Tag: CHILDREN

THINKING OF YOU

Have you ever felt like nobody really cares about you? Having a tendency to be rather melancholy myself, I’ve struggled with those feelings on and off all my life. The truth is that someone does care…to the point of obsession…

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I’ve been scanning hundreds of old pictures I took of my sons just before the advent of digital cameras, from the day of their birth onward. I was one of those Dads who would talk to his kids even before their birth. I told them I loved them. I played beautiful music to them. I prayed for them. I told them I couldn’t wait to see them.

I knew I had a lot of photographs, but what’s struck me as I’ve been sorting through them is how many different situations and poses they were in when I took the pictures. I was (and to be honest, still am) almost obsessed with my kids, just as any other normal, loving Dad is. I took pictures of them while they were playing, while they were asleep, while they were painting, while they were eating, on my shoulders, in the country, in the city… And it occurred to me almost in an instant, that my obsession with my kids is a picture (excuse the pun) of our heavenly father’s obsession with us.

Jesus saw Nathaniel under a fig tree: he knew where Nathaniel was and what he was doing even before he met him (John 1: 43-49). He told his disciples after his resurrection, “…and surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).

God, the Father of all those who love Him, is watching us, even when we aren’t at all aware of him. But he’s watching us in a loving way, in what we could almost call an obsession. Perhaps the most popular scripture regarding God’s obsession with his people is found in Davids’ writings, in Psalm 139:

“O Lord, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar…”

“Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there”

“When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be…”

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BECOMING A KID AGAIN

While my faith is strong, there are still one or two things that trouble me about my God and the Bible…

We all have questions and issues with our faith, whether we admit it or not, don’t we? And that’s not surprising, because as finite beings we only “see through a glass darkly” as Paul put it: there are some things we just can’t know about an infinite and eternal being and the place where he lives. This is where humility comes in, because the man who thinks he should understand and prove everything about God before committing himself is putting up a giant roadblock to his own salvation, peace and happiness. That’s why Jesus said we must receive the kingdom of God as a little child:

“I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3-4 NIV)

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(Photo by Thomas Schoch)

It doesn’t mean we have to “check our brains at the door” as skeptics try to claim, it means that we have to admit to ourselves and to God that we don’t know much, we can’t do much without Him, and we don’t have any kind of leverage over our own mortality or with him, besides his own mercy.

So the problem I’m referring to here is kids-or rather the lack of them. If, as Jesus said, people don’t marry in heaven, does that mean there will be no children? Perhaps I-we are missing something, and perhaps we will reproduce. But the reason the thought of no children being in heaven bothers me is that I love children. Most particularly I’ve loved having my own, who’ve given me as much joy as anything in life has given me. The thought of seeing no kids in heaven, of never having kids, and having nothing but boring adults around me, really bothers me.

I’ve written about this before, and I know others have also, so the following is likely not an original thought on my part. But if you take away from an adult his fears, his hang-ups, his prejudices, his animosity and aggression, his disappointments, his selfishness, his bad habits and his grouchy attitude; if you could take out of him all the yucky mannerisms and dark, unhappy experiences he’s collected since he left the womb-it’s difficult to imagine I know-you would be left with an altogether different person, would you not? And make no mistake, that’s what will happen when you and I are transformed to be like him. Yes, we who love God want to live in his ways, but we’re still fallible, and we still need a make-over.

On that day when we’re transformed “in the twinkling of an eye”, everything bad in us will be gone, since sinful man and sinful, fallen ways, cannot inherit the kingdom of heaven. We will be like Jesus, not in the sense of having unlimited power and knowledge, but in terms of our character. John, writing to believers, said:

Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (2 John 3:2).

If you could take away from a man or woman all those ugly ways and thoughts and habits, and the sin-nature that causes such things, then add a new heart, a new environment and the presence of a holy righteous God… you would end up with a loving, caring, light-hearted, happy, joyful, playful, warm-hearted person. Also take away that used, tired, flabby, spotty, weak, fallen physical form and replace it with a brand new incorruptible one-lean, healthy, vibrant, active, energetic, powerful and submitted to the Creator-and the person in front of you would be like a happy, well-adjusted young man or woman, as free in spirit as the most unspoiled child you can imagine.

And that’s no surprise either, because Jesus Christ, the Son of God said:

“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Matthew 19:14).

LIFE, LOVE AND LOGIC

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When I was young, it seemed that life was so wonderful,

 A miracle, oh it was beautiful, magical.

 And all the birds in the trees, they’d be singing so happily,

 Joyfully, playfully watching me.

 But then they sent me away to teach me how to be sensible,

 Logical, responsible, practical.

 And they showed me a world where I could be so dependable,

 Clinical, intellectual, cynical.

(“The Logical Song”, by Supertramp)

I heard a Christian minister on the radio telling me that I need to make sure my kids suffer the consequences of their actions and bad decisions, and that I shouldn’t protect them from such things. I frequently hear how important it is for me to discipline my kids:  I never hear how important it is for me to love them. And if I do hear the “L” word, it’s used as a euphemism for control, discipline and rigidity: if you really “love” your kids, you’ll march them up and down the square until they’re broken. No, they need smiling, kind love, not eighteen years of insults and nagging under some guise of “love”.

I’ll reluctantly agree that we have no choice but to prepare our children for the real world. But it seems to me that there are some who want to wring the last drop of joy out of their kids as soon as they can, and they want me to do the same to mine.

I see signs in city parks saying “NO ball games, skateboards, roller-skates or bicycles”. I’ve seen do-gooder citizens growling at boys for having a little skateboard fun in an empty parking lot. I’ve seen police doing the same.  I see parents barking orders at their children if they commit the heinous crime of having fun and making a noise. I see parents yelling at their kids for crying. People want them to grow up now – they want them to be serious and miserable like they are. Perhaps they’re envious  because kids know how to have fun and they don’t any more.

The disciples of Jesus tried to stop some children getting near him. They thought children were unimportant and that they would spoil the occasion. They thought that only adults-serious, world-hardened adults-were acceptable to the Son of God. They were wrong:

But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little ones come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these” (Luke 18:16).

In our pompous, pious, boring “maturity” we think that God is most attracted to the mature and the worldly wise; the achiever, the confident, the aloof and the urbane; the cool and the powerful. In fact, he says, the kingdom of God consists of those who are childlike.

It’s my opinion that if we were to focus on loving our children and helping them to find the joy of life, rather than on squeezing every bit of happiness out of them, they would grow to love life instead of seeking the bottle or the pills or some non-existent perfect lover. They would learn how to be loving rather than how to be judgmental, cynical and boring. To me this is perfectly logical.

WHAT WILL WE BE LIKE IN HEAVEN?

Anyone who has a measure of belief in the hereafter wonders at some time or other just what it will be like to be in heaven. Without some kind of messenger from heaven to tell us, we can’t know, but we can only speculate and be at the mercy of those who want to impose their confusing views and opinions on us.  However, for the Christian there have been several such messengers.  The Bible claims to be the inspired Word of God: God’s message to us.  Jesus himself quoted the Old Testament frequently and believed it to be true, as did all the apostles. Jesus claimed to have come down from heaven.  The gospels and letters of the New Testament were all treated at the time of their writing as the word of God to men. If Scripture is not our guide, and if it’s not a message from God, then on what do we base the authority of our faith?

The Bible is rich with clues to the understanding of our future form, feelings and activities. Therefore, I want to first briefly cover some scriptural references on the subject, then offer a few of my own personal feelings and expectations. If I were a Christian celebrity you would have to buy my book to  get the info that you can read for nothing in this post.

NEW BODIES

John wrote:

“…we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3: 2).

Similarly, Paul told the Corinthians:

“…just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven” (1 Corinthians 15: 49).

To the Philippians he said that Christ will:

“transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body” (Philippians 3:21).

In some way we are going to be like the resurrected Christ. This gives us an enormous start at perceiving our future likeness, because we are given descriptions of the risen Christ in the gospels and throughout the Bible. I’m not saying that we will be equal to him: that’s not Biblical, but “we will share his likeness.”

WE WILL BE RECOGNISABLE

Jesus was recognizable, and was not “reincarnated” as someone or something else. On one occasion after his resurrection when he appeared to his disciples, and said “Peace be with you”, they were overjoyed to see him (John 20: 19, 20). There were similar meetings on other occasion (see below). We are told that the “same Jesus” who ascended to heaven will return in the same way (Acts 1: 10-11). He is, and will remain to be, Jesus.

Other Biblical persons were seen to be themselves after they had died:

Samuel appeared to Saul (1 Samuel 28:8-15).

Moses and Elijah appeared to Jesus and the disciples during the “Transfiguration” (Matthew 17:1-3).

The rich man in Hades, even if a parable character only (my  personal feeling is that they were true characters) was the same person he had been on earth, and remembered his family who were still there. He also remembered Lazarus, the poor man who he had failed to help while on earth. Lazarus, also after his passing from earthly life, was also still the same person he had been on earth (Luke 16:19-31).

There would be no point in a resurrection or a judgment if we become different persons after this life. God could instead simply create new people/ creatures.

WE WILL BE PHYSICAL, YET PAN-DIMENSIONAL

The resurrected Jesus entered a locked room with ease. As best we can understand it, he passed through the wall in order to appear to his disciples (John 20:26-28). He invited them to touch him, saying “Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see I have” (Luke 24:39). He cooked their breakfast one day (John chapter 21). He ate some fish to show them that he was not a spirit only (Luke 24: 41 and 42). He broke their bread (Luke 24: 30), then he vanished (verse 31).

Again, the Transfiguration shows Moses and Elijah, having once been human as you and I are now, suddenly appearing from out of nowhere among the disciples (Matthew 17:1-3).

Jesus said that people will be “like the angels in heaven” (Matthew 22: 31). There are numerous accounts in the Bible of angels appearing to humans out of nowhere. Angels are able to move between earth and heaven, and it’s not a case of them flying at warp speeds until they get to some remote part of the universe, because Jesus said that a child’s angel can see God at all times (Matthew 18:10). Heaven and earth are not separated.

There’s also some good incentive for us to “entertain strangers”, because people have entertained them thinking that they were humans (Hebrews 13:2). This shows that angels have the ability to materialize into physical beings. Angels in the Bible retain their identities. As examples, you can track the appearances of Michael, Gabriel and Lucifer.

THE RESURRECTED BODY IS ONE OF POWER

Paul said that the body is “sown in weakness” (ageing, sick mortality) but “it is raised in power” (1 Corinthians 15: 43). The immortality of our being means that we will not look at all old or weak or sick or spotty or deformed, but amazingly vibrant, young and healthy. Some will “shine like stars” (Daniel 12:3), or “like the sun” (Matthew 13: 43).

There will be no marriage, said Jesus (Matthew 22:30), but we will be reunited with our loved ones: this is the reason that Paul told the Thessalonians not to be as mournful over those who have died as unbelievers are (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14).

LOVE, JOY AND PEACE

There are plenty of clues to the character of those in heaven, and so to the relationships between us all. To me the most obvious one is Paul’s list of the fruits of the spirit: the characteristics of those who live in close step with Christ now. He said:

“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self- control” (Galatians 5: 22-23).

If those are the characteristics of people who truly walk with Jesus now, and who walk “In the Spirit”, then they will be even more pronounced in heaven where Jesus and the Holy Spirit will be in close communion with us , and knowing that “God is love” (1 John 4:8), we can know that heaven will be filled with love.

NO SIN

God cannot and will not live with sin, and you can be sure that heaven is totally sinless (Revelation 21:7-8 and 27). Some people imagine that this means no fun. On the contrary, God is the creator of fun. What it really means to be free of sin is that there will be no one trying to use you, abuse you, steal from you, lie to you or wound you, and no one to oppose God or his people, or to try to convince you that there is no God. It will not occur to you to do any of these things either. You will be free in your spirit to truly love God and others without reservation, and they will love you.

NO SADNESS

God will “wipe away every tear…There will be no more mourning or crying or pain, for the old order  of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:4).

NO SICKNESS OR DEATH

There will be no more death (Revelation 21:4). Our immortal bodies will be free of disease.

LIKE CHILDREN?

I’ve heard Christian ministers say that they think we will like thirty-year-olds in heaven, but I’ve noticed it’s only those who are well over thirty who say this. I personally suspect that we will be a lot more like children than adults.   I’m not at all speaking of “obnoxious little brats” as increasing numbers of people now see children (I don’t). If we ignore all the unpleasant characteristics we sometimes see in children, and just consider the part of them that God originally created, I believe we can get a good glimpse of our nature in heaven.

My own view and hope of heaven is suggested by the words of Jesus. When he told the disciples to allow children to come to him, he also said:

“…for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Matthew 19: 14).

On one occasion the disciples asked Jesus who would be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. His answer is illuminating:

“He called a little child and had him stand among them….and he said…whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:2-4).

Our world teaches children to be confident, arrogant, materialistic and vain, but those in heaven will be very different.

If you observe some reasonably “well-adjusted” children who are healthy and loved and secure, before our present-day culture gets a hold of them (and there are fewer of these all the time), you will see in them playfulness, happiness, joy, fun, innocence, friendliness, meekness. They are free of guilt and sin. They are not self- conscious. They are free of vanity. They have uncluttered minds. They are full of energy. They have humility and don’t think too much of themselves.

Yes, in heaven we may have the bodies of healthy, vibrant twenty year-olds, but we will have the playfulness, innocence and energy of a five-year old.

Please note that I am not saying we will be children, but that we will be child-like in many of our characteristics. Adults get so weighed down with prejudices, opinions, inhibitions, pride, arrogance, boredom, spite,  grudges, fear, guilt and sin that they (we) are far from being as humans were created to be. Heaven will restore what should have been.

There will be no noses in the air. By that, I mean that there will not be one little group of people in one corner ignoring the other little groups of people and thinking that they are somehow superior to everyone else. Everyone will love everyone else and treat each other as equals. There will be no prejudices, pride or selfishness, because these things are sinful.

There will be no corrupt government ordering our lives for us and making us pay for their pet projects, because the Lord will be King, and He is righteous in all his dealings. There will be no police force or military, because there will be no need for them. There will be no “No Trespassing” signs around the areas of natural beauty or around any lands or space. There will be no lawyers or politicians. There will be no schools to sap the energy and vitality of our children. There will be no “no-go” areas, slums or graveyards.

Paul said that “where the spirit of the Lord is there is freedom” (2 Corinthians 3:17). In heaven we will be free to love each other, to love God, to play, to sing, to shout, to run, to laugh, and not to feel bad about anything.

HOW TO RAISE GOOD KIDS

Far be it from me to claim to be an expert child-raiser, or to fail to recognize that some kids are more difficult to raise, and that some are raised in difficult circumstances. But I believe there’s a basic formula which, in most circumstances, will work to produce pleasant, happy, well-adjusted children and adults.

So here is my own list of must-dos for people who care about how to raise their children:

-Demonstrate (don’t just feel) real love and commitment to them from conception (yes, they can hear you, and they can sense the “vibes”, and how you feel about them and about life ).  Children need to have love expressed to them every day of their lives. Give them plenty of hugs, kind words, praise, and encouragement.

-Treat them with respect. Everyone needs respect, no matter what their age, and it’s vitally important that children receive respect from their parents and family.

-Yes, discipline them, but only when it’s absolutely necessary. Discipline in love, never in anger. DO NOT punish mistakes! I see far too many parents crushing the spirits of their children with harsh words, shouting, derision, threats etc. Some parents only talk to their kids when they’re putting them straight on something. Some parents only smile at their kids when they’re making fun of them. If you will give them love and respect, and if you will live in such a way as to earn respect for yourself, they will rarely need discipline.

-Spend time with them. Take them out and have fun with them. Spending time with them lets them know that you’re interested in them and that they are important to you. Your opinion of them is extremely important to them.

-Treat all siblings equally. Any favoritism, real or perceived, will create resentment and friction. If you work at loving them equally in truth, they will recognize it.

-Protect them from the horrors of human nature, and only introduce them to the ugliness of the world of people gradually over the years. Let them find the joy of living before they witness all the darkness of human nature. Some parents cause their kids to watch hour after hour of the most horrific, violent and distressing scenes on television every day.

-Avoid nagging. Nagging fosters resentment and rebellion. Say it once or twice only and mean it.

-Maintain a stable, committed home – as much as is in your power.

-Teach them by example how to laugh and love life.

-Keep in mind how precious they are, to you and to their Creator.

-Teach them to reason and to think for themselves. Teach them how to learn. The right kind of knowledge inspires kids.

-Allow them to play and to be children. Some parents think that play is somehow a bad pastime. Don’t make them grow up too soon.

-Teach them how to find what they enjoy about the world and what they love to do.

-Be sensitive to their feelings and fears

-Never mock, ridicule or belittle. Keep the teasing light and fun, not hurtful. Let them witness you protecting them from ridicule.

-Avoid leading them into vanity and materialism.

-Apologize for your own mistakes.

-Teach them a little independence

-Teach them to respect others by doing it yourself

-Respect their right to some privacy: don’t pry. Allow them the dignity of being trusted. They  are more likely to be trustworthy if you give them the opportunity and freedom to choose to be trustworthy.

-Most importantly, teach them from the start that there is a God who loves them, that there is hope for humanity, that there is a meaning to life, and that there are such things as goodness, love,  and righteousness. Demonstrate these things by your example.

-Teach them the gospel as early as possible, and don’t “wait until they’re old enough to decide for themselves”, because by then they will have been thoroughly indoctrinated into the religion of the evolutionist and the culture of death. They can and will still make up their own minds later, but at least you will have given them a chance to consider both sides of the story.