Don’t Grow Up!

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Jesus told us in Matthew 18:3 NIV, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

What’s so great about being a kid; other than no responsibilities, no mortgage, and no quarterly taxes due? They have attributes that seem to adapt well in the kingdom of heaven. Children are innocent, trusting, meek, easily contented, loving, honest, non-judgmental, not prejudice, loving, and forgiving.

One characteristic that I have observed in children is how they live in the moment. It doesn’t matter where they are, or whom they are with, they become completely immersed into their surroundings and look for whatever fun may be hidden there. That ability amazes me. Talk about “mindfulness.” I struggle with just living in the moment. My mind is always wandering off somewhere. I no sooner sit down and I’m thinking about how soon I can stand up again. Shortly after entering a room, I’m looking for the exit signs. I worry if I’m at the right place at the right time and with the right people. Those unsettled thoughts rob me of peace. I watch kids connect with others and they just accept that they are at the right place at the right time and with the right people. They look for the adventure in their current circumstances with the people they are with. Life would much more enjoyable if we could just live in the moment that we are in.

Another trait children possess is the fact that they generally don’t worry about the future or fret about the past. They are usually too busy squeezing out every drop of life from their day to have any time for worrying. They live in the land of “Que Sera, Sera. Whatever will be, will be.” Jesus told us, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:34 NIV). “Don’t worry” is a command from Jesus, not a suggestion. There are no exceptions; no ifs, ands, or buts about it. He simply demands, “don’t do it.” Children seem to have the whole not worrying thing under control.

A beautiful quality that especially very young children have is the genuine acceptance of people. They seem to be blind to other’s flaws. They don’t notice physical disabilities, skin color, disfigurements, old-age, hair styles or the lack of hair. Even if they do notice, they never judge you for it. Once my grandson was looking at the back of my head and noticed my bald spot. He quizzically asked, “Pap Pap, who cuts your hair?” I answered, “Aunt Deb. Why?” He rubbed my head and exclaimed concerningly, “I think she’s cutting it too short!” It always astonishes me to see a child smile and look lovingly at the face of someone we would consider just plain ugly, without any hesitation at all. My prayer is to see others as Jesus sees them, through eyes of love.

Jesus told us,” “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven” (Luke 6:37 NIV). Children seem to have an easier time forgiving than adults. They don’t usually hold on to a grudge for more than a couple minutes.

Being childlike is not the same as being childish; which is the unpleasant qualities of silliness and immaturity. The apostle Paul said, “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things” (1 Cor. 13:11 NKJV). The most beautiful virtue of children is their humility. They’re not inhibited by the fear of what someone may think about them. They possess the profound confidence that is only found in humility.

I want to have the simple faith of a child. The kingdom of heaven operates on it. “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him” (Heb. 11:6 NIV). Children boldly make their requests known to their parents. “So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most” (Heb. 4:16 NLT). They expect an answer. “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us” (1 Jn. 5:14 NIV). They trust in their parents, even if they don’t understand, become frustrated, or confused with the answer they receive. Jesus cried out, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42).

Walt Disney said, “That’s the real trouble with the world, too many people grow up.” When it comes to the positive childlike qualities that give unlimited access to the kingdom of heaven, I want to be a spiritual Peter Pan and declare, “I won’t grow up! I’ll never grow up! Not me. Not I. Not me!”

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The B-I-B-L-E Yes, that’s the book for me

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March is officially Bible Appreciation Month. I’m not sure who originates this stuff, but there you have it. I appreciate the Bible all twelve months of the year, and have been doing so for over four decades. I’ve made it a practice to read at least one chapter of the Bible every day. Now that I’m a little older, I love reading the Bible on my Kindle, so I don’t need to wear my cheater glasses. I even keep a copy of the Psalms in the bathroom to quietly read while sitting on the “can!” Like many others who have tried and failed, I tried the “read the Bible in a year” program. I did succeed in reading the entire Bible through in a year a couple times, but eventually couldn’t keep up. If a person enjoys a challenge, then reading the Bible through in a year can be a good thing. However, reading a chapter a day, or just a few verses consistently can be more beneficial in the long run.

I believe the Bible is a book like no other. In fact, it’s 66 books written by 40 authors over a 1,500-year period. As diverse as that sounds, there is an incredible unified theme from Genesis to Revelation. I firmly believe the Bible’s true author is God Himself. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16). “For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pet. 1:21).

The Bible is a powerful book because it contains the God’s words. “For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires” (Heb. 4:12). Despite the allegations of doubters, the Bible has held up as an accurate book. New discoveries in science, history and archaeology have not disproved the Bible, but have continuously substantiated its claims. The Bible has proven itself reliable time after time.

I trust the Bible. I trust its promises. Its words have profoundly changed my life. I consider myself flexible and open minded about current thoughts and trends, politics, and ideas about how church should look and operate; but I won’t compromise my belief that the Bible is the Word of God. I know there are certain words in the Bible that have been translated incorrectly in some versions. I know that we need to read Bible passages in their context. We need to know the historical and cultural background associated with biblical texts as well. I’m not arguing any of that, but I trust the Bible to possess the words of eternal life. I base my beliefs and core values on what the Bible tells me is true and worth living for.

There are a group of people who refer to themselves as “Red Letter Christians.” They believe only the words of Jesus are relevant to our Christian lives; basically, canceling out the rest of the New Testament (mostly written by the apostle Paul). Peter, the apostle who walked with Jesus during his three-year ministry on earth, referred to Paul’s letters as scripture. “This is what our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you with the wisdom God gave him— speaking of these things in all of his letters. Some of his comments are hard to understand, and those who are ignorant and unstable have twisted his letters to mean something quite different, just as they do with other parts of Scripture. And this will result in their destruction” (2 Peter 3:15 & 16 NLT). Peter admitted that even he had a hard time understanding some of Paul’s deeper teachings and hard sayings, but he elevated Pauls’ epistles (letters) to the status of holy scriptures. How would the Paul feel about people wanting to disregard what he had to say? He tells us in his own words, “All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you” (Philippians 3:15 NLT). I love that! Paul said (I’m paraphrasing), “Grow up and you’ll eventually agree with me.”

When I allow God’s Word to penetrate my thoughts and feelings, I change in profound ways. For me, this happens in a very practical way. Let’s say for example, I’m struggling with fear. I’ll do a quick word search on a Bible reference website, and compile a list of scriptures about fear. Then I will print a scripture reference page dealing with the specific subject of not being afraid. I’ll prayerfully read that sheet daily, and let those words sink into my mind and heart until they change my attitudes and feelings. I’ve done this simple practice for years with dozens of issues that I’ve struggled with, and it has truly been a transforming experience.

I believe the Bible is specific about sin (even the ones I’m guilty of). People would like to cut those passages out, believing that practicing their favorite sin allows them to be free. The Bible teaches just the opposite. “Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey? You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living” (Romans 6:16 NLT).

Most importantly, the Bible tells us of God’s great love, mercy, grace and forgiveness. “When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God..” (Romans 5: 6, 8, 11 NLT).

The sweet, little children’s song we sung in Sunday School sums it up best for me.

“The B-I-B-L-E.

Yes, that’s the book for me.

I stand alone on the Word of God.

The B-I-B-L-E.”