Back When We Were Grown Ups

 

“I promise you that you cannot get into God’s kingdom, unless you accept it the way a child does.”  Mark 10:15, CEV

“So Jesus called the children over to him and said, “Let the children come to me! Don’t try to stop them. People who are like these children belong to God’s kingdom.”   Luke 18:16, CEV

One of the essential tenets of real discipleship is Jesus’ insistence on his disciples becoming children.  It actually is the entry point for all believers.  Everyone who really believes begins here, at ‘childlikeness’.

It’s interesting to note that ‘religion’ moves in the opposite direction– a level of sophistication is cultivated.  One becomes intellectual, emphasising the ‘academics’ over gentleness and goodness or love.

I think that there is an excessively high appreciation for broad-mindedness, but it is a cultivated, savoir-faire that is really is nothing but an embarrassment to the Kingdom of God.  It seems our discipleship is strongest when it is simplest.  Humbling ourselves is what makes us incredibly authentic– at least from His point-of-view.

And maybe–  just maybe, ‘becoming small’ is exactly what ‘the doctor has ordered’.  We need this, it needs to be imbedded into our hearts, and altering the way we encounter life.  If we are going to be real, then we must become children.  Becoming a child is an imperative.

Who do we think we are?  Often, we start out ‘broken’.  We esteem gentleness and brokenness.  We understand that the most valuable possession we can possess is a ‘childlikeness’. This can be understood by everyone we encounter– especially believers.  But this is only our starting point, we do not outgrow this, never.

Christians are set apart by their childlike heart.

“But I am calm and quiet,
like a baby with its mother.
I am at peace, like a baby with its mother.”

Psalm 131:2

ybic, Bryan

Correction for Christ Followers

“For the Lord corrects those he loves,
just as a father corrects a child in whom he delights.”  

Prov. 3:12, NLT

Interesting.  Some people get a double-dip.  If you are a loved son/daughter you have the tremendous honor of being loved and also of being disciplined.  My own son is disciplined because I love him so much.  He’s my boy and I love him even more than my own life.  When I do need to correct him, it is that love that makes it possible.  If I didn’t really love him, I would let him do his thing without any discipline at all. It would be easier.

To be left alone, with no correction or discipline is to be in a difficult place.  It smacks of abandonment.  Or of being cast-off or sent away.  It can be worse then abuse.

And have you forgotten the encouraging words God spoke to you as his children? He said,

   “My child, don’t make light of the Lord’s discipline,
      and don’t give up when he corrects you.
  For the Lord disciplines those he loves,
      and he punishes each one he accepts as his child.”

Heb. 12:5-6

The connection between a loving and caring Father, and you will require you to cooperate with His correction.  The writer of Hebrews knew the frail nature of people.  The writer knew that people would be tempted to quit– it is so hard.  “Don’t give up” in verse 5.  That means we will be tempted do so, to walk away and quit.  People do it all the time. It is easy.

“As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as his own children. Who ever heard of a child who is never disciplined by its father? 8 If God doesn’t discipline you as he does all of his children, it means that you are illegitimate and are not really his children at all. 9 Since we respected our earthly fathers who disciplined us, shouldn’t we submit even more to the discipline of the Father of our spirits, and live forever?”

Heb. 12:7-9

God loves you.  God loves you so much that He wants to change you.  Understanding that you are a son or a daughter in His family makes life worth living.

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ybic, Bryan

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How to Die Well

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
   I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
   your rod and your staff,
 they comfort me.”

Psalm 23:4, ESV

“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.”

Psalm 116:15, ESV

 

“Death is like my car. It takes me where I want to go.” 

Pastor John Piper

Our generation simply doesn’t know how to die well.  There are so many conflicting messages and attitudes which have steered us away from the reality of dying.  Much of it is the natural development of unbelief.  Our pop culture develops this and gives it momentum.  We are trying to convince ourselves that “death is impossible, my life will not end.’  But we’re escaping into a delusion.  We are running from what is real.

There is a Latin phrase,  Ars moriendi  (“The Art of Dying”) which the Church practiced in past generations.  In past time, Christians would be buried as close as possible to the Church building.  Many would be interred within the very walls of the Church.  The understanding was that the dead were part of the congregation.  That there was only a thin veil that stood between the living and the dead.  The dead didn’t just vanish.  They are with us.

My generation is confused.  We have forced death to wear a mask.  We insist on a significant camouflage to hide the reality of sickness and death.  No one really ever talks about it, and so no instructions are given on how to die well. So we don’t, we die poorly–in ICUs and LTCs, completely sedated, separated and unable to process it or help our families process it.  There can be no solid connection between the living and the dying. And to be very honest, this is not working.

For many, the fear of dying is intense and paralyzing.  Death brings us a terror that twists us; we don’t know how to respond to it.  Additionally there seems that there is no one available to direct us.  Death is a spooky taboo that no one really explains.  The implication is that we are simply to avoid death, ‘it may not come for you’.  But that is not what is real.

“Death avoidance” pretends to lift us above the issue, where we can imagine that we will stay separated somehow from its obscenity and ugliness.  Funerals are nothing more then an aberration.  We have become ‘teflonized’, these things just slide on and off.  We just refuse to calculate, or accept what is happening.  We have ‘molded’ our fear into a more desirable shape.  We simply cannot function in the steady gaze of what is real.  We just shut down and refuse to function. We simply pretend.

Its time for the Church to step up and guide us to our next step.  Our pastors and elders have got to prepare us to die well.  It is a part of being a disciple.  It is discipleship, and dying is inclusive.  We need somebody to prepare us for the inevitable and the certainty that is approaching us.  I need someone that will help me face my own death.

You know what?  No one escapes.  And the reality of that drives some of us mad, or addicted, or psychotic.  The idea of filling a casket up for forever is incomprehensible.  We cannot live with this sick idea of dying.  It disturbs us on the deepest level possible.  It is completely evil.

Psalm 23 has been pure comfort and healing for generations.  And it is an excellent starting point for us.  Verse 4 develops the idea of traversing death.  The writer has incredible insight of passing through death.  This verse alone is worth “billions of dollars in gold”.  Psalm 23 has made me a very wealthy man.  His Word has become my rich treasure.

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ybic, Bryan

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To Envy A Green Olive Tree

Planted in the Kings Courtyard

“But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God. I trust in the steadfast love of God, forever and ever.” 

Psalm 52:8, ESV

It is important that we can properly identify ourselves.  The psalmist knows what he is.  There is no confusion in his thinking, and he has a zero vacillation factor.  “I am like–the comparison, to a green olive tree, –the reality.”  FYI, he isn’t talking about green olives (my fridge has a jar or two), but a tree that is green (full of fresh life).  He marks himself, identifying himself of being a flourishing and productive tree.  This makes sense when we compare possibilities of what the many types there are.

He puts himself in “the house of God”.  “Planted”–the idea of being fixed in a spot.  And living, “growing, lush and green”.  He is not your “run-of-a-mill” olive tree.  He is planted, and positioned, in an incredibly rich place, right in the temple, God’s house.  Now it is one thing to flourish– but another thing to be that way in the ultimate prime spot.  It is good to see this. There is a generousness about having a place in God’s house.  It is as good as it gets!

There is a “trust” that we can see that the psalmist has.  It has to do with love.  Not so much of my love for Him, but His love for me.  It takes confidence to think this way.  I confide, and then settle myself in His love.  He loves me! (and I know it!)

The psalmist emphasizes a love that has an eternal understanding, “forever and ever”.  Now most of us are aware of a love that has limits and distinctions.  But His kind of love for me is the “firehose” kind of love.  (When it blasts, it can peel paint off a car.)

A fresh olive tree.  A desirable thing of beauty.  But planted right in the middle of God’s house.  That is an amazing thing!  We have the soil, and it’s a rich soil.  And we have the location, right in a wonderful spot.  This is as good as it gets!  We have the most envious spot in the garden.  As a clinically depressed person, this comes as a terrifically great news!

 

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ybic, Bryan

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