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Who Is a Disciple of Christ?
“People will know that I am a follower of Jesus if I get caught doing good deeds,” says Emma, 8.
Being caught for doing good deeds?
That isn’t the way it worked at the elementary school I attended. But that’s the policy instituted at Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy where Emma attends. When students get caught for doing something good, teachers send them to the principal’s office. There they choose a prize from a treasure chest packed with all sorts of goodies.
The only thing I remember about visits to the principal’s office is the board. I treasured every instance in which I walked away from a visit without feeling the effects of that board when I sat down.
Anna, 7, says Jesus’ disciples will love people by “telling them about Jesus, giving stuff to poor people and making pictures for grandma, grandpa, sister, brother, mom and dad.”
Consider yourself blessed if a child draws a picture for you. Some of the greatest gifts I’ve ever received have been from young children who drew pictures for me at Kids Talk About God Arts Festivals. Whether the art is a masterpiece or simple stick figures, one thing remains consistent. Children’s faces always beam when they hand me their pictures.
Jesus had taught that the way up in his kingdom is the way down. That’s the direction Jesus went when he demonstrated how his disciples should love one another at the Last Supper. He started the evening by washing feet. Jesus performed a task normally reserved for servants.
At the Last Supper, the apostle Peter initially objected to the Lord washing his feet. Taking on the role of a servant is so contrary to the way we think, but it’s the way Jesus said people would know his disciples.
People will know you’re a disciple “by the way you act,” says Faith, 9.
“It’s what’s inside. More like your attitude. If you have a bad attitude, people aren’t going to think about you being a Christian.”
You can’t fake it. “A merry heart makes a cheerful countenance,” says the Proverb (15:13). Every face needs grace. Even a beautiful or handsome face can appear ugly if the heart is agitated or depressed.
I was amazed one day when the owner of a health food store I frequented asked me why I was always smiling. I didn’t realize my joy was showing.
“I try to help people as much as I can,” says Abby, 9. “I try to help my mom with dinner. I will feed my birds, also. My mom usually fixes salad. I help.”
Enroll in God’s Discipleship University by being faithful in whatever he gives you today. God honors faithfulness in small things by promoting us to greater opportunities to demonstrate his love. Think about this: Jesus demonstrated his love by offering his life as a sacrifice for the sins of the entire world. Jesus followed his Father’s will all the way to the cross so that we might receive eternal life by believing in him.
Memorize this truth: “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (John 15:13).
Ask this question: Would anyone accuse you of being a disciple of Christ?
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“Somebody STOP me! “ It was a line in a Jim Carrie movie that we’ve heard in comedy routines, and in everyday life. A more pertinent question is “Why don’t you stop yourself?”
Society today seems all too willing to accept the premise that any perpetrator of bad behavior is simply a victim, and it’s all someone else’s fault. Excuses are offered to those who seem unable or unwilling to control themselves. Drug addicts are given clean needles, because they are victims. The addiction made them do it!
I was recently a part of a program at a county youth detention center. It was heart-rending to see children who looked to be as young as eight or nine-years old, being detained as a result of sometimes heinous crimes. Others were there because no one, including themselves, could control them.
Singer Ray Charles once told the court that his drug addiction was not his fault- someone gave the stuff to him and showed him how to use it. Former D.C. Mayor Marion Barry, caught on tape using illegal drugs, exclaimed that the (woman) with him had ‘set him up‘. And on and on.
We also hear a lot about ‘anger management’ classes. Judges regularly sentence out -of -control miscreants to such classes. Strangely, I can’t seem to find any reports of success resulting from these classes. Could it be due to the fact that the person’s anger is not to blame, but that the root cause is their lack of self-control? I can’t find any evidence of ‘self-control’ classes.
My parents worked hard to instill self-control within us. They often told us that we need to strive to be in control of ourselves at all times. “You will be under someone’s control throughout your life, so you should make sure that person is you“. A child throwing a tantrum in a store needs to be taught that being out of control has consequences. When a parent takes control of the child and physically forces him to comply, it has less effect than when the child is taught to keep himself under control.
Many of the youth who are placed in anger management classes need consistent discipline, with sure punishment for failure to be under control. I was taught that people who live lives out of control eventually end up in a place where their lives are totally controlled by someone else-prison; where someone else controls when you lie down, when you arise; when you eat and sleep, exercise and when you see your loved ones.
The newspaper regularly announces meetings of a multitude of ‘support groups’. I am certain this service helps many people to come to grips with whatever their problem is, but, my research reflects that they often help people avoid confronting and taking control of areas of their lives that lack personal discipline.
The Bible warns us that, in the last days (in which many people believe we are living), self-control will be, well, out of control!
Second Timothy says, “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money…, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited… Have nothing to do with them.” Galatians lists self-control as one of the Fruits of the Spirit.
That dire warning seems to clearly describe what is happening today. I try to heed it by avoiding people and situations that are out of control. And, I purposefully practice self-control at all times.
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First Baptist Church Pastor Dr. Gary Hillard describes the call to prayer as an effort to call the community together for a unified, mass appeal for guidance from Jesus Christ.
“Our country and community have problems,” he said before hearkening to 2 Chronicles 7:14. “If My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
He went yet further in his explanation for holding the call to public prayer.
“First and foremost we believe prayer is what our community needs,” he said.
He also pointed out the many civic problems that can be addressed and healed by prayer. There are such matters as racial tension, police and community strife, troubled youth, poverty and many more such ills.
Although just 30 worshippers responded to the call to prayer, Hillard was not disappointed.
“We were hoping for a big crowd, and that is why we chose our parking lot,” he said. “But when the prayer warriors show up, God will show up and show out.”
The 30 faithful broke up into groups, with each concentrating on a separate cause for seeking God’s deliverance. Some prayed for the city government, some for an end to violence, some for law enforcement, some for the family, some about illegal drugs, some for local youth, some about unemployment, some for education, some for unity. It was a grand revival.
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The golden rule is still golden, but Je- sus went a step further when he spoke of loving your enemies. As Christina, 6, says, “If someone is bad to you, forgive them.” If you’re skeptical about showing mercy, consider the advice of psychia- trist Karl Menninger. He said the best way to
prevent a nervous breakdown is to find a needy person you can help. For those of us who have lived in a society influenced by Christian compassion, it’s difficult to imagine the callousness of a pagan society.
“Let there be a law that no deformed child shall be reared,” wrote Aristotle in his celebrated book
“Politics.” “We drown even children, who at birth are weakly and abnormal,” wrote Seneca, the Roman philosopher and contemporary of Jesus.
In India, I visited a Christian couple who started an orphanage for aban- doned and abused children. Some of the abused children came to the orphan- age because their parents intentionally maimed them so that they could beg more effectively on the streets.
Mercy identifies with the needs of others. It’s the reverse of selfishness and self-centeredness.
Kinsey, 11, provides a small example of identifying with the needs of others: “When somebody was out of paper, I gave them a few sheets of paper. Then when I was out of paper, they gave me a few sheets. And that was my way to obtain mercy.”
The foundation for Christian mercy is the fact that we’ve been forgiven a debt too large to calculate. For those who have received the forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ, there’s no room for bitter- ness or an unforgiving spirit.
Any wrong we’ve suffered from oth- ers is small compared to the debt Jesus paid for us on the cross.
Don’t worry about personal in- justices. God will settle all accounts. “’Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Romans 12:19). If you think God’s calling you to avenge yourself, you’re mistaken. If you suffer for righ- teousness’ sake, rejoice. If you suffer for some other reason, repent.
“Mercy means something that you don’t deserve, like if you’re in jail and the first day, you get out of jail,” says Marcus, 8. “This is mercy.”
Marcus, let’s go one step further. What if the judge who sentenced you to prison paid your fine?
Justice would be served, and you would be free to go. That’s what happened when God sent his son to pay the penalty for our sins. The way to heaven and fellowship with God is now open, but it’s not be- cause God’s justice has been compro- mised by his mercy.
“Blessed are the forgiving, for they shall gain kindness and gentle treat- ment,” says Billy, 10. I like Billy’s inter- pretation because forgiveness, kindness and gentleness are three faces of mercy.
While God’s grace toward us is based on his mercy, not ours, it’s also true that the merciful obtain mercy. Although God’s gift of eternal life can never be withdrawn, Christians who act unmer- cifully risk cutting themselves off from God’s blessings of mercy in this life and rewards in the life to come.
Think about this: Because you’ve re- ceived God’s mercy, be merciful or gra- cious to others. Memorize this truth: Matthew 5:7 quoted above.
Ask this question: Does the mercy you’ve received fr m God affect the way you treat others.
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I would slide down a rainbow. I would have a new baby brother. I would pet a lizard,” says Rebekah, 6. I didn’t realize petting a lizard required unlimited power. Move over, NASA. Here comes Michael, 6: “I would like to fly. I want to touch the sun. I want to fly past my house.” Michael won’t be the only one in the air:
“I would fly, make money grow on trees and free all the adults,” says Trent. Animals, beware if Hanah, 6, gets unlimited power: “I would change my dog into a cat. I would change my bird into a sister.”
No small stuff for Kagid, 6: “Build a rainbow, build a world, and make it rain.” Keep it simple and sober, says Danielle, 7: “No poor boys and girls, no lost cats and dogs, and no more beer.”
Does this mean no more beer commercials as well? Nathan, 8, said he’d “do math problems in one second and be done with homework in a half second because then I could play more.” Vicki, 11, would declare a national holiday “so everyone could get out of school.” Marshall, 9, goes even further: “I would make summer last forever because that’s the only season I like.” Seasons wouldn’t matter at all to Cory, 9: “Stay in bed. Don’t go to school. Watch TV all day.”
Cory, before television turns your brain into chicken noodle soup minus the noodles, take a tip from Lauren, 8: “I would want to go to school every day because I would still want to learn.” If given unlimited power, Kristin, 8, would help her parents: “I would give my mom whatever she really wanted. I would give my dad $100.” So Mom gets out her wish list while good old Dad is stuck with $100. Victoria says she wouldn’t waste her unlimited power on frivolous things: “If a boy or girl got hurt, then I will heal them. I would help God by watching people.”
Often, the hurts we suffer are more than physical, says Cory, 10: “I’d have my mom and dad back together because when I’m with one I miss the other.” Andrew, 8, has a plan for transformation: “I would clear the world of litter and sin. Then, I would make everyone like Jesus.” Andrew, I assume when you say “like Jesus,” you mean “transformed into his likeness.” Actually, that’s exactly what God wants to do with us, but he won’t force us.
The transformation begins with a new birth from within so that the desires of our hearts are changed. That’s why Jesus said, “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Notice it says “whoever believes.” We have a choice.
Consider some advice from Katie, 6, who chose “being with God” as one of her wishes. But don’t wait for God to grant you three wishes before you enter into a relationship with him. The power to fulfill this best of all possible wishes is already available. The Bible says, “As many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12).
Think about this: God has given you power to respond to his love by trusting in Jesus Christ as your savior. Memorize this truth: “For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required” (Luke 12:48). Ask this question: What are you doing with the power God has given you?
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Children don’t know about sin, and that’s why they go to heaven. Grown-ups know about sin, so they get a choice,” says Taylor, 8. Taylor, have you ever disobeyed your parents? No further questions. “You can learn more stuff as a child. A child is smarter than an adult,” says Hoss, 7. Most children learn at a faster pace, but this doesn’t make them smarter than adults. Hoss, God gave you parents to guide you. They know more than you do, and that’s a good thing. “I think it means that if you act like an adult, you think you’re too good. But if you act like a child, you would want to go to heaven,” says Grace, 10. An inflated sense of one’s goodness keeps a lot of people out of God’s kingdom. Jesus told religious leaders, “Tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you” (Matthew 21:31). Jesus turned everything upside down. Those who appeared to be the least likely candidates entered God’s kingdom before those who were sure they would be first in line. “I think Jesus meant we have to come to him like a child,” says Amanda, 11. “We don’t have to say special words. We need to be like a child and not talk fancy. Then, we can go to heaven.”
Fancy words, religious rituals and clerical garb may impress people, but they don’t influence God. He sees the heart. God knows we can deceive ourselves into believing we’re good enough to make the grade for heaven by our good works. Jesus is trying to send us a wake-up call so we won’t substitute religious stuff for the simple, childlike faith needed to enter his kingdom. “I think Jesus meant that you must humble yourself as a child does,” says Ally, 12. “He meant that you must be ‘born again’ and become like a kid with a new start. Or he could have meant that we must be like a child who trusts and loves his parents. We should trust and love God like that.” In a normal home, children survive by trusting their parents. Children don’t have the experience to make wise choices. Jesus came to Earth to tell us about a benevolent Father and a kingdom in which righteousness and justice prevail. Jesus declared that he is the only way into that kingdom. “Jesus meant that you will never get into heaven unless you truly believe that he died on the cross to forgive us,” says Grace Marie, 10.
Martin Luther said faith that results in being declared righteous before a holy God is like the hand of the beggar reaching out to receive a gift. Before God, we’re all beggars. The Lord Jesus offers us the gift of eternal life. We must receive his offer by the faith of an empty hand that offers nothing in exchange. Small children don’t have a problem receiving gifts. Every Christmas, we’re reminded of this.
This same capacity or humility carries over into the spiritual realm. Think about this: God wants to be your benevolent parent. You must come to the place where you receive his offer of eternal life with the humility of childlike faith. Memorize this truth: “Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it” (Luke 18:17).
Ask these questions: Have you entered God’s kingdom with childlike faith? If so, are you walking with God in childlike faith and wonder?
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People die because “God wants more angels,” says Katie, 6.
Though some people act like angels and others like the devil, angels are angels and people are people. With the exception of morticians, no one likes funerals. When we experience the loss of a friend or a loved one, it’s easy to forget that death is not part of God’s original plan.
“When Eve sinned and ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, God said, ‘Out of the dust you came, and back to the dust you will return,’” says Stephani, 11.
Don’t forget Adam. He ate, too.
Death for us does not mean we cease to exist. Death is separation from God. Most people associate death with the physical body, but death begins in our spirits.
Adam and Eve died spiritually before they died physically. The fellowship they once enjoyed with God was broken when they sinned.
Elizabeth, 12, says people die “because God has called them and wants to see them.” Or, as Kyle says, “so they can see God.”
According to Tiffany, 9, God might use some people as his eyes: “The reason people die is so we can go to heaven and watch over our loved ones.”
In the book of Revelation, there’s a snapshot of worship in heaven where 24 elders fall down before Jesus Christ with “golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints” (Revelation 5:8).
Maybe these bowls contain the prayers of Christians on
Earth as well as those already enjoying the bliss of heaven. Wouldn’t people in heaven have more incentive to pray for loved ones left behind?
Tiffany has more: “Another reason is so that we can be with Jesus. The reason Jesus stays in heaven is because if Jesus is earthly, then he can’t watch over everybody, but in heaven, he can.”
On the night before his crucifixion, Jesus told his disciples he was going away, but he promised he would not leave them alone.
He said he would send the Helper, the Holy Spirit. Jesus would do far more than comfort through the Holy Spirit. He would dwell inside them and live his life through them.
“Earth is just a place for us to get ready for heaven,” says Ben. “Maybe some people are ready to go to heaven before others.”
How do you know if you’re ready to go?
Listen to Rainey, 10: “I really don’t know why some people die before others, but the important thing is not what age you are when you die. It’s whether Jesus lives in your heart. If he does, you’ll live with Jesus in heaven forever.”
Rainey wrote this only a few months before she and her sister, Lacey Lipscomb, 8, went home to be with their Lord in a train crash in Bourbonnais, Illinois, on March 15, 1999.
Ten-year-old Rainey and her sister didn’t expect to see Jesus so soon, but they were ready. They now know more than ever the importance of having trusted the Lord Jesus with their eternal destiny.
Think about this: None of the people who went to work at the World Trade Center or the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001, expected it to be their last day on Earth. The Bible is clear that today is the day of salvation.
Memorize this truth: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
Ask this question: Is today your time?
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“I think love is being kind, helpful and caring for others , ” says Patrick, 7. “I once showed love for my mom when I agreed to go to her favorite restaurant after I tasted their food.”
That’s really love. I think I’ve eaten at the same restaurant.
“My mom shows love to me by packing my lunch every day and packing my snack,” says Grayson, 7.
All those delicious lunches and snacks. The least we can do is to take Mom to her favorite restaurant, even if the place could use a new chef.
While dining with Mom, don’t forget Dad, says Tyler, 5: “Love is my dad tucking me into bed.”
Remember to give love when Dad tucks you in, says Ephraim, 9: “Love is to me always sleeping with your favorite stuffed animal.” But it’s also “hugging your dad when he gets back from a long day at work,” he adds.
Let’s not overlook the obvious, says Meredith, 6: “Love is when my mom and dad go to work so I can have a place to live.”
What would happen if all the children who read this column thanked their parents for going to work today? Better yet, try showing your love by doing something helpful yourself, says Barbara, 6: “Love is helping my mom and dad in the garden.”
“Sometimes they are mean, but it is for your safety or you not showing respect,” says Rachel, 7. “There are five kinds of love: love for your parents, pets, toys, sisters and brothers, and the greatest one of all is God’s love.”
I’ve never thought of toys as one of the top five categories of love, but I suppose it depends on how you define “toys.” Adults have toys, too. They may cost more, but they’re still toys.
And we may indeed love them more than God, family or friends.
At age 7, Emily knows what brings moms and dads together: “Love is kissing. Love is hugging. Love is a heart. Love is a marriage. Love is spending all your time with someone. Love is great. Love is one of the best things in life. That is love.”
The earth would be a desolate place if dads and moms didn’t love each other and make sacrifices for their children.
“God gave us love so that we can show it to other people,” says Beth, 10. “The Bible says, ‘God is love.’ So, to know God is to know love.”
Beth knows a lot about God and his love. Beth, you’re so eloquent, the remainder of this column is yours.
“Love is kind. Love is patient. Love is in you and me. Your teacher is love when she helps you with your homework.
“God is love for he put us on this Earth. He gave us friends and family. Your brothers and sisters are love. Even if you get in a fight, you still love each other.
“I think God shows us love by providing pets that love us. I know my dog loves me, and I love him.
“Love is what’s on the inside. Don’t judge people by what they are wearing or how they look. That is love. Judge people by what’s on the inside.
“Love was in Jesus’ heart when he came to earth to die for us. Even if you were the only one on Earth, he still would have died for you. That is love. Jesus is love. Show love to other people so you can be like Him.”