”
Through allegory, C.S. Lewis cleverly plays with how winter turning to spring pictures the coming of Jesus. It’s a beautiful scene. It’s a scene followed by the stone table which makes spring possible.
Winter turns to spring because of the reality that the stone table represents.
Do you remember that reality? Do you remember that scene? Let’s go there now.
Early one morning, while the dew was still on the ground, and the morning mist lingered in the air, a band of heart-broken women journeyed to the tomb of a beloved friend. They had come to love this friend deeply, they had followed his teaching, supported his ministry out of their own means, experienced his demeanor of gentleness, acceptance and love. They had come to believe that this teacher was God’s Messiah. But, just a few days before this, the unthinkable had happened. Their beloved leader had been brutally executed on a Roman cross. They had seen the way the sneering Pharisees had falsely accused Jesus, how the jeering crowds heckled for his execution, how the mocking soldiers viciously taunted and assaulted him, and how after all this, he had been nailed to a wooden cross to suffocate to death. The sun was eclipsed. The source of life had been mercilessly killed.
But the story didn’t end there.
As the women approached the tomb they were filled with confusion. The stone blocking the entrance of the tomb had been rolled away. The tomb was empty. Jesus was gone. Mary Magdalene spoke to the gardener through tear-filled eyes. “We are looking for our Master and we do not know where they have put him.” The gardener simply replied with one word, “Mary.”
At that moment, her world was changed forever.
She recognized that voice. The man standing before her was he. Jesus was alive! The impossible had happened. Grief turned to joy. Death turned to life.
It is the best possible ending (or beginning) to an epic story. The resurrection gives believers hope. Jesus has defeated sin and death and hell. When death touches the son of God, death itself dies.
Through this death and resurrection, we too have the hope of resurrection. We have hope that we who are dead in sin can be made alive. And spring beautifully reminds us of this.
Spring declares new life, resurrection hope, life emerging from death.
As the light nights return, we’re reminded of the certainty that the darkness in our hearts is being dispelled by the light of the world.
As the green shoots break through, we’re reminded of the green shoots of new life in our hearts as the Spirit transforms us.
As the Sun heats up and hard ground begins to melt, we’re reminded that the Son has broken through the clouds, and our frozen hearts are being melted.
Winter is over. Spring has come. Aslan is on the move.
Why not point your children to the gospel this spring?
“Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”
1 Corinthians 15:55-57
“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved.”
I’d imagine for most of us the conversations that we have with our children range from the sublime to the ridiculous!
Perhaps your conversation with children involves you asking them what they did at school, and them replying “nothing”? Isn’t it strange that they never do anything – you’d think someone would have noticed by now!
It could be that you talk to them about what they’re doing at that particular time – narrating their life as it happens (just in case they happen to miss something!)
Or maybe it’s simply telling them what they need to do (or not do!) “Please pick up that entire car collection that you’ve just dumped on the floor and spread across the house.” “Please don’t stand up while I change this impossibly pooey nappy.” “DO NOT put everything smaller than your fist into your mouth!”
Depending on the age of your children, the things that you talk to them about will no doubt vary.
Speaking About The Gospel
But how easy do you find it to speak to your children about Christian things? How easy, in general day-to-day life, do you find it to speak the truths of the gospel into your child’s life?
We’re not talking about the set aside times that you may have with your children to disciple them – perhaps a family devotion, or a time of Bible-reading and prayer before bed. Those are wonderfully precious and important times for the spiritual nurturing of our children. At some point we’ll definitely have some musings on different children’s Bibles etc.
Rather, we’re talking about speaking about God – chatting about the gospel and a Christian understanding of the world in the normal activities of life – as we go about living in the day-to-day.
Speaking to our children about the gospel in this way isn’t something that necessarily comes naturally to many of us, but most would like to do it more often and more naturally. We certainly would.
In light of this we thought we would, from time-to-time, publish a new entry to a series of blog posts called “Gospel in the Everyday”, to help all of us think about how we might do this.
The Biblical Basis For Gospel In The Everyday
The Bible teaches that God has fashioned and ordered the world in such a way that the things we encounter in it speak to us of him and his attributes. Here’s what King David says in Psalm 19:
“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.”
Do you see what he’s saying there? He’s saying that God has designed the world to reveal something about himself. It’s what’s known in theology as “general revelation” (as opposed to “special revelation” – God’s supernatural, deeper and fuller revelation of himself in the Bible and ultimately in Jesus). God is speaking – not audibly, but speaking nonetheless, through his world. We just need to be listening in order to hear it.
Here’s how Paul says it in Romans 1:
“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities
– his eternal power and divine nature –
have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made”
What does this mean for our parenting? It means that as we go about life, we are bombarded with opportunities to speak to our children about God. But often we’re so used to ignoring these signs ourselves that we find it difficult to interpret them and speak of them. But they are there.
They are there as we encounter the beauty of a creation that speaks of the splendour of the God who created it.
They are there as we feast our eyes on the rich palette of colour of an autumn day which speaks of a God who isn’t simply pragmatic, but loves to create beautiful things for our enjoyment.
They are there in the culture we engage with (even children’s TV and films!), in which image-bearing humans seek to represent truth as they offer interpretations of general revelation (without even realizing it).
They are there in the chaging seasons; in a sunset; in a beautiful gospel-mirroring act of kindness; in a simple glass of water.
The Example Of Jesus
Jesus took this even further. Very often Jesus simply observed the world around him and drew parallels to spiritual truth. It’s fascinating to look at the way that Jesus engaged with the physical things of the world and used them to talk about matters of spiritual significance. But as Jesus engaged with the creation, he often drew out much more than we’d normally expect from simple “general revelation”. General revelation can never reveal to us the gospel or knowledge for salvation. But Jesus, as the source of special revelation, was able to take these things much further, and draw out the depths of the gospel as he went about his day to day life in creation. He did it all the time. Here are just a few examples:
Using water, with the woman at the well (Jn 4:1-42);
Using agricultural observations with the parable of the sower (Mk 4:1-20);
Using the unworried, but nevertheless fed and clothed, ravens and lilies (Lk 12:22-34);
Using salt and light, in the Sermon on the Mount (Mt 5:13-16).
Using bread and wine, at the Last Supper (Lk 22:7-23)
We are fortunate as Christians that we can use “special revelation” (the Bible and Jesus) to guide and add depth to our interpretation of “general revelation”. As fallen humans, general revelation is never able to give us saving knowledge (Romans 1 and elsewhere makes that clear). But we who have saving knowledge can engage with the things of general revelation and draw out echoes and glimpses of the gospel (just like Paul does in Acts 17, and elsewhere). What a joy to be able to do that day-to-day with our children as we go about life with them.
That’s exactly what this series of posts aims to help us do. The aim is to get us – Scott and Cathy – thinking (and hopefully help you to think, too) about how, in the everyday interactions with the world that we share with our children, we can point them to truths about who God is, and share with them the truths of the gospel. We’ve gone fairly deep into the theology behind this series in this introductory post to show why we’re doing this, but the future posts in this series will be very practical, looking at specific opportunities we might have with our children.
We hope you find them helpful!
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