A Vision: The Children... The Church
a time when the saints were gathered together with all the children (as usual)…
“See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse.” Malachi 4:5-6 (NIV)
K: Something that God wants to happen for all of us is that our hearts will be turned toward the children, and the children toward the fathers. One of the things that this has meant to me is not some sort of a superficial “Uh, Hi there Johnny...” (with a pat pat on the head and now I can get back to what’s “important”—but I am to really care about them as an eternal dweller, a fellow journeyer. I’m just a couple of years ahead of them which is practically nothing in the perspective of eternity. A few years on earth, even seventy years on earth, is next to nothing. One of the characteristics of Christ is to have a great love for children. They’re not insignificant. They are extremely important.
The ambient noise level may be slightly greater when they are all with us, but that’s okay. It’s good for the children to be with us. Sometimes we just may have to say, “Look, I’m working on training my child right now. I know he’s making more noise than he ought to be, but I’m working on it. Please bear with us.” There may be a time to walk out the door, too. But God has a way of working all things together. So, let’s look at tonight and children and gatherings as a very positive thing.
H: When a child, even a little baby, goes out the door with their parent, I almost feel like there’s a certain defeat in that. I’d rather as a family work those things out together. There might be a time where that would be necessary, but by and large, I want to be family. I’m not that interested in the Pharisaical heart in the disciples. “Get these children out of here! We’re trying to have a good meeting here.” Jesus said, “No! They deserve front row seats in all of this. Bring ‘em on! Let them come to Me, and we’ll suffer if we need to...Suffer them to come.” J
Now, about that passage in Malachi, I noticed something about Jesus’ first coming and the nature of the time of service of John the baptist. In the time of John the baptist, you really don’t notice a lot happening in the way of children and their hearts being turned to the Lord or to their fathers and fathers’ hearts being turned to the children. There is no recorded evidence of that actually ever being fulfilled. So even though John was the Elijah to come, I think the vast majority of what’s being talked about here is still waiting to happen.
In the end times and the times prior to the great and terrible Day of the Lord, there are many things that are going to happen. One very prominent issue might be signs and wonders. There will actually be a lot of different kinds of things. But considering all of those things there was ONE thing that God saw fit to mention in the closing sentence or two of what we’ll call the old covenant when He was saying, “Watch for what’s yet to come!” The salient quality of that...”Here’s how you’ll know that the end is near—the hearts of the fathers will be turned to the children and the hearts of the children to the fathers.” That’s not just a statement of “family life.” It’s a statement of relationship. There’s going to be a sensitivity in God’s people to see things that normally they would have brushed right by and had no heart for.
I’m not talking about family idolatry. What I’m talking about is sensitivity—“hearts turned towards.” Sensitivity to see what’s happening in this little life that just scooted by. Sensitivity to the little boy that just slipped on the steps and is lifting his hands up towards you because he has fallen in the snow and now has icicles between his fingers. There must be something in our hearts that’s going to turn towards that. Their crying is not going to be an inconvenience. It’s going to almost bring us to tears—sensitivity. A prominent quality of the last days—of a people prepared for the coming of the Lord—is to not see things the way we’ve seen them in the past anymore. Paths that are made straight. Arms that are strong and not hanging limp. Knees that are strong and steady on what would have been a shaky path. So, watch for that. But don’t just watch for that, repent if there’s anything in you that isn’t seeing things the way Jesus did. “Let them come!” Have hearts and hands that are extended to those children. Receive Him, the Lord, by receiving the children with that kind of sensitivity.
Of course, all this speaks of our relationships with one another because usually the children are the last things we see. Almost always, everything else tends to be more important to us. What some adult is saying is very important to us, but the children are sometimes the last thing we see. So if we’ve got the children right, we’ve probably got most everything else in order too. If we can SEE children, then we will probably be able to see other things in more refined and sensitive ways as well. If we can turn our hearts toward children who seem to be a little bit louder or a little bit out of the flow of what’s supposed to be happening in our mind, probably we’re going to have hearts for everything else, too.
If we really revere His Name and we’re looking for the Son of Righteousness to come with healing in His wings, then we also need to be watching for what’s going to happen in our hearts. We must prepare our hearts for what Jesus Himself wants to happen in our hearts before His return, to usher in His return. Prepare ourselves with simple things, not necessarily great exploits. Great exploits will come with the territory, but He does great exploits through compassion. He does great exploits through sensitivity to both the Father and the Father’s children. The power of great exploits is agape, and the children are a good test of where our hearts are.
Children, Listen Up
Children, some of you really need to draw close to your parents and look at your parents and love them. Jesus said, “If you love me, you’ll keep my commandments.” And so as you look at your parents, realize you are looking at people who love you and care for you. Do what they ask you to do because they love you. They’ve cared for you and they’ve done a lot of things for you, and they’ve paid a high price to take care of you. So be very kind to your parents, alright? Let your hearts be turned towards your fathers and towards your mothers. Not just your mothers, but your daddies too, okay??
No Blowing Smoke
J: Something that qualifies a man to be a shepherd is if he can raise his family well. If he can do that, then he can probably function in the household of God well. If he can’t function well in his family, then he won’t be effective in the church. If you can’t be sensitive to what’s going on in the heart and life of a child, then as much as you think that God has given you all this great wisdom to deal with the church, in reality, you probably won’t notice that someone over here in the corner is struggling. You’ll be busy expounding great truths or something and won’t even see what God is doing. It really is in God’s heart that we grow in sensitivity to the children. That’s what will train all of us to be sensitive in dealing in the house of God.
H: There’s a responsibility level in all of this that comes with the territory. Don’t allow anybody to blow smoke. If you see that in some way I’m abusing my children, then don’t let me sit here and talk about “great truths”, and then just keep right on going. There is no place whatsoever for any of us allowing any of the rest of us to blow smoke. So watch and pray. This isn’t just food for thought.
The Pharisees and the Scribes taught in riddles and taught in cerebral terms, but Jesus taught as one having authority. In times past, God spoke to the forefathers, through the prophets and in various ways, but now He speaks through his Son. And His Son speaks as one having authority! So, the issue has to do with putting into practice, not just acknowledging or racking up ideas. There has got to be a responsibility to that. If you see I’m irresponsible with my children, or if I see that you’re irresponsible with your children, let’s work together to refine our hearts.
Together, As Always
The pillar and foundation of truth is the ekklesia. The ability to build towards God has everything to do with the ekklesia. Not just a bunch of individuals racking up ideas, but the ekklesia of God allowing us to put into practice the Word of God, the pillar and foundation of truth. The support of truth has to do with God’s people together working out truth. And so we need each other to help one another apply truth. Don’t allow thinking that says, “Well, probably somebody else sees it and will say something...”
Please take responsibility to walk it out with brothers and sisters. We all need the encouragement and the admonishment. The Word of God is very useful for teaching and rebuking, for correcting, and for training. If we are not willing to apply the Word of God in one another’s lives, then it’s not really the Word of God. We’ve turned it into some sort of external kind of project. Please, let’s all help one another to apply the Word of God with love in our hearts and with wisdom. Don’t let smoke blow through the whole thing and turn it into just a theory.
D: Reading in Job has sensitized my heart in regards to listening to what younger people have to say and what impact they can have.
“So Elihu son of Barakel the Buzite said: “I am young in years, and you are old; that is why I was fearful, not daring to tell you what I know. I thought, ‘Age should speak; advanced years should teach wisdom.’ But it is the spirit in a man, the breath of the Almighty, that gives him understanding. It is not only the old who are wise, not only the aged who understand what is right. “Therefore I say: Listen to me; I too will tell you what I know. I waited while you spoke, I listened to your reasoning; while you were searching for words, I gave you my full attention. But not one of you has proved Job wrong; none of you has answered his arguments. Do not say, ‘We have found wisdom; let God refute him, not man.’ But Job has not marshaled his words against me, and I will not answer him with your arguments. “They are dismayed and have no more to say; words have failed them. Must I wait, now that they are silent, now that they stand there with no reply? I too will have my say; I too will tell what I know. For I am full of words, and the spirit within me compels me; inside I am like bottled-up wine, like new wineskins ready to burst. I must speak and find relief; I must open my lips and reply. I will show partiality to no one, nor will I flatter any man; for if I were skilled in flattery, my Maker would soon take me away. “But now, Job, listen to my words; pay attention to everything I say. I am about to open my mouth; my words are on the tip of my tongue. My words come from an upright heart; my lips sincerely speak what I know. The Spirit of God has made me; the breath of the Almighty gives me life.” Job 32:6-33:4 (NIV)
It speaks of the freshness that can come from youth. The freshness and the wisdom from a child who sat there and listened to these three wise older men counseling Job on all his concerns and his losses of his family and wealth and health. That whole conversation must have taken some amount of time, and Elihu sat there patiently and quietly. This youthful person, and we don’t know how old he was, was bursting inside because he had the Spirit of God within him to pour out his life. For Job to have the ability to listen to him was excellent. For Job to be able to hear the words from someone youthful was probably extraordinary humility.
To hear your son say, “Dad, are you sure you should have done that?” To be able to hear something simple like that from a child and let it pierce your heart shows great humility and softness before God. This dialogue we read about in Job really struck a chord in my heart as to the value of listening. It also reminded me of the perception that new eyes and ears have, and how we should let that affect our lives as we walk and talk with the children, whether it be your children or younger brothers and sisters in Christ.
H: Children, pay attention because we’re going to sing this song to you, okay? Listen very closely because we really mean this from the heart. And we want God to help us mean it even more.
“Children, let us be your servant. Let us be as Christ to you. Pray that I may have the grace to let you be my servant, too. We are pilgrims on a journey. We are brothers on the road. We are here to help each other walk the mile and bear the load. I will hold the Christ-Light for you in the nighttime of your fears. I will hold my hand out to you, speak the peace you long to hear. I will weep when you are weeping. When you laugh, I’ll laugh with you. I will share your joy and sorrow ‘til we’ve seen this journey through. When we sing to God in heaven, we shall find such harmony born of all we’ve known together of Christ’s love and agony. Children let me be your servant. Let me be as Christ to you. Pray that I may have the grace to let you be my servant, too.”
H: Earlier in the evening we were talking about God’s Heart for His people around the world. We were discussing that it is God’s idea that the gospel will go into all the nations and that His people would be strong and of one heart and mind and faith. To some it may have seemed like we were talking about two different things tonight. One topic having to do with the children and our hearts being turned to them in the last days. And then the other having to do with a vision towards a global thing that God wants to do also in the last days as it relates to wisdom and finding a unity and oneness amongst His people. What if the two things are the same? How are they connected? What if the key to being one as Jesus and the Father are one, is to be a son like He was a Son? What if the key is to love the Father and to love the children? What if the key is partly found in the sensitivity that we would use in loving our own children, the commitment we would have to loving them until they grow up? “Well, I’m sorry. You’re not growing fast enough for me. You’re not in my family any more.”
What if the thing that He’s wanting to teach us is that the two “topics” are really one? In the last days, God is wanting us to see the oneness and to see the unity, to see God spanning the globe with a unity and an agape. What if the ability to deal with the children in our midst is the barometer of our ability to receive what God is doing on the face of the earth? What if the two really are the same? Just something to ponder, huh? : )