Who Will Answer?

I have been a Sunday School teacher now for nearly 10 years. While I have poured my heart into teaching young children about Jesus, I now question if I have poured with the same passion my own children. My kids have grown up “in church”, have sat through family Bible studies, family meetings (albeit inconsistent), went to Christian schools, assisted me in teaching, and learned a few Bible verses.

Yet my heart aches.

My 15 year-old son recently wrote in a paper for school: “I have no religion, even though I believe in God. I think it’s better to follow my own “rules” than a religion.”

My 12 year-old daughter seems more spiritually disengaged since starting public school. In our talks together, I am discovering that she leans towards the belief that truth is relative.  

Yes, my heart aches.

But I also understand. I remember questioning the Bible around that age. My question was simple, yet it was the basis for all of my belief. “How does the history in the Bible fit in with the history I am learning in school?” Unfortunately, at the time there was no one in my life who would either take me seriously or who knew the answer. My faith in the “stories” in the Bible was shaken. If the stories were not true, how could the rest of it be true? To me, this was a pivotal question.

Everyone has questions that are pivotal to their belief in God. Some of those questions may seem silly or unimportant, or maybe they are questions we ask ourselves but have been okay not knowing the answer. But they are important. Please take time to read these lyrics written in 1967 by Louis Eduardo Aute (1):

Hallelujah! Hallelujah!, Hallelujah!

From the canyons of the mind,
We wander on and stumble blindly
Through the often-tangled maze
Of starless nights and sunless days,
While asking for some kind of clue
Or road to lead us to the truth,
But who will answer?

Side by side two people stand,
Together vowing, hand-in-hand
That love’s imbedded in their hearts,
But soon an empty feeling starts
To overwhelm their hollow lives,
And when they seek the hows and whys,
Who will answer?

On a strange and distant hill,
A young man’s lying very still.
His arms will never hold his child,
Because a bullet running wild
Has struck him down. And now we cry,
“Dear God, Oh, why, oh, why?”
But who will answer?

High upon a lonely ledge,
a figure teeters near the edge,
And jeering crowds collect below
To egg him on with, “Go, man, go!”
But who will ask what led him
To his private day of doom,
And who will answer?

If the soul is darkened
By a fear it cannot name,
If the mind is baffled
When the rules don’t fit the game,
Who will answer? Who will answer? Who will answer?
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!, Hallelujah!

In the rooms of dark and shades,
The scent of sandalwood pervades.
The colored thoughts in muddled heads
Reclining in the rumpled beds
Of unmade dreams that can’t come true,
And when we ask what we should do,
Who… Who will answer?

‘Neath the spreading mushroom tree,
The world revolves in apathy
As overhead, a row of specks
Roars on, drowned out by discotheques,
And if a secret button’s pressed
Because one man has been outguessed,
Who will answer?

Is our hope in walnut shells
Worn ’round the neck with temple bells,
Or deep within some cloistered walls
Where hooded figures pray in halls?
Or crumbled books on dusty shelves,
Or in our stars, or in ourselves,
Who will answer?

How many of us could find answers to these questions? What would you say to your child if they asked you, “How come God took away my baby brother? Aren’t there many paths that lead to God? How do we know Jesus is the only answer? Can’t we just be good people and go to heaven? Is sex before marriage really wrong? How do I know the Bible is real? If God is so good, how come he lets bad things happen? Are all my lesbian friends going to hell?”

Yes, kids are asking these questions, and earlier than one would think. A recent study showed that 39.8% of young adults who attended church growing up but no longer go to church, first began having doubts in middle school (2). Middle school! Another study tells us that 61% of today’s young adults who used to be regular church attenders are now “spiritually disengaged”(3).

Are my children among these statistics? Are my children already gone? Oh God, I hope not. I definitely know they are asking questions and ‘working through their salvation’, but they are also at that age where Mom and Dad’s answers are not good enough.

My heart aches.

I pray daily that a trusted adult would walk alongside my children and answer their questions. I pray that someone would show them that Mom and Dad’s views are not antiquated, but true and real. I pray that someone would lead them to their own relationship with Jesus, through whom all things were made. I pray that there would be someone ‘who will answer’.

The most important thing you can do for anyone who has questions is this: validate their questions. In doing this, you are validating them as a person and treating their curiosity with the respect it is due, even when the motive behind the question may be simply to “get you”. My son, I’m sure trying to goad me, asked “Mom, what if there is no God?” I said, “You know Seth, that is a really good question. What do you think the answer is?” An entire discussion ensued about what life would be like without ‘God’. I did not need to try to persuade him that God does indeed exist. He wouldn’t have listened anyway. Instead, we explored the question together. We actually had fun doing it and I think we both learned something in the process.

For those who still have young children, please do not let Sunday’s be the only time you talk about God. Do not think that Sunday School or Christian schools is enough to lead them to a life-long relationship with Jesus. It is still the parent’s job to train their kids in the way they should go. Purpose in your heart to make an intentional, consistent daily time to meet with God together. Show them that God is your number one priority; not school, not work, not sports, not TV or games, but God. Connect the topics they learn at Church or school throughout the week to the ‘real” world or they will simply become fairy tales without relevance in their lives. Cultivate your own passion for God. Dig into the Word, not for knowledge, but for a deeper relationship with the Creator of the Universe. Wrestle with God and ask Him tough questions that you may have.

If you are spending a good portion of your time working to leave a legacy for your children, remember that Jesus encourages us to store up our treasures in Heaven. What better treasure is there than to spend an eternity with our children?

I will leave you with the words of exhortation Paul gave to Timothy:

You must remain faithful to the things you have been taught. You know they are true for you know you can trust those who taught you. You have been taught the Holy Scriptures from childhood and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus.

 

 1 Originally sung in Spanish with the title “Aleluya #1”, it was translated into English by Sheila Davis and sung by Ed Ames. It is titled “My Love is Gone from Me” and can be found on the 1968 album Who Will Answer?

 2 Ham, Ken & Beemer, Britt.  Already Gone  Green Forest: Master Books, May 2012.   

 3 Barna Research Online, “Teenagers Embrace Religion but Are Not Excited About Christianity,” January 10, 2000, www.Barna.org.

Hide and Seek

“Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.”  Matthew 7:7-8

I found the perfect spot.  It would take forever for them to find me this time!  I squeezed in between the bush and the side of the house where it seemed only the cat could fit.  The branches poked into my back and I had to tuck my face between my knees to keep from getting scratched.  The discomfort was worth it.  I had the best spot ever!  I heard a faint “Ready or not, here I come!” and then, “found you!” as each of my friends sucky hiding places were discovered.  I could see feet between on the far side of the branches as my seekers tried in vain to find me.  “Renee, I know you’re out there.  I’m going to find you!”  I listened as they went to all the usual spots.  My legs were cramping and branch poking my back was starting to hurt, but I kept my spot.  I breathed softly.  I waited to be found.  I waited some more.  I couldn’t hear them anymore. “They must be looking somewhere else,” I thought, “Everyone will be so jealous of my awesome spot!”  I waited some more.  No sounds came my way.  After what seemed like hours, I backed out of the coolest spot ever and stood up.  No one was around.  I became the seeker.  I finally found them all inside playing Mario Brothers on the Nintendo.  What!? They’d just given up and left me stranded!?  Buttheads.  I stomped off to my room to sulk feeling very angry and betrayed.

How diligent are we in seeking Jesus? I’m not suggesting that Jesus is playing this big, heavenly hide-and-seek game with us (and I’m sure He doesn’t call us buttheads!), but I am suggesting that there are treasures and mysteries out there that God wants to give us.  He wants us to be diligent in seeking Him.  Think about the progression of hide-and-seek.  When you play with a baby, you don’t even go anywhere.  You sit right in front of her, cover your face with your hands;  “Where’s the baby?  There she is!”  You don’t wait more than 2 seconds to remove your hands or she quickly looses interest.  When she becomes a toddler, you hide behind a chair door so you are easily found.  You have 2 or 3 spots that are favorites and she gleefully runs to them in succession until you are revealed.  As she becomes older, your hiding spots become more advanced.  It takes her longer to find you, and she either remains vigilent and continues to delight in the game or she looses interest and you are left sitting and playing the game by yourself.

When a person is a new believer, she is a baby.  Jesus is right there in front of her!  It doesn’t take much to find Him.  But she is not to remain a baby!  He wants to help her grow.  He wants a deeper relationship.  He delights in the process!  I can just hear Him thinking, “Oh, I can’t wait!  She’s going to be so blessed when she discovers this secret place!”  He is waiting for her to find him so they can talk and He can reveal more of Himself to her.  But what if she quits trying to find Him?  She looks in all of the usual spots; church, worship music, favorite Bible verses, TV and radio broadcasts, but when He is not easy found, she looses interest.  She either quits trying to find him altogether or she just goes back to her familiar ground and waits for Him to come to her.  She goes to church every Sunday expecting Him to show up, but she does not make an effort to look any farther.  She stays a baby, and she becomes content to do so.  Jesus is sad because He had so much to show her!

I want to be someone who is always seeking.  The more I seek, the more I find and the deeper my relationship with Jesus becomes.  And I come to realize that He is enjoying the “game” too!  He delights in my presence!  Sometimes it takes weeks and months of diligence, of discipline, like waking up an hour early every morning, but it is so worth it.

“I love all who love me.
Those who search will surely find me.” Proverbs 8:17

For the Lord your God is living among you.
He is a mighty savior.
He will take delight in you with gladness.
With his love, he will calm all your fears.
He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.” Zephaniah 3:17

Exert Oneself in Study

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who doesn’t need to be ashamed, correctly teaching the word of truth.  2 Timothy 2:15 (HCSB)

A dear friend of mine recently took a World Religion class. Being a fairly new Christian, this obviously brought up a lot of questions and doubts about her own belief in God.  She would feel condemned about questioning her faith, as if she was letting God down by doing so.  I disagree.  I think God wants us to ask the hard questions.  He wants to prove Himself to us.  

A classroom setting with the teacher up front and 20-30 students sitting in rows does not invite dialogue.  This is a pre-fabricated setting.  When the teacher or guest speaker asks all the Christians in the classroom, “If Jesus really was God, how come when He died on the cross did he say, ‘My God, why have you forsaken me?'”  There is no one-liner that can be answered in this setting.  It does bring up an amazing question that as a Christian, I want to know the answer to.  In a class such as this, the tone could very well be negative and condescending; challenging anyone who believes this way to respond; to defend.  But unless a person is extremely studied up and knowledgeable, it is in the best interest of all Christians everywhere to keep their mouth shut.  Otherwise, it ends up merely “irreverent, empty speech” (2Tim 2:16).  

So what are we to do?  We accept the challenge.  Not necessarily to the questioner, but to God.  He wants us to come to Him.  In the verse above, the word diligent can be translated as study or exerting oneself.  We therefore are to   

.  .  .  exert ourselves in study so that we are approved to be God’s representative and not humiliate Christianity with our ignorance; so that we do not need to be ashamed of our beliefs and are able to correctly teach the truth that God has revealed to us.

The ideal situation would be to sit down one-on-one and have a dialogue with each other about the question. Say, “You know, that is a great question and one that I would like to explore further.  It would be great if we could do that together.”  If the question was valid and not just meant to provoke anger, then the person will be happy to do this.  

When questions or challenges to your belief arise, be it in a classroom, something you hear on the radio, a friend from a different religion or in your own reading, do you know how to “exert yourself in study?”  Do you have the tools you need?  Do you even know where to start?  In this age of information, it is tough to sift through and find valid sources for our inquiries.  It can be frustrating, time-consuming and leave us with more questions and no answers.  So we give up.  We either choose to simply accept our beliefs as challenged or be “tossed by the waves and blown around by every wind of teaching.” (Eph 4:14)

If you struggle with studying, I strongly encourage you to find a believer who you trust and ask them a question that appears to challenge your belief.  Then ask them to help you find the answer.  As you are exerting yourselves in study together, find out what study tools they use and trust?  How do they approach the question?  Where do they start?  Ask them to lead you through the process so you will be able to study for yourself in the future.  

Here is one method that can be used when studying together:

  1. You do, I watch.
  2. You do, I help.
  3. I do, you help.
  4. I do, you watch.
Come up with 4 challenges or questions that are tough to answer.  There are a myriad out there.  Examples include, “If God is good, why is there pain?”, “How could God order the slaughter of innocent women and children?”, “Aren’t there many paths to the same God?”, “The Bible tells me to submit to my husband.  Does that mean he can do whatever he wants to me?”  These are all great questions and ones that deserve to be studied.  Take one of these questions and allow a mentor or leader to teach you how to find the answer.  Don’t become too actively involved, just watch and learn.  Ask questions about the process, not the content.  For the next question, help in the process.  Make suggestions and do some of the work, but allow the other person to lead you through.  On the third, you will be steering the ship.  You will take the question and analyze it, giving your teacher jobs to do and things to look up.  They will be your helper.  Finally, you will complete the entire process yourself without assistance, only encouragement.  You will come up with an answer yourself.  Imagine!  God loves to reveal Himself to those who diligently seek Him.  This may seem daunting and hard, but God is actually in charge so no worries!
 
For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with goodness, goodness with knowledge, knowledge with self- control, self- control with endurance, endurance with godliness, godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they will keep you from being useless or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  2 Peter 1:5-8

Ceasing of the Daily Sacrifices

“His forces will rise up and desecrate the temple fortress.  They will abolish the daily sacrifice. . . (Daniel 11:31)

“Don’t you know that your body is a sanctuary (Temple) of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God?”  (1 Cor 6:19)

“I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship.” (Rom 12:1)  Underlines and parenthesis are mine.

Before the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, the Jews would present their sacrifices everyday to God in the Temple.  This was how they were able to get close to God.  When the “despised person” (Dan 11:21) rose up and abolished the daily sacrifice this, in effect, took away their closeness to God.  They could not communicate with Him.

Since Christ fulfilled the law of sacrifices, we no longer need a physical place, or Temple, to worship.  We are the Temple and God lives in us.  Our enemy continues this day to stop the daily sacrifices in the Temple, so that we are far away from God and He cannot fulfill his purpose for our lives.  The antithesis of sacrifice is selfishness.  In order to stop the daily sacrifices in our life, the enemy does not need to tempt us to be evil, he merely tempts us to be selfish!  

In what ways are we sacrificing?  In what ways are we selfish?  How often have we put aside daily devotions because we don’t have time?  How often do we watch TV when we feel the urge to pray?  How often do we stop praying because we want God to act right now and He isn’t?  How often do we sleep in that extra half-hour when we have purposed in our hearts the night before to get up and spend that time with God?  

If we miss the sacrificial living, we will miss the calling on our lives.

Standing on My Own Two Feet?

Psalms 30:6-7 (HCSB)
When I was secure, I said,
“I will never be shaken.”
Lord, when You showed Your favor,
You made me stand like a strong mountain;
when You hid Your face, I was terrified.

When things are going well for us, we think we are unstoppable.  It is often during these times that we begin neglecting quiet time alone with God even though He is the one who is to thank when things are going well.  I wonder if this is one reason why He sometimes turns away from us; takes away His “favor” from our lives.  A haughty spirit that says, “I can stand on my own two feet” is the root of all sin: pride.  When we forget our Creator, He reminds us who we really are: nothing without Him.  We tend to turn to God when we are shattered and He does hear, but usually not the way we desire or in the timing we expect.  

What would it be like if we were already in the presence of God when events happen that could “shatter” us?  What if we were daily putting on the full Armor of God?  What if we ceased to say, “Nothing can stop me now” and began to say “Lord, thank you for making me as secure as a mounain?”  Circumstances would still happen, but we would be ready.  Would it be pleasant?  No, but it would not shatter us.  We would be like reeds that are blown about but not broken.  

I encourage you, if you have read this far, to read all of Psalm 30 and make it a prayer to God.  He loves it when we talk to Him about His Word, just as we love it when someone notices and praises something we have worked hard on.  Where do you think this emotion originated?