…Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
— Matthew 19:14
How do you explain death to a child? Death is a difficult subject for anyone at any age. But it is especially difficult to explain to little children, which is one reason well-meaning adults sometimes make up fanciful stories to ease the pain. But without realizing it, these adults may find that they are like the ones Jesus rebuked, because their fanciful stories actually hinder little children from coming to the truth…from coming to Jesus.
Jesus loves little children! He singled out children for attention and affection, seated them on His lap, wrapped His arms around them, placed His hands of blessing on them, and rebuked misguided adults who sought to keep children away from Him.
I wonder…could you and I be hindering little children from coming to Jesus simply because we do not intentionally invite them to draw near to Him? Because with our adult words and adult ways we make it hard for them to come to Him? Is it possible that we may think they are too young to come to Him? Is the next generation being lost simply because people like you and me are neglecting our responsibility to make coming to Jesus easy and desirable for little children?
This unsettling thought has been reawakened by the writing and promotion of Jesus Followers: Real Life Lessons for Igniting Faith in the Next Generation. As I have participated in promotional interviews, I have heard the desperation of parents seeking answers and solutions. Again and again I have used the illustration of the 4 X 100 relay race that is won by the team that runs the swiftest and passes the baton the smoothest. As we run our race of faith, while gripping the baton of truth for ourselves as authentic Jesus followers, it’s imperative that we pass it smoothly to the next generation by our words and our actions.
But the 2016 Summer Olympics underscored another aspect of the race with which I wasn’t familiar. Our American men’s team was celebrating what they thought was the bronze medal when the scoreboard announced they had been disqualified because they had not transferred the baton within the passing zone. As I applied this to passing the truth that leads to faith in Jesus to the next generation, I wondered if the passing zone could be when our children are small and living within our homes. Certainly older children can also come to faith, but it can be harder to pass the baton to them, as many of you know.
Several years ago I wrote my first and only children’s book, Heaven: God’s Promise for Me. While the source is the Bible, I use whimsical poetry to describe what Heaven is like…how a young child can know for sure that it‘s his or her home and therefore have real hope for the future.
God used my three granddaughters to motivate me to write Heaven: God’s Promise for Me. They had gone through the loss of my beloved mother and their great-grandmother, Ruth Bell Graham. Her death was devastating to them and prompted many questions, some of which have no answers. But their mother—my daughter, Rachel-Ruth,—and I found that focusing beyond the grave helped ease their pain, comfort their fears, and enlarge their faith. Little did I know that this would be preparation for the sudden homegoing of my husband and their grandfather six years ago. Three years after he moved to Heaven, my father…their great-grandfather…moved also. Today, as I write this, I have received the shocking news that our dear friend and pastor, Ray Bentley, has gone to be with Jesus.
Three days after Pastor Ray’s death my daughter Rachel-Ruth had two back-to-back heart attacks that, without divine intervention, would have taken her life. I am so eternally grateful that I had led her to place her faith in Jesus when she was a child, and that she, in turn, had led her three daughters to place their faith in Jesus. Without question, at a moment of crisis, our trust in Jesus made all the difference. And the hope of being with Him in our heavenly Home lifted the burden of fear and grief.
Many of you, too, have experienced the death—or near death—of family members and friends during this past year, for which I am sincerely sorry.1 I believe Heaven: God’s Promise for Me will help you not only cope with your own grief, but also handle the difficult subject of death with the little ones whom you love. It is a simple, but effective tool for you to use in presenting the hope of Heaven. Yet even more than that, I pray it will help you be intentional about passing genuine faith in Jesus to the children to whom you read it. And that as a result, the children’s population in our heavenly Home will be dramatically increased! Rather than hinder little children from coming to Jesus, let’s take them by the hand, and lead them to the One who longs to gather them into His loving embrace now…and forever.
For His Glory,
1I have also written a book for adult readers, Heaven: My Father’s House, that may be an encouragement to you.
Bible Study: Jesus Loves Children
*In Mark 10:14, how did Jesus react to those who kept children from Him? What was His command?
*What was His warning?
Click here for the Bible Study especially developed for this newsletter.
On Saturday, January 8, a dear friend gave my family prime seats at the UNC men’s basketball game. I took this picture of Rachel-Ruth and her middle daughter, Sophia, at halftime. Within moments of this picture being taken, Rachel-Ruth began to have severe chest pains which were warnings of her two imminent heart attacks. The Holy Spirit, who is our Helper, was standing by to carry us through this crisis. How thankful I am that not only my daughter and my granddaughter, but every member of my family have placed their trust in Jesus. He walked through this valley of the shadow with us. A crisis is a crisis because it’s unplanned and unexpected. Put your trust in Jesus now so you will be prepared for whatever comes.
Friday morning, January 14, my daughter, Morrow, took this picture of Rachel-Ruth lying in her hospital bed as the sun came up. It was a visual reminder to…Sing of Your strength. In the morning I will sing of Your love; for You are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble. Psalm 59:16 A song of praise was in all of our hearts as she was released from the hospital that afternoon.
My dear friend and pastor, Ray Bentley, suddenly went to be with Jesus on January 4. One moment he was talking to his daughter; the next moment he was in Heaven, talking with Jesus. When I asked God, Why?, the Spirit seemed to whisper from Isaiah 57:1…The righteous perish, and no one ponders it in his heart…that the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil. Ray’s life and ministry were wrapped up in Biblical prophecy. I wonder…were his death and deliverance from this evil world a prophetic sign that Jesus is coming…quickly…at any moment…to deliver all of His children from this present darkness? I think so. The time is now to wake up! Clean up! Share the Gospel with young and old! Get ready to meet Jesus in the air!
The first week in December it was my privilege to speak once again to those gathered for United in Purpose. Nick Vujicic, a friend whom I had first met years ago. Along with my two daughters, Morrow and Rachel-Ruth, it was my joy to greet him once again.
This Easter…Give Jesus to A Child
Heaven is a real place. It’s where Jesus lives…a place He is preparing for those who love and trust Him. It’s a place of joy and love and hope—a place where all of God’s children, young and old, will live forever.
Engaging questions and Scripture references in the back of this book will help the reader reinforce the message that Heaven is God’s promise for each of His children. It’s a Home filled with love and joy and happiness—a place where we will be safe forever.
Anne’s inspirational words tell of the joys and comforts of Heaven in a beautiful rhyming text. Using engaging, familiar images, children will understand that Heaven is real and Jesus is waiting to welcome them there. This insightful, comforting book can be ordered as a board book for toddlers and as a hardback book that elementary children will enjoy. A special, personal keepsake is included in the back of the hardback book for children who RSVP to the heavenly Father’s invitation to live with Him forever.
“I can’t tell you how much your book has helped my children. My stepfather died this summer, and my four-year-old son kept asking if his grandfather was still in “the box”. It was so helpful to pull out your book and read it to him. And the visuals were amazing too. My son is excited about Heaven…knowing his grandfather, who was a believer, is there and that he will see him again one day. My 10-year-old daughter has also taken great comfort from your book. There is no fear for them.” —JG
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