This past week we have been hosting a ton of kids for our Vacation Bible School. It has been so much fun and the adults and teenagers who have been working with us have been such a blessing to the little ones. Kids have such an enthusiasm, they are so full of life, and they aren’t afraid to offer their answers if you will only ask them the questions. Here are some things I’ve learned from hanging out with kids through the years.
• Noah’s wife was Joan of Ark.
• The fifth commandment is “Humor thy father and mother.”
• Lot’s wife was a pillar of salt by day and ball of fire by night.
• When Mary heard that she was the mother of Jesus she sang the Magna Carta.
• Christians have only one wife and that is called, “monotony.”
• The patron saint of travelers is Saint Francis of Seasick.
• It is often difficult to hear in church because the agnostics are so terrible.
Who said that our kids are not learning the Bible? We have some real Bible scholars in our midst and we didn’t even know it. Children are so much fun, and their faith is so inspiring to me. Our society is becoming more and more fixated on hard scientific evidence for every realm of life, rather than trusting in God like a child. This is one of the reasons why children inspire me.
Science is a great blessing from God. The discoveries of science have enabled our society to make great advances throughout the centuries, but science can never answer the critical questions of life: “Why am I here? Where did I come from? Where am I going? What will happen to me when I die?” Science is way out of its league when it attempts to tackle “life questions” because you can’t put those questions in a test tube and test them over and over again. How can science respond to the Christian belief that God has prepared a Kingdom for those who will trust in Him like a child—with complete confidence, reliance, and commitment? What empirical evidence do we have for that belief? We have no quantitative scientific documentation to reinforce or support that belief do we. For science to be convinced we must be able to set-up our belief and test it over and over again—only then can you gain the blessing of science.
On the other hand, God says, “I have prepared a home for you. Though you work and toil, struggle and sweat, and endure many hardships in life—I will give you eternal rest. Trust Me with the faith of children who are willing to believe even though their eyes have not seen. You, my child, trust Me that what I have prepared for you is beyond your highest hopes. Trust Me that when I call for you, I will welcome you into My comforting and peaceful arms.”
We are now going to take a look at a portion of Scripture that is beautiful in its setting. Jesus is sitting with dozens of parents and their little children are gathered all around Him. I love this section of Scripture for its beauty and also for its relevancy for the Church today. As I’ve studied this past week I have had no problem envisioning Jesus sitting down with a small child in His lap and saying, “Anyone who will not receive the Kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” I can see Jesus taking your children and my children in His arms and blessing them over and over again. Isn’t that a wonderful picture? There are some great lessons contained in this little section of Scripture we will study this morning from the Gospel of Mark. Won’t you read with me from Mark 10:13-16
13 People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. 14 When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15 I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” 16 And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them. (Mark 10:13-16 NIV)
Jesus had gone south from Capernaum, over the mountains of Samaria and into Judea, which is the region of Judah, and then east across the Jordan River into Perea which is just north of the Dead Sea. It is here that the Pharisees tried to put Jesus to the test by asking Him about the lawfulness of divorce. Jesus’ reply focused on the sanctity of marriage and the ultimate will of God that nothing should ever destroy the family. After He silenced the Pharisees, Jesus welcomed the kids and their parents.
In verse 13 we read, “People were bringing little children to Jesus to have Him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them.” (Mark 10:13 NIV) The parents knew that they needed to get their children in touch with Jesus and they were bringing them to Him by the droves. Once they made their way to Jesus they ran into the self-appointed body guards—the disciples. Isn’t that odd? The disciples, who were closer to Jesus than anybody, who had seen Jesus care for those that nobody else cared for, who had heard Jesus speak hope to the hopeless—were now speaking harshly to the parents who wanted Jesus to bless their children. Why would they have done such a horrible thing? I can imagine that Jesus and the disciples had been traveling and speaking all day and they were tired. The kids were noisy and rambunctious, jumping over pews, talking out loud during the pastoral prayer, asking their mom for the thousandth time, “Why can’t I have some juice and a cracker, I’m hungry!” and trying to talk with their friends who were sitting three rows behind them. Plus, kids can’t understand Jesus’ sermons anyway right? We read about how the disciples rebuked the parents and we can’t imagine someone turning children away from Jesus. Before we get too proud we need to take a long hard look at ourselves. In Mark 10:14 we read,
14 When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. (Mark 10:14 NIV)
Jesus was indignant that the disciples would try and keep the children away from Him. We must ask ourselves, “How does Jesus feel about Britton Christian Church?” Are we bringing the children to Him or are we preventing them from getting in touch with the One who can transform their life? We should examine our commitment to the children of this church and community on a regular basis so that their coming to Jesus is always our top priority.
The parents of Jesus’ day were bringing their children to Jesus because they knew that to get their children in touch with Jesus was to get them in touch with the One who could truly bless their lives and transform their futures. Jesus was the One who could genuinely teach their children the truth about God, about themselves, about sex, money, hardships, life, and even death. They knew that Jesus’ truth would stand the test of time and give their children guidance for a lifetime. That truth has not changed and that is why it is imperative that we continue to get our children in touch with Jesus.
I want you to know that there is no greater challenge for Britton Christian Church. God calls us to continually work to transform this place into a “Children’s Church” so that our children, grandchildren, and the kids around this church call this place “home.” Britton Christian Church needs to be a place where they can laugh, cry, play, make new friends, and learn from caring adults who are consistently pointing them to Jesus. Whatever we do, we must never put a barrier between the kids and God.
When a church decides to be a haven for children then there are consequences. If children are welcome, then the church will be full of crying babies, laughing children, loud talking between little friends, spills on the carpet, disruptions in worship, numerous trips to the bathroom, and maybe even laying down in a pew and taking a nap during a sermon on two. I remember when I first came here and we didn’t have any children. The people of this church told me how badly they missed having kids around. When kids began to come all of these things that I just mentioned began to take place and some of the folks began to talk about the “problems” the kids were causing. I was quick to remind them that we didn’t have any of those problems when there were no children around and then I asked them, “Do you want to go back to the way things were?” You know the answer.
If a church invites the children to come and learn of Jesus’ ways then the church will never be the same again. Along with the little inconveniences come life, laughter, celebration, singing, excitement, innocence, spontaneity, and enthusiasm! All of the qualities that God so desires for us to experience in every phase of life, but especially in worship. Doesn’t that sound exciting to you? We can have “Children’s Church” every Sunday and maybe even get the kids to teach a special class on “Key Elements of Worship.”
In verse 15 we find out that the Kingdom of God is for kids only. Jesus says, 15 I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it. (Mark 10:15 NIV) The phrase, “I tell you the truth,” is used by Jesus to strengthen His statements throughout the Gospels. (Mark 8:12; 9:1, 41; 10:15, 29; 11:23; 12:43; 13:30; 14:9, 18, 25, 30) Jesus says, “You had better pay attention because I’m fixing to say something real important that you need to hear.” If we were to hear those words today we would expect to hear notable words to navigate us through turbulent times, important information to insure our investments, or advice on avoiding painful predicaments in the future. Jesus says, “Listen up! If you want to enter the Kingdom of God become like one of these little ones.”
In our society we place great importance on a person’s position and prominence—the standing they have gained in society. The highly esteemed folks in our community are the one’s who have made their way to the top, carved their name in the history books of the nation, or built an empire unto themselves. We make icons out of people like Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, and Donald Trump because of their vast fortunes. In our own community we are impressed by those who have more than the rest of us and those who have name recognition. Let me see if I can determine how important you are this morning? Who do you know? How many people know you? How important are you? Can you spend a million dollars just for the fun of it? If you can’t answer those questions in an impressive way then you must not be anybody special. That is the unspoken understanding held by many in our country today. We place on a pedestal those who are “important’ by societal standards and those standards are largely materialistic.
It is here in verse 15 that we find out that the Kingdom of God is made up of folks who more closely resemble the little children who were being brought to Jesus. Those who held no prominence, received no plaudits, and didn’t know what position even meant. They simply needed to be in Jesus’ presence.
This verse is confusing to some people because of the unusual statement by Jesus, but to understand this Scripture we must first understand that the Bible, over and over again, promises the Kingdom of God to the underdogs, the poor, the dispossessed, the nerds, the outcasts, and the insignificant folks who hold no position, but who totally trust in the saving power of God through His Son Jesus. The Kingdom is promised to those who come empty-handed, like a beggar, to the throne of God to ask, in a child-like way, for forgiveness and salvation. The Kingdom of God is reserved for those who possess a child-like faith—a faith that trusts God for today and tomorrow, a faith that hopes in God for the good times and the bad times, a faith that is committed to Him with every ounce of strength of mind and body, and a faith that shares His hope with friends and foes alike.
I have learned some incredibly valuable lessons about God from listening to kids. When my family first moved here to Oklahoma City we had a house in Allen, Texas that had not sold. The months rocked along and it was becoming a huge burden on us. One night Connie and I were putting our oldest son, Dan, to bed. Dan had to have been about 6 years old at the time. We were praying with him and I was praying about our house. When it was Dan’s turn to pray he prayed, “Father, thank you that money doesn’t mean anything, but that You mean everything.” Wow! The trust of my six year old son humbled me. I was carrying knots around in my stomach worrying about what would happen to us if the house didn’t sell, but Dan’s prayer rekindled in me the foundation of everything I truly believed—God will take care of us and even if things don’t work out like we would like—we will trust in Him.
I’ve learned from children that even the smallest, what may seem like insignificant things in life, are of great importance to God. Children will talk to God about a fish that died, a skinned knee, healing for a cold, help for bad dreams, and thousands of other subjects that most adults wouldn’t think of talking to God about. I believe the kids are right in taking these things to God. Our Father wants His children to climb up in His lap and pour our hearts out to Him. God wants us to share with Him our victories, defeats, and the insignificant happenings of everyday life. We can learn a great deal from the openness of children.
Another great attribute of children is that they aren’t afraid to accept a gift with no strings attached. Have you ever given a child a gift and heard them say, “Oh, you shouldn’t have.” I do not know too many kids that feel the need to play the game that so many adults play—the game of “who-owes-who.” I’m sure you are familiar with the game where we try to figure out who did the last good deed so that the favor can be returned. Kids freely accept any and all acts of kindness and gifts that are offered to them. We as adults seem to always have a need to repay the person who has been generous to us whether we feel like blessing them or not. We need to learn from children how to be a recipient without the need to reciprocate.
Jesus says, “You really want to know what the Kingdom of God is like? You really want to experience Kingdom living? You must become like a child because Heaven is for kids.” Become a child. See the world through a child’s eyes, accept God’s free gift of salvation and grace like a child, and trust God for every area of life like a child.
Verse 16 is one of the most beautiful verses in the entire Bible to picture in your mind. Close your eyes and picture for yourself these incredible words:
16 And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them. (Mark 10:16 NIV)
Isn’t that beautiful? After being rebuked by the disciples for trying to get near Jesus, the parents now look upon the Savior of the world holding their children in His arms and blessing them over and over again. Jesus didn’t just reach out and touch the kids, but he “folded them in His arms.” The phrase “took in His arms” is the word, “?????????????” (enagkalizomai), in the Greek New Testament and it means, “to embrace” or “to fold into one’s arms.” The word is only used twice in the entire New Testament, here in Mark 10 and once in the previous chapter. Let me show you the other instance of the appearance of this unique word.
35 Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.” 36 He took a little child and had him stand among them. Taking him in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.” (Mark 9:35-37 NIV)
Isn’t it interesting that the only two places where we find this word for “embracing,” or “folding in His arms” is when the Bible talks about Jesus and kids?
Throughout the history of the Jewish people blessing children has been so important. Even today, in practicing Jewish families, blessings are given to the children on Friday night, Shabbat. The Jewish tradition of blessing children is rooted in Jacob’s blessing of his grandsons, Ephraim and Manasseh, just before he dies. You can read about it in Genesis 48:20.
20 He blessed them that day and said, “In your name will Israel pronounce this blessing: ‘May God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh.’ “ (Genesis 48:20 NIV)
Jacob blessed his grandsons because he wanted them to be role models for the Jewish people. The same ambition is held by most parents today. We want our kids to be a blessing and not a curse on society. In many Jewish homes today, on Shabbat, or Friday evening, the father will lay his hands on the heads of his boys and pray this prayer in either English or Hebrew.
May God make you like Ephraim and Menashe.
May God bless you and watch over you.
May God shine His face toward you and show you favor.
May God be favorably disposed toward you and grant you peace.
Following the prayer of blessing the father will lay his hands on the heads of his daughters and pray this prayer.
May God make you like Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah.
May God bless you and watch over you.
May God shine His face toward you and show you favor.
May God be favorably disposed toward you and grant you peace.
One of the Jewish rabbis explained why fathers pray that the LORD will make their daughters like Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah with these words.
The matriarchs were strong and laudable women. They endured difficult home lives, hardships in marriage, infertility, abduction, envy from other woman, and difficult children. Nevertheless, these righteous women, through their individual passion, their partnerships with the patriarchs and their loyalty to God, succeed to build a nation.
What a blessing to children! Even though most of us Gentiles have not experienced this wonderful tradition in our homes, we need to reclaim it for our families. Blessing someone is not a magical formula which automatically makes a person successful, but speaking words of life, hope, affirmation, and success to people can sure help in elevating someone’s self-worth. We not only need to speak “blessings’ to children, but we need to bless those around us with our words.
I can’t think of any better way to describe the awesome love of Jesus than this picture painted for us by Mark—Jesus holding the little ones in His arms and blessing them over and over again. God wants to bless all of His children, but the only problem is that too many of us adults feel like we are too big and sophisticated to climb up into our Father’s lap and speak with Him openly, sincerely, honestly, frankly, and humbly. To confess to Him that we don’t have anything to offer, but we need His healing touch, His breath of life, and His saving presence in our life. We’re too proud to do that so we continue to try to guide our own footsteps in the right path; we try to use our power to get us into secure places to cover our insecurities, and we try to provide for our own futures and say that we don’t need God’s constant forgiveness, grace, and strengthening. When we do that we have excluded ourselves from God’s Kingdom because we have deceived ourselves into believing that we can provide for ourselves. God desires that we lose our pride and gain the eyes and attributes of a child. We desperately need to let God show us this life for what it is, rather than the glitter and glamour that the world continually uses to lure us to what they think leads to happiness.
Just a few weeks ago Connie and I went to pick up our daughter Annie at Kanakuk. Being on the grounds of camp brought back so many wonderful memories of when I was a counselor there many years ago. One summer that I was working at camp we had a visitor and her name was Amy. Amy was always smiling and she had come to camp to see her sister for a couple of days. You wouldn’t have known it if you had met Amy back then, but Amy had leukemia. When Joe White, the owner of the camp, found out about Amy’s condition he wanted to do something special for Amy.
The summer flew by and winter rolled around along with the discouraging news that Amy’s condition had worsened. The doctors told Amy’s parents that they didn’t expect her to live to the end of the month. Amy’s parents called Joe and told him about the bad news. Joe got on the phone and called a friend of his who was a high profile singer in our country at the time. The man was B. J. Thomas. B.J. agreed to go and see Amy. The next day Joe went to see Amy and to give her the good news about B. J. Thomas coming to see her. Amy was real excited to see Joe, but when he told her about B. J.’s planned visit, Amy hardly changed her expression at all. Joe said, “Amy, aren’t you excited about B. J. coming to see you? I mean, he is a big star and he wants to come and spend time with you right here at your house.” Amy looked up at Joe and said, “Yes, I’m glad B. J. is coming to see me, but how can I be excited about a little thing like that when I am going to see Jesus in just a few days?”
The next summer Joe told all of us counselors the story about Amy and he said, “Once again a child taught me what was most important in this life and it isn’t all about being around big names and making financial gains, but it is being like a child and trusting God for today and every day to come.”
We have so much to learn my friends and God has blessed the children around us to teach us if we will but listen and learn. One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned from kids is how open they are to Jesus. You don’t have to convince a child that Jesus loves them and wants to live forever in their hearts. Studies have shown that the vast majority of people who are Christians accepted Jesus before they were 16 years old. After 16, if someone has not already asked Jesus into their hearts, the likelihood that they will do that decreases considerably. Why is that? Well, I believe it is because the older most of us get the more cynical and proud we become.
I don’t know how old you are today, but I’ve got news for you. You need Jesus in your life. Won’t you lay down your pride and allow Him to fold you into His comforting arms this very morning?
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
July 19, 2009