Entering by the Narrow Gate

One of the cultural differences I am trying to get used to here is how the homes in Guadalajara use high security walls and heavy-duty locks and bolts on all of the doors and gates. There is only one house on my street that does not have a security wall and only a few others that even have visible yards, visible only through grated fences. Doors here do not have latches; they only have locks. Every time I leave my house, I have to unbolt the door with a key and then bolt it again from the other side. The bolt is four inches long so this can be annoying if I am running late, but I guess taking those kinds of safety measures is important here.

Recently, at a Bible study, we were studying the concept of the narrow gate in Luke 14. In response to the disciples’ question about if only a few people will be saved, Jesus tells them to strive to enter the narrow gate. Many will seek to enter it and not be able to. Matthew 7 says that few even find it because the path and gate leading to destruction are broad while the way to the narrow gate is hard. In the study, we were asked what could be so hard about entering through a gate or a door and what insight this could give us about why it is difficult to enter into the kingdom of heaven. Some of the reasons we discussed were that other paths or gates might be more attractive, that people are not really seeking the door, that people give up because the way is hard and there are so many other people trying to get in, etc. Luke 13: 25 gives another option I had not really considered before; the master of the house gets up and shuts the gate. This seems kind of harsh. After all, doesn’t God desire that all be saved and live with Him forever? Part of the problem for me in understanding this aspect of Jesus’ word picture is that, in my cultural understanding, I realized I had been thinking of the gate as being more like a toll booth on a road to enter a city (heaven). I know that heaven is free, so maybe not a toll booth, but I still picture the gates of a city being opened to anyone who wants to travel that way. However, when we read further and find out about the master and the feast he has prepared, the gate is actually the entrance into the master’s home. In Mexico, when someone hosts a party, they have to keep going out to the gate to let each new arrival in (and sometimes out). It takes up a lot more time this way, especially because guests sometimes arrive so late, but it is the only way to keep the house secure. Another benefit is that this way the host gets to personally greet each guest.

Further on in the passage, people knock on the door, asking to be let into the feast. The master has already shut the door and replies that he does not know them. Of course he will not open the door to strangers! He is the master of his house and responsible for its care and the care of the guests who have come. They quickly answer that they do know him, they have been with him eating and drinking and they had heard his teaching. He replies firmly that he does not know them and sends them away. Many people are seeking after heaven and may even realize that Jesus is the way to enter heaven, but they do not know the Master. It is not about having what is necessary to pay a toll. It is not good enough to have heard Jesus’ teaching and know that He is the gate by which we enter heaven. We must be known by the Master and have a relationship with Him. We do not need to have the right key because we are not the ones opening the door, but we must know the Master of the house to be His guest.


As the Trees Change…

As the weather begins to change slightly (unfortunately, I only know that the trees are changing in Virginia from Facebook pictures), I find myself missing little things from home. It is not an overwhelming homesickness, but a subtle kind of reminder that I am not at home. I miss American yards with lots of grass and open space for relaxing and playing together outside. I miss having my mom’s dinners ready to eat as a family when I come home from work. I miss having plenty of craft and fabric supplies at my finger tips for making things to decorate my room or give as little encouragements to my friends. And, though I usually prefer spring to fall, I am really missing hiking in the Blue Ridge when the trees are turning and the weather is getting cooler so that you need a jacket. These are some of the little things I miss. The big things; my family, my friends, my church, are thought of more frequently and I wonder what changes will have happened in them by the time I return and how that will affect our relationships.

But the good news is that I have made it half way through to Christmas break! We have two bimesters in the fall, each nine weeks. The first one ended on Friday. Changes in the weather (and a prompt during a Bible study) have also made me think of the changes which have taken place in me. Last week, my housemate casually mentioned that she might be moving to another apartment in order to help out a friend who needed someone else to help pay the rent. I was surprised and a little sad. I will miss sharing the house with her and hanging out with her as we just relax at home. But I am also happy for her that she will be able to help out another friend and possibly get a less expensive living arrangement. This is not how I would have reacted a few years ago! I would have taken it personally, been hurt that a housemate was leaving me for someone else, and been worried about who really loved me and how I could hold onto my friends. I am so thankful for how He has changed me! My identity is less in how well I am loved by people than it used to be. Of course, I know I should have my identity in Christ. I have to put a lot of effort into reminding myself to have this attitude and not become too self-centered, especially when it comes to friendships. However, this little test helped show me that it really was my heart attitude at that moment. It is so good to look back on things of the past to see how far we have come and to remember who helped us make the journey.

Tell the Coming Generation

Recently, I have been thinking about if there is a method for teaching children prescribed in the Bible and what that method might be. Sometimes, it seems like the Bible has very little to say about children specifically and at other time, I feel like the whole idea of the Old Testament is that parents must teach their children about the Lord. When they do not, a generation grows up without knowing the truth, and all kinds of evil happens because of the ignorant generation. This week I am slowly going through Psalm 78 and meditating on it. Here are the first 8 verses.

Tell the Coming Generation

A Maskil of Asaph.

Give ear, O my people, to my teaching;

incline your ears to the words of my mouth!

I will open my mouth in a parable;

I will utter dark sayings from of old,

things that we have heard and known,

that our fathers have told us.

We will not hide them from their children,

but tell to the coming generation

the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might,

and the wonders that he has done.

He established a testimony in Jacob

and appointed a law in Israel,

which he commanded our fathers

to teach to their children,

that the next generation might know them,

the children yet unborn,

and arise and tell them to their children,

so that they should set their hope in God

and not forget the works of God,

but keep his commandments;

and that they should not be like their fathers,

a stubborn and rebellious generation,

a generation whose heart was not steadfast,

whose spirit was not faithful to God.

(Psalm 78:1-8 ESV)

At all costs, the next generation must be told about what the Lord has done and what He requires of us. His past actions and commands must be constantly spoken of and reviewed with children so that they will understand them and act in that understanding. What is most astonishing about this passage is that God must be magnified in the children’s eyes even at the parents’ expense. The Israelites were supposed to talk about their own failures and the failures of their fathers in order to magnify the Lord and keep their children from making the same mistakes.

I decided to do a word study (kind of) and looked up as many verses as I could about children in the Old Testament. There were about thirty references that deal with teaching children. It was a little difficult to figure out when the passages were specifically talking about young children and when they were talking about descendants of any age, but maybe we do not actually need to differentiate so much after all. Many references are similar to this psalm and are direct commands that the parents must teach the children about the ways of the Lord. In Genesis 18 it even says that Abraham was chosen so that he would instruct his children and their children in the way of the Lord. The one chosen to begin the nation which would be a channel of the gospel was chosen with the purpose that he would teach his children and descendants well. Multiple verses also specify that parents needed to pass on instruction and the wonderful deeds of the Lord because the children did not see the miraculous deeds of the Lord with their eyes. The parents had a responsibility as eyewitnesses to pass on the information about the amazing things the Lord did in their presence. This reminds me of the way that the eyewitnesses of the resurrection were supposed to share the good news with others who had not seen.

Most of these passages do not talk about specifically how one should teach children, but that one should teach children. Maybe part of this is because the responsibility was to teach your descendants, not just young children. Scripture does not specific a time or age when training in the Lord’s law ended. However, several passages to address possible methods. For example, Joshua 4, Deuteronomy 29, and I Kings 9 all give the specific instructions with a command to teach. God uses children’s natural curiosity to teach them. All of these passages give parents instructions to do something or to set up a certain memorial. Not if, but when the child asks what the meaning of the memorial or ceremony is, the parent is to explain how God worked. When we teach children, we should answer their “why” questions! I realize that is not always possible because children are very imaginative; however, many questions can be answered if they are simply stated without excessive technical explanation. Another method talked about in scripture is in Deuteronomy 6. This familiar passage again commands parents to tell their children about God’s ways and his commandments. How are they to do that? They are to talk about them at every opportunity, whether that is in the home, on the way to or from someplace, at bedtime, or at breakfast. There were to be tangible reminders all over the house and God constantly was to be the topic of conversation in everyday life, not just at certain sacred times. And finally, children joined their parents in worship and celebration (Nehemiah 12:43), in mourning and confession (Ezra 10:1), and in ceremonially cleansing themselves (2 Chronicles 31:18). The flip side of this is that children also participated in idol worship when the parents did (Jeremiah 7:18). Children mimic the adults in their lives so believers who teach children must have good habits and rituals for children to follow.

As I was reading, the most encouraging passage I encountered was in Isaiah 54, which tells Israel about the future eternal covenant between the Lord and his people. Verse 13 says, “All your children shall be taught by the Lord, and great shall be the peace of your children.” The weight of responsibility is great on parents to pass the truth on to their children, as well as for believers to pass on the truth to any unbelievers, but it is an encouragement to know that through the Holy Spirit, we are no longer so dependent on human information. Because of the Spirit, we can learn from his illumination directly.

As I teach, I want the words and deeds of the Lord to be ever present in my words. I want to have the patience to answer their “why” questions. I want to include them in the disciplines of prayer, Bible study, service, etc. so that they can learn by doing and experiencing. I need to remember that teaching the next generation is of utmost importance, no matter what method one uses.

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