Kingdom Children In God’s Embrace
  By Kim Butts

    "He took a little child and had him stand among them. Taking him in His arms, He said to them, ‘Whoever welcomes one of these little children in My name welcomes Me; and whoever welcomes Me does not welcome Me but the one who sent Me’" (Mark 9:36-37).

    "People were bringing little children to Jesus to have Him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, He was indignant. He said to them, ‘Let the little children come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.’ And He took the children in His arms, put His hands on them and blessed them" (Mark 10:13-16).

    Jesus clearly taught us how He feels about children. The Scriptures above are the only two recorded passages where Jesus ever took anyone into His arms, and on both occasions it was children. Mark recorded these tender acts of the embrace of God for us to understand some very important things about children, and about His kingdom.

Welcome Little Children

    In Mark 9, Jesus spent some focused time training His disciples. After teaching the servanthood principle of the last shall be first, He punctuated His point by taking a small child into His arms and pointedly telling them that whenever they welcomed such a child, they were, in effect, welcoming Him. Young children are often considered to be the least or the last in the chain of importance. Yet Jesus, in His typical fashion, gave His disciples another lesson about the kingdom of God, continually teaching them the importance of humility and serving in such a kingdom, where children are valued and equal in the sight of God.

    In order to make this teaching relevant for our culture today, it is important to remember that God is the same yesterday, today and always. He has not changed His position on the importance of welcoming children. Yet, we struggle to do so because children are unpredictable and "messy." God desires to touch, change, transform, bless and shape His people, no matter what age they happen to be. Children are not affected by the position of influence, wealth or status of the person who loves them. They only know that they are cared for and cherished as God’s grace is lavished upon them through a loving act, such as an embrace or words of blessing. And, when we welcome little children, we are, according to Scripture, welcoming Jesus Himself.

Bring Little Children and Do Not Hinder Them

    It is interesting to find that shortly after the Lord taught His disciples about the importance of welcoming children, they display their lack of understanding again. Perhaps trying to save Jesus the "aggravation," they attempted to turn away those who were bringing children to be touched by the Master. How quickly we forget His patient, yet earnest teaching. It may be that we are simply convinced that children do not hold a position of equal importance to adults. This glaring bias is reflected in how we look at the spiritual nurturing of children. If we have learned the lesson that welcoming children is also welcoming Christ Jesus, would we be so quick to give them a back seat in spiritual development in our homes and churches? Saved children are joint heirs with Jesus, just as adults are.

    One cannot be touched by Jesus without being blessed and changed. Take for example, the situation of the woman who had been bleeding for twelve years. She "knew" that all she had to do was touch the hem of Jesus’ garment and she would be well. This is great faith – childlike faith! In the same way, His touch releases the power of God to transform our hearts. The adults who brought children to Jesus knew that one touch from Him would forever change their children’s young lives. Can you imagine being one of the children Jesus held in His arms and blessed? Wouldn’t it have been interesting to follow them through their lives to see how God shaped their hearts and used their lives for His kingdom purposes?

    As parents, it is our responsibility to bring our children to Jesus. Failing in this sacred duty is to disobey Him. We hinder our children every time we do not take time to nurture and strengthen their child-like faith. Do you have family devotions in your home, or simply family commotions? John Wesley recommended that family worship and study take place twice daily, morning and evening. His suggested format included family prayer, Psalm singing, Bible study in which a parent would read and explain a passage of Scripture and the children would explain it back to the parent, singing the Doxology, a benediction given by a parent, and then a blessing of children in Jesus’ name. The blessing included laying hands upon the head of each child and was to occur no matter how badly a child may have behaved that day. How far the average home has strayed from anything that looks even vaguely like this pattern. If you knew that by not drawing your child’s attention to Jesus daily, you were in effect, keeping them from experiencing His embrace, would the spiritual habits of your home change?

Receive the Kingdom Like Little Children

    Jesus clearly said in Mark 10:14-15 that the kingdom of God belongs to little children, and that whoever "will not receive the kingdom like a little child will never enter it." Children have an openness and receptivity that allows them to receive the kingdom of God as a gift. It cannot be earned and it is given freely. They believe it and do not doubt. Jesus wanted His disciples, then and now, to understand that truly, the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Because of the cross, Jesus brings God’s kingdom to us, at this moment. As one person has written, "A part of our task, as outposts of the kingdom of God on earth, is to be actively praying that the reality of God’s kingdom rule, which is now perfectly manifest in heaven, enters our earthly situations." Does your family experience God’s kingdom in your day-to-day lives? Do you pray that what happens in heaven also happens on the earth? God wants to touch, shape and transform our lives for His kingdom purposes – now! We are His hands and feet, and He desires us to receive His kingdom with simple, childlike faith so that His will is accomplished in our lives, homes, churches, communities and world.

    The reality of God’s kingdom has been said to be "now, and not yet." We know that we will never know the fullness of this truth until we reach heaven; however, we do know how Jesus lived His earthly life. By seeking Christlikeness, we can be transformed day by day through acts of simple obedience to the Word of God lived out in and through us. Are you teaching your children to live like Jesus? Do you love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul, mind and strength? Do you love your neighbors as yourselves? Are your children learning how to obey their heavenly Father? As a family, are you growing in faith? Are you serving the poor and marginalized people in your community? Is prayer a continual activity throughout the day? Do your children know that God loves them without condition? Do they know that about you, as you live a Christlike life? Take time to carefully consider how the answers to these questions affect your family. What needs to change so that Jesus is lived out in you…and in your children?

Bless Little Children

    From the time my son was very young, I made it a practice to lay my hands upon my son’s head and speak a blessing over him. Normally I used a modified version of the Aaronic blessing in Numbers 6:24-26: "The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn His face toward you and give you peace." Perhaps this is the very blessing used by Jesus in Mark 10. As God’s Word instructs us, and as John Wesley indicated, the blessing should always be done in the name of Jesus. I am thankful that no matter what kind of a day David or I had, and no matter if he had been scolded, or I had been angry…we were able to extend and receive expressions of forgiveness and love to one another through this precious time of blessing. I believe God desires such close contact with us as well. He wants to bless and transform us into the image of His Son. He loves us more than any earthly parent could ever love a son or daughter.

    The laying on of hands is significant in both the Old Testament and the New. Aside from blessing (Gen. 48:13-20; Mark 10:16), this act was used to commission a person for a new responsibility (Num. 27:23; Acts 6:6, 13:3; 1 Tim. 5:22), to transfer guilt from sinner to sacrifice (Lev. 1:4), imparting of spiritual gifts (Acts 8:17, 19:6; 1 Tim. 4:14; 2 Tim. 1:6), and for healing (Acts 28:8; Mark 1:41). God wants us to know how important the act of laying hands upon another person is.

    What would happen if you began to lay hands upon and bless your children every day in the name of Jesus? I know what happened in our home. When David was about four or five years old, he began to put his hand on my head and bless me back. When I would forget the blessing, he would remind me, even if it meant a phone call (we did long-distance blessing when necessary). Perhaps the most significant memory I have, which cemented the importance of blessing children, was when my adult child, on the night before his wedding, came into my room to be blessed one last time before he began his married life. I know he will bless his own children, because I know the impact it had upon his life. "Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who finds great delight in His commands. His children will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed" (Psa. 112:1-2).

Jesus Has Plans for Your Children

    Jesus used children to teach His disciples, and even called His followers of all ages "little children." Such an endearment, used multiple times in Scripture, should give us a clear picture of the way God thinks of those who are inheriting His kingdom. God desires our wholehearted, faith-filled trust and obedience. He longs for us to come to Him unhindered by worldly pursuits and adult constraints. Take some time to learn about Jesus from your children. How do they see Him? What do they believe about Him? What does His voice sound like to them? Do they trust Him to keep His promises? Do they think He will watch over them, heal them, strengthen them and comfort them? If they have doubts, why? Are you doing your job to train them up in the way they should go (Prov. 22:6)? If not, why not? Are you too busy? Are you expecting a Sunday school teacher to do that for you? Think carefully about the stewardship of your children. Jesus took children into His arms, put His hands on them and blessed them. Do you do this with your own children?

    Jesus wants to use Your children for the sake of His kingdom on this earth so that many other people will be drawn into His forever kingdom in heaven. Take time to bring your children to Jesus.

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