Becoming Child-Like

This blog is adapted from a sermon I preached a few weeks after my daughter was born.

On 10 January 2016, my wife gave birth to our little Princess, Leona Mae. I had no idea that my heart would ever be able to love someone this much. My heart is exploding with praise and gratitude towards God—who am I that he would entrust my wife and I to take care of Leona? Today, I am proclaiming the word of God and I pray it encourages you all, but if I am honest with myself, it is also a type of love letter to my little 3.3kg Princess. I would ask for your forgiveness as I show pride in my child, however, I think it is a good reminder of the pride which God the Father has for each and every one of us. The love I have for my child is merely a glimpse of the love God has for each of us.

When I stare at my beautiful Princess Leona, I often wrestle between two thoughts, the first is how will I raise this child to become a faithful follower of Christ like her mother and I, and the second is that I know I must become more like her if I truly want to be a more faithful follower of Christ. This is a paradox—I want her to be like me and yet I know I must become like her.

Imitate Me, Put Away Childish Things
It may sound presumptious and arrogant to encourage another person to be like yourself, yet at the same time, it is necessary and Biblical. When I first became a follower of Christ, I imitated other followers of Christ, because I had no idea what I was doing. I had no idea what it meant to follow Christ. I was 20 years old and I knew nothing of what it meant to follow Christ. I looked up to a few of my peers in college, and I imitated their example. The showed me what it meant to pray, to read my Bible, to become baptised, to serve people, to worship together in a community, and so forth. Now that I am more mature in following Christ, I try to encourage others in these things, and I intend to encourage Leona in these things throughout her life as she grows up.

Paul says in Philippians 4.8–9: “Finally, brothers (and sisters), whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commenadable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Whatever you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”

Paul realized that he was a sinner, in fact he refers to himself as the greatest of sinners (1 Tim 1.15). Yet he also realized that because of Christ, he was lovely and righteous. He was simultaneously a sinner and a saint. And he was encouraging people to imitate the lovely things of Christ which were found in him. Paul knew that every good thing which came from him, was actually from Christ, and thus Paul could say, “Whatever you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” (Php 4.9)

It is with this heart, that I too want Leona to grow up in the example which her mother and I set before her. I pray that every parent has this heart. But this is not simply something for parents. Sometimes it is actually the child who must encourage the parents to follow their example.

Few things cause a person to grow up as quickly as having a child—something which became a reality for me on January 10th, when Sara gave birth to our little Princess Leona. When one becomes a father or mother, they are confronted with their childish ways, and you really must do away with childish things. How are we to do away with childish things? I have been married for 10 years, yet I still feel like a child. We just had our first born child, yet I still feel like a child. Will I ever not feel like a child? I will always feel like a child become I am a son of the heavenly Father. I will always feel like a child because Jesus himself tells me that if I ever want to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, I must become like a child.

Become Like These
When a person gets married, or when they have a child, they are confronted with the reality that the world does not revolve around them. The following passage has been preached on many, many occasions by countless preachers, because it is a message which we continually need to hear.

1 Corinthians 13:1-13

If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part; 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. 11 When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. 13 But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the[f]greatest of these is love.

When God became man, love perfectly entered human history in the form of a person. Love is a person, not an activity. (At this point, I suggest you re-read the text, but insert “Jesus” for every occurrence of the word “love.”) And love continues to enter history through the church as Christ is formed inside of us. (I suggest you re-read the text, but this time replace the word “love” with your own name, and say it as a prayer.) But why is it so crucial that love enter history today? Love must enter history today, because the world will never know salvation apart from the love of God proclaimed and demonstrated through the church. (Refer to Jesus’ prayer in John 17: may they be one, so that the world can know….)

Now that I am a Dad, verse 11 speaks incredibly loud to me. It screams at me. In a paragraph on love, Paul tells us to put away childish things. What are the childish things? The childish things are what cause me to be impatient, jealous, proud, selfish, etc. Now, Jesus tells us that we must become like children if we are to enter the kingdom of heaven….to be child-like and child-ish are entirely different. In the NT, a child was not given the status of honor we give them today, children were viewed as weak and helpless….if we want to enter the kingdom of God, it means recognizing our weakness and helplessness, and that only God is able to save us. We cannot do it on our own. I pray that each and every one of us becomes child-like.

My daughter acting perfectly child-like.

My daughter acting perfectly child-like.

An Hour in Hell

Welcome to Hell

Welcome to Hell

Some conservative Christians say, “If you get a tattoo, you will go to hell.” Well, I decided to go to Hell so I could get a tattoo! I should probably clarify that I simply went to a tattoo parlour named Hell Tattoo…I did not go to the netherworld!

I am writing this blog today so that I can describe what my tattoos mean to me, because I do not want to forget! I got them four days ago (10 March 2016), and I am very excited about them. I put a lot of thought into the design. I had considered a script font and a Biblical quotation, but I ultimately went with symbols instead, because the symbolism reminds me of so much more. I am sure the meaning will take on different significance over the coming years, but here was my thought process in designing it. (I came up with the concept design, but my tattoo artist, Charlotte, is awesome! I highly recommend her!)

Technically, it is three tattoos:

  1. An Arm Band
  2. A Cross
  3. An Arrow
My Tattoo...this was taken on day 1, I will re-post another pic when it is fully healed.

My Tattoo…this was taken on day 1, I will re-post another pic when it is fully healed.

On the Arm Band:

Arm bands are symbolic of mourning the death of someone. I have always loved the way solid arm band tattoos looked, so I have had a longing to get one for a while. I didn’t want to simply memorialize the dead with a solid arm band, however, at the same time, I know it is better to go to the house of mourning than the house of feasting (cf. Ecc. 7.2). As a follower of Christ, there are two death which I “mourn:” (1) the death of Christ, and (2) the daily death of myself. The biblical narrative describes that Satan bruised Jesus’ heal, but ultimately Jesus crushed Satan’s head. Thus, my arm band represents death, but death has no sting! (1 Corinthians 15.55; Hosea 13.14) I have purposely not allowed the arm band to be complete, the arm band does not connect! There is a negative space of a cross, showing that death was defeated by death! When I see my arm band, I remember that death was defeated by death, and that death has no sting, and no victory.

On the Cross:

But I did not want to simply leave it at that. The cross still has importance. I wanted the negative space from the band, to be placed on my wrist as a positive space. The negative space cross is surrounded by death, whereas the positive space cross is surrounded by life. Jesus tells each of us to take up our cross on a daily basis. Thus, I got the positive space cross on my wrist. Taking up my cross on a daily basis is far more than simply getting a tattoo on my wrist, this is simply one reminder to do this on a daily basis. I would say that there are really two kinds of death.

One death is a death of decay. It requires no added energy, this includes all types of death whether it be heart disease, cancer, homicide, or suicide. These deaths are all a type of decay. (It could be argued that these deaths require “energy,” but in reality they do not. The process of performing homicide or suicide may require “energy,” but the death is nothing more than decay.)

The other death is a death of taking up the cross, it is an active death. It is not a death of decay. It requires energy. The only energy which gives one the strength to die this death is the Holy Spirit. He energizes us for good works (cf. Eph. 2.10) This type of death has hidden within it life. “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.” (Luke 9.24) And as Paul says in Colossians 3.3, “For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” So even though Christ has defeated death by death, I still need to take up my own cross every day.

On the Arrow:

Why the arrow? Well, the arrow is very special to me. My last name, Fletcher, means “arrow maker.” And in Psalm 127.3-5, we read:

Behold, children are a gift of the LORD,

The fruit of the womb is a reward.

Like arrows in the hand of a warrior,

So are the children of one’s youth.

How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.

The arrow symbolizes my daughter, Leona, who was born just 8 weeks ago. There is a small circle in the middle of the shaft representing that she is my first daughter, but also representing that the arrow is broken—yet mended. She, like all of us, is a broken person. And in Native American culture (yes, I have some Native American blood), a broken arrow symbolizes peace (the true Native American symbol for peace would be a completely broken arrow which has not been mended). So, while I want my daughter to be a warrior (cf. Eph. 6), I also want her to live with the peace of Christ at all times. The arrow is pointed towards the cross (the armband and cross also represent a bow’s crosshairs and a bullseye) because I want her to always look to Christ in all things. Furthermore, an arrow must be pulled back in order to go forward, so even though life may feel difficult and as though you are being pulled backward, we are still called to aim towards Christ in all things.

On the Holistic Interpretation:

And hidden within all of this meaning, is a verse which strikes me to the core, “I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.” (1 Cor. 9.27) The three tattoos together represent that I am preaching the gospel to my daughter, and I do not want to play the hypocrite. I want to remember to live what I preach, lest I be disqualified. The only way I can do this is by meaning it when I say, “I die every day,” (1 Cor. 15.31) because truly, “To live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Php. 1.21) “Truly, truly I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” (John 12.24)

So, yes, some conservative Christians say, “If you get a tattoo, you will go to hell.” As I said already, I decided to go to Hell so I could get a tattoo! But in my going to Hell, it made me a more faithful follower of Christ, after all, Jesus went to hell for three days—I only had to spend an hour in Hell! No, I did not need to get a tattoo in order to be a more faithful follower of Christ, but for me, my tattoos continually remind me—by the grace of God and power of the Holy Spirit—of the things which I just wrote about, and because of that, getting my tattoos have helped me follow Christ.

The Foolishness of the Cross

1 Corinthians 1.18: “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”

 The best way to describe this is to use an allegory of stirring (thanks to St Augustine). Imagine taking a stick, and then using the stick to stir a cesspool, the resulting aroma will be a foul stench. Take the same stick (after you clean it!), and perform the same action of stirring, but this time stir a bowl of perfume and a beautiful fragrant aroma will rise. Both occasions witness the same action of ‘stirring,’ but a completely different result occurs based on the essence of the object being stirred.mud
I think that we can draw out the same conclusion from the actions of Christ. He is an eternal member of the Trinity who becomes a man born of the virgin Mary, to be tempted and live a sinless life, then condemned by the very people he loves, then to  experience death on a cross while proclaiming “Father, forgive them for the know not what they do,” then to rise from the dead thereby defeating death by death, and to then ascend into heaven so as to be seated at the right hand of the Father, to show that he was faithful to bring the plan of salvation to completion.
To the person that believes in the faithfulness of Jesus Christ, it is a sweet fragrance. To the person that does not believe in Christ’s faithfulness, this is the most ridiculous story ever concocted and Christians are to be pitied above all other people for they willingly take on the sufferings of Christ. But we who believe understand that we count it all joy to suffer with Christ, because we lay aside all worldly treasures so that we may know Christ and the power of His resurrection.
Are you willing to look foolish for the sake of following Christ?