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    Honey, We’ve Shrunk The Kids by Joel Smith

    Mark 10:13-16

    Honey, We’ve Shrunk The Kids!
    Mark 10:13-16
    Wellspring Community Church

    Have you ever noticed how our culture places a huge emphasis on children, while at the same time devalues them? For example, politicians often talk about quality schools for our children. We’ve got to send them more money and train better teachers. When all’s said and done, nothing changes. Election time roles around and the same drum beats again. If you have a cause and you need to raise money all you have to do is attach children to it and you’ll make the dough. After all, what kind of evil adult wouldn’t give to an organization that was going to save the kids. The idea of children seems to carry a lot of weight in our nation, yet about a million a year are sucked down the sink of abortion clinics. Now you can even bring them to the point of birth, extract their brains and call it a medical procedure. The lack of value for children shows through when parents give over their responsibility to raise their kids to minimum wage workers so that they can pursue a fulfilling career.

    Oh yes, we give children lip service, but the reality is that they’re not high on the priority list. Their importance shrinks day by day.

    The church, by and large, has bought into this devalue system. Children and children’s ministries are often viewed as a means to get the kids out of the way so that the main event can happen for the adults. Let’s just be honest. Youth and children’s ministry always takes the back seat the adult programs.

    As we’ll see shortly, our priorities are simply out of whack. Don’t beat yourself up too badly, this devaluing of kids has been around for a long time. Even Jesus encountered it.

    ADULTS TEND TO PLACE A LOW VALUE ON CHILDREN

    People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. Mark 10:13 (NIV)

    A common practice of the ancient Jewish people was to bring their infants and toddlers to a respected rabbi so that he could lay his hands on the children and bless them. The rabbis would take the children and pronounce blessings of a good future upon them. You know: long life; health; joy; prosperity, peace.

    That’s what happened one day just prior to the time Jesus would go to the cross. Moms, dad, grandparents, whoever, began to bring their babies and young children for the blessing of this powerful rabbi. I imagine it was the kind of scene you’d find in a shopping mall during Christmas. Adults line their precious ones up to sit them on Santa’s lap. It’s an "Oooooo, ahhhhhh" moment that we just can’t resist.

    These adults wanted a blessing for their kids and brought them to Jesus, but they were thwarted by Jesus’ disciples. Obviously they were worried that these noisy kids and their proud parents would wear Jesus out. I find it curious that they never had the same reaction to adults who came to Jesus for some kind of touch. It was apparently okay for the adults to be a burden, but the kids just didn’t rate high enough for an audience with the Teacher.

    The disciples had been with Jesus for nearly three years now. They should have known better.

    JESUS GIVES KIDS TOP PRIORITY

    When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them …" Mark 10:14a (NIV)

    Jesus was furious at the attitude of his own disciples. Time and time again he’d taught on God’s care and concern for those considered "the least" by society. The powerless were the object of Jesus’ ministry. Now here the disciples were trying to drive them away.

    Jesus burned with anger over this. His followers represented him before the people. The same is still true today. Their callused devaluing misrepresented Jesus to the people. So does ours. Jesus gives kids top priority. Any time we lessen their value by our actions or attitudes or lack of action or apathy, we’re not viewing children with the perspective of God. I sure he still gets indignant about that.

    Jesus commands his disciples then and his followers today to open the way for kids to come to him. The only way we’ll do that is when we give kids top priority as Jesus did.

    How Can We Open The Way To Jesus?

    In these next points I’m speaking to both parents, grandparents and the church. All of us are to be a part of the process of opening the way to Jesus. I must tell you, though, the greatest responsibility lies with the parents. If the ministries of the church are not reinforced at home, young children would just as well have been turned away from Jesus to begin with.

    1. Teach the faith.

    Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6

    From an early age we must begin instilling the faith into our children. It won’t happen by osmosis. Faith won’t just mystically leak into them. It must be taught. Don’t think that you can just wait for it to happen. Never make the even more foolish mistake of thinking you’ll let your kids get old enough to make their own decision.

    British poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge once had a discussion with a man who firmly believed that children should not be given formal religious instruction, but should be free to choose their own religious faith when they reached maturity. Coleridge did not disagree, but later invited the man into his somewhat neglected garden. "Do you call this a garden?" the visitor exclaimed. "There are nothing but weeds here!"
    "Well, you see," Coleridge replied, "I did not wish to infringe upon the liberty of the garden in any way. I was just giving the garden a chance to express itself."

    Daily Walk, March 28, 1992

    God commands us to pass on the faith to our children by intentionally and consistently instructing them.

    "And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children …" Deut. 6: 7a

    2. Live the faith.

    Equally as important as teaching the faith is living it out. Demonstration enlivens presentation. If academic instruction were enough our job would be easy. Send them to some classes, give them a multiple choice test and if they pass your work is done. If teaching were enough America would be a Christian nation. Charles Stanley is piped into most every home on Sunday morning. As good as his teaching is, it’s not having a huge impact on our nation. The problem is a failure to live out the faith. Adults need an example and so do kids.

    Be an example by your actions!

    "… and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates." Deut. 6:7b-9

    The implication of the Bible is that the faith should be a constant I our homes. We teach and live it out.

    Mom and Dad, teacher, preacher … ask yourself if your conduct is worthy of emulation. Can you sincerely look at your kids and say "Follow me as I follow Christ." Or do you sometimes lapse into the old "Do as I say, not as I do" cop out? Are you living out Christ-likeness in your home, in your marriage, in your car, in the church halls, in the off handed comments you make when you think no one is listening?

    Be an example by your attitude!

    Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. Eph. 6:4 (NIV)

    I add this one because sometimes we forget to extend grace to our children.

    How to exasperate: favoritism, comparison, unrealistic standards, over-indulging, rescuing, discouragement, lack of rewards, unfulfilled promises, treating them like boarders rather than children, not admitting mistakes, ridiculing, neglect, abusive words, sarcasm, physical abuse.

    If you don’t exemplify justice and grace and love in your home, guess what they’ll think of your God?

    3. Answer their questions.

    This one should be a no-brainer, but it’s often overlooked by parents and teacher. Sometimes we’re just too busy to answer little Johnny’s question about where God came from or whether pets go to heaven when they die. Maybe we just don’t know the answer when little Suzy wants to know why we sing and pray in church.

    I find that kids are natural question askers. They’re like dry sponges waiting to soak up the wisdom that we have to impart. Please don’t stifle that natural curiosity by being annoyed at question or constantly putting them off. Encourage them to seek. I think I remember a promise that they will find. If you don’t know the answer, find out.

    God understood the inquisitive nature of children. After the nation of Israel had crossed over into the Promised Land God instructed the people to set up twelve large stones from the bottom of the dried up Jordan River. He wanted a memorial of the occasion and gave these instructions:

    "When your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, ’What are these stones?’ then you shall let your children know, saying, ’Israel crossed over this Jordan on dry land’; for the LORD your God dried up the waters of the Jordan before you until you had crossed over, as the LORD your God did to the Red Sea, which He dried up before us until we had crossed over, that all the peoples of the earth may know the hand of the LORD, that it is mighty, that you may fear the LORD your God forever." Joshua 4:21-24

    4. Esteem children’s ministry.

    Give honor to ministry to children. Jesus placed a high priority on ministry to kids and, as his followers, so should we.

    · Get beyond the babysitter mentality.

    Our mindset has to change from "let’s get the kids" out of our hair to "let’s shape these pliable souls. Childhood is prime time to go after people. They are simply more open to God.

    A little girl was observed by her pastor standing outside the preschool Sunday School classroom between Sunday School and worship, waiting for her parents to come and pick her up for "big church." The pastor noticed that she clutched a big storybook under her arms with the obvious title, "Jonah and the Whale."
    Feeling a little playful, he knelt down beside the little girl and began a conversation. "What’s that you have in your hand?", he asked.
    "This is my storybook about Jonah and the Whale," she answered.
    "Tell me something, little girl," he continued, "do you believe that story about Jonah and that whale to be the truth?"
    The little girl implored, "Why of course I believe this story to be the truth!"
    He inquired further, "you really believe that a man can be swallowed up by a big whale, stay inside him all that time, and come out of there still alive and OK? You really believe all that can be true?"
    She declared, "Absolutely, this story is in the Bible and we studied about it in Sunday School today!"
    Then the pastor asked, "Well, little girl, can you prove to me that this story is the truth?"
    She thought for a moment and then said, "Well, when I get to Heaven, I’ll ask Jonah."
    The pastor then asked, "Well, what if Jonah’s not in Heaven?"
    She then put her hands on her little hips and sternly declared, "Then YOU can ask him!"

    Kids don’t have all the baggage that adults carry. It’s simply easy for faith to take root and grow in them

    19 out of every 20 people who become Christians do so before they reach the age of 25.
    After 25 only 1 in 10,000 do so.
    After 35 only one in 50,000 do so - and it goes down from there.

    I don’t know about you, but I’d like for my kids to come to know Jesus early, so they won’t make the same stupid mistakes that I did. Since they were babies y constant prayer has been that they would know and love God from an early age.

    An evangelist from the last century, D.L. Moody once returned from a meeting and reported two and a half conversions. "Two adults and a child, I suppose?" asked his host.
    "No," said Moody, "two children and an adult. The children gave their whole lives. The adult had only half to give."

    · Expect the same level of quality as adult ministries.

    Have you ever noticed that we’ll prepare hours or days to teach adults, but for kids, usually 30 minutes the night before will do. We spend more on quality material for the big people. Kids have to be satisfied with hand-me-downs.

    At Wellspring I want each member to view children’s ministry as equal to adult ministry. The time and energy and money and creativity that goes into reaching adults must go into reaching children.

    · View children’s ministry as worship.

    And Jesus … took a little child and set him by Him, and said to them, "Whoever receives this little child in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me receives Him who sent Me. For he who is least among you all will be great." Luke 9:47-48

    Didn’t get anything out of church. Didn’t hear a word from God? Maybe you were looking in the wrong place. Jesus equated ministry to children with coming face to face with himself. If you really desire worship, giving worth to God, commit yourself to loving children.

    WHY DOES JESUS PLACE A HIGH PRIORITY ON KIDS?

    (AND WHY DON’T WE?)

    "…for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them. Mark 10:14b-16 (NIV)

    What exactly was Jesus talking about here. It sounds good, but what does it mean that the "kingdom of God belongs to such as these"? Simply put, kids provide an example of what it takes to enter the kingdom of heaven. Preachers and scholars speculate on what this quality is.

    Some say that it’s their humility. But you know what kids aren’t all that humble. They quite self-centered and egotistical.

    Property Laws of a Toddler
    1. If I like it, it’s mine.
    2. If it’s in my hand, it’s mine.
    3. If I can take it from you, it’s mine.
    4. If I had it a little while ago, it’s mine.
    5. If it’s mine, it must never appear to be your in any way.
    6. If I’m doing or building something, all the pieces are mine.
    7. If it looks just like mine, it’s mine.
    8. If I saw it first, it’s mine.
    9. If you were playing with something and you put it down, it automatically becomes mine.
    10. If it’s broken, it’s yours.

    Deb Lawrence, Missionary to the Philippines with SEND International, quoted in Prokope, Nov./Dec., 1992, p. 3

    Some think it’s their innocence that Jesus is alluding to. But you know what? Kids aren’t all that innocent. They can be quite devious. My four year old is better at getting around loopholes in the rules than Bill Clinton. Kids have ulterior motives. They hug and kiss to get what they want. They know how to pit parents against one another. Let’s not romanticize their innocence.

    Some have said it’s their obedience that Jesus is talking about. If you have kids you know that one’s not it.

    No, the defining characteristic of a child is trust. They trust parents and other significant adults because they realize their utter dependence. They know they can’t earn their way, so they simply trust.

    That’s how people enter the kingdom of heaven. They admit they’re powerless to be good enough for God. They depend on the sacrifice of God’s Son on the cross as their way of forgiveness and eternal life.

    Now to one who works, wages are not reckoned as a gift but as something due. But to one who without works trusts him who justifies the ungodly, such faith is reckoned as righteousness. Romans 4:5

    God prefers people who trust. I’m convinced that the reason we devalue kids is exactly the reason God values them. They can’t give us anything back in return. They won’t be good church workers, at least for many, many years. Deep down we want people who can benefit us, who will return the investment that we put into them.

    Children are powerless and dependent. They take a lot of work and there is little return. Spiritually speaking the situation is the same between us and God. He puts a lot into us, and gets precious little (if anything) in return.

    Giving children top priority honors God. It expresses his character and attitude toward us.

    A four year old was at the pediatrician for a check up. As the doctor looked down her ears with a scope, he asked, "Do you think I’ll find Big Bird in here?" The little girl stayed silent. Next, the doctor took a tongue depressor and looked down her throat. He asked, "Do you think I’ll find the Cookie Monster down there?" Again, the little girl was silent. Then the doctor put a stethoscope to her chest. As he listened to her heartbeat, he asked, "Do you think I’ll hear Barney in there?"
    "Oh, no!" the little girl replied. "Jesus is in my heart. Barney’s on my underpants."

    You want to know God? It take faith like a child - simple trust and dependence on him. You want to know God better? Commit yourself to meeting him in the eyes of a child.



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Honey, We’ve Shrunk The Kids by Joel Smith

Mark 10:13-16

Honey, We’ve Shrunk The Kids!
Mark 10:13-16
Wellspring Community Church

Have you ever noticed how our culture places a huge emphasis on children, while at the same time devalues them? For example, politicians often talk about quality schools for our children. We’ve got to send them more money and train better teachers. When all’s said and done, nothing changes. Election time roles around and the same drum beats again. If you have a cause and you need to raise money all you have to do is attach children to it and you’ll make the dough. After all, what kind of evil adult wouldn’t give to an organization that was going to save the kids. The idea of children seems to carry a lot of weight in our nation, yet about a million a year are sucked down the sink of abortion clinics. Now you can even bring them to the point of birth, extract their brains and call it a medical procedure. The lack of value for children shows through when parents give over their responsibility to raise their kids to minimum wage workers so that they can pursue a fulfilling career.

Oh yes, we give children lip service, but the reality is that they’re not high on the priority list. Their importance shrinks day by day.

The church, by and large, has bought into this devalue system. Children and children’s ministries are often viewed as a means to get the kids out of the way so that the main event can happen for the adults. Let’s just be honest. Youth and children’s ministry always takes the back seat the adult programs.

As we’ll see shortly, our priorities are simply out of whack. Don’t beat yourself up too badly, this devaluing of kids has been around for a long time. Even Jesus encountered it.

ADULTS TEND TO PLACE A LOW VALUE ON CHILDREN

People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. Mark 10:13 (NIV)

A common practice of the ancient Jewish people was to bring their infants and toddlers to a respected rabbi so that he could lay his hands on the children and bless them. The rabbis would take the children and pronounce blessings of a good future upon them. You know: long life; health; joy; prosperity, peace.

That’s what happened one day just prior to the time Jesus would go to the cross. Moms, dad, grandparents, whoever, began to bring their babies and young children for the blessing of this powerful rabbi. I imagine it was the kind of scene you’d find in a shopping mall during Christmas. Adults line their precious ones up to sit them on Santa’s lap. It’s an "Oooooo, ahhhhhh" moment that we just can’t resist.

These adults wanted a blessing for their kids and brought them to Jesus, but they were thwarted by Jesus’ disciples. Obviously they were worried that these noisy kids and their proud parents would wear Jesus out. I find it curious that they never had the same reaction to adults who came to Jesus for some kind of touch. It was apparently okay for the adults to be a burden, but the kids just didn’t rate high enough for an audience with the Teacher.

The disciples had been with Jesus for nearly three years now. They should have known better.

JESUS GIVES KIDS TOP PRIORITY

When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them …" Mark 10:14a (NIV)

Jesus was furious at the attitude of his own disciples. Time and time again he’d taught on God’s care and concern for those considered "the least" by society. The powerless were the object of Jesus’ ministry. Now here the disciples were trying to drive them away.

Jesus burned with anger over this. His followers represented him before the people. The same is still true today. Their callused devaluing misrepresented Jesus to the people. So does ours. Jesus gives kids top priority. Any time we lessen their value by our actions or attitudes or lack of action or apathy, we’re not viewing children with the perspective of God. I sure he still gets indignant about that.

Jesus commands his disciples then and his followers today to open the way for kids to come to him. The only way we’ll do that is when we give kids top priority as Jesus did.

How Can We Open The Way To Jesus?

In these next points I’m speaking to both parents, grandparents and the church. All of us are to be a part of the process of opening the way to Jesus. I must tell you, though, the greatest responsibility lies with the parents. If the ministries of the church are not reinforced at home, young children would just as well have been turned away from Jesus to begin with.

1. Teach the faith.

Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6

From an early age we must begin instilling the faith into our children. It won’t happen by osmosis. Faith won’t just mystically leak into them. It must be taught. Don’t think that you can just wait for it to happen. Never make the even more foolish mistake of thinking you’ll let your kids get old enough to make their own decision.

British poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge once had a discussion with a man who firmly believed that children should not be given formal religious instruction, but should be free to choose their own religious faith when they reached maturity. Coleridge did not disagree, but later invited the man into his somewhat neglected garden. "Do you call this a garden?" the visitor exclaimed. "There are nothing but weeds here!"
"Well, you see," Coleridge replied, "I did not wish to infringe upon the liberty of the garden in any way. I was just giving the garden a chance to express itself."

Daily Walk, March 28, 1992

God commands us to pass on the faith to our children by intentionally and consistently instructing them.

"And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children …" Deut. 6: 7a

2. Live the faith.

Equally as important as teaching the faith is living it out. Demonstration enlivens presentation. If academic instruction were enough our job would be easy. Send them to some classes, give them a multiple choice test and if they pass your work is done. If teaching were enough America would be a Christian nation. Charles Stanley is piped into most every home on Sunday morning. As good as his teaching is, it’s not having a huge impact on our nation. The problem is a failure to live out the faith. Adults need an example and so do kids.

Be an example by your actions!

"… and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates." Deut. 6:7b-9

The implication of the Bible is that the faith should be a constant I our homes. We teach and live it out.

Mom and Dad, teacher, preacher … ask yourself if your conduct is worthy of emulation. Can you sincerely look at your kids and say "Follow me as I follow Christ." Or do you sometimes lapse into the old "Do as I say, not as I do" cop out? Are you living out Christ-likeness in your home, in your marriage, in your car, in the church halls, in the off handed comments you make when you think no one is listening?

Be an example by your attitude!

Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. Eph. 6:4 (NIV)

I add this one because sometimes we forget to extend grace to our children.

How to exasperate: favoritism, comparison, unrealistic standards, over-indulging, rescuing, discouragement, lack of rewards, unfulfilled promises, treating them like boarders rather than children, not admitting mistakes, ridiculing, neglect, abusive words, sarcasm, physical abuse.

If you don’t exemplify justice and grace and love in your home, guess what they’ll think of your God?

3. Answer their questions.

This one should be a no-brainer, but it’s often overlooked by parents and teacher. Sometimes we’re just too busy to answer little Johnny’s question about where God came from or whether pets go to heaven when they die. Maybe we just don’t know the answer when little Suzy wants to know why we sing and pray in church.

I find that kids are natural question askers. They’re like dry sponges waiting to soak up the wisdom that we have to impart. Please don’t stifle that natural curiosity by being annoyed at question or constantly putting them off. Encourage them to seek. I think I remember a promise that they will find. If you don’t know the answer, find out.

God understood the inquisitive nature of children. After the nation of Israel had crossed over into the Promised Land God instructed the people to set up twelve large stones from the bottom of the dried up Jordan River. He wanted a memorial of the occasion and gave these instructions:

"When your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, ’What are these stones?’ then you shall let your children know, saying, ’Israel crossed over this Jordan on dry land’; for the LORD your God dried up the waters of the Jordan before you until you had crossed over, as the LORD your God did to the Red Sea, which He dried up before us until we had crossed over, that all the peoples of the earth may know the hand of the LORD, that it is mighty, that you may fear the LORD your God forever." Joshua 4:21-24

4. Esteem children’s ministry.

Give honor to ministry to children. Jesus placed a high priority on ministry to kids and, as his followers, so should we.

· Get beyond the babysitter mentality.

Our mindset has to change from "let’s get the kids" out of our hair to "let’s shape these pliable souls. Childhood is prime time to go after people. They are simply more open to God.

A little girl was observed by her pastor standing outside the preschool Sunday School classroom between Sunday School and worship, waiting for her parents to come and pick her up for "big church." The pastor noticed that she clutched a big storybook under her arms with the obvious title, "Jonah and the Whale."
Feeling a little playful, he knelt down beside the little girl and began a conversation. "What’s that you have in your hand?", he asked.
"This is my storybook about Jonah and the Whale," she answered.
"Tell me something, little girl," he continued, "do you believe that story about Jonah and that whale to be the truth?"
The little girl implored, "Why of course I believe this story to be the truth!"
He inquired further, "you really believe that a man can be swallowed up by a big whale, stay inside him all that time, and come out of there still alive and OK? You really believe all that can be true?"
She declared, "Absolutely, this story is in the Bible and we studied about it in Sunday School today!"
Then the pastor asked, "Well, little girl, can you prove to me that this story is the truth?"
She thought for a moment and then said, "Well, when I get to Heaven, I’ll ask Jonah."
The pastor then asked, "Well, what if Jonah’s not in Heaven?"
She then put her hands on her little hips and sternly declared, "Then YOU can ask him!"

Kids don’t have all the baggage that adults carry. It’s simply easy for faith to take root and grow in them

19 out of every 20 people who become Christians do so before they reach the age of 25.
After 25 only 1 in 10,000 do so.
After 35 only one in 50,000 do so - and it goes down from there.

I don’t know about you, but I’d like for my kids to come to know Jesus early, so they won’t make the same stupid mistakes that I did. Since they were babies y constant prayer has been that they would know and love God from an early age.

An evangelist from the last century, D.L. Moody once returned from a meeting and reported two and a half conversions. "Two adults and a child, I suppose?" asked his host.
"No," said Moody, "two children and an adult. The children gave their whole lives. The adult had only half to give."

· Expect the same level of quality as adult ministries.

Have you ever noticed that we’ll prepare hours or days to teach adults, but for kids, usually 30 minutes the night before will do. We spend more on quality material for the big people. Kids have to be satisfied with hand-me-downs.

At Wellspring I want each member to view children’s ministry as equal to adult ministry. The time and energy and money and creativity that goes into reaching adults must go into reaching children.

· View children’s ministry as worship.

And Jesus … took a little child and set him by Him, and said to them, "Whoever receives this little child in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me receives Him who sent Me. For he who is least among you all will be great." Luke 9:47-48

Didn’t get anything out of church. Didn’t hear a word from God? Maybe you were looking in the wrong place. Jesus equated ministry to children with coming face to face with himself. If you really desire worship, giving worth to God, commit yourself to loving children.

WHY DOES JESUS PLACE A HIGH PRIORITY ON KIDS?

(AND WHY DON’T WE?)

"…for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them. Mark 10:14b-16 (NIV)

What exactly was Jesus talking about here. It sounds good, but what does it mean that the "kingdom of God belongs to such as these"? Simply put, kids provide an example of what it takes to enter the kingdom of heaven. Preachers and scholars speculate on what this quality is.

Some say that it’s their humility. But you know what kids aren’t all that humble. They quite self-centered and egotistical.

Property Laws of a Toddler
1. If I like it, it’s mine.
2. If it’s in my hand, it’s mine.
3. If I can take it from you, it’s mine.
4. If I had it a little while ago, it’s mine.
5. If it’s mine, it must never appear to be your in any way.
6. If I’m doing or building something, all the pieces are mine.
7. If it looks just like mine, it’s mine.
8. If I saw it first, it’s mine.
9. If you were playing with something and you put it down, it automatically becomes mine.
10. If it’s broken, it’s yours.

Deb Lawrence, Missionary to the Philippines with SEND International, quoted in Prokope, Nov./Dec., 1992, p. 3

Some think it’s their innocence that Jesus is alluding to. But you know what? Kids aren’t all that innocent. They can be quite devious. My four year old is better at getting around loopholes in the rules than Bill Clinton. Kids have ulterior motives. They hug and kiss to get what they want. They know how to pit parents against one another. Let’s not romanticize their innocence.

Some have said it’s their obedience that Jesus is talking about. If you have kids you know that one’s not it.

No, the defining characteristic of a child is trust. They trust parents and other significant adults because they realize their utter dependence. They know they can’t earn their way, so they simply trust.

That’s how people enter the kingdom of heaven. They admit they’re powerless to be good enough for God. They depend on the sacrifice of God’s Son on the cross as their way of forgiveness and eternal life.

Now to one who works, wages are not reckoned as a gift but as something due. But to one who without works trusts him who justifies the ungodly, such faith is reckoned as righteousness. Romans 4:5

God prefers people who trust. I’m convinced that the reason we devalue kids is exactly the reason God values them. They can’t give us anything back in return. They won’t be good church workers, at least for many, many years. Deep down we want people who can benefit us, who will return the investment that we put into them.

Children are powerless and dependent. They take a lot of work and there is little return. Spiritually speaking the situation is the same between us and God. He puts a lot into us, and gets precious little (if anything) in return.

Giving children top priority honors God. It expresses his character and attitude toward us.

A four year old was at the pediatrician for a check up. As the doctor looked down her ears with a scope, he asked, "Do you think I’ll find Big Bird in here?" The little girl stayed silent. Next, the doctor took a tongue depressor and looked down her throat. He asked, "Do you think I’ll find the Cookie Monster down there?" Again, the little girl was silent. Then the doctor put a stethoscope to her chest. As he listened to her heartbeat, he asked, "Do you think I’ll hear Barney in there?"
"Oh, no!" the little girl replied. "Jesus is in my heart. Barney’s on my underpants."

You want to know God? It take faith like a child - simple trust and dependence on him. You want to know God better? Commit yourself to meeting him in the eyes of a child.





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Raising your Children Without Raising your Blood Pressure by Marc Axelrod

Psalms 127:1-5

I read about a woman who came to visit the Rev. Charles Spurgeon. She said
to him, "Reverend, I really feel God calling me to the ministry." Spurgeon
asked her, "Are you married?" She said, "Yes I am." He then asked her, "Do
you have any children?" And she said, "Yes, I have 13 kids."

And Spurgeon replied, "Well, praise God, not only has he called you into the
ministry. But he’s even given you a congregation!"

I think the Reverend is right. Raising children IS a ministry. Psalm 127:3
teaches us that families are a blessing from God.

But for some of you, it’s been more of a misery than a ministry. Some of you
are struggling right now because you’re not getting along with one of your
children. You can tell by the tone of their voice that they don’t respect
you. It seems as though every conversation ends in a fight. And it leaves
you all tense and rattled.

Some of you go to bed worried. Because you don’t know where your kids are.
Or what they’re doing. Some of you are living with guilt and pain: "If I had
been a better parent, my son wouldn’t be involved with alcohol. My daughter
would go to church more. My kids would make better choices. I’m a failure! I
tried to be the best parent that I could be. I did the best that I could.
But my best wasn’t good enough."

If you’ve ever felt that way, I want you to remember this: In all of human
history, there has only been one perfect parent. You know who that is? God.
And he knows what it feels like to be heartbroken over how his kids behave.
Remember in Exodus 32 when the Israelites worshiped the golden calf? God was
like, "I don’t know what I’m going to do with these people anymore! How
could they do that to me after all I’ve done for them? I’m ready to kill
them right now!"

And in Luke 19, we see Jesus. Weeping over Jerusalem. Because they won’t
listen to him, either.

So you are not alone. God himself knows how tough it is being a parent. He
knows the pain and heartache that some of you feel.

And in the Bible, he gives us some tips to help us out. The first thing is
that we must learn to understand our kids. The number one complaint kids
have about their parents is "You guys don’t understand me! How can you sit
there and boss me around? And tell me what to do? When you don’t even know
me anymore? Or who my friends are? Or what I’m like when I’m with my
friends? You still think I’m that little girl you used to dress up in
pigtails. But I’m not."

One of the things that makes God such a good parent is that he understands
us. Psalm 103:14 says "He knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are
just dust." And Psalm 139:13 says that he knew us in the womb. He knows our
personality. What makes us tick. And that each one of us has different
abilities. And that’s what we need to remember about our kids.

Last year, Jeanne and I took Molly to T Ball practice. The coach’s son is
also on the team. And after a few minutes, it became clear that the son didn
’t really want to be there. When the batter hit the ball, he was busy
looking up at the sky. Or watching the other kids play on the playground.
And when the ball came his way, he usually went the other way! And the dad
kept yelling at him, "How many times have I told you to pay attention? And
keep your glove on the ground? Why can’t you show a little more interest?"

But that was exactly the point. The boy WASN’T interested. Maybe the dad was
trying too hard to force his son to be something that he didn’t really want
to be. Maybe he just didn’t understand that his son doesn’t like T-Ball.

One thing I should say about my folks is that they allowed me the chance to
discover who I really was. They let me go to chess tournaments. And take
guitar lessons. And play soccer. And even though they weren’t in favor of me
becoming a minister, they never suggested that I should be anything other
than what I wanted to be. They were trying the best that they could to be
understanding and supportive. And I love them for that.

We also need to remember how tough it is to be a teenager. Have you guys
ever seen the movie "Big?" With Tom Hanks? He makes a wish. And he turns
from a 13 year old into a thirty year old. And at the end of the movie, he
makes a wish to go back to being 13. And he says to his girlfriend, "Maybe
you can come back with me?" And she says, "Nooooo!!!! It was tough enough
the first time! I’m not going through THAT again!"

She’s right. The teen years are tough. Britney Spears has a song that goes
like this: "I’m not a girl. Not yet a woman. And I’ll need is time. A moment
that is mine. To live in this in between. I’m not a girl."

The song does a good job of describing how confusing the teen years can be.
How hard it can be to adjust. And find acceptance.

There’s a story in 1 Samuel 17. David is a teenager. And his father sends
him to the battle front to see how his brothers are doing. And when he gets
there, his older brothers give him a hard time. "David, what are you doing
here? You’re just a kid. I know how wicked and conceited your heart is. You
just came to watch the battle!"

And David is like, "Guys, that is not fair! You don’t know me! Can’t I speak
for myself?"

And even though David was a misunderstood teenager, by the end of the
chapter, he was a teenage hero. The one who killed Goliath with a single
slingshot.

The message is that God can use young people in powerful ways. We simply
need to be more supportive and understanding of what they face in life.

The second thing we need to do is to accept our children as they are. I was
reading about the Olympic swimmer Greg Louganis. In 1988, he hit his head in
a diving accident. The doctors stitched his head. And the next day, he came
back and he won the gold medal on his final performance with an incredible
reverse three-and-a-half somersault tuck. It was a breathtaking finish that
brought Americans to their feet. Later on, reporters asked him, "What were
you thinking about as you prepared for your final dive?"

Louganis’ simple answer was, "I was thinking that no matter what happens, my
mother will still love me. Once when I was a kid, I had a bad day at diving.
And my mom took me aside and said, "Son, I do not come to see you win. I
come to see you dive. Just do your best! I will love you no matter what."

Greg’s mom knew something about unconditional love and acceptance. Romans
15:7 says "Accept one another just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring
praise to God." God accepted you. With all your sin. And your imperfections.
And your less than perfect report cards. And your freckles. And your rock
and roll music. And your 70’s clothing. And he loves you anyway. We need to
extend that same unconditional acceptance to our kids. Even if their grades
aren’t the best. And even if they’re not the best athletes. We need to love
and accept our kids as the gift of God that they are.

The third thing we need to do is to discipline our children. Proverbs 13:24
says that he who loves his son is careful to discipline him. Now let me just
say that discipline is not something you do when you’re in the heat of
anger. If you feel angry enough to discipline your kid, then it’s probably
not the right time to discipline him. Discipline is something you do out of
love. Because you want the best for your child.

When I got caught shoplifting back in 6th grade, my mom grounded me for the
rest of the summer of 1979. She didn’t do it because she hated me. She did
it because she loved me so much that she wanted to make sure that I never
shoplifted again. And it worked! I never shoplifted ever again.

God is the same way with us. Hebrews 12:6 says that "The Lord disciplines
those that he loves."

The fourth thing we need to do is to express love to our children. I
remember one time when Molly came to visit. I was playing video games with
her. And she beat me at the last second. And I pretended to be mad. And I
said, "How dare you beat your uncle Marc in his own house? And at his own
video game?" And then I picked her up in my arms and said, "I love you,
Molly." And she smiled and said, "What?" And I said, "I love you Molly." And
she smiled even bigger and said, "WHAT?" And I said, "I love you!" And she
said "WHAT!!!!???" She couldn’t get enough of being told how much she was
loved.

That’s how God is with us in the Bible. Psalm 145:17 says that he is loving
toward all he has made. In Jeremiah 31:3, he says "I have loved you with an
everlasting love." And in Deuteronomy chapter 7, Moses tells the Israelites
that God did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were
more numerous than other peoples. But it was because the LORD loved you!"
Throughout scripture God is always telling us how much he loves us. We need
to be just as affectionate with our own kids as God is with us.

Dr Dobson says that there are three ways that we can show love to our kids.
Affection. Affirmation. And Attention. We show affection by hugging our
kids. Pats on the back. Kisses. Things like that. Studies have shown that
mothers are 6 times more affectionate than dads. So guys, you gotta get on
the ball. Hug your kids today. Pat them on the back. Kiss them.

And you can show affirmation by telling them how much they mean to you. I
got a lot of nice presents on my wedding day. But the best one of all was
when my dad came up to me before the service and said, "Marc, I’m so proud
of you. I’m so proud of what you’ve done with your life. And I love you." I
still treasure that moment of affirmation as one of the greatest moments of
my life. With all my heart, I encourage you to create that kind of moment
with your kids. Tell them that you love them. Make them feel good.

And a third way to express your love to them is to give them the time and
attention they deserve. Jesus gave three years of his life for his
disciples. Loving them. teaching them. And training them. God help us to
give that kind of time and love to our little disciples at home.

I was reading about a boy whose dad had promised to take him to the circus.
But right before they were supposed to leave, the dad got a call from work.
They said that they needed him to come in. The boy got up from the table and
started to cry. But then he heard his father say, "I can’t come in tonight.
I promised my son I’d take him to the circus." And he hung up the phone.

And his wife smiled and said to him, "The circus will come back someday, you
know."

And the dad said, "That’s true. But childhood won’t."

Years later, the boy became a minister. And he said, "From that moment on, I
knew that my dad truly loved me."

You can tell somebody that you love them. But nothing says it quite so well
as the gift of time. Taking your kids to the circus. Playing board games.
Giving piggyback rides. Going fishing. These simple activities can build
bridges of love between you and your kids.

When my mom comes to visit me, the best part of the visit is when we go for
a long walk down Schneider road. Because that’s when we get to talk. And go
beyond the surface. Make sure that you’re not too busy to spend that kind of
time with your kids.

A fifth thing to remember as you raise your children is to be consistent.
Psalm 145:17 says that the Lord is righteous in ALL his ways." God is
consistently fair and loving toward us. And that’s the way we need to be in
the home.

I was reading about Dr. Dobson. He took his family on a ski trip. The
weather was nasty all week. They could hardly get any skiing in. On Sunday
morning, they woke up. And it was a beautiful day. Amd it was also the last
day of their vacation. And Dr Dobson’s daughter said, "Dad, can we skip
church today so we can ski one more time?"

And Dr Dobson said, "I don’t know. We’ve never missed church before."

And she said, "Oh please dad, just this one time?"

And Dr Dobson looked outside. And how nice it was. And he said to the kids,
"Oh, alright. Let’s ski!"

And the girl said, "Yeahhhhh!!!!!" And they got their coats on and went
outside.

But Dr Dobson’s oldest son Ryan saw what happened. And he went up to Dr
Dobson. And said, "Dad, I’ve never seen you compromise before. If skipping
church was wrong in the past, then it’s still wrong today."

Dr Dobson said, "My son’s words hit me like a blow from a hammer. I
eventually regained my composure and said the words he needed to hear.
"Ryan, you’re right." And instead of skiing that day, they went to church in
a nearby town. They extended their vacation and had a great time on the
slopes the next day.

Your kids are watching you all the time. They know whether or not you’re a
person who stands by their moral convictions. And if you want them to know
the truth and live the truth, it’s important that you do.

Raising children is a hard job. The way to be a better parent is to
surrender your life to your heavenly parent. I invite you to accept Jesus
Christ as your personal Lord and Savior. Let God be your source of parental
strength. And watch him work miracles in the life of your family. Let’s
pray.




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