Tuesday, March 16, 2010

What Would Children Do?

If you are one of those few people who have escaped the torture…I mean pleasure, of going to Chuck E. Cheese Pizza, you have missed out on a true cultural opportunity. The pizza is mediocre at best. It’s very loud and noisy from the video games, children running around everywhere, parents yelling at their kids to stop running around everywhere, and, of course, the band. The band consists of Chuck E. Cheese, who is a 7-foot-tall mouse, a gorilla that plays the keyboards and some other giant animals.

There is plenty to see and do on any given day or nigh,t at Chuck’s pizza establishment. However, a group of parents and children got quite a show in Memphis, TN last week. Eighteen year-old, Juaneka Key was standing at a vending machine in Chuck E. Cheese. She had apparently been there a while, when Terence Dickerson, 42, asked her how long she planned to be there. She told him that she was going to take her time. This must not have been the answer Mr. Dickerson was looking for. He punched her in the eye.

One of his buddies must have thought he couldn’t handle the fight and jumped in to help assault Ms. Key. Ms. Key’s family got in the fight and others came closer to watch. Many children and parents began leaving the scene, to avoid getting involved or hurt. Five people were arrested before the whole ordeal was over. One person commented, “It’s a shame that adults are acting like children.”

Were they acting like children? I’m not so sure. I think they were acting like spoiled-rotten adults who cannot control themselves. Two children in the same situation would probably not have behaved in the same way.

Jesus uses children many times in the Gospels to illustrate how we should behave. Look at Matthew 18:3-5 “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. And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me.” The disciples had just asked Jesus who would be the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus answered them with the above quote. What did He mean by that? What can children teach us about living for Christ?

I believe they have a lot to teach us. The reasons Jesus singled them out for an example, has multiple layers. Here are a few characteristics we could learn from children.

Complete trust and dependence
         o Children have to depend completely on their parents for food, shelter, love and many other things. They also trust their parents will provide them. We must learn to trust our Heavenly Father the same way.

Teachability and humility
         o Children love to learn. They ask many questions to gain the information and guidance they need. They understand that they don’t know it all, and look to parents for the information they desire so much. We must look to God as our source of learning and have the humility to understand that God knows better than we do. He is all powerful, all knowing, all seeing, and we can learn so much from Him!

Uninhibited joy
         o Listen to children laugh sometime. They laugh from the belly. They laugh hard. They sometimes lose their breath laughing. When was the last time you felt that kind of joy from the simple things. Also, when they think something is funny, they laugh. When they hear music that makes them move, they dance. They don’t worry about what others think. That comes later when we teach them to worry about what others think. They express themselves with joy in whatever they do.

• Purity
          o Children are pure. They are innocent. They will not always be so, but for a time, they are. Children see only the good in others, and have no idea that there is anything other than good in them. When we grow older, we lose that innocence. Jesus died on the cross to bear our sin, so that we could be pure once again. Unless we allow Him to wash us clean, we will never be truly purified.

My prayer is that at the beginning of each day you say to yourself, “How can I be more child-like today?” When you retire for the evening, ask yourself how child-like you actually were. If we begin to make changes in our lives, to be more like the children Jesus spoke of, then we will begin to see true growth in God’s Kingdom.

Then they also brought infants to Him that He might touch them; but when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to Him and said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.” (Luke 18:15-17 NKJV)

Are We Grounded?

They that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.  
(Isaiah 40:31 KJV)

Remember the unashamedly sappy song, Wind Beneath My Wings, from the movie Beaches? The song was a number one hit in 1989 for Bette Midler, and it also won a Grammy as song of the year in 1990. Some of the lyrics of the chorus are, I can fly higher than an eagle. ‘Cause you are the wind beneath my wings.”

What lifts you and gives you the ability to fly? The scripture above tells us that the thing that should lift us is the Lord. When we are trusting in Him, he will give us the power to rise above, outrun, and walk away from the things that trouble us in our lives.

However, for every action of God, Satan has a counteraction that seems very appealing. That’s the confounding thing about the enemy; he doesn’t appear to us with red horns and a pitchfork. He dangles things in front of us that will lure us. He loves to tempt us or alarm us with things that will keep us grounded.

Not only is this true of our individual lives, but it is also true of church life. If we, as a church, are ever to soar, then we must put our whole faith and trust in God, not our own abilities. Trying to operate on our own strength will move us, but not very far, and certainly not off the ground. So, what are the things that will keep the church grounded?

I read two news stories this week that illustrate this well. Two airline flights were canceled or delayed last week because of some unusual problems. One flight, Air Canada #AC888 was forced to deplane it’s passengers when a rat was spotted in one of the overhead lockers. 205 passengers left the aircraft at the gate and the plane was taken out of service. The pilot was reported to have said, “We've got bad news. A giant rat has been seen in the overhead lockers and I need everyone to get off while we try and find it.”

Another flight, Delta Airlines connection #887, from New York to Atlanta, was canceled because two female flight attendants were fighting. No reason was given for the argument, but alternate travel plans had to be arranged for the passengers.

Two flights cancelled because of two issues that I think we also find in our churches. The first flight was cancelled because there was a rumor of a rat in the plane. Pest control could never find the rat. It is very possible that a whole flight was cancelled and passengers rerouted because of a rumor. Rumors, gossip, and backbiting can certainly cause a church to be grounded. Paul writes in 2 Thessalonians 3:11, “We hear that some among you are idle. They are not busy; they are busybodies.”

The other problem with this flight is that there might have really been a rat there. How does a rat get on a plane? Does it come in the front door and hand the attendant his ticket? No! The rat sneaks in. There’s no way to know how long the thing had been there. A rat in the church will also sneak in, and be imbedded in church life before anyone realizes that he is a troublemaker. You’ve seen these people before. They won’t go directly to the pastor or church leadership with a problem. They simply begin talking to other people and creating a stink over something. Many pastors have been forced to resign because of one or two rats who kept the church grounded.

The other flight was grounded because two flight attendants couldn’t get along. You may remember the story of the Left Foot Baptist Church. Supposedly there is a church somewhere with that name. It was derived from a church split over which foot should be washed first in a foot washing service. While this sounds funny, there are many true stories of such splits in church. I know of one church that split over whether or not to cut down an oak tree to make a bigger parking lot. Michael Tummillo, founder of TheChurch@Work, writes, “Over 3800 American churches close their doors annually throughout the USA. The reasons for these closures run the gamut: real or perceived pastoral incompetency, strife, infidelity in leadership marriages, lack of financial integrity, doctrinal discrepancies, power struggles, persecution, congregational distrust or dissatisfaction (only 43% of Christians surveyed say they fully trust their church), choosing sides on any issue, and more. It's no secret that church splits inflict damage upon the army of God.”

Its time for the church to get off the runway and get into the air. We need to stop letting the enemy tempt and distract us from our mission to worship God and tell others about His saving grace. We are not grounded, we are clear for takeoff!

For I am afraid that when I come I may not find you as I want you to be, and you may not find me as you want me to be. I fear that there may be quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, factions, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder. (2 Corinthians 12:20)

Finally, brothers, good-by. Aim for perfection, listen to my appeal, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you. (2 Corinthians 13:11)