WHY TIME with NannyGranne

How Soon Should We Start?

(Our guest blogger this week is the author of the Zoey books, David Roper.)

A major concern for many of us is the appalling loss of our young people. As they are bombarded by a world of unbelief, many lose their faith. What should we do? And when should we do it?

Many acknowledge that we need to prepare our young people for the skepticism that saturates society in movies, in books, in songs, on television, on social media, in classrooms, everywhere. Most agree that we need a two-prong approach to bolstering our children’s faith: in our homes and in our Bible classes. But when should we start?

Some churches and individuals wait until their children are teenagers before they get concerned. But I suggest that we need to start earlier than that, much earlier.

According to the Barna Research Group, most of a child’s moral and spiritual foundation is in place by age nine. This does not mean teaching should stop at that age. It does mean that if we wait until our children are nine or older to start teaching them, we have missed their most formative years.

The philosophy behind the Zoey preschool picture books is that we need to start as soon as a child is born. The Zoey books are the first series of apologetic volumes specifically written for preschoolers—for parents and others to read to their young children.

Many good things happen as you read to a child. Their imagination is stirred. Their curiosity is stimulated. They learn to love books and reading. They develop language skills. And (surely most important) the bond is strengthened between child and reader.

All this is true long before your child can understand the words. As you cradle your little ones in your lap and read to them, only the Lord knows how much you bless their lives.

Then, as the child continues to grow, the Zoey books will plant seeds of faith in your child’s heart and will stimulate questions that enable you to nurture that faith. (A section in the back of each book has suggestions for parents and others.)

This is not to say that the Zoey books are a cure-all for the challenge to faith in today’s world. Paul said that faith comes by hearing the Word of God (Romans 10:17). Our children need constant exposure to the Bible—in our homes and in our Bible classes. Also, the influence of Christian parents cannot be overemphasized. Parents need to demonstrate their faith in God and Christ regardless of what life brings.

What contribution then do the Zoey books make? They are a TOOL to be used by conscientious parents and others to aid them in this greatest of challenges. They are sent forth with the prayer that they will help you develop faith in yourchildren.

 

Is Jesus a Superhero?

Green eyes, peeking out of a round freckled face, were wide with hope.  Superheroes were his anchor. He’d known abuse. He’d known abandonment. He’d also known assurance and faithful love and care.  Somewhere, someone would make things right and safe again.

Then in Bible school he was thrilled to see the likenesses of his champions. There they were:  Spiderman, Ironman, Superman, The Hulk, Captain America. And Jesus was with them! He was a Superhero, too?

I sat down next to him and asked him which superhero he liked best.

“I like Superman! He can fly! He’s strong!  He can see through things!  He gets all the bad guys!”

“Do you want to be like Superman?” I continued.

“Yes!  I want to get all the bad guys!” He doubled his fists and snarled in his most vicious pixy voice. I was interested that he didn’t wish to fly or have X-ray vision, but what he wanted was someone to get all the bad guys. My heart pinched to know someone this young longing so for justice.

“I know someone who’s stronger than Superman and already got some of the bad guys. In fact, he said that he’s going to get every single bad guy AND that he’s going to let all of his friends live with him!”

“Really?” He froze. “Who?”

“Before I tell you his name, I need to tell you that he’s not a superhero.” His face fell. Dropping his still clenched fists, he sensed that this might be uninteresting. “But he’s a real hero,” I added.

“You mean like a fireman?” he ventured.

“Even better than an awesome fireman. Even better than the bravest soldier or the toughest cop!”

“What does he do?” Curiosity was rising in him. “Can he fly?”

“Let me ask you something,” I ventured. “Is Superman real?”

Looking wary, he searched his soul knowing he wasn’t sure. “I don’t know.”  He took the safe route.

“My friend is real. He really lived in a country called Israel. He was born way before Superman was on TV.” My young companion looked intrigued. I continued. “Also, he never made any mistakes, or forgot to keep his promises.” His wide green eyes locked on mine. He understood what a heroic thing it was to keep a promise. “And he really wants to be your friend and talk to you and help you know really important things. In fact, he really wants to be your very own forever friend.”

“Where is he?” Now he had to know my friend.

“When I tell you his name, I want you to remember that he is real…not just a pretend Superhero.”

“I will,” he solemnly whispered.

“My friend, and the greatest hero forever and ever, is named Jesus. He’s who wants to be your own forever friend. And Jesus promised that one day we won’t have to worry about any bad guys ever again.”

“Jesus said that?”

“Yes. Jesus is the most important hero. He keeps all his promises and he’s stronger than any superhero. And did you know that Jesus loves us more than even our family does.  And I think those things are even better than flying or seeing through walls, or even beating up all the bad guys.”

“Stronger than Superman?”

“Well, Superman has to worry about Kryptonite…and Lex Luthor….”

“Oh, yeah,” he admitted.

“Jesus could make Kryptonite if he wanted to and it wouldn’t even touch him. And neither could Lex Luthor. Jesus even walked through a wall and walked on water! And one time, He even cured a man that had turned into a monster!” At that, my little companion scooted closer, nodding his head enthusiastically. I lowered my voice mysteriously and glancing in either direction, I continued. “But what he did that nobody else ever did– was defeat Death itself! First, he let the bad guys kill him. Then he let them bury him. Then got back up out of the grave just when the Devil thought he’d won! He beat the Devil bad!! And then he even said that if the bad guys wanted to change and have good hearts, he would help them if they would let him. That’s the kind of hero he is.”

“So, he is better than Superman,” he mused.

“Yes. And Jesus is a real person. Superman is just on TV. Jesus can be our real friend, and will someday take us away from all bad things. I like Him a lot better.  I hope you learn all you can about Jesus so you can be Best Friends Forever, too, and grow up to be like him.”

I could tell that his young mind was full of new and exciting thoughts…and perhaps feeling a slight sense of loss about his well-dressed champions.  There was one more thing.

“Have you ever gotten to talk to the real Superman or Ironman or any of those superheroes?” I was quiet and gentle now.

Looking down he paused, then shook his head dejectedly.

I called him by name and said, “Did you know you really can talk to Jesus. You can do it all by yourself, too. He can hear your thoughts and feelings.  You can use words, but you don’t have to. I talk to him all the time. And he answers my prayers if I pay attention.” I smiled reassuringly and then said, “Hey!  Why don’t you talk to him now?  Just close your eyes and think what you want him to know. You don’t have to tell me because you’re not talking to me. Then one of these days, you’ll know what his answer is.” Then I touched his hand. “I won’t bother you. He’ll be so glad you came to him with your heart.”

I sat quietly as he closed his eyes and then bowed his head. After a short time, he opened his eyes and smiled. He stood, then, looking at me as if he was seeing me for the first time. He smiled and gave me a hug. “I want you to be my friend, too,” he whispered.

Then suddenly, words came to my mind as I hugged this precious child. “Let the little children come unto me, for of such is the Kingdom of God.” Matt 19:14.

Is Our God Better Than the Greek Gods? (boy, age 10)

We were gathered around the table, the minister, the small youth group, and I.  We were preparing food together to eat later and I was loving being part of that with them. There were tortilla pinwheels, pigs in a blanket, snicker doodles, and a couple of cheese logs for crackers.  It was a perfect moment for Why Time.

“Hey guys, I need your help.” I began. “I’m helping with a project called Why Time and it’s a blog for answering any question about God or Church or questions kids have.  Maybe you’ve heard or read something that got you to thinking and you’re a little bit stuck about it.”  Everyone was quiet.  I could tell each one had a thought and was waiting to see who would go first. “I may not have your answer right now, but I know where to find answers.  I just need some questions for my project.  Could you guys help me?”

Immediately, the bravest one of the bunch, one whose company always makes me smile, said, “Yeah, I have a question.”

“I’m glad…I need the help,” I encouraged.

“How do we know our God is better than the Greek gods?”

“That’s a really good–and important–question. I’m glad you asked.  Can I ask you for a little more information?”

“OK,” he said warily.

“Oh, don’t worry, I just need a little help. I haven’t been to school in a long time. Could you tell me about some of the Greek gods: their names and what they were supposed to do?”

“Well, there’s Zeus, he’s god of the sky.  And Poseidon, he’s god of the sea.   Hades is god of the underworld, and Aphrodite is the goddess of love…” He stopped to see if he’d done well.

“OK.  So, each one was supposed to be in charge of some part of the world, am I right?”

“Yeah.  And there’s a bunch more.”

“You know I just remembered something!” He leaned forward.  I noticed the other kids were watching and listening. The work had slowed.  “I just remembered that the Apostle Paul actually got to go to Athens, Greece!  He got to see all the statues of Zeus, Poseidon, Hades and Aphrodite and the others.  In fact, do you know what he said about them?”  Every set of eyes was glued on me now.  They seemed shocked that Paul knew about the Greek gods, too!

“Well, Paul told them how he’d noticed they had a different god for everything; sky, water, underworld, love, mothers, farming, music and art…everything.  Then he said, ‘I want to tell you about the God who MADE the sky AND water AND the underworld, mothers, plants and animals, music and art!’  That’s our God.”

Immediately I saw my audience relax and say, “Yeah! God made everything!  Those gods just had power over one thing and not everything.”

“You’re right!  In fact, what did God do with water?”  Their enthusiasm was the height of this teachable moment.

“He made it?” one said. “He walked on it!” said another. “He parted the Red Sea!”

“Yes!  Exactly! What about fire?”

Now they were getting excited…trying to beat each other to my attention.

“He burned up the rocks and water that time!” “He burned in that bush Moses saw!”  “He made a pillar of fire for the Israelites!”

“Yes!” I said.  Then I lowered my voice and said mysteriously, “And he made a place called Hades…a kind of waiting place for after people die until Jesus comes to pick them up.   So Hades is a place God made…not a Greek statue.” There was silence. “So, what do you think?  Is our God better and stronger than the Greek gods?”

“Yeah!  LOTS!”

“And guys, there’s one other thing that makes our God better.  Nobody in Athens ever saw any of their gods DO anything.  They just saw statues and heard stories.  But our God turned Himself into a human and lived here.  They saw Him walk on water.  They saw Him raise the dead.  In fact, they saw Him heal a couple of people from miles away!   He was REAL.  The Greek gods weren’t.  They were more like superheroes. They were exciting, but not real.”

The food was about ready now, so the chatter renewed while we cleared the clutter and prepared to eat.  I whispered a prayer of thanks for the Holy Spirit’s prompting about Paul.

“Hey, Mrs. Anne.”  The youngest of the group, a seven year old, stood beside me. “Isn’t Jesus a superhero?”

“Wow!  That’s a great question, too!  I’m going to go find the answer for you.  Can I tell you what I find out next time?  It’s about time for us to have our devotional.”

“OK.” He smiled, so proud that a grownup thought he’d asked an important thing.

“OK,” I said smiling and ruffling his hair.  I think I know how he could be confused.

“APOLOGETICS”?? WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?

(Our guest blogger this week is my friend, David Roper. Anne.)

A little over three weeks ago we launched this website with an URL that expresses our purpose: www.apologetics4children.com. I can imagine someone responding, “Why do you emphasize ‘apologetics’? Are you apologizing for the gospel? Shame on you!”

No one has actually said that to me, but I figure at least one person out there is not 100% sure what the word “apologetics” means.

“Apologetics” is from the Greek word apologia, which refers to “a verbal defense.” In the King James Version, it was often translated “answer.” In most modern translations, it is translated “defense.” It is the word used in 1 Peter 3:15: “But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always beingready to make a DEFENSE [apologia] to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence” (NASB).

The word with which most of us are familiar—“apology”—is from the Latin, a transliteration of the Greek word. In academia, this word can refer to a formal defense. But most of us equate an apology with saying “I’m sorry” or “I was wrong.” The gospel does NOT need that kind of apology! Paul wrote, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16).

On the other hand, the gospel and all it entails is under attack today as perhaps never before. It does need a DEFENSE—a gentle and reverent defense, as Peter put it. The purpose of the website SEEDS OF FAITH is to equip parents and others with apologetic (defense) tools to help build the faith of their children.

We could then ask the question “Why apologetics for CHILDREN?”

But that’s a subject for another day.

“Where is Jesus’ house? I want Him to come to my house.”

It was my favorite time of day:  our “Happy Time Together” before the dreaded nap. After a story about when I was a little girl, we talked about back when Jesus was here. And we talked about how fun it’s going to be when we all live with Jesus and nobody has to go away to work or go back home after visiting. Then, with eyes struggling to stay open, he asked me one last question. “Where is Jesus’ House?  I want Him to come to my house.”

“Oh, my sweet boy, Jesus is coming to your house.  But he’s still working on your room at his house.  He’ll come pick us all up when it’s time.”  As I rubbed his back and began to sing his lullaby, his eyes closed the windows of now as he slipped into his peaceful world of dreams.

I gently tucked his blanket over his shoulders and realized that one day he would wonder again about Jesus’ world. And he won’t be alone. Jesus’ own beloved one, John, wondered about that, too. He wondered what it was going to be like. He said, “Dear friends, now we are children of God. We have not yet been shown what we will be in the future. But we know that when Christ comes again, we will be like Him. We will see Him just as He is.” I John 3:2. But John also said there are some things we can know. In John 20:29-31 John says Jesus did many miracles that weren’t recorded, but that he’d recorded his so that “you can believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and through your faith in Him you can have life.”

Jesus left earth for His own dimension somewhere outside of our reality.  Since He created the universe, He exists outside it. But because He gave us the capacity to search His creation, we find magnificent, masterful truths about His world around us. Within just the past twenty years, science has discovered that it is the power of light that literally keeps atoms…and thus literally EVERYTHING in the universe…from flying apart.

Think of this. We each are made up of atoms of course; therefore, this photon-electron transaction..this spark of light… is happening this very moment throughout our bodies. If you and I were in  a pitch dark room we couldn’t see each other because our eyes require VISIBLE light to see; however, there are spectrums of light–from radio waves to microwaves– bombarding us and some light even EMANATING from us! That’s why we can use an infrared camera to read our “heat signals.”  We now know that since light is literally present in every part of the universe, then we have every reason to believe that God can also be present and active in every part of the universe!  If God can make light be everywhere all at once, then we can believe that He is everywhere all at once.  That’s “Omnipresence!”

God compares His Spirit to the wind as well. Jesus said, “The Spirit is like the wind that blows wherever it wants to. You can hear the wind, but you don’t know where it comes from or where it is going.” We cannot hold the wind or touch the light. But they exist in our reality just as God does although not in the same physical manner.

As I sit here lost in thoughts of light, wind, and God, I hear a stirring in the little one’s room. I enter quietly, softly asking if he’s awake and pull the curtains back to let in the light filtering through the blinds.

“I found out where Jesus lives,”  I begin.

“You did?” he whispers, rubbing his eyes.

“Yes. Let me show you.” Picking him up I carry him to the window.

“God doesn’t need a house like we do. He doesn’t get cold or tired or hungry and nobody can bother Him because He said He is Light. But He is different from this light.”  I held out my hand as if holding the light.  He slowly opened his own hand, feeling the warmth of the sun. “This light will go out when the sun goes to sleep, though, won’t it?”

“Uh huh,” he agreed. “And when you turn out my light, too!”

“God’s light never goes out. And the dark always runs away when light is around, doesn’t it.”

“Yeah!” he pumped his fist now. “Jesus is strong!”

“Yes, He is!” I then carried him to the front door, opening it into the afternoon sun and breeze. “And God said He is like the wind, too.”  I set him down onto the porch and said, “Let’s see if we can feel the wind.”

He spread out his arms lifting his face to the sun. “I feel it!” His eyes opened wide in amazement. “Is that God?”

“No the wind isn’t God, but God is like the wind He made. Can you see the wind?”

“No” he looked at me expecting me to show him where to look.

“And we can’t see God, either, can we…but He is here! And there! And everywhere!” Now I had my arms outstretched. “Can you catch the wind?” I laughed. “Let’s see if we can!” He ran now, grasping at the air gleefully, knowing this was a game. I chased him down and gathered him up into my arms. “That’s why God doesn’t need a house like we do.  He is everywhere, listening, watching, working, and waiting for us to listen for Him and feel Him.  He lives everywhere…even inside us.”

“Is He with me, too?” he asked excitedly.

“That’s right.” I smiled and kissed him on his head. “And that means He IS here at your house.  That’s why we talk to Him to thank him for our food, too.  And when He’s ready, He’ll come get everyone who trusts Him and wants to live with Him.  Then we’ll all live together in His world and won’t ever have to leave ever again.”

He grew quiet for a brief second, gazing thoughtfully into the sky. Then he turned to me with the sweetest expression and said, “Can I have a snack?” He was satisfied now.  So was I.

IS THE BIBLE TRUE?

It was a perfect October Saturday.  The sun was bright, the air cool and color painted the borders of our road trip to the Pumpkin Patch.  We were having a Granne and Wonderbundle Road Trip!

The music on the radio was upbeat and we were enjoying our M&M’s and Pucker Power sticks when something made her ask, “Granne, how do we know the Bible is true?”  Had her mother asked me that, I wouldn’t have had the wisdom to be so excited.  This was a powerful moment between us.  I was so thankful I could answer her question.  My problem wasn’t finding an answer, but picking one that she had the patience and the back story to hear.  There was sugar in the mix after all.

“You were telling me that one of your on-line classes is called ‘Plato’ right?”

“Yes.”

“Do you know who Plato was?”

“No.”

“He was a school teacher who lived about 400 years before Jesus was born.  He may have even met Jeremiah the prophet in Egypt before he died.  You’ll hear a lot about Plato and Aristotle, Socrates and others, who taught and wrote and really got people to thinking about important things.”

Looking out the window she said, “Did he write part of the Bible?”

“No, but he may have heard some of the old testament books read.  He read a lot.”

“Is this where you tell me if the Bible is true?”  She’s quick minded.

“Yes, because I wanted to tell you how important Plato’s teachings are and that nobody wonders if Plato really lived or if he really taught and wrote.  We have copies of what he taught.  We don’t have the papers he wrote on, but people made copies and copied those copies and copied those copies…for hundreds of years!  Do you think anyone might have made a mistake when they copied any of the copies?”

“Probably….” she looked at me for my reaction. “Probably not?”

“It’s something to think about.  We hope not…but we only have 7 copies and they were made over 900 years after he wrote them!”

“Whoa!  That’s a long time.”

“Yes, almost a thousand years and many, many copies…only 7 left.”

I let that sink in until she turned away from her treat and looked at me as if to say, “And?….”

“Jesus didn’t write things down himself, but some of the disciples and others who knew him did write down what he did and said. And lots of people made copies.

She looked down the road, lost in thought.

“And guess how many copies we still have?”

“A hundred?”

“Over 25,000 of the New Testament!  Over 66,000 of both the Old and New Testaments.”

“Whoa!” she repeated.

“And guess how long it was before one of the books was copied after it was written?”

“I don’t know.”

“That copy was made about 40 years after it was written.  It’s part of the book of John.”

I glanced over to see if she grasped the significance of that statistic.  Not sure, I continued.  “There are people who like to say that the stories were made up about Jesus. They say that Jesus did live, but that he just became a legend, like Robin Hood.”

“Who’s Robin Hood?”

Uh oh…bad example.  “Maybe like Paul Bunyan?  Tall tales? Made up stories?”

“Oh yeah!  Tall tales.”  She was back with me now.

‘Well, some people say that things written about Jesus were just made up.  But there’s a problem with that idea.”  Now she was curious.  “If somebody made a story about something that happened, and there were people who saw what really happened, what would they do?”

“They’d tell everyone that that person was lying!”

“Exactly.  Especially if they didn’t like that person to start with.   And you remember that there were a lot of people who didn’t like Jesus or his apostles.  They even killed Jesus, remember?”  She nodded solemnly.

“Well, the apostles wrote some of their stories just 15-20 years after they happened.  There were a lot of people still alive who had been there and they would have known if the stories weren’t true, right?”

We were approaching the next town and the blazing hillside gave way to home places and hay fields.  I continued.

“Isn’t it weird that nobody ever wonders if Plato lived, but then some say they don’t think Jesus lived when we have much more proof of Jesus and his teachings.  Do you think that makes sense?”

“No…that’s just dumb.”

“The Bible is real, sweet girl.  It’s supernatural.  And we can trust that when we read it, we’re reading just what the apostles who knew him wrote.”  I had one other thing I thought she might like.  “And did you know that people buy 175,000 Bibles every day just in the United States?”

“Really?  Wow.” After a thoughtful silence she murmured the proverbial wisdom from the mouth of babes:  “I wish they all read them.”

“Is God Real?”

I could tell he’d thought about it a while and didn’t know if it was okay that he wondered.  He was young enough to know he was supposed to think so, but old enough to know that some people didn’t think so.  He’d heard some people on TV say they didn’t.  Adults had discussed how bad atheists were supposed to be and nobody said anything about God in the school books.

“What do you hope?” I asked

“I hope he is, but I can’t see him,” he whispered.

“That’s OK, because there are a lot of good things we can’t see,”  I assured him.  “Can you see love?”  He shook his head, a smile teasing his lips.  “Can you see a baby before it’s born?”  This time he laughed.

I sat down next to him and we tossed a ball back and forth.  “Have you learned at school yet how the universe started?”  He shook his head.  “That’s something you’ll hear about at school.  I want to show you something with the ball.  Let’s sit down here.”

We sat down and I put the ball between us. “What’s it doing?”

“Nothing.”  He knew I was up to something.

“Now turn around and look behind you.” He quickly did a 180 and I quickly started the ball spinning.  “Now look at the ball.  What happened?”

“You moved it.”  He waited for an explanation

“How do you know I moved it?”

“Because you’re the only one there,” he defended

“If you’d turned around and the ball was spinning and I was gone, what would you think?”

“I’d still think you moved it.”

“Why?” I asked

“Because it couldn’t move itself.”

“You are so right!  This ball can’t move itself.”  I pitched him the ball and he sat in the floor, bouncing his curious prize.

“We know that the universe is moving…and it’s getting wider and wider, like when you drop a rock in water and the rings get wider and wider.  Do you think it started moving by itself?”

He looked at me and realized what he had to say. “It couldn’t move itself, either.”

“It looks like there was an explosion and the planets and have been moving ever since.  Who do you think made it move?

His eyes were wide.  He froze, then whispered, “God?”

“What do you think?  Who else might have been there?”

“Aliens?”  Kids are so uncensored.

“There are some grownups who think that, too.” I admitted.  “Aliens from where?”   Now we were having a grown-up conversation.

“I don’t know.”  He looked down.  “Maybe Andromeda?”  Now he was trying to impress me.

“Well…” I pondered. “Wait!  Andromeda is part of the universe and inside that explosion…..”

“Oh Yeah.  Aliens would be part of the universe…”  He returned to bouncing the ball, then tossing it up and catching it.

“Did you know, God is the only one who says how our universe was born.  Want to see what he says?”  I pulled up the Easy Reading version on my phone’s Bible app and together we read how God made the world, and said, “Let there be light!”

“Wow!”  He took my phone now and looked at what I’d read.  “I’m going to show this to Buddy!”

“Hold on,” I laughed. “I need my phone back! Ok go get your Bible and we’ll find it there so you can go show him. Don’t forget your ball, OK?”