Core Ideas of the Gospel of Jesus Christ

Posts tagged ‘contentment’

Childlike Faith vs Childish Religion

childlike-faith

Kids take the winding path when adults choose the short cut.

Children wish they could make time move faster, but grown ups want to slow it down.

Little guys would rather play than eat. Big people want their meals on time.

And none of those distinctions were in the mind of Christ when he coached his budding apostles, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3)  When the Lord called for childlike faith, he had a specific quality in mind which he explained with his next statement: humility.

That is, kids realize they’re  small and need the care of more powerful individuals. That’s why toddlers become so clingy and insecure when one parent is away: they want as much adult care as possible.  As a result, little kids are comfortable being out of control.  Sure, there are those terrible two’s and occasional tantrums, but kids spend most of their time living comfortably under the authority of bigger people.

New Testament faith is the cultivation of that kind of dependence among the children of God.  Have you ever noticed how often people of faith are compared to children in the Bible?  I’m thinking children of Israel; the warning about causing one of God’s little ones to stumble; the directive to call upon your Father who is in Heaven.  Have you ever wondered why the model prayer set forth by Jesus includes a plea that God will provide us with our daily bread each day?

Childlike faith is the recognition of my scale in the universe: small, lacking in resources, and dependent on outside intervention from someone more powerful. Turning to God is not a last resort for people of faith; it’s the first line of defense in a world that seems seriously out of our control!

I have come to believe that’s why awe and wonder are so lacking in the Christian Faith of this particular generation.  Awe is a combination of love, fear, and surprise that leads to reverence.  An awesome motion picture leaves the audience sitting in stunned silence.  An awesome rocket launch leaves masses gazing quietly at the empty sky. Moments of wonder leave us feeling small; speechless in the presence of something vast and beyond our reach.

The trouble with grown ups today is that we have fallen in love with devices we believe can give us complete control.  My smart phone gives me mastery of my calendar, my photographs, favorite music, plus instant access to all my friends wherever they are.  Alexa orders flowers for my wife and turns the AC up or down!  That sense of personal power is a carefully curated illusion, but an illusion all the same.

In fact, cherished relationships can crash and burn quite suddenly- often completely apart from our actions.  Circumstances change, health conditions spiral downward, finances go south, best laid plans hit the wall, and cars come crashing through restaurant windows. Just last month a friend diagnosed with Stage IV cancer early in December was gone to be with God by Christmas Eve!   In the most important areas of life, the only thing I can affect is my own behavior; which can often seem useless at best.

Childlike faith doesn’t chafe at the authority of God.  Neither does it need to understand what God is thinking when he takes a particular course of action. Children learn to deal patiently with major decisions whose only explanation is “because I said so.”  So do children of God.  Because unless we are converted to childlike faith, we will never enter the Kingdom.

Take some time to be dazzled by the presence of God and the timeless power of His Holy Word.  Go out of your way to offer God true worship this week.  And lift up the Cross!

For last week’s message, The Trouble with Grown Ups, click here.

 

Creature Comforts

DAWN OF PLANET OF APES 01

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes constructs a world where a thriving population of apes and a decimated community of human beings find themselves locked in mortal combat.  Caesar and his simian friends want their forest safe and undisturbed by human activity, but an emerging population of people needs to refit an abandoned hydroelectric plant at the heart of the California forest in order to reclaim their place in the world.  I thought the movie was fun to watch and extremely thought provoking.

One of my favorite lines comes as the conflict is finally coming to a boil.  The elated human beings suddenly feel alive again when they suddenly generate enough power to illuminate a small shopping dining area in San Francisco.  The apes are perfectly content in their primitive tree houses, unlighted and packed tightly together in the forest canopy outside the city. One of the humans observes the apes from a distance and comments, “They don’t need electricity. That’s their strength.”

Both the humans in the city and the apes in the trees can enjoy family, neighbors, food and a place to live.  The animals are quite content.  The people are miserable without their creature comforts. Creature comforts, really?

I will never forget one of those eureka moments I experienced in Malindi on the coast of Kenya years ago.  My team and I frequently enjoyed the hospitality of Kenyan believers who lived in very humble dwellings, but enjoyed the constant nearness of family, and the joy of simple meals.  People honored us as their guests with pure delights as simple as milk from freshly harvested coconuts or fish and rice at a table crowded with family and relatives in the middle of a weekday.

It struck me how difficult it would be for most of us back in the States to host an impromptu luncheon for special guests in the middle of a busy Tuesday and actually expect most of our relatives to be there!  Here in the USA we’re too busy working for a living to afford our houses, cars and high tech devices. I realized that these “poor” people enjoy wonderful privileges most of us could never afford.

It dawned on me: so that’s why possessions and trinkets are called the trappings of wealth.  They can trap us in demanding schedules and give us only money in return.

Here’s what Christ said: “Don’t worry about what you will eat or what you will wear, for the pagans run after those things and your heavenly father knows that you need them.  But seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all those other things will be given to you as well.”  Hey, don’t  misunderstand: a good job is a good thing, but it’s not everything.

Lift up the Cross!

 

 

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