Loves Me Live A Rock

My mama loves me
She loves me
She gets down on her knees and hugs me
And she loves me like a rock
She rocks me like the rock of ages
And she loves me

-Paul Simon

Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord is a rock for all ages.

-Isaiah 26:4 (CEB)

So he got up and went to his father. But while the son was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion. He ran, threw his arms around his neck, and kissed him.

-Luke 15:20
 

Love is pretty much the antidote or answer to everything.  That makes sense when you consider that God is love.  The whole message is that God loves us, which is why Jesus Christ came.

God’s love.  Father’s love.  And we love because God loves.
Loving our children teaches them about God’s love.  My mom has told me hundreds of times, “Remember your mommy loves you”.  Sounds silly, but it is a blessing.

Raising children?  “Train up a child in the way he should go”, is what the Bible says, so that is what we do.  Training means ‘dedicate’ or ‘consecrate’ and in the way he should go means ‘according to their individual temperament, disposition, talents, or destiny’.  We help our children discover their design and who God has destined them to be.

Love is the foundation of parenting.  The parent walks in the love of God and loves their children with that love.  Loving others comes from receiving Gods love and living loved, and we train our children in loving God and knowing the Father’s affection.

We do good after we have received the love and we train our children in the love of God and they learn right from wrong in the atmosphere of love.  Consecration or dedication of children or infants is not just an event, but a process that may or may not have an event occur within it.  We need to walk in God’s love daily, and we need to train our children in God’s love every day.

The love of God is the essential ingredient in everything God does.  The reason Jesus came was love.  The whole Old Testament rules, guidelines, or law is founded on loving God, and fleshed out in loving God and then loving people.  And Jesus’ command, to the person who would follow him and let him live that life of loving God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength; through them, is to simply love others.

We stand on Christ, the solid rock.  The essence of Christ is his love for his dad.  In Christ, we are all about loving Father.

This is what The Rock of Ages is.  Christians are people ‘in Christ’.  To be ‘in Christ’ is to be cleansed and forgiven of sin and to be living out of his love.

Many of us were not raised or trained up this way by loving parents.  Many of us were raised by godly Christian parents, but we missed out on this foundation of love.  What then?

A few thoughts.  Your history is not your destiny.  Life in Christ is a new history, filled with new beginnings, and a pioneer-spirit life of going out and going in.

We are to honor and love our parents, even as we live in Christ differently than they do or did.  Same Christ, if they are Christians, but Christ calls you to follow him.  And our love for Christ is so great, that we ‘hate’ our parents in comparison.

You may not have had a very loving mamma, but God will compensate you.  You do not live ‘ripped off’ or ‘one-down’ for life, as a child unloved.  No.  Father loves you and adopts you into a relationship that your earthly mamma and papa may have not at all reflected.

Father loves you and me the way that he designed our mothers to love us.  Father created mothers and he will love you in all the ways that your earthly mother did not.  God is waiting and willing to love us, but we have to come into his embrace.

I love the story of the father with two sons in Luke 15.  When the prodigal (“wasteful and extravagant”) son returns home, the father runs to meet him and embraces him.  Jesus is sharing that this is how God is.

This son was reckless and very disrespectful and unloving towards his dad.  But his dad still loved him anyway.  The dad was on the lookout and saw the young man returning and ran down the path to meet him, which was very untoward, culturally; which means that he did not care how it looked, but his running was about his compassionate love for his lost son.

The other side of that story is the ‘good son’ who stayed with his dad, but was not enjoying his father’s affection, but had the mistaken idea that he was in good standing through his own merit.  When the story ends, there is a huge celebration for the return of the lost son, while the other son is seething.

Both sons have the opportunity to learn about their father’s unconditional love and unmerited favor and about just being with their dad in his love.  The Father has always been the compassionate loving God.  We are the ones who have either gone astray.

We go astray overtly or covertly.  People who strive in their religion of Christianity and delude themselves that even part of being saved is through their own merit, do so thinking that God is with them and is affirming that lifestyle.  They are living in “The Father’s House” with completely wrong assumptions about how the life works.

The ‘kicker’ is that God seems to not correct or fix them, and lets them keep doing their (wrong) thing, in his name and make disciples who make more disciples.  And they say they are ‘for His glory’, as they live unlovingly and represent God as something other than compassionate and loving.

Why or how can this be?  Free will is a huge value for God.  He lets people blaspheme him and misrepresent him in all sorts of egregious ways without stopping it.

God has spoken and God is speaking and God is alive and well.  Jesus is building his church.  You can recognize it, in it’s infinite number of unique expressions by his character in it, that mirrors his father’s character.  The great war plan against God has been to distort his character and what he is towards humankind.

The whole OT told a story of God’s love and in Jesus, God showed what he is like.  There have been distortions from the beginning about what God said and who God is and what God requires.  But we know that God’s way, God’s character, and what God is to us is about Father’s love.

He loves me: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit love me.  And I love them back because they loved me first.  And I join in on their love mission in this world.

That is the love we love our children in, that sets them on the path.  That is the love we live in as Christians.

——————————————————————

Loves Me Like a Rock, by Paul Simon

When I was a little boy
And the Devil would call my name
I’d say “now who do
Who do you think you’re fooling?”
I’m a consecrated boy
Singer in a Sunday choir
My mama loves, she loves me
She gets down on her knees and hugs me
She loves me like a rock
She rocks me like the rock of ages
And she loves me
She loves me, loves me, loves me, loves me

When I was grown to be a man
And the Devil would call my name
I’d say “now who do
Who do you think you’re fooling?”
I’m a consummated man
I can snatch a little purity
My mama loves me, she loves me
She gets down on her knees and hugs me
She loves me like a rock
She rocks me like the rock of ages
And she loves me
She loves me, loves me, loves me, loves me

If I was President
And the Congress call my name
I’d say “who do
Who do you think you’re fooling?”
I’ve got the Presidential Seal
I’m up on the Presidential Podium
My mama loves me
She loves me
She gets down on her knees and hugs me
And she loves me like a rock
She rocks me like the rock of ages
And she loves me
She loves me, loves me, loves me, loves me
She loves me, loves me, loves me, loves me
She loves me, loves me, loves me, loves me

Dad

For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father!”The Spirit Himself testifies together with our spirit that we are God’s children, and if children, also heirs—heirs of God and coheirs with Christ—seeing that we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.

Look at how great a love the Father has given us that we should be called God’s children. And we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it didn’t know Him.

-Romans 8:15-17, 1 John 3:1
Photo: Pixabay

Before Jesus saved us, he was God’s Son.  We know him as Savior and Lord, rightly so.  But his identity is The Son.  Something really profound, important, and fundamental: of central importance is that He is The Son.

Jesus takes us and makes us children, sons and daughters of the Father, in him.  It is great to get it that he is Savior, Lord, and God; but we can not miss out on the fact and experience that He is The Son and makes us Father’s children.
Jesus not only reveals that God is Father, his father, and he is just like his father; and that we worship and serve God who has been revealed in Jesus.  Jesus also brings us into an intimate relationship with Father where we not only are his children, calling him father, but so intimate and open, that we relate to Father as “daddy”.
This is The Gospel that you may never have heard.  This is the hidden gift and power and meaning of the Christian life.  God is now your dad.
When we relate to God as dad and daddy, it changes everything.  The way of the world is to not know God and if they have any knowledge of God, they know God as distant.  We Christians know that God is Father and Jesus is The Son, who is just like his dad.
Christians can know all of that, but stop there; and sort of know it “in theory”, but not know it in living, in their lives.  The fundamental core of The Gospel is that Jesus came so that we could become Father’s children.  When we begin to live in the identity of being children of God, relating to Father as daddy, it changes everything and is the key to the Christian life.
Now, the other part of the issue of being children to our dad; is that we all have had flawed earthly fathers.  We may have had abusive or neglectful fathers.  We may carry a lot of shame from the affect our sinful father had on us.  We may have had no father.
We all had in common the need for fathering and many of us have unmet needs in that area.  Even if our dad was very nurturing, his mission is actually not to be just a great dad, but to introduce his children to Jesus’ Father and mentor, train, or teach them to be ‘Abba’s child’ themselves, through Christ.
I believe that the reason that so much of Christianity (Christendom, if you will) does not work, is that Christians by in large, do not have this experience in their living lives, of walking with Abba, Daddy God.  We have somehow bypassed relationship with Father, as sons and daughters; believing in it, ‘out there’, ‘in theory’, but not in practice.
This experience is right there in The Lord’s Prayer (“Our Father” for some), when we pray:

Our Father, in heaven
Holy be Your name
Your Kingdom come
Your will be done
On earth, as it is in heaven

Jesus gives us permission to call God, his father, our father!  Jesus trains us to pray that God’s kingdom would come, here and now, in this time, in our lives, today; bringing heaven to earth.  Did you catch that?
This is the Christian life, prescribed by Jesus.  God is our father and His kingdom is to come, via the prayers of his, children, on the earth, in their lives.  The Christian life is “Daddy” and “Kingdom”.
What if our lives were centered or grew from these two themes?  The Fatherhood of God (He is my daddy) and The Kingdom of God.  What if we lived out of those two places and made that what a Christian is?
We all have had earthly fathers and many men are or will be dads to their children.  Jesus came to heal us of all of our hurts and wounds.  We get to be healed, but we may still carry the scars of a painful or neglectful childhood.
Your dad’s dad, your grandpa, may have been a poor father to your dad.  My dad’s dad, my grandpa, was away, working, when my dad was a little boy.  Grandpa was a godly man and had to go away to work, in order to provide for my dad and my grandma.  This was during The Depression, in the 1930’s.
My dad missed out on being fathered and loved by his daddy when he was little.  Unfortunately, my grandma was not there for him either, because she had severe postpartum depression, when he was a baby and little.  Other family members stepped in and helped and my grandma’s dad especially reached out to my dad, for the rest of his life.
I found out later, that my dad’s dad, my grandpa, had a very poor father, nurturing-wise.  Many of his siblings had died in infancy and his dad’s heart became stone-like and shut off to the children who came afterward.  My grandpa was a the younger child who was on the receiving end of the chill of his dad’s unresolved grief.
Despite my dad’s lack of nurture from his dad, who had lack of nurture from his dad, he was a good dad, to me, especially when I was a child.  He got it, that being father, was the most important thing he did in his life; and he instilled that in us.
I could tell you story after story about how my dad was there and was involved with us, despite his weaknesses.  He was pretty much never too busy.
This song, below, from 1974, is about being a father and how much our children want time with us.  The song teaches, reminds, and brings up the memories.  It was written as a lesson to learn before it is too late.

Our children pick up our good and bad habits.  They really do want to grow up to be like us and they will.  The words were mostly written by Harry’s wife, Sandy, from here observations and witness of fathers and sons and being too busy.

This is a story, a sad story, and it might remind you of your story.  But His story redeems or heals our stories.  Feel it and let Jesus heal it.



The Cat’s in the Cradle, by Harry & Sandy Chapin
My child arrived just the other day
He came to the world in the usual way
But there were planes to catch, and bills to pay
He learned to walk while I was away
And he was talking ‘fore I knew it, and as he grew
He’d say, “I’m gonna be like you, dad
You know I’m gonna be like you.”

And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man in the moon
“When you coming home, dad?” “I don’t know when
But we’ll get together then
You know we’ll have a good time then.”

My son turned ten just the other day
He said, “Thanks for the ball, dad; come on, let’s play
Can you teach me to throw?”
I said, “Not today, I got a lot to do.”
He said, “That’s okay.”
And he walked away, but his smile never dimmed
And said, “I’m gonna be like him, yeah
You know I’m gonna be like him.”

Well, he came from college just the other day
So much like a man, I just had to say
“Son, I’m proud of you. Can you sit for a while?”
He shook his head, and he said with a smile
“What I’d really like, dad, is to borrow the car keys
See you later; can I have them please?”

And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man in the moon
“When you coming home, son?” “I don’t know when
But we’ll get together then, dad
You know we’ll have a good time then.”

I’ve long since retired, and my son’s moved away
I called him up just the other day
I said, “I’d like to see you if you don’t mind.”
He said, “I’d love to, dad, if I could find the time
You see, my new job’s a hassle, and the kid’s got the flu
But it’s sure nice talking to you, dad
It’s been sure nice talking to you.”
And as I hung up the phone, it occurred to me
He’d grown up just like me
My boy was just like me

And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man in the moon
“When you coming home, son?” “I don’t know when
But we’ll get together then, dad
We’re gonna have a good time then.”

What It Is To "Train Up A Child"

Most translations fail to get at the true meaning of this popular verse on raising children:

Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.  (KJV)


Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it. (NLT)

Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it. (NIV)

The Amplified Bible shares something that other translators leave out:

Train up a child in the way he should go [and in keeping with his individual gift or bent], and when he is old he will not depart from it. (AMP)

Photo: Pixabay
Breaking it down:
1Train up a child means “dedicate” or “consecrate”, in the Hebrew.  For dedication and consecration to work, to bear fruit; there must be cooperation from the child, then there will be assimilation.  The older the child, the more responsibility they bear for their own training.
2.  We wrongly assume that “In the way he should go”, means “in the way of righteousness.  We are all called to walk in and develop our walk in righteous; but that is not what this verse is saying.  What it does mean, is “according to the individual child’s temperament”, or, “According to the tenor of his way”.  Again, all are called to righteousness, but each child is unique.  Parents are given the call and command to discern their child’s unique temperament, disposition, character, talents , and destiny.  The way he should go might look different for each child.  The meaning of this part of this verse is both wider and deeper than some people have made it.
3.  “When he is old, he will not depart from it”, means that when they are living as an adult, launched from their parents and childhood, they will have a fruitful life in God; because they have learned how to be who God has uniquely made them to be and given them an abundant life in their unique temperament, talents, and destiny.  Godliness will have become second nature and life will be fruitful.  There would be no reason to depart from the way (becoming themselves as God has deemed), because that is their identity, which their parents have helped them develop.
Summary:
The goal is inside out, not outside in.  We want to see, and to facilitate the bringing out, and the coming forth, of who God has created this child to be, and nurture that life. The huge mistake our parenting culture has made is to neglect the ‘inside out’ part.  And it is the parents responsibility.  If your child has other teachers, they are in your employ, and it is still your responsibility to train your children.
Fathers and mothers:  It is your responsibility to facilitate your child’s activation into their destiny.  Consecrate, activate, and assimilate.  Train (consecrate), in the way (activate), and they will not stray from it (assimilate).
We have tons of people today, some went to church when they were young, and some have never been in a church; who are walking zombies, who are living dead lives.  They have never been activated.  They do not know who God has made them to be.  
This is the opposite of what you want for your child.  Personally, you must take the active role in discipling your child, so that they are launched into living an adult life in Christ, instead of being “adult children”.

Jesus has made your child unique and special, destined to glorify God.  Find out what that is and bless it.  Jesus calls us all to the inside out life.  Religion is outside in.  Christianity is people in Christ.

What It Is To "Train Up A Child"?

Most translations fail to get at the true meaning of this popular verse on raising children:

Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.  (KJV)


Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it. (NLT)

Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it. (NIV)

The Amplified Bible shares something that other translators leave out:

Train up a child in the way he should go [and in keeping with his individual gift or bent], and when he is old he will not depart from it. (AMP)

Photo: Pixabay
Breaking it down:
1Train up a child means “dedicate” or “consecrate”, in the Hebrew.  For dedication and consecration to work, to bear fruit; there must be cooperation from the child, then there will be assimilation.  The older the child, the more responsibility they bear for their own training.
2.  We wrongly assume that “In the way he should go”, means “in the way of righteousness.  We are all called to walk in and develop our walk in righteous; but that is not what this verse is saying.  What it does mean, is “according to the individual child’s temperament”, or, “According to the tenor of his way”.  Again, all are called to righteousness, but each child is unique.  Parents are given the call and command to discern their child’s unique temperament, disposition, character, talents , and destiny.  The way he should go might look different for each child.  The meaning of this part of this verse is both wider and deeper than some people have made it.
3.  “When he is old, he will not depart from it”, means that when they are living as an adult, launched from their parents and childhood, they will have a fruitful life in God; because they have learned how to be who God has uniquely made them to be and given them an abundant life in their unique temperament, talents, and destiny.  Godliness will have become second nature and life will be fruitful.  There would be no reason to depart from the way (becoming themselves as God has deemed), because that is their identity, which their parents have helped them develop.
Summary:
The goal is inside out, not outside in.  We want to see, and to facilitate the bringing out, and the coming forth, of who God has created this child to be, and nurture that life. The huge mistake our parenting culture has made is to neglect the ‘inside out’ part.  And it is the parents responsibility.  If your child has other teachers, they are in your employ, and it is still your responsibility to train your children.
Fathers and mothers:  It is your responsibility to facilitate your child’s activation into their destiny.  Consecrate, activate, and assimilate.  Train (consecrate), in the way (activate), and they will not stray from it (assimilate).
We have tons of people today, some went to church when they were young, and some have never been in a church; who are walking zombies, who are living dead lives.  They have never been activated.  They do not know who God has made them to be.  
This is the opposite of what you want for your child.  Personally, you must take the active role in discipling your child, so that they are launched into living an adult life in Christ, instead of being “adult children”.

Jesus has made your child unique and special, destined to glorify God.  Find out what that is and bless it.  Jesus calls us all to the inside out life.  Religion is outside in.  Christianity is people in Christ.

What’s The Story and What’s Your Story?

“Go back to your home, and tell all that God has done for you.” And off he went, proclaiming throughout the town all that Jesus had done for him.

So don’t be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, or of me His prisoner. Instead, share in suffering for the gospel, relying on the power of God. 
-Luke 8:39, 2 Timothy 1:8 (HCSB) 

Photo: Pixabay

I believe that story is a very important aspect of life, growth, and understanding.  In authentic relationships, we hear and tell stories, ours and theirs.  And God has a story that is His story.

God’s story has been going on since before we started and his story brings meaning to ours.  As Christians, we have an inherent desire to know God’s story and see how it plays out with our own stories.  In Christian fellowship, community, or discipleship; we learn about each others stories and edify each other around and through the stories.

When we authentically encounter one another, we receive hope.  We tell our stories to one another.  We seek to understand one another.

At the same time, we seek to learn God’s story and apply it to our lives.  We do this all the time, as second nature, naturally.  And when we come together, we deliberate about how God’s story applies to our lives.

There is something negative and unwholesome about presuming that we understand someone and know their story, when they come into our presence.  We always need to take the posture of curiosity and listening for more.  “There has to be more to the story’, is our mindset of love and humility towards the other person.

There is also something negative and unwholesome about presuming that we ourselves fully know ourselves and do not need others to help us understand our own story or how it interfaces with God’s story.  We have failed at life if people say they never really knew us.  It nowhere says, in the NT, that certain people are exempt from self disclosure and accountability.

Accountability is when someone gives their account of their lives and someone else counts it with them and might say, “now how does this add up?”  In other words, we ask, “how does a + b = c; in light of God in Christ?”

When you don’t believe in the priesthood of all believers and you elevate certain people to top positions in the church (“lead or senior pastor”, “the priest”) then that person doing the priestly duties gets put in the awkward (unwholesome) position where they are not receiving life from the body.  Dear pastor, minister, or preacher:  stop elevating yourself or letting others elevate you and start letting people speak (talk back) to you.

What if sermons were transformed into discussions and instead of a speech,  you led a discussion?  What if the body was activated and we were all on an even playing field with Jesus Christ as the coach or head of the organization?  What if shepherds just shepherded?

Why do we call “church”, going to a building and singing songs, listening to a speech, and taking “communion”, in a way very different from how Jesus is documented as doing it?  And don’t forget to bring your tithe check.

And we separate the children, because you know, church is mostly for adults, we say, even though Jesus said that we all are supposed to be like children to enter his kingdom.  I actually believe we have it backwards, and that church, the gathering of Christians for edification, is for the children.  Everything should be about the children and “adults” should be taking a back seat to the children. 

Hear the Master rebuke his disciples who wanted the kids separated and away from their time or learning from Him.

I see “the sharing circle” as being a core component of the Christian life.  I need to share my story and I need to hear you share your story.  This is most powerful when we are in pairs and trios.  Yes, when it is 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, or 10 people; it really is a circle.

What if Jesus always intended for us to be in twos and threes, and in all the numbers up to about twelve, as our main Christian relational gatherings?  What if gathering in fifties, hundreds, or thousands is for special celebrations, conventions, conferences, seminars, and regional meetings that are irregular in schedule; while the smaller numbered groups are how we gather daily or weekly?

In much of my life, I attended the hundreds and thousands meetings and was committed to that attendance.  But I also did the twos and threes and ten to twenties gatherings.  When times came where my twos and threes people moved away or my ten to twenty people group closed, there was a big void in my life.

I had my one to one with the Lord, and I could attend the “hundreds” or “thousands” services.  I always heard rumors that there were groups that met for services with between fifty and a hundred souls as well, which I always suspected had the potential to be more authentic than the hundreds or thousands groups, as far as feeling connected.  But, what I did was use the telephone and called my Christian brother, who had to move away, and had magnificent one to one fellowship that was a hundred times more edifying than a “church service” where I did not connect to people authentically.

Have you ever wondered about the, “turn to the person behind you and greet them in the Lord”, thing that we do?  It is very pleasant, but, but, but…  where’s the beef?  In other words, we the people, don’t want to play “air basketball” or “air guitar”.  We want the real deal.

You know when you eat together after the service?  What if the eating together became the main service?  Look at Jesus at the dining tables or around the cooking fire, in the gospels.

What if God’s design is for people, his people, to face one another, talking and listening.  What if we searched the scriptures in the new covenant’s testimony and found that the purpose of gathering with other Christians is mutual edification?  We argue that singing times, led by a choir, a band, or a man; a sermon; and taking holy communion, are very edifying.

But, is that what is in the new covenant, practice?  Mutual edification is (drum roll please) mutual.  There is a back and forth, sharing and caring, feedback, discussion, one-anothering.  God makes circles and man makes boxes, with few exceptions.

There is a line between me and you.  We communicate and share stories along that line.  God is with us as well, so you could call that a triangle, but it is really a circle.  Three people may look like a triangle, but they are really a circle and with God in their midst, they are a circle.  We keep adding people and we still have a circle, even though the connections look like something from a geometry diagram.

When you get in a room and make it like a theater or a lecture hall, it is no longer a circle, but something else, with boxes and lines.  Each individual is in theory connecting to God individually and we all are wanting to connect to God together or simultaneously, but is this the new covenant gathering or have we slipped back to the times of Moses or Solomon?

We take this tabernacle of Moses, Temple of Solomon, and even David’s tabernacle and then combine it with the “Grecian Formula” of the monologue lecture; and come out with today’s church service.  It is good stuff right?  Yes, it is good, but not the new covenant.

Ted talks are good.  They have a time limit and they give a teaching or share a powerful concept in a short period of time.  The briefer the message, the harder it is to craft, because you have to distill it down.  What if our messages were more like Ted talks and then we had more time for one-another, mutual edification?

Two more thoughts:

One: The strangest small group that is unwholesome is when we line up chairs and make a stage and have a service, with all the trappings mentioned above, rather than as meal with all the trimmings as described in the NT.  We set up a worship band in a living room, or we have a teacher give a long monologue or didactic teaching session.

Two: If you go to church, as in a “service” somewhere, it is fine to give an offering there, to help out with the expenses.  But, don’t give all your offerings there.  When you get involved in a small group (2,3,4 and up to 10 or 20 people), notice people in need and give directly to them.  You may want to do it anonymously.  Also, keep “cash on hand” or “money in mind” or “goods” and “services”, that you will give to those you come across who are in need.

You might mow someones lawn or take someone dinner or simply spend your time with someone.  “voila!”, you are now in “the ministry”, Jesus’ ministry that he does through all Christians.  And what does this have to do with the topic of “The Story” and “Your Story”?  Everything.  It is John 3:16 in your whole life and Christ living his story through your story.

Unless You Turn and Become Like Children

At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

“Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.

“Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes! And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire.

“See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven. What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.

-Matthew 18:1-14 (ESV)
Insignificant.  Are you willing to be insignificant for Jesus?  Dependent.  Are you willing to be completely dependent on Jesus?  Humble.  Are you willing to humble yourself for Jesus?  If not, your citizenship in the kingdom is not going to work.  You can’t enter it and play there without becoming like a child.
There is a difference between childlike and childish.(1)  We are supposed to give up childish things (1 Cor. 13:11), ways of acting and relating, and become men and women, become adults.  But men and women must become like children to enter the kingdom of heaven.
Jesus said that we must change and be like children.  A child had no status, was powerless, and was utterly dependent.  That is what Jesus is talking about.
The disciples looked over at the Roman kingdom and perhaps the ecclesiastical kingdom of the Temple and the priests and may have reflected about how they were going to be the bosses, to be the powerful, the famous, and the entitled ones in Jesus’ kingdom.  And Jesus said, “No, it’s not going to be like that”.  All disciples have no special status.  
All authority and any fame, is mediated through Christ.  We make disciples of Christ and exhort others to follow him, not us.  Everything we do, in the kingdom, is to make Christ great, to lift him up.

We might think that to be great is not about fame, fortune, or power; but about knowledge and piety.  Knowledge of the Bible, theology, and spiritual things is wrong headed, unless it is mediated through the living Christ, who calls us to a radical reorientation of becoming little people first.  Holiness, devoutness, and religious duty or zeal are worthless unless they come through Christ and his call.

Unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.  

Jesus contradicts our idea of success.

Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me.

We can only receive other genuine disciples it we are one ourselves.  There is a disconnect in fellowship when there are those who have not or are not becoming like children, who try to interact with the child-like ones.  Jesus is the mediator of our fellowship.  To be together with people, we have to humble ourselves.

The person who only looks up at people or down at people is a worldly person who is not living in Christ.  The kingdom is flat.  No hierarchy.  We receive something from someone or give something to someone through Christ, the head and the King.  To receive someone in Christ’s name, is to perceive Christ in them.

At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

In the kingdom, the focus is the king.  There is one king, one boss, one head.  We all can only enter and be citizens of the kingdom is we become like children.  We all get to play and we all have to play nice.

He calls us to this.  Then he calls us to see others as his children, as folks who are his children, whom he is one with.  How we treat others is how we treat him.  The context is the upside down kingdom and how disciples treat each other.

But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.

“Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes! And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire.

These words of Jesus are a stern warning about guarding against being a vehicle of temptation for others to sin.  Satan and his team traffic in using the low roads in our lives to tempt other people in the community of faith to sin.  Jesus warns of a severe punishment for those who let themselves be pathways of temptation for his children.

Folks who cause others to stumble or fall, because they have not dealt with their own sins, are called to account, by God, in this life, and will pay a heavy price.  Jesus’ word, is that if you have a problem with something, then cut it off.  Throw that away.  Completely stop it.  We have no choice but to take responsibility for our stuff.

Even though we are saved, have been born anew, and are on our way to heaven; when a pattern of temptation and sin emerge in our life and come to light, we need to act swiftly to repent and cut it off.  We might need to get some deep healing in our hearts, and, “get the garbage taken out”, that we may not have even been aware of previously, that is feeding the temptation to sin.  If we do not, we will become a stumbling block to others, especially the babes in Christ, and get ourselves in severe trouble in our lives, like having a rock necklace.

“See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven. 

Again, this is a word from Jesus about how to play nice.  His original audience were the Apostles who would be the “boots on the ground”, when the expansion of the community of Jesus’ followers would explode, shortly. He both says, “You need to become like children”, and, “Do not despise my children”.  “The ‘little ones have already emerged in the previous verses as ordinary Christians, who in their vulnerability need the care of their fellow-disciples.”(France, p. 272-3)

Angels are real.  Every person has an angel, as Jesus attests to here.  When we see other people, we need to see them as Christ’s child, Christ in them, and someone who has a holy angel assigned to them.  This all should give us pause before we treat people badly.  Jesus and His Father care immensely for each one, especially for the ones in the greatest danger.

What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.

When Jesus asks a question, he is engaging his listeners.  He really cares what you think and wants what you think to be put forward, out onto the table of discussion.  We engage the learner when we ask questions and ask for comments and discussion.  We are accustomed to reading our Bibles in silence or passively listening to a teacher, but Jesus’ method, which is more effective, is to engage the disciple/learner, asking them to speak up.  When you learn it or get it, you speak it or do it and have been taught it, and have caught it.  And, he keeps asking us the questions until we get it in our hearts.

The point of the parable about the  one sheep that went astray, is that God’s heart, and our hearts congruently, are to be going after the one, while risking the safety of the ninety-nine.  Note also that the word is ‘astray’.  The one is not ‘lost’, but ‘astray’.

The one who goes astray needs the pastoral care of fellow disciples.  The word ‘pastor’, means ‘shepherd’.  In the modern church, we have called the senior leader, who preaches on Sundays, ‘the pastor’.  You might read this story with him in mind, and get the idea that, even though he is so busy leading the local church, whether it is a regular church of a hundred people, or a ‘mega’ church of a thousand, that he is reminded to look after that one who goes astray.

That application is partially right, but not what Jesus was saying and not the application we should take away from Matthew 18.  The application or ‘take away’ is that all Christians, all disciples are responsible for the care of fellow disciples.  This responsibility falls upon all of us.  It is the heart of the Father that Jesus imparts to all of us.  Our savior is The Good Shepherd (John 10), who imparts his heart of care for people, to all of us.

It is a common story that pastors today run from the one to the 99, figuratively.  They are not sinning, but are exhausted from the weight of their jobs.  An interesting note is that when churches take spiritual gifts tests, usually 20% or more of a congregation will come out of the test with the gift of pastor.(2)

Unless you turn and become like little children.

Children are completely dependent.  Are you completely dependent on God for everything?  Children are insignificant, in the world, but loved and cared for by their fathers, mothers, and extended families.  Have you found your significance in the love of God, and that love reverberated through God’s family?

Unless you turn and become like little children.  

Jesus calls us all to a reorientation of status.  In the kingdom, in the family of God, Jesus calls us all to a low status.  In the kingdom, Jesus calls us all to go down, not up, humbling ourselves.  We don’t go up in status, so that people look up to us and we look down to them, as we teach or minister to them.  We do the opposite.

In the kingdom, we all go down, becoming like children; before God, and to each other.  We are as children and we see each other as children, through the eyes of Father.  Welcome to the community of Jesus.

We are all little people in the kingdom.  Little people, with a big God.  There is never a great man of God.  It is always the great God of man.

And this is all antithetical to ecclesiastical hierarchies.  Remember that gifts are functions and roles.  The authority of Christ might come with the gift, but the gifted one is still called to become like a child, or they will not be able to function in the kingdom of God.

That is the context of this “Unless” word.  Jesus was speaking to the men who would be the foundation of the church and write some of the New Testament.  These guys, we would call “heavy weights”, had to be like children, or they would not make it; and neither will we.

__________________________________

Bibliography:

W. D. Davies, Dale C. Allison, Jr.; Matthew 8-18, International Critical Commentary 

Craig S. Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary

Footnotes:
1. Childishness, in a word, is selfish.  Childish people pout, are self-centered, and have a sense of entitlement.  Fussing, tantrums, and running away and folding the arms are childish reactions.  The passive-aggressive style is to cut people off and ignore them when the childish one is offended.  They want things done for them and want life handed or “spoon fed ” to them.  Childish ones always want to be entertained.  If they don’t get fed, entertained, or catered to, it’s not worth doing. 


One way of defining the positive of child-likeness in contrast to the negative of childishness is that child-likeness are the positive traits of children and childish are the negative.  I just gave some examples of childishness.  Child-likeness is innocence, a sense of wonder, trusting, friendliness, curiosity, impartiality, purity, willingness to try new things and even fail, and a forgiving disposition.


2. In our Christian culture, we have called the man who preaches, ‘pastor’, when he probably has the gift of exhortation or teaching, evangelist, or prophet.  The person with the gift of pastor has the Father’s heart for that one in a hundred person, ‘in spades’.

All disciples are called to pastoral care (shepherding other disciples), while 20% or more might be very good at or passionate about it.  

Sky Links 6-11-15

Photo: Spacebridge by longobord CC 2.0

And they were all together in one place…
-Acts 2:1

A Church For All Ages

Do you dream of a church where all ages are present?  I do.  J.R. Miller wrote some ideas about what his church has done to make this workable.  His church formulated, through a consensus of the adults, a list of expectations:

 Adults need to “Put on love” so we don’t ‘porcupine’ each other!  But what about the kids?  J.R. Miller wrote a

This list of expectations would be like a fence around a playground; it would keep our kids feeling safe, yet not restricted. The list of expectations would be like a guardrail along a cliff; it would provide security without unnecessary restriction.

So here is what we did.

The adults sat down during one of our gatherings and each of us listed behaviors we felt acceptable or unacceptable. This was a great opportunity for us, as parents, to build trust in one another to be responsible for holding all the kids accountable to our shared expectations.

J.R. Miller, What can we do with all these kids

Kevin Brown just wrote about why the “family of God” should gather all together, with all ages:

This fact seems almost strange in our day and age when, in many churches, we send our children off to “Children’s Church” to eat snacks, color and watch videos. Yet, as we study the Scriptures, we can’t find any verses in the entire Bible where the children were pulled out of the meeting. It would have been completely unorthodox to do so. There is never a time or an instance in Scripture when the children were separated from the parents/family when the people of God met together. At this point, I’m reminded of Jesus and his rebuke of the disciples for not allowing the children to come to him recorded in Mark 10:13-14:

And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.”

I know for many churches, the idea of having young children in our services is very counter-cultural. Many church leaders and members say the children are too noisy and disruptive and people can’t worship the Lord. Yet, when we say these things, we are much like the disciples when they tried to shoo away the children. Consequently, in our day, we have lost the blessing of the full body being together in the meeting. Sadly, we have become comfortable with some of the body missing. How have we gotten to this point? The Church wasn’t this way in the New Testament or even 40 to 50 years ago. It has happened, because it’s convenient

…Children are a blessing of a growing church, not a nuisance.

I am grateful for a church that is literally willing to suffer for the children. I’m grateful for my granddaughter’s church, Parkview Baptist, in Morehead City, NC. They allow Charlotte to be with them. Thank you Pastor David Mills!

Yes, a church should allow families to worship together as a part of the onefamily. Churches have the opportunity to tell the body, (a family of families), that all are welcome at the Lord’s Table, even our youngest. I know for many reading this, seeing church life in this way is a total paradigm shift and would be a significant change in philosophy, church culture and practice at your church. But, I promise you what I’ve described to you embodies biblical patterns that can successfully be integrated in the fabric of any church if we’ll take the risk of being biblical versus convenient. 🙂

D. Kevin Brown, Why Do We Have Babies and Small Children in Our Church Services?

The photo is from a story about a house church, from NPR- Swapping Steeples For Sofas.


Robert Stamps: “The supper of the Lord is a place where Christ is appointed for the church to meet him.”

Dr. Robert Stamps teaches that what happens to us, by Christ, in communion, is the purpose of it.  Stamps has a PhD in Eucharistic Theology.  The emphasis of remembrance or memorializing Christ gets it wrong, says Stamps, because communion or The Eucharist is not about the past, but about the kingdom breaking in now.

Jesus said, “Do this in remembrance.”, not, “Remember as you do this.”  The “this” is Jesus working today in people’s lives (together), delivering and saving them to be his disciples.  The “this” is not a hushed (memorial) moment.  Christ’s life is celebrated in a meal with laughter and weeping, sharing life in his life.

The “table” is the table at your house, or in your “upper room”, and not a special table, on a stage, or at an alter.  Your table might be a tv tray or a blanket spread on the floor or ground.  The table is the place between us where we experience the presence of Christ.  That’s Holy Communion, The Lord’s Supper, or The Eucharist.

The message of the Lord’s Supper, Communion, or The Eucharist (and The Gospel); is that God comes to your house, to your table, into your world, in this world.  We’ve had it backwards.

Stamps said,

“We don’t don’t just reflect.  Jesus Christ is a living presence.  And when the church has communion, and ‘remembers’ him, we remember as an encounter…  John Wesley said we believe in a real presence with a real encounter.  Jesus Christ is not a distant savior back there in history.  Jesus Christ is alive and present to us in the Holy Spirit… So, the question is not one of how he is present, but what his presence will do to us.”

Robert Stamps- The Meaning of Communion

Dr. Stamps is a longtime friend of Wayne Jacobsen (Finding Church) and has been on Wayne’s show recently and in the past:

“The supper of the Lord is a place where Christ is appointed for the church to meet him.”

Broken ‘People Pickers’

Many of us have trouble in our friendships.  Friendships are very unsatisfying when they are one-sided, when you do most of the giving, while the other person mostly takes.  We are all in the process of ‘growing up’.  Donald Miller wrote, Do You Filter Your Friendships?  You Probably Should. :

Growing up as a Christian I was taught I should forgive and accept everybody. I still

believe that. But what forgiving and accepting has looked like over the years has changed.

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve received was given to me by my friend Ben. We were taking a break from a writing project, sitting out on my deck when I brought up some trouble I was having with a friend.  I’d grown a little tired of this friend using me and I was losing trust.

Ben said something I’d never forget.

He said You know, Don, there are givers and takers in this life, I got rid of the takers years ago and I’ve been better for it. I’d recommend you do the same. To be sure, this was reductionistic but Ben was making a general point.

The point is this: Some people aren’t trustworthy. He’s right. And if we don’t believe that, I think we’re being naive.

Don Miller: Do You Filter Your Friendships?  You Probably Should

Don highly recommends the book, Safe People, by Henry Cloud & John Townsend.

The Biggest Mistake a Successful Church Planter Can Make 

Aaron Gloy is the pastor of a 5 year old church.  He recently wrote about how church planting and
disciple making are two different things:

I was trained in all the conventional methods of planting a church. But what I wasn’t trained in and what I failed to think through entirely was how we were going to make disciples.

This is rather problematic when you consider that Jesus never commanded us to plant churches. He commanded us to make disciples. Now when you effectively make disciples I believe church planting becomes inevitable, but it is very possible to plant churches and never get around to actually making disciples.

I thought, studied and planned relentlessly when it came to planting our church, but disciple making wasn’t given nearly the same kind of attention. I assumed that if we moved people into small groups it would just sort of happen on its own. This is easily the biggest mistake I’ve made as a pastor and church planter…

Aaron Gloy- The Biggest Mistake I Made As A Church Planter.


NT Wright: “Jesus is the hinge on which the great door of history swings…  ‘As the Father has sent me, so I send you’, is the key to the Church’s mission.”     

Shane Blackshear interviewed NT Wright on his show.  I was deeply impacted by his words on Jesus and the kingdom and the church.  I found this book and his chapter in it, where he speaks on this more.  He takes up the issue of holding together the kingdom, the cross, and the resurrection.

“He is the crucified, resurrected, kingdom-bringer, and Israel’s Messiah.  His crucifixion established the kingdom, his resurrection established him as Messiah.  On the cross, he did the work of Messiah, defeating the powers of evil, conquering death.  His resurrection means new creation has come, now and here.” -NT Wright

This is Wright, from the 2010 Wheaton Theology Conference, on his work, that became this book; Jesus, Paul and the People of God: A Theological Dialogue with N. T. Wright.  These words are from his address & chapter entitled, “Whence and Whither, Historical Jesus studies in The Life of the Church?”:

“…What about fresh readings of the Gospels in the service if the church?

What is the “so what”?  This, I believe, is not basically about apologetics… but about mission.

Somehow, the whole complex of kingdom, cross, and resurrection must play out into a full-orbed gospel-rooted mission which will be significantly unlike the social gospel mission that forgot about the cross, or the “Jesus died for you” mission that forgot about the kingdom.

One of the great breakthrough moments for me when I was first struggling with historical Jesus questions was John 20:21: “As the father has sent me, so I send you.”

That derivative correspondence – the “as” and the “so”, with Jesus’ own mission the source and the template for that of his followers, as they receive the Spirit- suddenly opens up an entire hermeneutical world, demanding that the church again and again study the historical mission of Jesus not just to find out the back history of the crucified and risen One, but to realign itself with the shape and content of that mission in order to carry out its own.  

Jesus’ own mission becomes the template and the energizing force for all that the church has to do and be. We are to be for the world what Jesus was for Israel.

You will only understand the mission of the church in the world if, instead of using the canon as a closed story, a charmed circle in which it means what it means, but which you can’t break into or out of, you go back to Jesus himself, which is what the canon is pleading with you to do, so that you can then see who he was and is and then discern, in the power of the Spirit, what (who?) we have to do and be.

If you want to know what it looks like, read the book of Acts: a story of doing the kingdom, bearing the kingdom, suffering for the kingdom, and eventually announcing the kingdom under the nose of Caesar himself. That is what it looks like when the church goes out, with the breath of Jesus in our lungs, to tell the world that he is its rightful Lord.

Sometimes people get hurt; sometimes a thousand people get converted ; sometimes all sorts of things in between take place; and somehow the Gospel gets to Rome, to the center of human power and authority, to announce there that Jesus is Lord and God is king, openly and unhindered.

 To do this, however, the church needs constantly to reconnect with the real Jesus, who the canonical Gospels give us but whom we have so badly misunderstood.  The world will pull these things apart again, will lure us into the smaller worlds of either social work or saving souls for a disembodied eternity.  

Our various Western worldviews will force on us political agendas that are culled from elsewhere, which we can feel good about because they don’t have the cross attached to them.  

-NT Wright: “Jesus and the People of God: Whence and Whither Historical Jesus Studies and the Life of the Church.”Jesus, Paul and the People of God: A Theological Dialogue with N. T. Wright By Nicholas Perrin, Richard B. Hays (pp. 151-2).  The original audio of Wright’s lecture is here.

Engaging The LGBTQ Community

I listened to Debra Hirsch‘s Seminar on “Enagaging The LGBTQ Community”.  Debra Hirsch is the author of Redeeming Sex.  Here are some endorsements of her book:

“With lived experience, direct frankness and a pastoral heart, Deb Hirsch addresses the church on sexuality. In so doing, Redeeming Sex prepares the way for the places the church must go to be ‘among’ today’s confused and strife-ridden world of sexuality. It is a vulnerable gift that moves us beyond faulty stereotypes and pre-set notions. I cannot think of a better book to start the conversation.”

David Fitch

“Debra Hirsch’s own story—and what she learned about sex before and after meeting Jesus—is both convincing and convicting. But the book is more than testimony. Debra makes intelligent, faithful use of Scripture and of authors who have engaged with this topic. She also untangles key differences between sexuality and cultural roles. Noting the Bible’s extensive ‘sexual language and imagery,’ Debra affirms that ‘our sexuality lies close to our spirituality.’ Her book can lead Christians to an integration of sex and sanctity that enriches both—and makes us more faithful and redemptive disciples of Jesus Christ.”

Howard A. Snyder 

“I’m so grateful to Deb Hirsch for writing the best book on this conversation I have read. It speaks to the heart of our identity in Christ. It addresses complex and sensitive realities and tensions with grace, love, compassion, truth, justice and mercy. It is prophetic, profound, candid, transparent and should be read by every Christian. It will challenge you to the core, but we can no longer stick our heads in the sand and ignore the fact that people are hurting and need real answers to real issues. I am giving a copy of this book to everyone I know. It’s that important.”

Christine Caine

Deb Hirsch: Engaging The LGBTQ Community – Exponential Podcast (you  might need to subscribe)
Redeeming Sex (Amazon link)
A 4 minute video primer from Deb Hirsch, on the topic in her book.

How To Have a Home Where Children Are Not Discouraged

Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so they won’t become discouraged.

-Colossians 3:21
Many kids today are discouraged because they are exasperated.  And the source is their dad.  Many dads do not know how important their role is with their kids, and are messing up.
I know from experience, because I am a father and have exasperated my son.  When it has happened, it was like, “Wow, there’s Colossians 3:21…  that exasperation thing…  how did that happen and what did I do?”
The “What did I do?” part is oh so important.  Hold that thought.

Exasperate means “irritated to anger.”  Your child is angry with you, and you caused it.  We dads, at first, are defensive and say, in our minds or with our lips, “My kid is not supposed to be angry with me, so my child must be wrong, because I am the parent, I am the authority.”

Buzzzzz! ————> That’s usually the wrong conclusion.

This verse says that dads can cause their kids to get angry.  Both parents can infuriate their kids and it’s the parent’s fault.  So “listen up” as we say.

To help us with what exasperating is, here are some synonyms:

aggravate, anger, annoy, bother, bug, burn (up), chafe, embitter, irritate, gall, grate, harass, irk, make resentful, peevepersecute, provoke, rile, ruffle, and vex.

These are what you, dad or mom, can do to your children.  Stop and reflect.  Let go of your defenses.  Take responsibility.  You can create lifelong problems for your kid if you don’t get this and let Jesus help you be a good parent.

The first thing to realize is that you are capable of these things, because you are so important to your child.  You have a God-given role and function.  You, your behavior, words and actions affect your children; so, be careful.

What exactly do we do that is exasperating to our children?  Here are a few examples:  fault finding, harshness, and unreasonable demands; harassing, being annoying, raging, bugging, and pushing them beyond their young limits.

The big missing ingredient in all these is graciousness.

“No grace” translates to “no love” because love is expressed with gracious actions (1 Cor. 13).  And this is how a child ends up saying, “I thought you hated me,” and the astonished parent cannot believe these words, because in their mind, they have been a good parent.

Parents are mandated to nurture their kids.  That means graciousness.  Pushiness, harassing, aggravating, irritating fault-finding, critical, micro-managing, and in-your-face bossy is not nurturing grace.

Kids need a fail-safe environment to explore and learn.  Failure is part of learning.  Experimenting, within boundaries of safety, is good.

The end result of exasperation is discouragement.  Children are naturally playful, curious, experimenters, risk-takers, and trusting.  All of these can be crushed by an exasperating father (or mother).

The boy or girl who is discouraged by their over-bearing father (or mother), goes into the world as an adult who does not know how to play, lacks curiosity, does not experiment, fears risk-taking, and does not trust.  This sounds like an adult child of an alcoholic, except your parent may have been a “dry-drunk” which is someone with a “jekyll and hyde” personality who did not drink.

How can a dad repent of exasperating his child?  If you do this and want to stop, what is the cure?  This verse is in the context of a chapter where Paul is writing about the Christian’s life.

Being a good father or mother requires good behavior that is the result of the man or woman being in Christ.  The admonition to not exasperate your kids comes in the context of Paul’s “application section” of his letter to the Colossians.  In the preceding chapters and verses, Paul has been expounding on Christ.

The Cosmic Christ

This text, Colossians 3:21, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so they won’t become discouraged,” has a context of a book and a chapter.  The book of Colossians is about the cosmic Christ.

Chapter one has a hymn that Paul wrote about Christ:

He is the image of the invisible God,
the firstborn over all creation.
For everything was created by Him,
in heaven and on earth,
the visible and the invisible,
whether thrones or dominions
or rulers or authorities—
all things have been created through Him and for Him.
He is before all things,
and by Him all things hold together.
He is also the head of the body, the church;
He is the beginning,
the firstborn from the dead,
so that He might come to have
first place in everything.
For God was pleased to have
all His fullness dwell in Him,
and through Him to reconcile
everything to Himself
by making peace
through the blood of His cross—
whether things on earth or things in heaven.

Christ is head of the universe, the church, the home, and each disciple.

Notice that Christ is creator and sustainer of the cosmos and head of the church.  Put out your two hands and consider each of these.  It gives you an idea that Christ is a big deal.

We need to have very high Christology, our belief about the importance and power of Christ.  The fact that he is head of the church should always give us pause about how we run and conduct our churches.  We need to not act like he is the founder who is long gone, but the living head; and there is a huge difference.

Christ holds the universe together and heads up the whole church.  He is not working at a distant headquarters, but he is working in all the branches of the living church.  On the one hand he created everything and holds it together, and on the other hand he is the head of the church.

Christ reconciles everything.  God’s fullness dwells in him and he has the power of God to reconcile everything to himself.  And he did it through his shed blood on the cross.

That song above, with those points, is the Christ we serve, the Christ who has saved us, the Christ who is redeeming us and making us sanctified.  He is the one who dwells in us to live the life, his life.  That is the context of my text about not exasperating your child.

You can only live the Christian life in Christ.

You can only obey his commands, the first and highest of which is to love, if you have him living through you.  You cannot live the life without being his disciple and he calls his disciples to bear their own crosses and die so that they will live.

You have to die so that you may live.

You have to have death and burial, funeral and grief, in order to have resurrection life.  To try to live the life, bypassing your cross, death, and resurrection is to try to live the Christian life without Christ, “in name only” and not the authentic deal.

That is like the Pharisees, having a “form” of godliness, but denying the power of God.  It takes God to raise the dead, to have resurrection life, and that is the only life we can have in Christ.  It is not the carnal nature obeying God, but the new life in Christ that has been raised from the dead, and there is a massive difference.

Christ the foundation, high Christology, and a powerful Christ, is the center, the key and the door to our lives, including how we talk to our children.  Let’s look at the preceding twenty verses of Colossians chapter three to get the steps, the building blocks, that lead up to this verse, and give it context.

Colossians 3:1-21, outline:

So if you have been raised with the Messiah,
   seek what is above,
      where the Messiah is, seated at the right hand of God.
   Set your minds on what is above, not on what is on the earth.
      For you have died,
         and your life is hidden with the Messiah in God.
            When the Messiah,
               who is your life,
               is revealed,
                  then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.
Therefore, put to death what belongs to your worldly nature:
   sexual immorality,
   impurity,
   lust,
   evil desire,
   and greed,which is idolatry.
      Because of these, God’s wrath comes on the disobedient,
      and you once walked in these things when you were living in them.
         But now you must also put away all the following:
            anger,
            wrath,
            malice,
            slander,
            and filthy language from your mouth.
            Do not lie to one another,
               since you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self.
You are being renewed
   in knowledge
      according to the image of your Creator.
In Christ
   there is not Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free;           but Christ is all and in all.
Therefore,
   God’s chosen ones,
      holy and loved,
         put on
            heartfelt compassion,
            kindness,
            humility,
            gentleness,
            and patience,
         accepting one another
            and forgiving one another if anyone has a complaint against another.
               Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive.
Above all, put on love
   —the perfect bond of unity.
And let the peace of the Messiah,
   to which you were also called in one body,
   control your hearts.
Be thankful.
Let the message about the Messiah dwell richly among you,
   teaching and admonishing one another
      in all wisdom,
   and singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs,
      with gratitude in your hearts to God.
And whatever you do,
   in word or in deed,
   do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus,
      giving thanks to God the Father
         through Him.
Wives, be submissive to your husbands,
   as is fitting in the Lord.
Husbands, love your wives
   and don’t be bitter toward them.
Children, obey your parents
   in everything,
   for this pleases the Lord.
Fathers, do not exasperate your children,
   so they won’t become discouraged.

To get to the bottom line, you must start at the top:

“Since you have been raised with Messiah.”  Have you been raised with Messiah?  Here is what it looks like in your life.

You will seek what is above and set your minds on what is above.

What is above?  God, heaven, spiritual things.  What is above is Messiah, who rules and reigns.

Our real life, our authentic life, our life that will go on forever is hidden in Christ.  Our old life, our sinful, carnal, worldly life is dead.  The life we now live is his life living through us.

Put off and away something, then put on something.

We need to live that life and put off and put away old, sinful, carnal, worldly ways and put on Christ and his ways.  If we are not doing this, we can not do that.  Doing that is living the life.

We must put off (put to death): sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desire, and greed,which is idolatry.  We must put away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, filthy language from your mouth, and lying.

If you consume pornography, engage in unchecked lust, engage in greed (envy & covetousness), have an anger problem, speak rotten and ungracious things, bash people, or lie, you need to let Christ save you.

If you have ever played the game “Monopoly”, it has a phrase: “Go directly to jail.  Do not pass GO.  Do not collect $200.”  If you are doing these things, operating in them in your life, you are hamstrung from walking with Christ, in Christ, and you will not be able to live the life, including properly loving your spouse or your child.

These things, listed above must be put off and put away.  “How?” you might ask.  Through Christ, through the cross, through Messiah’s blood.  His death appropriated into your life and then your death, your death of your fleshly, carnal, worldly nature.

This dying is not a suicidal, jumping off a cliff or “offing yourself along.”  Your death is relational.  His command to his disciples is, “Take up your cross and follow me.”  It is your cross-walk, with him and after him, following him.

And, it is not a solo flight.  You are joining his community.  He is the master of each one of us and we each have our own crosses that look very similar although unique and we each are working out his salvation individually and communally.

The church, whether it is micro or mega, should be a house of healing, a place of recovery, or a hospital.  Human nature is addictive by definition.  We are very prone to addiction.  We all need grace and freedom, healing and deliverance, to one degree or another.

Recovery ministry, mentors or sponsors needed for most all, in seasons

It is hard to think up one example of a Christian who does not or has not been in need of a recovery-support group during a season of life.  We all need a group where life in Christ is shared and pretty much all of us need a human sponsor, at least during intense recovery seasons.

Every mature Christian I can think of has had a sponsor type person (mentor) and usually a support group that understands their particular issue(s).  Not being in recovery and trying “fake it to make it” while going to church, is like being someone treading water while the cruise ship sails by.

Now to live the life

AFTER we have begun to “put off” and “put away” there are things to “put on.”  We put these on, bring them out, or develop them, because we have them in Christ.  We put on: heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, acceptance of others, forgiveness of others for all complaints, and above all, love.

With these being put on, developing, or worked out; we can live the life.  That’s good news and you become the good news.  Imaging the song in chapter one being sung through your life.  Christ is all in all and he is living in me and through me.  That’s super good news.

The result is peacefulness in your life.  The result is unity with all other people who are Christians.  The result is thankfulness.

Mouthpieces of God that teach and sing

And the response in community is that we become mouthpieces of God.  God has a lot to say and our desires are taken over by Christ and he animates our speech.  We teach one another.

Real, authentic teaching, the kind of teaching that changes lives, comes from brothers and sisters we share life together with, who share the life lessons with us.  This is God’s plan for how we are to learn and gives you a clue about why sermons are kind of ineffective, because while sermons can teach, they are not God’s main vehicle.

You can eat all your foods and drinks through a straw, but it is inefficient and will take longer that chomping on a sandwich with your whole mouth or drinking directing from the waterfall.  Your mouth represents eating directly from the buffet served up by your brothers and sisters in community.  Drinking from the waterfall represents the living water of Christ’s Spirit within each believer that teaches them.

There is something powerful and effective about learning through songs and hymns.  Think about Paul’s song and his modeling of song-writing, in chapter one.

And, I believe “spiritual songs” are personal, spontaneous, and authentic; and are birthed from the work of God in a life.  Hearing these spirituals is moving and healing because our hearts resonate and heaven’s work in one life is shared to other’s lives through songs in spirituals.

Authentic community praise and worship can contain the old hymns, new psalms, and personal healing songs shared.

Life in Christ

Everything the Christian does in in Christ.  It is not robotic, but living life from and in our savior.  We don’t wait for any day or hours to meet Christ or be in Christ, but it is all day, every day.  And when we come to fellowship, meeting, or gathering with the church; we have come from being with our love all week, and often have something to share and sometimes come with a need.

In the context of this life in Christ, wives can be submissive to their own husbands.  And, note that they do it, “as is fitting in the Lord.”  Only Jesus Christ can hold your marriage together.

Are you worried about submitting to your husband?  If you or he or you both are not living the life from above (literally the preceding verses and figuratively from heaven), then fully submitting is impossible.

Husbands can only love their own wives if they are living in Christ, and are applying the previous nineteen verses in their lives.  You don’t have to be perfect, or do it perfectly.  Someone has already done that.

You just have to be working it out, walking in it, participating in living Christ’s life.  The godly love for your wife (or your husband) is not in you, but it comes from Christ through you.  Christian marriage is a covenant between two people and God, in Christ.

Children are called by God to obey their parents.  Children should be fast to obey, in the atmosphere of love and grace that their parents foster for them.  When the dad and mom are in Christ, and mom is submissive in Christ to dad’s leadership, who is loving her, in Christ; then it easy for the child to be obedient, but they still must learn and be taught obedience.

All that brings us to this special word to dad’s and both parents, to not annoy, anger, infuriate, or exasperate your children.  I learned that the word here for “fathers” can actually be translated “parents.”  I noticed that Eugene Peterson does that in The Message here.

Parents, don’t come down too hard on your children or you’ll crush their spirits.
-Colossians 3:21 (MSG)

Your child’s spirit is “crushable” by you, dear parent.  Handle with care.  

We get to Colossians three after one and two.  This text is a good text, but it has a context, which is the life of Christ in you.  You have to see him and then come to and go after him, as his follower, or being a good Christian parent will not work.

Christ is key.  Not just knowing about him, but knowing him.  The parent’s intimate relationship of a surrendered life to Christ, as his disciple, is the way to have a home where love reigns and your children are never discouraged by you, who represent the Christian life to them.

You, as a parent, have the privilege and responsibility to show God to your children.  You get to model for them what a disciple is like and they will copy you.  Your surrendered life to Christ, giving up everything and letting him change you, is the only way.

A Post Script For The Passive:

We have to do certain things:

  • We have to “put off” or “put to death” and “put away” many things.  
  • Then, we also have to “put on” certain things, which are in Christ.  
    • Our Christian lives are very active on our part.

We work out what He works in (Phil. 2:12-13). 

  • The Christian life does not work if you are passive. 

 Faith is always an action and it is regularly tested.

Don’t be confused with working for your salvation.

  • You work (“put off”, “put away”, “put on”) because you are saved and are being discipled by Christ. 
  • He calls for action on our part to work out his life in our lives.
Christ’s school of discipleship is not just an intellectual pursuit, but kinetic “hands on” learning where he gives you “home work”, which is working out his life in your home life.  We are graded on how we do Christ’s life in our homes, in our private places. 

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