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Sermon of the Week 
Tuesday, March 03 2020

Speaking of what you’re called, A man met a lady in line while boarding a plane and as they were talking, He asked her name to which she said, “my name is Jane. When she asked his name, he said, RaRaRa Fafafa  el. "Oh, I'm sorry, were you saying Rafael? No, it’s RaRaRa FaFaFa El…. Oh, I didn’t realize you had a speech impediment!" she says. "Oh no, as you can see, I speak just fine. My father who named me, was the one with the speech impediment…..

There is a question that asks, “where does a gorilla sit”? And the answer is “Anywhere he wants to”! Well when it comes to what God wants to call us, He’s not like the gorilla, He asks for our permission and our agreement, to allow His will to be done in our lives. He will not force us to obey, to submit or to agree….

Well, what God is wanting to call us, is found in ….

Matthew 18:3 “And Jesus said: "Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children again, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven”.

We like to declare that we are “Children of God” … but I want you to think about that for a moment. God wants to call us His “Children”….                             I guess this is one of those occasions, When little is God’s big…. And big things come in little packages… When John the Baptist saw Jesus, he said, “I must decrease that He might increase”!!!

Have you had the Holy Spirit tell you to buy someone’s lunch or pay for their groceries, or go over and talk to a stranger. That takes child-like faith to obey, when you don’t know the out come…. But you depend on   the fact that God does….                                                                                               If you know one thing, about children, it is that a little child is completely dependent on it’s parents, for housing, for food, a place to sleep, money for everything, for family and belonging and love…. In other words, for all its daily needs.                             

But there comes a time when every child longs for independence. To do what it wants, where it wants, when it wants, how it wants, and why it wants! (I’LL DO IT MY WAY)!!

Notice again, Matthew 18:3…. “Unless you change and become children again” Wow!

God desires to call us “Children” because it says of us, that we now choose to give up our independence from Him, and we come back to dependence on Him in all areas of our life.                                                               For us to understand that whatever we might do, He could help us do it better! To realize that no matter how wise we become, He is far wiser! To know that whatever choices we make in our lives, He can choose far better! To accept that no matter how much we know, He knows far more. Matthew 6:33” But seek first the kingdom of God (can I say it this way, as God would say it, “Children seek first the kingdom of God”) and His righteousness, and all these things are added unto you”.                                                                                        So, EVERYTHING is added to, the act of seeking first the kingdom of God, like a dependent child who knows its weaknesses, and vulnerabilities and runs to it’s parent or caregiver in time of need…..  

How much could be added to your life, which you long for, yearn for, which you dream of, that is all waiting to happen as you develop a child like, total dependence on the Lord? 

When Matthew 6:33 speaks to us about becoming “children again” in order to enter the kingdom of God…. it’s not talking about going to heaven when we die. 

The kingdom of God, is everywhere and anywhere that He is first, where He leads, guides, instructs, rules and has His way….as we prey throughout the day “LORD HAVE YOUR WAY, I PUT YOU FIRST, LET YOUR KINGDOM COME"!!!!

This year, in the new movie, "A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood." Starring Tom Hanks, we are reminded of the much-loved children's TV personality, Mr. Rogers….The film offers a powerful message of acceptance and understanding. No matter what the audience -- from CEOs, doctors, celebrities, students, educators, and everyone else, Fred Rogers' message was always the same: "You were a child once too." 

I quote from the film’s director….”Mr. Rogers wanted us to remember what it was like to be a child because he believed that in doing so, we could more fully experience and live out our role as a child of God."

(To which I will add, that's some good theology)!

One day the teacher asked her students to use the word "contagious" in a sentence. Sarah lifts up her hand and says, "Teacher, I’ve got one!! A cold is contagious!" The teacher was very happy. Tommy lifts up his hand and says, "Teacher, I have one... Yawning is contagious"... That’s pretty good Tommy!! Finally, Jimmy lifts up his hand and says,

"Oh... Oh... I got one... “The other day, my dad was on the computer and said that he won 100.00 when contagious finished first in the last race!!"

We all know that the openness and sincerity of a child is contagious, the joy and laughter of children is contagious, the passion of children is very contagious….Children are constantly learning, and forever curious.      They aren’t afraid to ask questions, and little children are pure and unpretentious… They feel deeply and they love openly and honestly….

And Jesus said “we need to become children again”…..

During the reign of Lord Oliver Cromwell (1653–1658), the British Government began to run low on silver for coins. Lord Cromwell sent some of his treasury officials throughout the area to see if they could find any more silver. After visiting the cathedral, the investigators reported the following to Cromwell: "The only silver we can find is in the statues of the saints standing in the corners of the church." To which Cromwell replied, "Good! We'll melt down the saints, get them out of the church and put them back into circulation!"                                         

Now that's more good theology!

LORD, MELT US DOWN, INTO CHILDREN AGAIN, MAKE US CONTAGEOUS, AND GET US BACK IN CIRCULATION!

The priority of the children of God, is not to cram silver-coated saints into the corners of elegant cathedrals. Our priority is to put real, live, God chasers into circulation throughout society. The priority of practical Christianity is to make persons from every walk of life " into children of God again"

We may do many things and as a result, we are often labeled by what we do… (fireman, policeman, military personnel, housewife, teacher, student, etc,) but Jesus tells us that no matter what we may do it is important to be known as, “the children of God”….

Philippians 2:7 “but He made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a servant..”

Isn’t it interesting that when Jesus told the disciples to become children again, they were arguing about who was the greatest in the kingdom!

In Jesus day, A child was a person of no importance. Childrenhad no place in the hierarchy of authority and decision making. And Jesus said, 'You need to become as little children, unconcerned about social status or taking positions above one another.                                                                  That’s a difficult thing for adults. We all want to be respected. We all want people to look up to us. We even begin to measure others by our own preferences and likes and dislikes. But Jesus calls us to be socially unimportant, (or to not have social standing as something of great importance to us) like a child.

If we are honest, we spend most of our childhood trying to grow up too fast. We don't want to be children, children have to be obedient, do what they’re told, do their homework before having fun, do their chores, and put up with brothers and sisters while having a good attitude, YUUCCKKK! Who wants to be vulnerable, and powerless, like a child?

When all the responsibilities of ruling the kingdom of Israel, were placed upon Solomon, in 1 Kings 3:7, His first words to God in prayer, were, “Now, O LORD my God, you have made me king instead of my father, David, but I am like a little child who doesn’t know how to go out or come in”. With an attitude like that, God highly exalted him and made him great in every way, giving him wisdom above that of his fellow man….

I also think of Matthew 18:4 “Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 And whoever welcomes a little child like this in My name welcomes Me”. 

Children fall down, they make mistakes, they mess up and make a mess, and God is saying that how we treat one another will be rewarded when we do it as though we did it unto him. Wow, I mistreat you, I’ve just mistreated Jesus. 

WE honor God’s children because we honor God’s potential in them, His favor on them, and the gifts He is developing and growing in them…. As God’s children we are part of the support group of the family of God, and we are under His watch and care. We don’t shoot at our wounded, and we don’t throw the baby out with the dirty bathwater. 

In one of comedian Woody Allen's routines, he receives a telephone call from a man who says, "We want you to make our Vodka commercial for a magazine." Woody Allen replies, 'I'm afraid I can't do that. I don't drink, and if I did it wouldn't be vodka. It would be dishonest for me to do the ad. I can't be hypocritical." The voice on the other end replies "There's fifty thousand dollars in it." So Woody Allen says, "I'll think about it. Let me call you back."

Then he goes to his Rabbi for counsel. "It definitely would be morally wrong for you to do the ad," the Rabbi advises him. Hearing this, Woody Allen calls the man back and says, "Sorry, I can't do the ad." Three weeks later he sees a magazine ad in which his Rabbi appears, holding up a glass of the vodka”.                                               Well, sounds like the Rabbi didn’t have a problem with the vodka as long as he got his 30 pieces of silver….. like Judas. 

Galatians 6:1 instructs us: “Brethren, even if a man is caught in any fault, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, each one looking at yourself, lest you too be tempted.”

Notice that the measure of your spirituality here, is your desire to restore one another, instead of discarding and rejecting one another. If you carry grudges, unforgiveness, I.O.U’s, and are always putting others down and criticizing them….. Don’t take my word for it…. Galatians says you’re not a spiritual person…..SO, STOP IT!!!! 

Don’t be like the church greeter who was fired because he kept asking folks if they wanted the smoking or non-smoking section…

Jesus put it straight, “Take the log out of your own eye, so you can see to take the splinter out of your neighbor’s eye”…..

He told the Pharisees, “He that is without fault, cast the first stone”, and they dropped their rocks and left the quarry !! (the quarry is where you dig for rocks) So, get out of the quarry, and stop digging up rocks to throw!

The Lord’s prayer is clear, that forgiving others is the outflow of being forgiven. So apparently, the problem with not forgiving others stems from the fact that we haven’t forgiven ourselves, even after we have been forgiven….. I believe unforgiveness is a spirit that is sent to torment us until we finally realize we don’t have to put up with it anymore, and decide to not be tormented any longer!

We need to let go, and become as little children again!

I’ve discovered that with children, there is usually no grey, everything is black and white….. A little girl was attending a wedding for the first time, and she whispered to her mother, “Why is the bride dressed in white?”

Oh, the mother replied, ‘Because white is the color of purity, and the bride is giving all her pure love to her groom. It is bright representing happiness, and today is the happiest day of her life.’ The girl thought about this for a moment then said, “So why is the groom wearing black?” (you think children aren’t watching?)

Another reason we are given that we treat each other with respect (even those who have wronged us) is because Matthew 18:10 “their angels do always see the face (or the desire) of the father in heaven” Wow, that’s also a huge incentive to become as a little child… Angels are bringing the desire of the father to His children. We should just back off and let the angels do what they do, and fulfill the desire of the father towards the very ones we are having a struggle with….Scripture says “pray for those who spitefully use you”…. Amen? Let the angels do it!

What if we start a personal campaign that is not about catching people in faults, but catching them being good, doing good, serving, helping and encouraging!!! I truly believe that God likes to catch people being good!!! Applaud that, spotlight that, talk about that!!!                              

There is an account in scripture where we see this happening in the life of Peter. He was willing to serve the Lord as a trusting child, in the face of his enemies…. 

Acts 12:6 “The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance. v7 Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. “Quick, get up!” he said, and the chains fell off Peter’s wrists. v8 Then the angel said to him, “Put on your clothes and sandals.” And Peter did so. “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me,” the angel told him. v9 Peter followed him out of the prison, but he had no idea that what the angel was doing was really happening; he thought he was seeing a vision. v10 They passed the first and second guards and came to the iron gate leading to the city. It opened for them by itself, and they went through it. When they had walked the length of one street, suddenly the angel left him. v11 Then Peter came to himself and said, “Now I know without a doubt that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from Herod’s clutches and from everything the Jewish people were hoping would happen.”               I believe Peter was praying for the church and his enemies, when God sent his angels. 

A little girl, was dressed in her Sunday best, and she was running as fast as she could, trying not to be late for church. As she ranshe prayed, ‘Dear Lord, please don’t let me be late! Dear Lord, please don’t let me be late!’ And while she was running and praying, she tripped on a rock and fell, getting her clothes dirty and tearing her dress. She got up, brushed herself off, and started running again, and she prayed, “Dear Lord, don’t let me be late, and don’t let that old devil of guilt and accusing, push me down again!

Life bruises us and hurts us so we no longer Give Unqualified love and we stop learning and growing, and start camping in what used to be.

And we become adults!!! We get bored with flowers, bugs, sunsets and the shimmering fingers of light dancing on the surface of the ocean.          

     This sinful world is dedicated to knocking us down and beating and wringing out of us, our tenderness of conscience. Our openness about emotions and feelings. Our Creativity and imagination. Our Wonder, awe, Joy, and Eternal hope. It steals from us our Playfulness and humor, our Trust, our Boundless exuberance and energy. Our quickness to forgive and accept, and seeing the best in life and other people.                             

     We become jaded and disinterested. Adults hold grudges, hang on to their fears, and just stay angry. Adults refuse to forgive and remember every injustice and offence done, and who did it. They lose hope because their hopes have been dashed and destroyed so many time. Adults do things “because they’ve always been done that way” and have trouble imagining anything different than how it used to be and how it was.

Most of the time, Jesus didn’t act very adult, compared to the long faced scribes, pharisees, and priests. He was full of the wonder of life, hope for humanity, and the glory of creation.

Jesus lived with an insatiable love for life, love of God, and a love for the human potential and possibilities. And this love was contagious.

People who saw how Jesus lived began to experience a revolution in their thinking and world view. 

Jesus constantly showed to all of those around Him, how the Father intended all people everywhere to live. 

In other words, those who begin to live life like Jesus are those who see God’s presence and glory everywhere they are, in everything they do. They let God take control, and they see what can happen when He has His way.

They begin to see the rule and reign of God unfold in their own life, with all its beauty, majesty, glory, and creativity. This is what Jesus Himself lived, and this is what Jesus invites all of us to live, as we become children of God again!                                                                                                                                                            “Except you become as little children, you will not enter the kingdom”….    Matthew 23:11 “The greatest among you shall be your servant. v12 Forwhoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted”.                         Let us pray in closing….                                                                                                                                                          Lord, we open ourselves to the fullness of Your wisdom and guidance. We receive the knowledge we need at this time in our lives that we might serve You and serve those around us. Our greatest desire is that we may bring glory to Your great Name.  Forgive us for the times we have taken Your presence for granted on our path to growth and development. Make us more aware of the One who made all things and holds all things together. Help us to become children again.

No matter what has happened, I know that beginning today, it can be different. Give me an understanding heart, that I may see the precious lives that you treasure all around me. Lord we cry out in behalf of the people, around us, that their eyes may be open to Your truth so they might receive Your mercy and forgiveness. Help us, that as we walk in love, You would shine through us to dispel the darkness, so that all can come into Your transforming light. 

Father, You are able to bring forth every kind of good fruit and bring our loved ones, friends and neighbors into the peace of mind and spirit, they so long for. Bring this city to revival and restoration. May we be strengthened with Your glorious power so we have the endurance and patience we need, to enabled us to share in the inheritance that belongs to all Your people.  Shine through us and may Your light never dim. Christ with me, before me, behind me, in me, beneath me, and above me. Christ on my right, on my left, when I lie down, and when I rise up. To Him be all the glory,  In Jesus Name…   

Blessing……“May the Lord visit you like Noah, Protect you like Daniel, Heal you like Naaman, Favor you like Moses, Prosper you like Isaac, Grant you wisdom like Solomon, Anoint you like David, Answer you like Elijah, Use you like Paul, Intervene for you like Esther, Fight for you like the Israelites, Bring you forth like Jacob, and Deliver you like the three Hebrew children. May He preserve and prosper you as Job, Give you the world view of Isaiah, Overwhelm your enemies like Gideon, Make a way for you like Joshua, and Fill you with His Spirit like the 120”

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