Tuesday, July 27, 2021

What Does It Mean To Be Childlike?

I’ve been mulling over what it means to have child-like faith, which is an expression we use based on Jesus’s words to His disciples, which are recorded in three of the four gospels:
Matthew 18:3: “Truly I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of Heaven.”

Mark 10:15: “Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”

Luke 18:17: “Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”

In Matthew, the word often translated as turn or repent is better translated as convert or change. The language here is passive voice, suggesting the individual has received the action of change, rather than doing it.

In contrast, both verbs for become [like children] in Matthew and receive [the kingdom] in Mark and Luke are in middle voice, meaning the subject is acting in some way upon himself or concerning himself. The verb for receive implies to reach out and take hold of.

In other words, these phrases mean the same thing: becoming like children and receiving the kingdom like a child means we, as believers, do the action to ourselves, and that action is having childlike qualities.

The key here is to understand those childlike qualities. What does it mean to be like a child or to reach out and grab hold of something like a child?

1. Children ask for what they want without fear or doubt, even if they’ve been told no before. Sometimes my toddler asks for more goldfish when she’s had plenty, and sometimes I’ll tell her no. That’s never once stopped her from asking for more the next snack time. She doesn’t understand or feel or imagine rejection in the face of a no. Her past experiences with no—in the sense of asking for what she wants, not in the sense of discipline—have not limited her enthusiasm for asking in the future.

2. Children trust their parents with utter dependence. My daughter never has to wonder if we’ll feed her. When we go out of town, she’s not concerned about whether we’ve packed clothes or have a place for her to sleep. She doesn’t worry about the route we’ll take or how much time it will take to get there. She knows we, her parents, take care of all those things, and she just gets to be a kid, along for the ride.

3. Children believe what their parents say is true. If I told Emmy her Daddy was in the garage, she would run toward that room and try to open the door to see him. She believes me because I said it, and she has no reason to doubt it. I could show her the empty garage within a few minutes and do it all over again, and she’d still believe me. Obviously, I wouldn’t do that because I’m lying and tricking her, and God doesn’t play with us like that either. But the point is, she would believe me again and again and again because I said it, and if I said it, then it’s true.

I’m using examples with my toddler on purpose. The word for child or children in all three of these verses is the same word, and it implies infancy or a young age, like a toddler.

Certainly by the time some children reach the later stages of childhood, and as we grow into adults, we don’t retain these characteristics. Our experiences or our circumstances have taught us that we don’t get what we ask for sometimes, so we stop asking for certain things. We may worry our parents will forget to pack our favorite blanket or pjs, so we remind them. And we have a better sense of how long we’ve been on a car ride and want to know when we will get there. And we doubt or don’t believe because someone has tricked us before. We’ve been lied to, deceived, and we hesitate first before absolute belief.

But to enter into the kingdom of God, to reach out and take hold of it, we have to go back to those days of infancy and toddler-like innocent.

And to do that, we have to suspend all of our experiences and circumstances, to return to utter dependence and belief, to ask for what we want without fear of rejection or disappointment.

It sounds like freedom to return to these childlike qualities—and yet, it’s so, so hard to let go of our control, to get out of our own heads, and to release our past disappointments. But Jesus tells us we must—and don’t we want all that He has for us? Don’t we want to experience His kingdom—righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17) right now?

Let us return to that childlike faith, the absolute hope and trust and belief in the security and goodness of our Heavenly Father.

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

A Deeper Look at 1 John 4: Love Perfected

Can we be honest? Sometimes when we read 1 John, it feels condemning. One example? “Anyone who does not love does not know God” (4:8).  

Yikes! We can read that and think, wellI’ve sure had plenty of ‘unloving’ moments, so I guess I don’t know God.  

Sigh. Grumble. Grumble. Cry.  


But to read and study 1 John, we have to first understand John as a person. He considered himself Jesus’s favorite and repeatedly refers to himself in the book of John as ‘the one Jesus loved.’ Seems pretty bold, huh? 

Actually, John just had a deep, deep, DEEP understanding of who he is in Christ. He is, I think, one of the best pictures of a disciple walking in his identity in Christ. And so yeah, he comes across a little arrogant sometimes, a little over-confident, but if we read his words in the context of his full and complete confidence in who he is in Christ, then we can see why he makes the bold statements that he makes.  

And the more I study him, the more I can see his style of writing, where what feels like a super bold (and condemning) statement is usually explained in more context if we continue reading and also if we make connections from earlier statements to later statements. And always those statements are rooted in an understanding of either who God is or who we are in Christ, as believers with His spirit and new nature.  

I’ve been meditating on chapter 4, specifically verses 16 through 18 because I have been consumed with quite a bit of fear and anxiety lately. It started with verse 18—and again, we can read this and think, gosh, I’m fearful. I guess God’s love is not perfected in me. Sigh. Sigh. Grumble. Grumble. Cry.  

First, we need context. Let’s start in verse 12. It says, “No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.”  

It feels like this means love is perfected in us, if/when we love one another.  

We love >> then God abides >> then love is perfected  

But keep reading... 

Paul explains how we know that we abide in Him and He in us: we have his Spirit (v. 13), we have the gospel testimony (v. 14), and we confess Jesus as the son of God (v. 15).  

Now we get to what I’ve been meditating on—verses 16 through 18: 

“So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love, abides in God, and God abides in him. By this, love is perfected with us so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment because as He is so are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.”  

After we know that we abide in Him (i.e. we have his Spirit, we believe the gospel testimony, we confess Jesus as the son of God—in other words, we’re born-again believers), THEN we have come to know and to believe the love God has for us (v. 16).  

Now we see that God is love and to abide in love is to abide in God and to have God abide in us.  

THEN is love perfected—“by this...” (v. 17).  

So when Paul says (v. 18), whoever fears has not been perfected in love, it means he who is fearing/fearful is not abiding in God nor God in Him. There’s a disconnect.  

When we disconnect, we fear. When we fear, we expect punishment. When we expect punishment, we have forgotten the love of God—what we first came to know and believe.  

The more deeply we’re rooted in our identity in Christ, the more fully we accept His love for us, the less likely we will be to walk in fear.  


Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Book Recommendation: Pockets of Purpose


This week, I am participating in the blog tour for Laurie Stroup Smith's new Amish fiction release, Pockets of Purpose, Book Two in the Pocket Quilt Series. Keep reading for my review, the book blurb, Laurie's bio, AND a giveaway!

A beautiful Amish story with realistic characters facing unexpected obstacles, who overcome it all by grace and love. Laurie Stroup Smith gives us another great book in the Pocket Quilt Series to remind us that life does not always work out as we planned, but God is still good and makes a way for us. This book can be read as a standalone, but I appreciated getting to see some of the characters from Book One again.

Back Cover Copy: Two years after exchanging her first love letters with Gideon Petersheim, Dixie Yoder tucks his notes into her pocket quilt and travels from Pinecraft to Holmes County, hopeful for a future together. Upon her arrival, their relationship blossoms until the auctioneer has surgery to remove a cyst from his vocal cords. Complications from the procedure interfere with his healing, leaving him searching for his passions and purpose. Instead of leaning on Dixie through this tough time, he pushes her away and turns his back on God. Frustrated and heartbroken, she is torn between staying in Ohio with the new friends she has grown to love and packing her bags. Having lost everything, he must fight his way back to her, but his apology is long overdue. Only a grand gesture to show her how much she means to him will cause her to pause and reconsider.

Available now on Amazon