Wednesday, May 02, 2007

START Acting Like a Child

If you ask a child, "What color is the sky," they'll tell you plainly, "blue." If you ask a child, "How do you know the sky is blue," they'll typically answer, "My Mommy told me," or, "My teacher told me." Children tend to have blind faith. They believe what they are told. Children, for the most part, do not worry about tomorrow. They simply rest in being a child. They can play all day. They know there will be meals. They know that Mom or Dad will clean them up and tuck them in at night.

I don't know about you, but I've spent my life trying to grow up - sometimes even being told to grow up. I'll admit I used to suffer from a Peter Pan complex. I never wanted to grow up, or old, I just wanted to rest in being me.

But then, something changed. Suddenly, at the tender age of 17, I had a dorm room, and then my own apartment in college. I had to decide when to eat, when to sleep, when to study, when to work, and when to play. I had to clean up after myself. I had to take care of my own bills, purchases, and groceries. Next thing you know, I'm out of college, having graduated, and I again, got an apartment, eventually a husband, and soon after that, my first child. And of course, with all of these milestones into adulthood came more bills and responsibility. I was officially an adult. Ouch.

When you officially become an adult, it is hard not to worry. There was a time in my life when I got down to my last 10 dollars five days before my next paycheck. I would go buy a carton of eggs, a gallon of milk and a loaf of bread and live on french toast for the week. If I got tired of french toast, I could just eat eggs and toast, or a fried egg sandwich. You can do a lot with eggs, milk and bread. That explains why a central Pennsylvania snow storm sends people flocking to Weis Markets for these three items. All this time I thought I had missed the invitation to the French Toast Festival celebrated every day it snows.

But now that I have children, living on three staples for a week doesn't quite work. I have to provide. I have to be the grown-up.

There is a time in childhood around the age of three when suddenly our children start testing their independence. It is the "I-can-do-it-myself" stage. We, as parents, hold our breath as we watch our children try to brush their hair by themselves, dress themselves backwards by themselves, and Zoe's latest - pouring a drink by herself. We stand back and watch knowing this is not going to end well. But yet, how will our children learn if we don't grant them some independence?

My question to you this morning is what are you struggling to do "all by yourself" while God sits back knowing that this will not end well? Now I'll give you the answer to your struggle: Stop trying to do it "all by yourself." Stop trying to be the adult - the "man of the house," or "the liberated woman." It is time to be a child again - a child of God.

The Bible says in Matthew 18 - "Except ye be converted and become as little children, ye shall not enter the kingdom of heaven." Now there are many things in the Bible that once rang in my ears as poetry, rather than to be taken literally. But something has happened since March 11th - the day I was baptized. This particular verse, among many that I have been studying, has taken on new meaning. I have been "converted." Now "how to become as a little child so that I may enter the kingdom of heaven" has become my internal discourse, if you will. Yes, I admit I talk to myself - A LOT. I ask myself questions and I answer myself. To answer this question, let's again, examine children.

First, children trust. As I said before, children will believe anything you tell them. One night, Zoe didn't want to go to my grandmother's overnight and I had to work. She told me she wanted to stay home with Shadow, our dog. I said, "Oh honey, you can't stay home with Shadow. Daddy and I will get into trouble and we'll go to jail." What not to say to a two year-old. Next thing you know, Zoe was telling the whole family, "My Mommy and Daddy are going to jail."

Children trust. Unfortunately, it is why they are so easily victimized. They often cannot discern what is right or wrong for them. But when they know someone loves them, they trust them. The song says, "Jesus Loves Me." Why do we find it so hard to trust Him?

The Bible says in Psalms 18: "The Lord is my rock and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God my strength, in whom I will TRUST: my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my hightower. I will call upon the Lord who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies." Last time I checked, I was not a rock or a fortress. I cannot protect myself from anything. I cannot deliver myself from anything. I am not strong. How can I trust myself to save me from anything? I cannot do it "by myself." My only hope is to Trust in the Lord.

Secondly, children learn to obey. Now I know some of you are waiting for that to happen. But most of you have seen the process. As soon as an infant can pull themselves to stand and start reaching for things, you firmly, with a pointed finger and raised eyebrows, say "no-no." You turn your head and you see out of your peripheral vision, the little hand reaching for the forbidden object. You catch them in the act and again say, "I said, No-no." This game goes on a few more times and maybe you have to tap the back of their hand so that they finally get the idea of what "No" means, but eventually they do. Suddenly the child is eight years old and you realize that they know the rules. They understand your expectations. Children learn to obey. As we all know, obedience brings forth rewards. There are times I'm at the store and I think to myself, "Ellen has been so good this week, I think I should do something special for her." God does this too. We have all been blessed tremendously by our loving Father.

1 Samuel 15 says:"Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams."

We cannot deny when God is speaking to us. Often we try to fool ourselves. "That wasn't God's voice. He didn't just ask me to do that." But then things start going wrong, and we realize we've grieved our Lord. The only way to make it right is to repent and obey. We should want to obey. Just like the way in which our parents loved us and therefore demanded RESPECT - my dad's word for obedience - Jesus said, in John 14, "If ye love me, keep my commandments." If we love Him, we will obey.

When we learn to TRUST and OBEY, the third lesson we can learn from children comes easily - Find Joy. Children love to laugh. Their whole lives revolve around whether they are having fun or not. My eleven year-old Darianne is absolutely beside herself when Ellen isn't home. She mopes around the house - and her favorite two words are "I'm bored."

Have you ever tickled a child? A child will continue a tickling game for hours if you let them. Children love Joy. And when you learn to trust and you start to obey, suddenly, you're smiling all the time. The world might be looking at you like, "What is her problem?" People may even start asking you "Why are you so happy all the time?" Well, what a great opportunity to answer, "Jesus."

Psalms 5 says, "Let all those that put their trust in thee rejoice: let them ever shout for joy, because thou defendest them: let them also that love thy name be joyful in thee."

Be Joyful. For the first time in a long time, you'll have a pep in your step. You'll find yourself laughing at traffic. Find joy and rest. Resting is like trusting - you basically throw all your worries to God and live full of joy in your obedience. It is like a chain reaction and when it happens to you, you'll find yourself giggling inside, like the first time you drove a car with no one sitting beside you.

Finally, go to Daddy for everything. Mommies can kiss it and make it better, but Daddies do so much more. Julian, my son, will drive me crazy with this. He can be home with me all day and not ask for anything. As soon as Derek walks in the door, Julian asks him, "Daddy, can you get me a drink," "Daddy, can we go play outside?" The questions continue with the repetition of a machine gun before Derek even has a chance to change out of his uniform.

Jesus went to His Daddy. In Mark 14, He cries out, "Abba! Father! All things are possible for You; remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what You will." Abba means "Daddy." He is our Daddy, too.

Romans 8 tells us,"For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, "Abba! Father!" Galatians 4 goes on to say, "Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!"

As I was looking for more information on the word, "Abba," I came across an interesting website - It paints a biblical perspective to being a father. The website listed these qualities of our Father's Heart:

He is the Father who is faithful and never changes (Heb 13:5, Mal 3:16).
He is the Father that is the embodiment of love, who loves us at our worse (1 John 4:8, Rom 5:8).
He values us and carries a picture of us on His hands (Isa 43:16, 49:16).
He is the Father who will commune with us (Exod 25:22).
He knew us even before we were born (Jer 1:5).
He is the Father who is available day and night because He doesn't even sleep (Eph 2:18, Ps 122: 1).
He is so closely involved in our lives even our hairs are numbered (Matt 10:30).
He is the Father who provides our needs for provision and security (1 Tim 6:17, Ps. 91:14).
He also just blesses us with good gifts (Matt 7:11).
He is the Father who trains us in righteousness.
He disciplines for our own good because He loves us (Heb 12:7-12).

Today, I give you permission to start acting like a child. Trust and Obey. Find Joy, and Rest. Go to your Daddy for everything. You can't do it all by yourself. You're not supposed to do it all by yourself. It is when we completely abandon all to God that "a life hid with Christ in God" is revealed.

I found the scripture that sums up this entire message in Psalms 37:

"Trust in the Lord, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed. Delight thyself also in the Lord; and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart.
Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in Him; and He shall bring it to pass.
And He shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgement as the noonday.
Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him: fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass. Cease from anger, and forsake wrath: fret not thyself in any wise to do evil. For evildoers shall be cut off: but those that wait upon the Lord, they shall inherit the earth. For yet a little while, and the wicked shall not be: yea, thou shalt diligently consider his place, and it shall not be. But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace."

Stop acting your age and start acting your shoe size today and stand back and watch what God can do if you'll only be His child.