Having kids is a great experience. Yes, there are the diapers, the sleepless nights, and the whole getting puked on thing. But other than that, it’s great.
Some of my best memories as a dad are when our driveway has needed to get shoveled from the winter’s snow. I would get all my winter gear on, head out the door, grab the large scoop we had, and start working.
That’s not the great memory.
As a parent, my desire is to have my kids grow to love Jesus with all their hearts.
That’s a good desire. At least I think so.
There is just one little problem with that: The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, and they have me as their dad.
That may be my heart’s desire, but I am not exactly the perfect role model for that.
The truth is, if I want my kids to love Jesus with all their hearts, I need to show them what that looks like to the best of my ability.
Of course we know this. After all, this is the first chapter in the parenting handbook we get as soon as our little buns come out of the ovens.
But let’s be honest about this. It’s hard. Very hard.
Because we are human and we sin. And our sin runs deep.
And that’s where loving Jesus comes in.
Because He made a way for us to love Him despite our sin.
By dying on the cross, Jesus did what we couldn’t do: He opened the relationship between us.
In other words, He loved us before we loved Him (I John 4:19).
And how did He demonstrate His love for us?
He died for us (Rom 5:8).
Now, this all seems to be pretty logical, but I think it gets even deeper for us.
Not only did Jesus die for us and make a way for the relationship to happen, He also did what every Christian parent is supposed to do: He modeled this relationship for us.
“How?” you might ask.
He did it in 3 ways.
1. He loved God when everyone was around.
During His public ministry, Jesus was constantly surrounded by people.
And how did He respond?
By always showing the love of God and pointing those people to Him.
So what about us? Who are we when we are surrounded by people? Do others know Who we love?
The truth is that our kids are watching us in public. Who do they see when we are at the mall, a restaurant, or church?
2. He loved God when only a few were around.
Jesus didn’t do His ministry alone. He had 12 disciples, whom He chose, who followed Him almost everywhere He went.
And what did they see? The same Jesus the public saw, only a deeper side to Him.
Jesus was the same with the guys as He was with the public. He was consistent.
Sure, most of us don’t have an entourage of 12 people going where we go when we go.
But maybe we have 1, or 2, 4.
Our kids are the few that are around us a lot of the time.
Do they see the same person they see in public?
The truth is that our kids will see a side of us that few others will see. Make sure you are consistent.
3. He loved God when no one was around.
This is probably the most important one.
The Gospel writers tell of many times where Jesus was alone.
And what did He do in those times?
He prayed. (Luke 5:16)
The single biggest way to build a love for Jesus is to love Him when no one is around.
So what about us?
This is not to put guilt on anyone. Jesus is full of forgiveness.
But, are we even trying? If we want to love Jesus in public, we need to love Him in private first.
Our kids are watching us, and they want to know if we love Jesus.
Loving Jesus isn’t always easy.
If it was easy to do, He wouldn’t have come to die on a cross to make a way for us to do it.
But loving Jesus ourselves is the best way to model for our kids what it looks like to have a relationship with Him.
If the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, I want to do my best to make sure my tree is rooted in Him.
Then the fruit will be good, too.
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Some of the stories in the Bible seem too unbelievable. It's these stories that cause many people, young and old, to question the truth of God's word.
The story of Jonah is one of those stories. Everything seems very plausible until he gets swallowed by a whale. That seems to be the moment where the doubts take over. It's interesting to note, though, that on two separate occasions, Jesus points to Jonah's story as evidence for His own (Matthew 12 and 16).
So if the mystery of Jesus' story is the one we want our kids to know and believe, maybe we need to understand the mystery of the story that He used to point to His truth.
With that in mind, we came up with the story of Junior Bear and the Banana-nites of Nanerville. This story actually happened by accident as we were working on another one and our youngest daughter kept shouting that we needed to use monkeys in it. I jokingly responded with, "What am I going to call them? The Banana-nites?" And in that moment, this story came to life.
For anyone who has read the book of Jonah, his journey is an interesting one, but it is the ending that leaves us without an answer as it seems to just end. But even in the open ending, there is a concrete lesson for all us to understand, and I believe that Junior Bear helps us discover it. We hope you enjoy this story, but we hope more that it will help you find more of God's heart for you and for those around you.
JUNIOR BEAR AND THE BANANA-NITES OF NANERVILLE
Junior Bear woke up one morning with his whole day planned. First he was going to eat breakfast. Then he was going to play outside all day. It sounded like the perfect day.
That’s when he heard his father’s voice.
“Good morning, Junior Bear,” Mr. Bear said as he came into the room.
“Good morning, Dad,” Junior replied. “What’s up?”
“I need you to do something for me today,” Mr. Bear continued. “I need you to go to Nanerville.”
“Nanerville?” Junior asked. “That is not in your forest. I learned in school that it is far to the east of us. Why do you want me to go there?”
Junior knew who lived in Nanerville: the Banana-nites. The only thing Junior knew about the Banana-nites was that they were monkeys who were not nice to each other.
Mr. Bear looked at his son. “I know how they treat each other over there, and I want them to change. I want them to live like we do in our forest. But they won’t know how to do that, unless someone goes to tell them; and I want you to do that.”
“But I had my day all planned,” Junior complained. He really didn’t want to go.
“I know you did,” Mr. Bear said. “But I really need you to do this.”
With that, Mr. Bear gave his son a hug and walk out of the room.
As soon as he was gone, Junior started to complain.
“I don’t want to go to Nanerville. The Banana-nites are nice at all. Why do I need to go? Well, I won’t go. I know what my dad said, and I know I should listen to him, but I am not going. I won’t even go near that place. I’ll go anywhere but there. But how am I going to get out of here without my dad seeing me?”
That’s when Junior had an idea and he grabbed his bag.
Sneaking out of his house, he ran along the trail going west. He ran for as long as he could before he had to catch his breath. Then he ran some more.
He ran for so long that soon he saw the Joppish River. Since he was thirsty, he jumped right in to cool off. As he splashed, he heard voices.
Looking around he saw a log raft with a sail. On it were two ferrets who seemed to be arguing.
“Hello,” Junior called out as he waved at them.
Noticing the little cub, the ferrets steered their raft to the shore.
“Hello. My name is Pierre, and this is my brother, Philip,” the taller ferret said. “And who are you?”
“I am Junior. Where are you going?”
“We are heading to Shishrat Island to search for treasure,” Philip said.
“Can I come with you?” Junior asked eager to get on the raft.
“Sure,” the ferrets said together.
Junior climbed on board, and off they went.
Sailing on the river was relaxing for Junior; and since he was tired from all his running, he rested and soon fell asleep.
Not long later, the clouds grew dark.
“A storm is coming,” Philip yelled loudly.
Pierre looked up and saw how quickly it was forming. Soon the thunder boomed, the lightning cracked, and the rain poured down.
With all the rain, the once calm river became a fast torrent of water. The two ferrets tried to steer the raft, but couldn’t. They quickly became scared.
“I have never seen it this bad,” Pierre shouted to be heard.
“Me neither,” Philip shouted back.
Pierre looked to the back of the raft and saw their passenger sleeping.
“How can he sleep? Wake him up," he told Philip.
Carefully, Philip went over to Junior, and shook him awake.
Getting up, Junior saw the storm and knew what was happening.
He looked at the sailors.
“My name is Junior Bear,” he said. “And this is my father’s forest. He told me to do something, but I ran away from him, and now he has sent this storm to stop me.”
“What do we do?” Pierre asked.
“Throw me into the river. It’s the only way the storm will stop,” Junior replied.
“Throw you into the river?” Philip asked shocked. “Are you crazy?”
“It’s the only way,” Junior shouted over the noise of the storm.
The two sailors looked at each other, shook their heads in agreement, and tried to steer the raft.
Quickly they realized they could not steer in the rushing water.
“You have to do it,” Junior said again.
The two sailors looked at each other and knew what they had no choice.
They grabbed Junior, brought him to the edge of the raft, and threw him into the river.
As soon as they heard the splash, the storm stopped. As quickly as it had come, the storm disappeared.
Amazed the two ferrets looked back to see if they could rescue Junior.
They spotted him swimming in the water, but the water started to spin.
“Whirlpool!” the brothers shouted together.
Junior didn’t have time to swim for shore as the whirlpool sucked him in and he disappeared under the water. Being pulled by the current, Junior couldn’t do anything but go along with it. Finally, when he didn’t think he could hold his breath any longer, he got sucked into an underground cave.
The cave was dark, wet, and smelled bad, but it had a rock shelf that Junior could fit on to get out of the water. Once he caught his breath, Junior did his best to feel around where he was. He found the edge of the rock shelf and knew where he could stay to be safe. Along the back side, he only felt a rock wall with a small hole where a trickle of water was coming in. Junior figured it was the water that flowed down from the mountain.
Junior knew that he was stuck. And since no one knew where he was, he had no hope of being rescued either.
Sitting down, he began to cry. He missed his friends. He missed his dad. He was sorry that he ran away and didn’t listen to what his father wanted him to do.
That’s when he hoped his father would hear his voice.
“Dad, it’s me, Junior Bear,” he said. “I’m sorry I didn’t listen to you. I am sorry I didn’t trust you. I know you love all the animals, even the ones that don’t live in your forest. I promise that if I get out of here, I will go to Nanerville and do what you asked me to do.”
Just as he finished saying that, he heard a rumbling noise. He thought maybe the storm had come back, but then realized that it was coming from behind him. It was the rain water from the mountain heading for the cave.
He barely had time to brace himself before the water rushed through the hole. It hit him so hard that it pushed him right out of the cave and across the river to the far shoreline.
As he stood to his feet, Junior was thankful that he was out of there. He smiled, took a deep breath, and walked toward the east.
It took him a long time, but as he came over a hill top, he saw it: Nanerville. Wasting no time, Junior headed straight into the city.
There were so many Banana-nites, all of them throwing banana peels on the ground. Junior looked down the street in time to see one Banana-nite pull a banana from his holster and stick it into another monkey’s ear. All those around pointed and yelled out, “Nanner! Nanner! Nanner!” Junior recognized the familiar chant from his lessons in school.
With determination, Junior took a step and began to shout to the crowd, but as he put his foot down, he slipped on a peel. Landing on his back, Junior could now hear the laughter coming at him.
“Nanner! Nanner! Nanner!”
“Nanner! Nanner! Nanner!”
“This place is a mess,” he said to himself. He was just about to get up to leave when he remembered his mission.
Taking a breath, he looked at Banana-nites.
“You need to stop living like this!” he shouted. The monkeys all seemed to freeze where they were. Tilting their heads a bit, they looked at the stranger.
“My name is Junior Bear. And my father, who watches over his forest and cares for you, wants you to know that you can live differently.”
Junior watched and waited as everything was quiet. Then a Banana-nite walked up to him. Looking at Junior Bear, he reached to his holster and pulled out his banana and pointed it at him. Junior gulped, expecting to feel banana goo in his ear, but instead heard it plop on the ground.
“We do need to live differently,” the Banana-nite said.
Soon, Junior heard plopping all around him as all the other monkeys dropped their bananas too.
Word about the strange messenger traveled fast through Nanerville, and soon the king gorilla heard the news. He too put down his bananas. Standing on the steps of his home, the king called out to the city.
“We will follow this Mr. Bear, because he cared for us and sent us his messenger so that we too can know how to live better.”
All the monkeys of Nanerville cheered.
Junior didn’t stay long enough to celebrate with them. He went home.
When he got there, he sat on his bed tired. That’s when he heard his father’s voice, again.
“Junior, can I come in?”
“I guess so,” Junior replied, but it was clear that he wasn't happy.
“What’s the matter?” Mr. Bear asked as he sat on the bed.
“Why did you send me to Nanerville?” Junior complained. “I know that you love all the animals, even those not in your forest. So why didn’t you just go and tell them yourself?”
Mr. Bear put his paw around his son.
“Junior, you know my heart and you know that I love all the animals. But I sent you there because I wanted you to love all the animals too. I wanted you to have a heart that cared for them like I do.”
That was a hard thing to hear for Junior. He thought he did love the animals like his dad did. But as he thought about it, he realized that his love stayed within the forest, while his dad’s went beyond it.
Going to bed that night, Junior knew that if he wanted to be like his dad, he would need to love like him. And that meant even loving those outside of the forest.
Copyright Brad Klassen October 16, 2018
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Brad in 2 Sentences:
I love to write and teach people of all ages about Jesus. If I can tell a story and tell you about Jesus at the same time, even better!