July 25 “Children”

Children

There is something about the Kingdom of God that is seen only in children.
Even with the explicit call to “grow up” directed at Christ-followers, (Eph 4:15) there is an element of childhood that believers must retain—a childlike faith. Children believe what they are told. The growth process is one of learning who to listen to who and who to ignore. Choose your image from the Trinity:

  1. Sit in Father’s lap and listen to Him.
  2. Walk with your Savior, Jesus, and listen to Him.
  3. Think deeply and powerfully with the Holy Spirit within your heart and listen to Him.

Listen like a child and believe what you hear. This infantile innocence, this toddler trust, this adolescent adoration is the pathway to maturity.

Two Contrasting Terms
We use two similar but distinct terms for qualities of youth: childish and childlike.

  • To be childish is to be annoying, noisy, and a trial to all who come near.
  • To be childlike is to be trusting, simple, innocent, wonder-struck, and a blessing to all.

When Jesus said we must become like children to enter the Kingdom of God, He was talking about being childlike, not childish.

Time with the Father
When Jesus taught the disciples to pray, He placed the context of prayer in the father/child relationship. For those who came up fatherless, realizing this requires imagination. Put away memories of how it was back then and cultivate visions of how it should be right now. “Our Father” is kind and loving. He smiles at us, not based on our momentary performance, but based on His eternal love. He remembers how He made us out of dust; nothing we have done or failed to do reduces or increases His love for us. Our obedience to His Word pleases Him as does our focus on Him. The promise is that if we will draw closer to Him, He will draw closer to us! (James 4:8) When we spend time with the Father, He holds us closer to His heart.

Walking with the Son
Big brothers are something very special in this world. Many of us had one, and others were one, while all of us can imagine the benefit of having someone ahead of you in years and beside you in spirit. Yes, Jesus is King of kings and Lord of lords on a Throne of Majesty in eternal glory surrounded by adoring angels and saints singing, “Holy, Holy, Holy!” But, He is also our travelling companion with a shepherd’s staff to keep us on the straight and narrow. Our songs are replete with references to our “Companion in the way,” as an ancient prayer puts it. I’ll choose just one:

Though sometimes He leads trough waters deep,
Trials fall across the way,
Though sometimes the path seems rough and steep,
See His footprints all the way.

The Abiding Spirit
Many children have imaginary friends, wonderful, safe, dependable, invisible playmates. We also have an invisible friend, The Blessed Holy Spirit of God, and He is not a product of our imagination; He is very real! He whispers truths to us and shows us spiritual things we would otherwise never see. He empowers our time with the Father and illumines our walk with the Son.

This childlike faith is sweet and constant and believable. Let us enjoy Father’s lap, Jesus’ companionship, and the fellowship of the Holy Ghost. What blessed children of God are we!

Scriptures:
Luke: 18:5-17 NKJV
Then they also brought infants to Him that He might touch them; but when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to Him and said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.”
Ephesians 4:11-16NKJV
And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head — Christ — from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.
Matthew 6:5-9 NKJV
“And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. “Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.

Evening Prayer from the Book of Common Prayer:
Jesus, Be Our Companion

Lord, Jesus, stay with us, for the evening is at hand and day is past; be our Companion in the Way, kindle our hearts, and awaken hope that we may know You as Your are revealed in Scripture and the breaking of bread. Grant us this for the sake of Your love. Amen

Song:
He Keeps Me Singing

Words and Music: L. B. Bridges

1.There’s within my heart a melody, Jesus whispers sweet and low,
“Fear not I am with thee. Peace be still, In all of life’s ebb and flow.

Refrain:
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Sweetest name I know,
Fill my every longing, Keeps me singing as I go.

2. All my life was wrecked by sin and strife, Discord filled my heart with pain.
Jesus swept across the broken strings, Stirred the slumbering chords again.

Refrain

3. Feasting on the riches of His grace, Resting ‘neath His shelt’ring wing,
Always looking on His smiling face, That is why I shout and sing.

Refrain

4. Though sometimes He leads trough waters deep, Trials fall across the way,
Though sometimes the path seems rough and steep, See His footprints all the way.

Refrain

5. Soon He’s coming back to welcome me, Far beyond the starry sky.
I shall wing my flight to world’s unknown. I shall reign with Him on high.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

May 6 “Children”

Children

There was a question from the Tax Collectors and another from the Disciples. Children figured in both answers.
Arriving at Capernaum, tax collectors asked the Disciples if Jesus paid the Temple Tax. This was an attempt to find some minor infraction of Jewish law with which to attack Jesus.

When Peter came into a house to bring the question to Jesus, the Lord answered the question with a question before Peter had chance to speak.

“What do you think, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth take customs or taxes, from their sons or from strangers?”

This question contained an inherent claim to a different relationship with the Temple. Jesus called the Temple, “My Father’s House.” He was not just another “son of man”—He was the Son of God!. As such, He owed no taxes—He was the heir!

When Peter correctly answered, “From strangers,” Jesus declared,

“Then the sons are free.”

Like the priests who served in the Temple, Jesus was free from tax obligations. Nevertheless, He instructed His men to go fishing and catch a fish. The tax money was in the fish’s mouth.

Who Is the Greatest?
Men are competitive; there is no secret in this revelation. The Disciples were no exception; they were following Jesus and competing with each other at the same time. Possibly feeling empowered by this new found tax exemption they asked Jesus for a job evaluation. Of the Twelve, three were known to be chosen for talks and field trips apart from the others. But the meaning of this was unclear. Peter was always the first to speak, but he was also prone to misspeak. They wanted to know who the “A” students in the class were so they asked Jesus:

“Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”

Jesus called a little child to His side. He sat on a rock and made quick friends with the little one. With unerring discernment, the child responded to the friendship of Jesus with smiles and giggles. Finally, when everyone had taken in the familiar sight of a happy child safe in the arms of a loving adult, Jesus spoke. The child was His answer. The greatest among His followers must be like a child, simple, trusting, innocent.

Childlike, not Childish
Jesus was not promoting immaturity; He was encouraging childlike faith and obedience. An orderly child does not argue with authority. He or she trusts those who know more than a child knows. They offer purity and energy to every task as if it were a game to be played and enjoyed. Far from immature, to live this way before God and men is maturity at its greatest depth. This is no accident of temperament; it is a choice to humble ourselves to a level of childlike trust in Jesus. Observers of Christians through the ages repeatedly speak of truly great servants of God as humble and singular in focus; people who love God and love people.

Recovering Innocence
Perhaps the greatest miracle of redemption through the blood of Christ is that we can recover our innocence. The blood of Jesus covers sins—our sins—and we stand before God as if we had never sinned! The indwelling Holy Spirit regenerates our lives so that we no longer resemble the person we were before. As the great hymn says, the blood of Jesus is “of sin the double cure, saves from wrath and makes me pure.” Amen and Amen.

Scriptures:
Matthew 17:14-23; 18:1-5

When they had come to Capernaum, those who received the temple tax came to Peter and said, “Does your Teacher not pay the temple tax?” He said, “Yes.” And when he had come into the house, Jesus anticipated him, saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth take customs or taxes, from their sons or from strangers?” Peter said to Him, “From strangers.” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are free. Nevertheless, lest we offend them, go to the sea, cast in a hook, and take the fish that comes up first. And when you have opened its mouth, you will find a piece of money; take that and give it to them for Me and you.”
At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me.
Micah 7:19 NKJV
He will again have compassion on us, and will subdue our iniquities. You will cast all our sins Into the depths of the sea.
Psalm 103:11-12 NKJV
For as the heavens are high above the earth, So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.
Colossians 2:13-14 NKJV
And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, I choose to trust You as would a little child. Your Word is all I need. I can question, but just for the sake of understanding, not to question Your authority or wisdom. I don’t have to understand any more than child must understand things far beyond a child’s capacity to understand. Thank You, Lord, for forgiving my sins and casting them far away. You nailed the indictment against me to Your cross. Before You, my innocence is restored to that of a child. Help me stay that way! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Song:
Rock of Ages
Words: Augustus Toplady; Music: Thomas Hastings

1. Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
let me hide myself in thee;
let the water and the blood,
from thy wounded side which flowed,
be of sin the double cure;
save from wrath and make me pure.

2. Not the labors of my hands
can fulfill thy law’s demands;
could my zeal no respite know,
could my tears forever flow,
all for sin could not atone;
thou must save, and thou alone.

3. Nothing in my hand I bring,
simply to the cross I cling;
naked, come to thee for dress;
helpless, look to thee for grace;
foul, I to the fountain fly;
wash me, Savior, or I die.

4. While I draw this fleeting breath,
when mine eyes shall close in death,
when I soar to worlds unknown,
see thee on thy judgment throne,
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
let me hide myself in thee.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved