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For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. - Psalms 139:13 (NIV)
When I was a kid and dinosaurs roamed the earth, I remember sitting on the couch and looking through my baby album. It was a large and thick book with heavy cardboard pages wrapped in a cellophane-type of material that kept pictures and glued-down paraphernalia from my childhood bound together for safekeeping and reminiscing. I loved looking through that book and asking my mom questions about my early days and months. There was a ton of stuff in there, but I’ll never forget a small lock of blond hair that was glued down on one of those pages. It was hair from my very first haircut. I’m not sure why I thought that was particularly interesting, but it stood out to me amongst all my pictures, my first lost tooth, my first set of stitches, and other firsts.
The Bible has a section of really special poetry in it where the words describe how I felt when my mom and I would review that book together. When I looked through it all, I realized I was “fearfully and wonderfully made.” I wasn’t the result of an accident, I wasn’t a random blob in a sea of atoms, I wasn’t a glorified animal. I was (and am) a person with intricate design details, the ability to reason, and a soul that enjoyed being connected to my early stages of life.
This week, we will explore the way God uses children, those living out the early stages of life, to teach us more about His great love as a Heavenly Father. We will realize how we are blessed when we learn to be like them and protect them.
Work on memorizing Psalm 139:13 this week. (To memorize, I read a verse 10 times, read it out loud 10 times, and then recite it without looking at the verse 10 times.)Share Tweet
And he said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” - Matthew 18:3 (NIV)
Jesus used all kinds of things to illustrate what the Kingdom of Heaven is like. From a mustard seed to a business owner, Jesus taught His audience about the reign and rule of God in Heaven and on Earth. In the passage above, we see Jesus use children to illustrate for us what is needed to become part of the Kingdom of Heaven.
Children are, by nature, inquisitive, fun-loving, sensitive, and exploratory. They are also needy and incapable of providing for themselves. They have to have someone else provide for them the many things they can’t provide for themselves. Jesus brings both of these attribute lists together when he further explains that it takes humility to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. The very next verse in Matthew 18:4 states it plainly. So by process of elimination, we can infer who the Kingdom is not for. It isn’t for the proud, cynical, hard-hearted, the know-it-alls, and the have-it-alls; it’s for the humble.
This presents a problem for me. I am pretty self-sufficient. I provide for my family, have margin left to bless others, and don’t want for much. Most days, I blindly assume that I produce enough to not need much from others, including God. That’s a really dangerous place to get to. But as adults born of the inherent independence of our American upbringing, we can completely miss God’s call to be humble and maintain that humility in all aspects of our lives. However, attending a funeral or visiting the ER quickly reminds us of the truly little control we actually have over our lives.
Our loving Heavenly Father knows that we need Him, so Jesus taught us with the illustration of needy children that we are to take their posture in order to engage fully in the life God has called us to in His Kingdom. So this week, let’s “grow up” to become more like children.
Review Psalm 139:13 from memory.Share Tweet
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” - Matthew 19:14 (NIV)
Yesterday, we heard an illustration from Jesus about children and how they teach us what it looks like to inherit the Kingdom of Heaven. It’s massive stuff, all illustrated by snot-nosed kids! In the very next chapter of the book of Matthew, an incident is recorded where Jesus again references kids. Apparently there were some kids nearby, Jesus was busy doing His Messiah-Rabbi thing, and His closest followers didn’t want Jesus or His burgeoning following being interrupted by kids.
Knowing what I know about that ancient culture, Jesus' disciples weren’t acting out of turn; they were doing what any self-respecting disciple would do. They were serving what they assumed was their Rabbi’s (leader’s) wishes: Keep the distracting kids out of the way so I can teach and minister to the people! But they were wrong.
In the Kingdom of Heaven, ALL people have value. The poor, the needy, the vulnerable, the overlooked, the misguided, the homeless, and on and on. Jesus wants everyone to have access to him. He loves children and doesn’t want their opportunity to know him and be around him hindered. Children not only illustrate the posture we need to have in approaching our relationship with God, but they also show the inherent value we all have from our Heavenly Father.
Children matter to God, and they should matter to us. Whether you were one, act like one, parent some, or grandparent many, we need to see what God sees. In them, He sees great value and worth, His image, and a living illustration of what our approach to God should be. Today, let’s make sure we see what He sees in them and in ourselves.
If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. - Matthew 18:6 (NIV)
If you are a morning devotional reader, the verse above is a heck of a way to start your day. This language wasn’t intended to make those in Jesus’ presence feel comfortable. It was a very stern warning against those that would hurt children. When children are not protected, Jesus isn’t happy. It doesn’t get more straightforward than to say there are grave consequences for bringing harm, spiritual or physical, to children.
Sadly, in our country, we have seen the value of life diminished greatly. Specifically, life before birth. On January 22, 1973, the Supreme Court ruled that abortion, the termination of life before birth, was legal. This grieves my heart. As emotionally loaded as this subject is, the fact remains that we do not protect unborn children legally, and millions of babies have been aborted as a result… millions.
It is tempting to transition into a rant about the horrors of abortion, but I’m not sure that it is fruitful with our remaining time together. I do think it is fruitful to listen very carefully to Jesus. He goes on to say in Matthew 18:7, “Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to sin! Such things must come, but woe to the man through whom they come!”
It is our responsibility to guard ourselves against sin. We won’t resolve the issue of abortion in one devotional, but we can listen to Jesus and meditate on his words of warning, letting them soak deep into our hearts as we consider the Kingdom of Heaven together.
Read Matthew 18:6 three times. Pause for a few minutes between each reading to reflect and listen to God.Share Tweet
And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me. - Matthew 18:5 (NIV)
On Sunday in Jon’s message and during this week in these devotionals, we have talked about life and specifically the life of children. With all their energy, needs, love, laughter, tears, and vibrance, they teach us what it looks like to enter God’s Kingdom. Yesterday, we meditated together on the stern warning Jesus gave to those that would harm children. Today, as we recognize the evil that is abortion, let’s recognize the need we have to extend Jesus’ love to those that have harmed children.
Matthew 18 pivots at the end with a parable about forgiveness. I do not think Matthew had the issue of abortion in mind when he wrote this section of his gospel since there is nothing that would suggest this, but I think it’s of great value for us to understand that Jesus’ teaching about forgiveness is critical if we are to work against the horrors of abortion.
Our responsibility as followers of Jesus is to love our enemies and pray for those that persecute. We have to lead with love, even in the face of something atrocious. Abortion is not an unforgivable sin. It is evil but forgivable.
Early Christians became notable in their culture for the extremes they went to, compared to their pagan neighbors, in caring for unwanted children. We have the opportunity to do the same today. From adoption to foster care and other ways of showing love, we can help welcome a child and ultimately welcome Jesus, as he taught us to.
There are many great local organizations involved in this work. Southland partners with several organizations that support women who are alone and afraid in their pregnancy. We also partner with a state-wide organization committed to helping vulnerable and at-risk children in our midst. Check out this webpage to learn more about them and how you can get involved today. (Our strategic partners are found at the bottom of this webpage.)Share Tweet