9 Ways to Protect Your Children from Sexual Abuse

9 Ways to Protect Your Children from Sexual Abuse

We are asked lots: “What are some practical things parents can do to protect their children from sexual abuse?” We ended our children’s book, God Made All of Me, with a note to parents and caregivers answering this question. Here are the 9 practical things you can do to protect children.

1. Explain to your child that God made their body. An explanation can look something like, “Every part of your body is good, and some parts of your body are private.”

2. Teach proper names of private body parts.
It might be uncomfortable at first, but use the proper names of body parts. Children need to know the proper names for their genitals. This knowledge gives children correct language for understanding their bodies, for asking questions that need to be asked, and for telling about any behavior that could lead to sexual abuse.

Clearly identify for your child which parts of their anatomy are private. Explain to your child that “some places on your body should never be touched by other people—except when you need help in the bathroom, or are getting dressed, or when you go to the doctor.” You can do this with young children during bath time or have your child dress in a bathing suit and show them that all areas covered by a bathing suit are “private.” The bathing suit analogy can be a bit misleading because it fails to mention that other parts of the body can be touched inappropriately (like mouth, legs, neck, arms), but it is a good start for little ones to under- stand the concept of private parts.

3. Invite your child’s communication.
Let your child know they can tell you if anyone touches them in the private areas or in any way that makes them feel uncomfortable (even areas not covered by the bathing suit)—no matter who the person is, or what the person says to them. Assure your child they will not be in trouble if they tell you they’ve been touched inappropriately—rather, you will be proud of them for telling you and will help them through the situation.

4. Talk about touches.
Be clear with adults and children about the difference between touch that is OK and touch that is inappropriate. To your child say something like: “Most of the time you like to be hugged, snuggled, tickled, and kissed, but sometimes you don’t and that’s OK. Let me know if anyone—family member, friend, or anyone else—touches you or talks to you in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable.”

Teach little ones how to say “Stop,” “All done,” and “No more.” You can reiterate this by stopping immediately when your child expresses that they are all done with the hugging or tickling. Your reaction is noteworthy for them as it demonstrates they have control over their bodies and desires.

If there are extended family members who may have a hard time understanding your family boundaries, you can explain that you are helping your children understand their ability to say no to unwanted touch, which will help them if anyone ever tries to hurt them. For example, if your child does not want to kiss Grandpa, let them give a high five or handshake instead.

5. Don’t ask your child to maintain your emotions. Without thinking, we sometimes ask a child some- thing along the lines of, “I’m sad, can I have a hug?” While this may be innocent in intent, it sets the child up to feel responsible for your emotions and state of being: “Mom is sad . . . I need to cheer her up.” If someone wanted to abuse a child they might use similar language to have the child “help” them feel better and the child might rationalize it as acceptable if this is something they do innocently with you.

6. Throw out the word “secret.”
Explain the difference between a secret and a surprise. Surprises are joyful and generate excitement, because in just a little while something will be unveiled that will bring great delight. Secrets, in contrast, cause isolation and exclusion. When it becomes customary to keep secrets with just one individual, children are more susceptible to abuse. Perpetrators frequently ask their victims to keep things secret just between them.

7. Clarify rules for playing “doctor.”
Playing doctor can turn body parts into a game. If children want to play doctor, you can redirect this game by suggesting using dolls and stuffed animals as patients instead of their own body. This way they can still use their doctor tools, but to fix and take care of their toys. It may take some time for them to make the shift, but just remind them gently that we don’t play games, like doctor, with our bodies. If you find your child exploring his or her own body with another child, calmly address the situation and set clear boundaries by saying, “It looks like you and your friend are comparing your bodies. Put on your clothes. And remember, even though it feels good to take our clothes off, we keep our clothes on when playing.” [Dialogue from Stop It Now! tip sheet: http://www.stopitnow.org/talking_to_kids]

8. Identify whom to trust.
Talk with your kids about whom you and they trust. Then give them permission to talk with these trust- worthy adults whenever they feel scared, uncomfortable, or confused about someone’s behavior toward them.

9. Report suspected abuse immediately.
You’ve read these steps, now consider yourself an advocate against childhood sexual abuse. Report anything you know or suspect might be sexual abuse. If you don’t, it’s possible no one else will.

GMMcoverGet our new children’s book, God Made All of Me: A Book to Help Children Protect Their Bodies.

 

*This post summarizes some portions from two Stop It Now! Tip sheets: “Don’t Wait: Everyday Actions to Keep Kids Safe” (http://www.stopitnow.org/dont_wait_everyday_prevention) and “Talking to Children and Teens” (http://www.stopitnow.org/talking_to_kids).

After Domestic Violence, Why Should a Christian Wife Call the Police, Not a Pastor, First?

After Domestic Violence, Why Should a Christian Wife Call the Police, Not a Pastor, First?

This article originally appeared in Christianity Today (Jan/Feb 2015).

Following an act of violent abuse, a Christian wife should first turn to the police. We definitely support calling her pastor, too, but only after calling the police.

“Violent abuse” refers to physical assault or battering, which is a crime. The police have the power to protect victims from physical attack. And victims of violent abuse have the right to protect themselves and any children involved.

The police are the best first responders because they understand that an act of violence is a crime. They understand that without proper intervention, this crime will most likely occur again. It is rare for pastors and their churches to have relationships with a domestic violence shelter, the police, or the public health department. What a Christian wife needs after an act of violent abuse is immediate intervention, emergency shelter, medical care, and legal support.

About one in four American women experiences violence from her partner at some point in her adult life, according to credible national surveys. And research shows that Christian women stay far longer in the abusive context and withstand far more severe abuse than non-Christian women.

One researcher states, “A woman is hit an average of 35 times before she calls the police, and she will leave her abuser 5 or 6 times before she leaves for good.” Psychologist Lenore Walker writes, “Women with strong religious backgrounds often are less likely to believe that violence against them is wrong.” Abused women who are Christians may try to understand their suffering by believing it is “God’s will” or “part of God’s plan for my life.” Yet we believe this runs contrary to the biblical image of a kind, merciful, and loving God who promises to be present to us in our suffering.

A Bureau of Justice Statistics survey concluded that women who reported their abuse to authorities were far less likely to be assaulted again than women who submitted to the abuse and did not contact the authorities. Specifically, the survey found that 41 percent of wives who did not report their abusive husbands to the police were attacked again within 6 months. By contrast, only 15 percent of abused wives who reported the abuse to authorities were assaulted again.

The justice system is not an absolute guarantee. But if an abused wife is honest and upfront about the danger her abuser poses, the police can be a key to safety. If she takes that first step, the police can offer her resources—including people to talk to and make plans with—that can make all the other steps easier. They’ve done it before. An abused wife is not alone.

How Pastors Can Best Help Victims of Domestic Abuse

How Pastors Can Best Help Victims of Domestic Abuse

This article originally appeared in Leadership Journal (Spring 2015).

At least one in four women is a victim of domestic abuse in her lifetime. And research shows that Christian women stay far longer in abusive situations and in more severe abuse than their non-Christian counterparts.

My wife, Lindsey, served as a case manager at a domestic violence shelter, and together we provide crisis intervention to victims of abuse. As we’ve conducted training to service providers and churches, we’ve found that pastors want to help those being hurt by domestic violence, but they don’t always know how.

Ministers can offer immense help and support. Those suffering domestic abuse need care on various levels—practical, spiritual, emotional—from pastors. Responding effectively and referring victims to advocacy services results in fewer violence-related injuries and saves lives. Here are some of the most common questions we receive from ministers.

What is domestic abuse?

In our book, Is It My Fault? Lindsey and I define domestic abuse as “a pattern of coercive or controlling behavior used by one individual to gain or maintain power and control over another individual in the context of an intimate relationship. This includes any behaviors that frighten, intimidate, terrorize, exploit, manipulate, hurt, humiliate, blame, injure, or wound an intimate partner.” This definition is the consensus of psychologists, lawmakers, and experts in the field.

Is abuse dangerous if it is not physical violence?

Yes. Domestic abuse can take many forms—willful intimidation, physical assault, sexual assault, battery, stalking, verbal abuse, emotional abuse, economic control, psychological abuse, and isolation. Threats of abuse can be as frightening as the abuse itself.

Should I encourage a victim to call the police and report physical abuse, or should we deal with it as a spiritual issue?

A victim should first turn to the police when violent abuse has occurred. Pastors have much to contribute, but after the police have been called.

“Violent abuse” refers to using physical force in a way that injures or endangers someone. Physical assault or battery is a crime, whether it occurs inside or outside of the family. The police have the power and authority to protect victims from physical attack. And victims of violent abuse have the right to protect themselves and their children.

The police are able to respond quickly to her situation 24/7 and will know where she can seek immediate assistance in the community. The police are informed of medical and emergency housing options and can help facilitate safe travel to those places for her and her children.

The police are the best first responders because an act of violence is a crime, potentially life threatening, and should be addressed immediately. Without proper intervention, this crime will most likely escalate and occur again. The police receive training on how to intervene in domestic assault situations and are prepared to keep the victim and themselves safe in the process.

What might an abused woman think about God and the hope for deliverance?

Abused women who are Christians often rationalize their suffering as being “God’s will” or “part of God’s plan for my life” or “God’s way of teaching me a lesson.” But enabling one person’s cruelty to another is not the will of a just and loving God.

Pastors can say something like this:

“God knows and sees your suffering. He cares for you so much that he wants you safe and delivered from threat and violence. If you have children, he wants them safe too. And beyond physical safety, God wants you to heal from the many ways you’ve been wounded.

“Your suffering does not mean that God has forsaken you. Rather, God is on the move in response to prayers for deliverance. Not only that, but he equips us to move ourselves. The Psalms show us that while David prayed to God for deliverance, he also took the necessary measures to get to a safe place away from the violence. David prayed, but he also wisely fled and removed himself from the threat of violence.

“While we cannot always observe this deliverance immediately, God will, no doubt, provide a way of escape.

“In a world where you have suffered from the one closest to you, the greatest promise we can offer is the assurance of God’s loving and watchful presence. And he will give you the strength you need to do what’s next.

“As you discern what your next step is, remember that there are resources available to you. You don’t have to remain silent anymore. Tell a friend, a family member, the authorities, a pastor, or ministry leader.

“Please understand: Jesus responds to your pain. Your story does not end with abuse and violence. Your life was intended for more than shame, guilt, fear, and confusion. The abuse does not define you or your identity. Yes, it is part of your story, but not the end of your story.”

What can I say to a woman who is convinced the abuse is her fault?

“There is no action, thought, or sin you could have done to make you deserving of violence. You do not deserve this. And it is not your fault.

“You did not ask for this. You are not worthless. You don’t have to pretend nothing happened. You are not damaged goods or ‘getting what you deserve.’ You are created in the image of God and should be treated with dignity, love, and respect. Instead you were the victim of abuse and violence, and it was wrong. You were sinned against.”

When should I encourage a woman to leave an abusive situation?

In general, whenever she and/or the children are being abused or feel they’re in any kind of danger.

Make a safety plan, which outlines what steps to take if they are experiencing physical, sexual, emotional, and/or verbal abuse from a partner, spouse, or family member. A safety plan helps her know what to do if/when she decides to leave or finds herself (and/or children) in an emergency.

Since it’s such a sensitive document, tell her to be careful when creating, printing, or completing a safety plan. Consider who will have access to it and where it will be stored.

Leaving is a critical step for a woman in an abusive relationship, but it is also dangerous. There is an on-going risk even after leaving. Over 75 percent of separated women suffer abuse after they have left their partners.

Does the Bible require a woman to stay in a marriage that’s abusive?

Abuse twists God’s good intention of marriage. The Bible condemns domestic violence, and proclaims God’s judgment on abusers. The psalmist, for example, declares God’s hatred of abuse in no uncertain terms: “the wicked, those who love violence, he hates with a passion” (Ps. 11:5).

No person is expected to stay in an abusive marriage. Marriage is a covenant. When a husband chooses to be abusive, he breaks that covenant.

If his wife chooses to separate, she is making public his breaking of the covenant, and this does not go against what the Bible says about divorce. It is the abuser who must be confronted about breaking the marriage covenant.

As Ron Clark writes, “Victims need to know that leaving is well within their rights as a child of God.”

If I suspect a woman is being abused, how do I approach her?

Find a time to meet with just her. Tell her you have noticed certain things and are concerned about her safety and well-being. Explain what you see and why you think it might mean she is being abused. Women in abusive situations often don’t identify it as abuse. She might think this is normal.

Ask her what she needs and how the church can care for her. Be prepared to offer a few options. Does she need emergency shelter, medical care, or legal support? (Have a list of domestic violence shelters with legal advocates.)

Let her know she isn’t alone, doesn’t have to make a decision today, and that you are there for her when she is ready to get help.

You can call a local domestic violence shelter or the National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-7233) for specific things to ask or not say and get some practical things to offer if she opens up.

What are possible signs of abuse?

Possible signs of an abusive relationship

  • Partner belittles, controls, or threatens her, or exhibits violent behavior.
  • Partner talks over her or for her. She is reluctant to speak.
  • Partner makes disparaging comments about her.
  • Partner is in contact with her excessively. Rarely leaves her unaccompanied.
  • Partner presents her as unreasonable and himself as victim of her unreasonable behavior.
  • She is more and more isolated. Withdrawn. Stops talking about her partner.
  • Has unexplained injuries or blames herself for them.
  • May appear fearful, jumpy, or over careful in her partner’s company.
  • May have no access to money.

Her children may call her names and ignore her. Or they may be clingy, not wanting to leave her.

Sample of God Made All of Me

Sample of God Made All of Me

Download a preview of God Made All of Me!

God Made All of Me is a simply-told, beautifully-illustrated story to help parents talk with both boys and girls about their bodies and to help them understand the difference between the appropriate and inappropriate touch.

Do you have children or do you have friends with small children? This is a book that will benefit parents for years to come, so please share!

Our goal is to help parents in protecting your child from sexual abuse. In this post, we discuss:

  • What parents need to know about sexual abuse offenders?
  • Why is it important to teach personal safety to children?
  • Why is it so important for Christians to be educated about this issue?

GMMcover

Order our new children’s book God Made All of Me: A Book to Help Children Protect Their Bodies.

Jesus and Children

Jesus and Children

In his ministry, Jesus showed striking interest in and love for children. To the surprise of his disciples, he often including them in his teaching: “Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, but Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven’” (Matt 19:13–14). When the disciples came to Jesus asking him which one of them was going to be the greatest in Christ’s kingdom, Jesus called a child to himself (Matt. 18:2) and said, “whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 18:4). Jesus went on, telling his followers that part of their duty is to receive little children: “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me” (Matt. 18:5).

In Mark 10, Jesus upholds childlike faith as admirable: “Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it” (Mark 10:15; cf. Luke 18:17).

Jesus wants his followers to honor, protect, and care for those among them who are small and vulnerable, especially children. Part of Jesus’ ministry on earth involved healing children. In Mark 5:39, Jesus came into the house of a ruler of the synagogue, whose daughter had just died. Jesus said that she was not dead, but only sleeping. After they laughed at him, Jesus said to the child, “Little girl, I say to you, arise” (Mark 5:41; cf. Luke 8:54). Mark recounts what happened next: “And immediately the girl got up and began walking (for she was twelve years of age), and they were immediately overcome with amazement” (Mark 5:42). Similarly, in Mark 9, Jesus encounters a young boy who had been having demonic attacks. Jesus commanded the unclean spirit to come out of him (Mark 9:25) and the boy fell down as if he were dead. Jesus took him by the hand and he was healed (Mark 9:27). Jesus, who calls himself “the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25), brings life and healing to children.

The tenderness and care Jesus showed for children is an expression of God’s heart toward the small, the weak, and the vulnerable. Judith Gundry-Volf, also points out the ways Jesus’ teaching and practice highlighted the importance and significance of children:

  1. “He blesses the children brought to him and teaches that the reign of God belongs to them.”
  2. “He makes children models of entering the reign of God.”
  3. “He makes children models of greatness in the reign of God.”
  4. “He calls his disciples to welcome little children as he does and turns the service of children into a sign of greatness in the reign of God.”
  5. “He gives the service of children ultimate significance as a way of receiving himself and by implication the One who sent him.”
  6. “He is acclaimed by children as the ‘Son of David.’”

Jesus’ love, honor, and care for children leads us to imitate his care for children and take action to protect them from those who try to harm them.

GMMcover

Pre-order our children’s book: God Made All of Me: A Book to Help Children Protect Their Bodies.

Pentecost

Pentecost

This Sunday is Pentecost Sunday, which is the commemoration and celebration of the receiving of the Holy Spirit by the early church as recorded in Acts 2.

In Acts 2, Jesus’ promise of the Spirit becomes a reality as the Spirit descends on the disciples at Pentecost. The disciples “began to speak in other tongues” (2:4), and devout Jews from many nations were amazed, “because each one was hearing them speak in his own language” (v. 6). God shows that the gospel is breaking through linguistic barriers and going to all nations, and then Peter stands up and, in the first recorded sermon in Acts, explains how Pentecost is the glorious and long-anticipated fulfillment of God’s work of redemption since the beginning. Through Peter’s sermon we see the most prominent theme of Acts: the gospel of Jesus will go out to the nations, through the witness of his disciples and the enabling of the Holy Spirit.

God Initiates

When the celebration of Pentecost comes, Acts 2:1, 5 places 120 of the disciples (1:15) together in Jerusalem. Acts 2:2 then says “and suddenly there came from heaven.” The direction of agency is important. While often in religion humans must first do the equivalent of speaking in other tongues (mysterious incantations, complicated rites, elaborately altered behavior) in order to lure the gods into visitation, at Pentecost God’s Spirit rushes into the scene of his own accord: the apostles are just waiting. Pentecost illustrates the fact that God is the initiator of our salvation; he comes to us independent of our control.

Babel

Since the time of Babel, the nations of the earth were divided by language, unable to come together as a result of their rebellion against God (Gen. 11:1–9). Even in God’s redemptive acts of the Old Testament, he singled out the Jewish nation in order to mediate blessing to the nations (Gen. 12:1–3; Ex. 19:6). The good news of God’s grace was only communicated in the Hebrew language. With the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, the curse of Babel begins to unravel. No longer is the gospel confined to the Hebrew language; it is available directly to all nations and all languages. The restored order of God’s kingdom begins to break into the dark and confused world of sin. Pentecost is, in a sense, a magnificent reversal of Babel.

The Coming of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1–13)      

Since the time of Babel (Gen. 11:1–9), the nations of the earth were divided by language, unable to come together as a result of their rebellion against God. Even in God’s redemptive acts of the Old Testament, he singled out the Jewish nation in order to mediate blessing to the nations. The good news of God’s grace was only communicated in the Hebrew language.

With the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, the curse of Babel begins to unravel. No longer is the gospel confined to the Hebrew language, but is available directly to all nations and all languages. The restored order of God’s kingdom begins to break into the dark and confused world of sin.

This gives us hope today. The gospel of Jesus Christ triumphs in a world that is still groaning under the curse of sin (Rom. 8:22). One day his reign will be fully realized, and the effects of sin that plague us will fall away completely.

While often in religion humans must first do the equivalent of speaking in other tongues (mysterious incantations, complicated rites, elaborately-altered behavior) in order to lure the gods into visitation, at Pentecost God’s Spirit rushes into the scene of his own accord: the apostles are just waiting. Pentecost illustrates the fact that God is the initiator of our salvation; he comes to us independent of our control.

The experience of the Spirit at Pentecost is a fulfillment of the prophecy of John the Baptist concerning the one—Jesus—who would baptize in the Holy Spirit (Matt 3:11, Mark 1:6, Luke 3:16, and John 1:33). This promise is also repeated by Jesus Christ in Acts 1:5. The coming of the Spirit at Pentecost has a specific purpose in redemptive history: to show that God’s salvation is now flowing out to people from every nation, tribe, and language. This is repeated in the three outpourings of the Spirit that follow in Acts 8, 10–11, and 19.

Pentecost is a climactic event in salvation history for the whole Church. Luke’s focus in Acts 2 is on the fulfillment of prophecy, not on paradigms for personal experience. Luke is introducing the expanding gospel ministry of the Holy Spirit as the gospel is beginning to spread.

The story in Acts is also our story, because we are participating in God’s story. The descent of the Spirit on these apostles who looked like crazy drunk men is really our birth story, for those in Christ. While we think of our lives in terms of our own births, upbringing, education, families, line of work, and so on, there is another story that has been happening parallel to these things, actually it has weaved its way through these things. And it begins here with the descent of the Holy Spirit who fills these believers. If this had never happened, if God had not looked on Christ’s work on the cross and said, “It is good,” then raised him from the dead and set him at his right side, pouring out his Spirit on his people to take the message of his gospel of grace to the nations, we would still be in our sins. We would still be lost and without hope.

Peter’s Sermon at Pentecost (Acts 2:14–41)

Peter begins his famous Pentecost sermon with an extensive reference to the Old Testament, a citation from the prophet Joel, who predicted that God’s Spirit would be poured out in the last days, the days before the final judgment (the “day of the Lord”). According to Peter, the last days have begun. This “new religion” is actually the continuation of what God has been doing through Israel all along. Better yet, this God made promises years ago that these “last days” would come, and at Pentecost God is demonstrating that he is faithful and powerful to keep his promises. As he promised, God is pouring out his Spirit on all flesh—men and women, young and old, Jew and Gentile. God is mercifully and joyfully calling all people to salvation.

In Peter’s first sermon, the essence of gospel proclamation is clear: “Jesus is Lord” (v. 36). This simple statement poses a fundamental challenge both to the Jews (with their strict monotheism) and to the Romans (with their religious-political system founded on the supremacy of Caesar as Lord). The resurrection is also one of the core elements throughout the gospel presentations in the book of Acts. After setting current events in redemptive history, here Peter quotes from the Psalms to show that the resurrection (Ps 16:8–11) was God’s intention along. The crucifixion of Christ was part of God’s plan, and he followed it by raising Jesus from the dead. Peter shows that this is all promised in Scripture. God’s grace breaks through the walls of the worst of human rebellion.

Just as Jesus promised that the gospel would spread to the end of the earth, Peter proclaims that “the promise is … for all who are far off”. The gospel is not confined by geographical boundaries, but is universal in scope. But “far off” is not just geographical: by his death and resurrection, Jesus Christ has reconciled to himself all of us who were formerly “far off” from God and one another. No one is so far removed that God cannot redeem them.

The Fellowship of the Believers (Acts 2:42–47)

The Holy Spirit brings forth a devotion to the apostles’ teaching, fellowship, community, and prayer. Notice also the unity of mind and heart of these first believers. When God is present by his Spirit, unity happens. This shows us what the Holy Spirit does when he works in us individually and collectively. He brings forth love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal 5:22–23).

The Spirit’s ministry also brings forth conversions and numerical growth to the church, as we see that “the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved” (v. 47). The Spirit produces not only inward spiritual growth, but also expansion and growth of the church. Gospel-fueled, Spirit-empowered growth is a repeated theme that runs throughout the rest of Acts, as we see that “more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women” (Acts 5:14) and “the churches were strengthened in the faith, and they increased in numbers daily” (Acts 16:5; see also Acts 6:7; 9:31; 12:24; 13:49; 19:20). The Spirit continues to testify through the church to the grace of God in Jesus, bringing about growth in love and in numbers. The grace of God is fruitful and effective, and we see God taking the initiative to spread his grace to ever-expanding numbers of people.

 

This post is adapted from my book, Acts: A 12-Week Study, and my notes on Acts in the Gospel Transformation Bible.

No One Is Lost Beyond Hope

No One Is Lost Beyond Hope

“But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him.” -Acts 9:1-9

In the book of Acts, God’s gospel not only overcomes formidable ethnic and geographical barriers but also breaks through the most formidable barrier of all: human sin. Saul learns firsthand how closely Jesus identifies with his church, here described as “the Way.” In persecuting those of the Way, Saul was persecuting Christ himself. In response to the question, “Who are you?” Saul would have preferred any response to the one he receives: “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” In opposing God’s people, Saul has opposed God himself (cf. 5:38–39).

Saul is blinded by the magnificence of this appearance of Christ, and his physical blindness allows him to see himself truly. He finally recognizes his own powerlessness and weakness, and accepts his blindness in humility. Before commissioning Saul to take the gospel to the Gentiles, God tears down his reliance on his religious zeal. Only after being brought to a position of abject humility is Saul ready for the uplifting gospel of Jesus Christ. “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6).

Saul was at his worst, overseeing the murder of men and women in the church, with no sign of repentance, when Jesus met him on the Damascus road. Here again we are admonished against condemning anyone as lost beyond hope, and this includes ourselves. God will reach to his farthest-out enemies, he will defeat the uttermost human rebellion, but in doing so he does not crush these rebels but loves and converts them into chosen instruments of the good news (Acts 9:15). In Saul we see a rebel against God, an enemy of the long-promised Messiah. Yet Saul is reconciled to God through Jesus and is called God’s ambassador, through whom God makes his appeal to the entire world (2 Cor. 5:20).

This post was adapted from my notes in the ESV Gospel Transformation Bible. For more on Acts, you can get my book Acts: A 12-Week Study.

Why We Wrote A Children’s Book

Why We Wrote A Children’s Book

GMMcoverGet our new children’s book, God Made All of Me: A Book to Help Children Protect Their Bodies.

 

We wrote God Made All of Me as a tool so you can explain to your children that God made their body. Because private parts are private, there can be lots of questions, curiosity, or shame regarding them. For their protection, children need to know about private parts and understand that God made their body and made it special.

God Made All of Me is a simply-told, beautifully-illustrated story to help parents talk with both boys and girls about their bodies and to help them understand the difference between appropriate and inappropriate touch. It allows families to build a first line of defense against sexual abuse in the safety of their own homes. Our goal is to help you in protecting your child from sexual abuse.

Why is this book important?

Most victims of child sexual assault know their attacker. According to the U.S. Department of Justice,  34.2 percent of assailants were family members, 58.7 percent were acquaintances, and only 7 percent of the perpetrators were strangers to the victim.

Of child sexual abuse victims, approximately 10 percent of victims are age three and under, 28 percent are between ages four and seven, 26 percent are between ages eight and eleven, and 36 percent are twelve and older.

What do parents need to know about child sexual abuse offenders?

Although strangers are stereotyped as perpetrators of sexual assault, the evidence indicates that a high percentage of offenders are acquaintances of the victim.

Most child sexual abuse offenders describe themselves as religious and some studies suggest the most egregious offenders tend to be actively involved with their faith community.

Dr. Anna Salter, a sexual offender treatment provider, says it is important for parents and child-serving organizations such as churches to avoid “high risk situations.” This is because “we cannot detect child molesters or rapists with any consistency” and thus “must pay attention to ways of deflecting any potential offenders from getting access to our children.”

Victor Vieth, senior director and founder of the Gundersen National Child Protection Training Center, writes: “Many youth organizations have prevented the abuse of children in their care simply by limiting the access of potential offenders to boys and girls. Child abusers count on privacy to avoid detection of their criminal behavior. When churches or other faith institutions remove this privacy it becomes more difficult for the offender to succeed.”

Why is it so important to teach personal safety to children?

Victor Vieth explains: “Personal safety education involves simply telling children that the parts of their body covered by bathing suits are not supposed to be touched by others and, when they are, they should tell someone. If the person they tell doesn’t believe them, they should keep on telling until they are believed. In addition to teaching the children personal safety, it is important to provide instruction to the parents so that they can reinforce these lessons at home and will know how to respond if a child makes a disclosure. Many teach fire safety, school crossing safety, or even swimming safety and yet bristle at the thought of personal safety designed to empower children to protect themselves against offenders.”

Why is it so important to Christian to be educated about the issue?

Dr. Anna Salter, a sexual offender treatment provider, writes: “If children can be silenced and the average person is easy to fool, many offenders report that religious people are even easier to fool than most people.”

Salter quotes a convicted child molester: “I consider church people easy to fool . . . they have a trust that comes from being Christians . . . They tend to be better folks all around. And they seem to want to believe in the good that exists in all people . . . I think they want to believe in people. And because of that, you can easily convince, with or without convincing words.”

Child molesters are skilled at deception because, in part, they have considerable practice at lying to their families, their victims, their friends, and to themselves. Anna Salter describes the abilities of molesters to lie convincingly in this way: “You are never going to run into a child molester who is not a practiced liar, even if he is not a natural one.”

Not only are child molesters skilled at lying to pastors and parishioners alike, they are often proud of their abilities to fool the leaders and members of their congregations.

“Many child molesters,” writes Victor Vieth, “put a great deal of time and thought into selecting the children they will violate. There are two reasons for this. First, sex offenders often look for the easiest target. Second, sex offenders often look for the child or children least likely to be believed should he or she disclose the abuse.” An offender convicted of sexually abusing children at church was asked how he selected his victims. He icily responded:

“First of all you start the grooming process from day one…the children that you’re interested in…You find a child you might be attracted to…You maybe look at a kid that doesn’t have a father image at home, or a father that cares about them…If you’ve got a group of 25 kids, you might find 9 that are appealing…then you start looking at their family backgrounds. You find out all you can…which ones are the most accessible…you get it down to one that is the easiest target, and that’s the one you do.”

Based on her experience with child sexual abusers, Anna Salter concludes: “Child molesters are very professional at what they do and they do a good job at it.”

Because of this reality, parents need to be smarter and better prepared than those who would want to harm their child.

GMMcover

Get out new children’s book God Made All of Me: A Book to Help Children Protect Their Bodies.

What Do You Do For A Living?

What Do You Do For A Living?

“What do you do?”

That question intimidated Joshua Millburn. It wasn’t that he had a bad answer. He enjoyed his job as a regional manager and he liked the people he worked with. He earned a great salary doing something that gave him money, respect, and outlets for his talents.

The problem was the question. “On the surface, it seems like an ordinary question, one we ask each other every day . . . so we have something—anything!—to talk about,” he wrote cynically. But there was more to it than that.

“Sadly, what we’re actually asking . . . is: How do you earn a paycheck? How much money do you make? What is your socioeconomic status? And based on that status, where do I fall on the socioeconomic ladder compared to you? Am I a rung above you? Below you? How should I judge you? Are you worth my time?”

For Joshua, the question and its implications kept pushing him to compare himself to others and reminding him that he was being judged by others too. To free himself from a deepening depression, he decided that the only solution was to free himself from conventional work. He quit his job, gave away many of his possessions, and became a writer and blogger advocating a minimalist lifestyle.

Maybe you aren’t ready to change everything like Joshua did, but you’ll probably agree that, for better or worse, work is one of the biggest elements in your life. If you have a job you probably spend most of your waking hours working, getting ready for work, or commuting to and from your workplace. The activities you do most often are the ones you do at your job. The people who take up most of your time and attention are probably not your family and friends, but your boss, your clients, or your coworkers.

And the real problem is even more than the amount of time, isn’t it? The question What do you do? is what our culture uses to define ourselves and other people—to determine Who are you? How valuable are you? Many of us see work as a key part of our identity. Our work makes us feel useful—or not, which is why many unemployed and retired people can fall into despair. Our work can make us feel successful or worthwhile, not just in the moment, but in the whole trajectory of our life—or not. In a culture that says you can do anything you set out to do and the door is open to achieve all your dreams, it’s hard not to believe that when things go well, it means you’re really worth something, and when things go wrong, it means something is wrong with you.

As a result, work makes up more of our identity than it was ever meant to—and that is not doing most of us much good. We are offered lots of conflicting advice about how to get the most out of our work life. Some people say that work is straightforward—find a career that will make you a lot of money and climb the corporate ladder. Others say that corporate careers are stifling—real work is about finding your passions. Money doesn’t matter as long as you are in control of your life and enjoy what you’re doing. Advice from Christian sources sometimes draws from one or both of these beliefs, or tells you that your only legitimate work option involves some sort of religious ministry.

What we often fail to see is that God can redeem our understanding of work, whether we’re sitting in an office or picking up the garbage—or even if we can’t find work at all. It is a perspective on work and identity that finds value in work, no matter what kind it is, yet keeps work from having too much power over us as we find our value and identity in Christ. God’s Word gives us a framework to think about what we do for a living and how it relates to him. Even more than that, the Bible shows us how to find our value and identity in Christ rather than in our work.

This is an excerpt from my minibook, What Do You Do for a Living?, which you can get here.