Did Adam and Eve Have Bellybuttons?

She giggled when she handed me the slip.  Her Bible class had received a stack of yellow papers along with a WHY TIME box for collecting anonymous questions. But she wanted to have some fun.

I took her paper as she watched for my reaction. Of course, I giggled with her and thanked her. “Do you want me to mail your answer or tell you what I think? Or do you really want to know?”

She looked at me and said, “Oh, it’s not important. Don’t worry about it.”

“I told the class that there is no silly question when it comes to God, so it’s OK.”

I offered to give the slip back to her, but she waved it off. “It’s OK; you can keep it.”

I think she may have been at least curious, knowing the answer made no significant difference. But being willing to learn made all the difference.

“I’ll see if I can come up with something that makes sense. Watch the bulletin board in class. Ok?” I called to her as she walked on. I wanted her to know God was no joke.

When I got home, I found other questions: “How were people made?” “Why is God hiding so that we can’t see Him?”, and “Did God create aliens?”

I wish I could sit down and ask these kids some clarifying questions like, “Do you think God couldn’t make any other beings than humans on earth?” or “Are you worried you can’t find God and be with Him?” Another question would be, “Would you like to see how God does what He does?”

Then I could answer, “God did make other beings besides these on earth. He created angels and heavenly creatures before He made our world. We’ll need to wait and find out if He’s made other worlds. He’s certainly had plenty of time. In the meantime, we do know He made us, and communicated to us how to live well, and also how to find Him if we wish.”

And about finding God, I would assure them that God has shown himself in two ways:  in the Bible, and by what He’s made.  And He wants us, and wants us to want Him enough to look for Him. One of God’s workers visited Athens, where people thought the gods were Zeus, Athena, Apollo, and hundreds of others. He told them:

From one man he has made every nation of humanity to live all over the earth. He has given them the seasons of the year and the boundaries within which to live. He has done this so that they would look for God, somehow reach for him, and find him. In fact, he is never far from any one of us. Certainly, we live, move, and exist because of him. – Apostle Paul, Acts 17:26-28

As for seeing what God does next, He’s invited us to do just that. His plan is for us to choose Him and His ways. Then eventually He will take us home to be with Him forever. We’ll be amazed and honored to see and celebrate God’s work throughout eternity! And He will answer all of our questions. I don’t want these kids–or me– to miss out on that!

So did Adam and Eve have bellybuttons?  Since neither were formed inside a mother, I doubt it.

But many things only God knows for certain, and in the end that’s a question for Him.

“The Lord, our God, has secrets known to no one. We are not accountable for them, but we and our children are accountable forever for all that he has revealed to us, so that we may obey all the terms of these instructions.” Deuteronomy 29:29

Why do kids get cancer, ADHD, or killed in tornados?

As I waited in the pick-up line for the school bell to ring, my heart shuddered beneath the weight of knowing how children in this world suffer. Some suffer because of the sin of others, from abortion, neglect or abuse, kidnapping, and slavery, hunger and warring adults around them. Others suffer under the cold realities of nature. “Atheism points more to the problem of suffering to justify their denial of God’s existence than any other fact.” – John Lennox.

My young friends have asked questions about this in many forms. My young friend wanted to know about those hurt in tornados and why God let that happen. The problem will never be answered to the satisfaction of all humanity, not because there are no answers, but because sometimes we don’t like the answers when they come.

The bell rang, and soon he was running to the car, carrying his backpack with one arm, since the other was in a cast.  “Let me help you with your backpack,” I greeted. “Are you in the mood for ice cream by any chance?”

“All RIGHT!” he cheered. “I want blue ice cream!”

I smiled and began finding our way through the traffic. “Tell me something good that happened today at school,” I said, giving him a chance to decompress.

“I told Derrick about bad guys choosing bad stuff and how God’s going to fix everything when Jesus comes back.”

“Good for you. You’re a good friend for Derrick. What did he say about that?”

“He said he was glad God would make everything right some day so that the bad guys won’t win,” he explained. “But when I told him we were going to talk about tornados, he said to ask you about why kids get cancer, or why he has to take ADHD pills.”

“It sounds like Derrick’s worried about some things. Maybe he’d like to know God better and understand how much God can do. He might feel better.”

“Yeah, but why dokids get sick or hurt when nobody made bad choices?”

“You are right. Sometimes things go wrong with the weather,  our bodies, or even animals hurt people sometimes.  All those things are part of nature, and God made nature. So we want God to make nature always to be good to us. Right?”

“Yeah!  Why does God’s world go wrong sometimes?”

“Well, there are some answers that God doesn’t give us. God’s mind is so much stronger than ours that we’ll never be able to figure out everything He’s thinking. Maybe Satan uses nature to hurt us. Maybe the world got broken, too,  when Adam and Eve broke God’s heart. We don’t have all the answers. But there are some things we can know.”

“Like what?” he asked,  turning in his seat to face me.

“Well, as I said yesterday, we’re feeling the same way God does when we are sad for anyone that has trouble. It breaks his heart and ours when tornados or floods or fires hurt so many people. If there was no God, then all anyone could say is, “Too bad.  That’s just life. There is no hope.” And that would be sadder than anything else, I think.”  I waited to see if he understood the point I was making.

“So people that don’t believe in God aren’t sad about the bad stuff?” He was confused.

“People who don’t want God are still very sad about those tragedies. But they don’t understand that God gave them those feelings in the first place. They try to blame humans for making nature mess up. Sometimes they even blame God, and then they say they don’t believe in Him. And sometimes they stay sad forever.”

“Oh….” He was trying to understand. “That doesn’t make sense.”

“I know. God knows what suffering is like because Jesus was tortured and killed when He lived here. But Jesus figured out how to stop all the bad. Do you remember we talked about how God is going to fix everything when Jesus comes back again?”

“I sure do, and I’m glad!”

“The difference between us and the people who don’t want God is that they think that terrible tragedies will always happen and will never stop. They say people will die, and it’s all over.  That’s just more sadness, I think.”

“Me, too,” he mused.

“But God gives us three promises:  1) He will help us get through hard times, 2) Even if our bodies die, He will take care of our real Self  until Jesus comes again  and fixes our bodies, and 3) He’s going to make a new place where we are all together with Him–a new Heaven and New Earth. So we know that cancer, and sickness, mental troubles, tornados and all that will finally be over.”

Now he was quiet, looking out his window without seeing. Then  turning to me, he quietly said,  “I’m glad God is there.”

“Me, too,” I agreed. “And that He wants to help us.”

“And that He made ice cream!” he laughed. We’d arrived.

 

“Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children,  including the new bodies he has promised us.” Romans 8:18-23

Why Does God Let People Get Hurt?

My carpool week was turning out to be more than just giving a hand to an overwhelmed mom. It was becoming a Bible class on the road!

As I pulled into the driveway, my young friend charged out the front door ready for his day. I prayed for God’s wisdom and direction. I’d promised the boy an answer to a tough question.

“Hi Nannygranne!”  he called.

“Hello, fine sir!” I answered.

“Did God tell you the answer?” You have to love kids. They hold us accountable!

“Well, I listened to Him in His word and I prayed for wisdom. I also listened to other Christians who had thought about this question, too. So, I do have some things I can tell you.”

“Good!” he said. “I want to tell Derrick when I get to school.”

“Was Derrick wondering about why bad things happen to people, too?”

“Yes.  Derrick’s uncle is a police officer, and a bad guy shot him. He didn’t die, but Derrick had prayed for his uncle to be safe and God didn’t protect his uncle.”

“Why do you think the bad guy shot Derrick’s uncle?” I began

“Because he likes to do bad things,”

“Good answer.  So, the bad guy made a bad choice, right?”

His head swiveled my direction, and his blue eyes squinted. “Yeah, but why didn’t God stop him.  Derrick asked him to.”

“Well, if God stopped everyone from making bad choices, would that be fair?”

At the shrug of his shoulders, I saw that we were wading in too deeply for a 7-year-old’s mind.  I needed to toss him a life preserver, so I continued, “If God forced us all to only do those things He wants us to do, would that be fair?”

Still squinting, he ventured a guess, “No?”

“Would you want to be somebody’s robot and not be able to choose how you acted?”

Now he was beginning to understand. “Being a robot would be fun…but not all the time,” he admitted.

“If God lets you and me choose, then everyone else gets to choose, too. And there are always people who choose the wrong. And besides, maybe God did protect Derrick’s uncle since he was only hurt and not killed.”

“What if he’d been killed?” For a 7-year-old, his mind was uncannily quick.

“Then if he were God’s child, God would take him to His place and take care of him until Derrick got to go to God’s place, too.   His uncle’s Self would go to a different place.  He wouldn’t be gone. His Self would still be alive.  Only his body is buried for a while.  When Jesus comes back, He’ll make everybody’s body alive again, just like He came alive again.”

At that, he frowned and turned to look straight ahead.  There was more.  I thought I knew what that might be.

“And the bad guy would go to jail, and if he never stopped making bad choices, God would put him far away so he could never hurt anyone again.”

My young friend then offered me a smile of resignation.

“When bad things happen to anyone,” I said, “it makes God angry, too, and He knows it’s not fair. God hates bullying, drugs, terrorism, fighting, stealing and cheating. He hates those things because they hurt people.  And guess what!”

“What?!” he encouraged.

“The Bible says God made you in His image.  He made you like Him in some ways. That’s why you feel the same way God does about bad things. And you want it fixed, too, right?”

“I wish God would fix all that bad stuff!” he slammed his fist into his seat.

“Guess what else?”  I encouraged. “God will make everything right when Jesus comes again. So, don’t worry. God is going to make everything fair then.”

Now his head bobbed up and down thoughtfully. We’d arrived at the school.  He and Derrick would have a lot to talk about today.

He opened the door and started to get out, then stopped and turned back to me.

“What about that tornado?  Why did God let that happen?”

“You go ahead and go on in. We’ll talk more after school, OK? We’re going to need ice cream after school today.”

(To be continued)

Is God Mad at Me?

It was my day to pick up my neighbor boy from school.  He’d broken his arm over the weekend and had difficulty opening the door.  I reached across to the passenger side and opened the door, taking his backpack so he could climb in.

“Hey, my friend!  How was your day?”  Every kid’s favorite question.  We, adults, are so predictable. Kids, not so much.

“Did God get mad at me?” he huffed.  I immediately knew his day had been a little hard.

“Do you think God is mad at you?” I asked.

He looked down, then, not wanting me to see his chin tremble.  My heart broke for him, but I knew he needed to say what he had to say.  If I  tried too quickly to assure him,  I risked leaving him unsure of the answer.

“Why do I get hurt?  Is it a punishment from God?

“When you broke your arm, you thought God was letting you get hurt because he was angry with you, then?”

He looked up at me, tears in his eyes, and nodded, unable to speak.

“Did you do something you wish you hadn’t done?”

“Daddy told me not to climb on his ladder, but I did, and that’s why I broke my arm.  Daddy said he told me not to do that and he was mad when they had to take me to the emergency room.”

“My daddy used to get grumpy when he was scared about me, too.   Daddies want to fix things, and your Daddy couldn’t fix your arm.  So he got grumpy about that because he loves you.”  I wanted to get back to his question, so I continued.  “Do you think God made you break your arm?”

“I don’t know.  I didn’t mean to fall.”

“Do you know what an accident is?”

“A car wreck?” he guessed.

“An accident is something that happens, but nobody meant for it to happen.  I think you had an accident.  I don’t think anybody meant for that to happen to you.  It only happened because the ladder wasn’t safe for you to climb on.”

He frowned thoughtfully, then said, “Then I wasn’t being punished?”

“Well not by God and not even by your dad.  Punishment is supposed to help you remember to do the right thing next time.  But sometimes we learn from our own mistakes. Do you think you’ll climb on the ladder again without Daddy’s help?”

“No!  I won’t ever do that again!” he vowed with his most serious frown.

“Then I’d say the broken arm will help you remember to not climb on the ladder again without Daddy’s permission.  Your broken arm is what Daddy didn’t want to happen to you because he loves you so much.”

“But what about the homeless people, or the people at church that are sick and stuff?”  Now he looked at me challenging the idea that bad things always resulted from making mistakes.

“You know, you are right.  Sometimes bad things happen to people even though they didn’t do anything wrong to deserve it, and that’s always very hard to understand.  Even grownups ask that question, so you’re thinking very wisely.”

He sat a little taller and grinned.

“That’s a really big question, too.  Is it alright with you if I think about it and look at God’s word and pray for wisdom?  I’d rather answer that question tomorrow, if  you don’t mind.”

“Ok,” he said proudly.   “I don’t mind.”  He looked down the road now with a satisfied smile on his face.   He liked that he’d asked an important question and that an adult was going to have to do some hard thinking to answer it.

If only he knew.

(To be continued)

I Don’t Believe in Dad Anymore

(This week’s post is by guest blogger, David Roper.)

I used to believe I had a dad. In fact, when I was younger, I thought I could see him and thought I talked with him and he with me. But I’ve learned that’s just kid stuff.

You see, some time ago, my father moved away and I can’t see him anymore. Since that happened, I’ve been giving the matter a great deal of thought and I’ve decided I don’t really have a father.

Oh sure, I get letters that are supposed to be from him, but how do I know they are reallyfrom him? Someone could be forging his handwriting and the letter carriers are probably supporting the deception to protect their jobs. And the phone calls? Perhaps voice impressionists hired by the phone company.

What brought about this change of mind? I suppose it started when I met a man with a lot of degrees. He said nobodybelieves in fathers anymore. He told me that scientists are now convinced that fathers are not really necessary, that we can come into existence without them. As proof that there are no fathers, this very educated man cited the problems that many families have.

Well, that made me think. I started remembering that my dad didn’t always give me everything I wanted, even when he could. I especially remembered one time when I wanted something specific so very badly—and he said, “No.” I begged and I pleaded, my heart was breaking, and he still said, “No.” I ask you, who could believe in a father like that?

I admit I sometimes miss the comfort of believing I have a dad, but I guess that’s part of the pain of growing up. Really, I look with pity on those poor uninformed individuals who still believe they have fathers. No, I don’t believe in dad anymore.

*  *  * *  *  *

The above sounds silly, right? But I’ve heard the same reasoning from those who say they no longer believe in their heavenly Father. Just make a few substitutions, such as “preachers” for “letter carriers,” and you’ll see what I mean.

Can you no longer “see” your Father? Look around and above you. “The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands” (Psalm 19:1). Would you know Him? Read the Bible, His “love letter” to you, which carries His imprint on every page. Has He ever said “No” to your prayers? Realize He still loves you and will ultimately cause “all things to work together for good to those who love” Him (Romans 8:28).

“There is . . . one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:4, 6). “We had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live?” (Hebrews 12:9).

Who Made God?

The night sky appeared almost magical.  The moon, yet to rise, allowed the stars to dazzle against the blackness of space.  Magical moments happen when you’re camping with your kids.

As we sat on the parking lot guardrail by the lake, we talked about God knowing just how many stars He’d made, and even knowing their names. Psalm 147 says God “counts the number of the stars.  He calls them all by their names.”

Suddenly, we each grew quiet, lost in thought.  I wondered what my son was thinking.  He was born with a vivid imagination and a sometimes maddening curiosity.  Then he asked, “Who made God?”

“That’s a really big question.  Who do you think made God?”  I wanted to know if he’d given much thought to his question.

“I don’t know.” he shrugged.  “Everything starts somewhere.  Chickens lay eggs that hatch and make chickens.  Water comes from rain and then evaporates and turns back into clouds. Rocks even used to be dirt or lava. So where did God come from?” Yep.  He’d been thinking about it for a while.

“OK, how many chickens have hatched since the first chicken laid the first egg, do you think?”

He looked at me, grinning, and then slapped his forehead.  “That’s crazy!  Bazillions!”

“But there had to be the first chicken at some point, right?”

“Well, yeah!  God made it!”

“That’s right! The fact is that God made every piece of everything in the whole universe.  And God made space,” I waved over the sky above us, “And God even made time!”

“I hadn’t thought of that.”

“Time measures what is happening in the world.  Everything in the world has a beginning and an end.  Does that make sense to you?”  I waited while he pondered and then slowly nodded his head.

“I think so.  God started time, and God started the world, right?”

“Yes.  God made time, space, and we call everything we see ‘matter.’  Have you heard of matter at school?”

“Yes.  Everything we can see or touch is called matter. That’s what my teacher said, except some matter is so tiny we can’t really see it.”  He explained, pleased with his eight-year-old academic prowess.

I wanted him to understand the vital truth about who God is, so I tried an example.   “If I bake a cake, am I part of the cake or am I different from the cake?”

He looked at me puzzled by the sudden change of subject.  “What?”

“You heard me.  I want to explain something to you.” Repeating, I said, “If I were to bake a cake, would I become part of the cake?”

“Well, no.” He wasn’t convinced that this made sense.

“Then if God made time, space, and matter, He isn’t part of them, either.  He is separate from what He made.  Now does THAT make sense?”

His eyes grew wide and, speechlessly, he nodded that he understood.

“And He created everything we can see or touch–matter–but God is invisible because He is not  matter.” I waited for his reaction.

“Oh!  So that’s why He’s invisible.  He’s not made out of anything!”  He got it!

” And God also made space, but He doesn’t live in that space.  He can be everywhere all at once.”

Now his eyes bore into mine as he waited, poised for another surprise.

“And God made time, but in His world, there is no time.  That’s why He has always existed and always will.”

“Eternal,” he mused.  “Forever.  No time.”   I loved watching his eyes light up.

“So you see, God is the only One who could make the world because He didn’t have to be made by anyone.  He has always been there and will always be there.  Just think!  One day we’ll get to be where He is, right there with Him.  Then we’ll get to watch what He does next.”

We both returned our gaze to the sky, both of us filled with wonder.  I thanked the God of that beautiful universe for my son’s curiosity and imagination;  gifts that would enhance his faith as he discovered the ceaseless wonders of God’s creation.

What Was Growing Up Like for Jesus?

He was 14.  Being a 14-year-old boy in 21st Century America is hard.  I watched him as he sat in Bible class and stared at the yellow slip of paper before him.  That yellow slip was an open invitation to ask any question about God and His ways and world.  It was to be anonymous.  He was free to ask what was on his heart.  The question he asked heads this post.

What he really wondered was: Was 14 as hard for Jesus as it was for him?  Did He struggle with parents’ expectations?  Did His teachers ever seem clueless, too?  Was it hard for Him to be ‘good,’ too, and sometimes get in trouble for nothing?   Did He ever feel like an outsider?  Did He ever fight with his siblings?  Did He ever have days when He just felt like he was a mistake?  Does Jesus understand what it’s like to be a 14-year-old boy in 21st Century America?

To him and so many more who wonder the same thing I want to begin by saying, “YES, Jesus understands!”  If He hadn’t wanted to understand human childhood, He’d have appeared as a grown man. But Jesus wanted to feel, touch, hear and taste it all.  He wanted us to know He understands what it feels like to be helpless, misunderstood, or different, to experience puberty, and, yes, even understand girls.

There are two ways to look at Jesus’ childhood.   Some might say it was ideal with two God-fearing parents – a working dad, a loving and wise mother – and always knowing the right thing to do.  But there is another way to see into Jesus’ youth.  Joseph was his step-dad who died before Jesus left home.  His mom was just a teenager when He was born, and she became pregnant with Jesus before she was married.  In those days, girls were sometimes killed for pregnancy outside of marriage.  Some may have thrown that in His face all his life.

He was God in a human body. That had to be limiting, frustrating and at times even disgusting.  As a baby, He would be sick, have His diaper changed, fall down, learn to walk and talk before He could be understood.  As a youth, He always did his best, but maybe this made His siblings jealous.  Maybe He intimidated other kids.  Maybe it wasn’t fun to hang out with boys who weren’t respectful about God (after all, He wasGod).  We don’t know when He became fully aware of His deity, but it’s not hard to imagine Him sitting in class, listening to clueless Rabbis teach him about the Old Testament when He had been there and was the One responsible for the writings themselves.

Jesus got in trouble with His parents once, and they were the ones in the wrong.  They even chewed Him out in front of the men he was talking Bible with, but He “went with them and submitted to them” just the same.  He managed to have a good reputation with most folks, so He figured out how to get along with people, all kinds of people.  His secret was His motive.  He did everything for God.

Jesus had to grow up, but it wasn’t easy.  He had to obey rules that others made up.  He had to wait until the grownups thought He was “smart” enough to teach.  He had to wait and watch and listen while people taught useless and foolish things about God.  But hardest of all was to know that after everything He’d done, NOBODY would stay by His side to the last, except a few women (including His mother) and one friend.  And they would be powerless to do anything to help Him.   Everyone else, even His siblings, wouldn’t want to be seen with Him. He wasn’t even going to have a funeral.

So, yes, Jesus understands everything every kid goes through, and He wants to be in your head (Bible words) and at your back (God answers prayers) and in your life (the Holy Spirit lives in every Christian).   With Him, you’re going to make it.  And even though life isn’t easy, life in Christ is full of hope and good.