Lessons From A Little Girl
Last Thursday my granddaughter Alyx turned twenty-one. During the first few years of her life she was my companion every opportunity she had. Because of this, she taught me many lessons about God’s love and my relationship to Him.
Ø Alyx taught me that family is based on love. She and her family had no blood or marriage relationship to us; but she was the real catalyst that makes us include them in our family, and our boys’ families see them as the same. They are involved in holiday and other family get-togethers. In the same way, we are included in God’s family based on His love for us. We are born again into His family and then He adapts us as children and makes us heirs of eternal life. And the whole family, the church, welcomes all of His children into our fellowship.
Ø Alyx taught me that love is an unconditional choice. Not only did I choose to love her, that love was without any condition on her behavior. She could do nothing wrong. Spilled milk, watching Disney instead of the football game, staying awake far past my bedtime, and such things were overlooked. In the same way, “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1) and “If we walk in the Light, as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin” (I John 1:7). God loves us in spite of our weaknesses and failures.
Ø Alyx taught me that everything I owned was also hers. The church had given me a recliner that everyone recognized as “papa’s chair” except Alyx. If was in it, so was she. When I was not using it, she was. She ate in it, napped in it, and was reluctant to share it—except with me. But God’s blessings are the same. “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? (Romans 8:32) and we are “fellow heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:17) so that as His children we can claim all His blessings.
Ø Alyx taught me about the importance of presence. Whether it was at home or in my office, she just wanted to be with me. She would be down in the floor, playing or drawing pictures—usually of me—and would frequently look up and say “Papa, I love you.” Even if I was seemingly busy and paying no attention to her, I was always aware she was there and her words let me know she knew it. This is the way we should live in God’s presence. He is always there, never ignoring us. And as we “pray without ceasing” (I Thessalonians 5:17) it should be easy to look up and say, “Father, I love You” or “Thank You for loving me.”
Ø Alyx taught me that she wanted to go anywhere I did. Every time I left the house she wanted to go with me and she never asked where because it did not matter to her. Papa was going and she was going with him because it would not be anywhere that was not good for her. In the same way, I need to be willing to go with God wherever He leads me. It will not be “into temptation” (Matthew 6:13) even though He does allow us to undergo “the testing of our faith” (James 1:3). I can go wherever He leads, because He is always with me. Alyx showed me this in a special way when one day we ran out of gas on a narrow back road. As we walked to a house down the road when a car would come I would pick her up and walk in the weeds completely off the pavement. She was neither afraid or worried, she knew Papa would care for her. In the same way, even when danger is nearby, God will pick me up and carry me and I need not fear, because Jesus promised “I will be with you always” (Matthew 28:20).
Ø Alyx taught me to ask for what I really need. On that occasion we were out of gas as we neared a house where a man was mowing his yard, I said we could ask to use his phone (before I had a cell phone). She said, “Why don’t you ask him to use his gas?” She realized that we needed gas, not a phone and when I asked if he had some gas he provided a nearly full five gallon can and told me to use, go on to the ball game, and return it full later in the day. His generosity meant we were able to be on time instead of waiting for help to come and being late for the game. God wants me to ask boldly for what I need from Him. “Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6).
When we learn about God’s love, all He asks is that we love Him in return.
WM (All scripture quotations from NASB)
The Story of Mordecai
The book of Esther tells the story of God’s providence for His people. A young Jewess orphan becomes queen and is able to intervene with a heathen king to save her people. Her legacy is still celebrated to at the Feast of Purim each year. However, it seems to me that the real hero of the story is Mordecai, the uncle (cousin) and mentor of Esther. He leaves an example for all of us to follow.
Mordecai practiced “pure and undefiled” religion (James 1:27) by raising his orphaned niece. He was the one who took her to the palace with all the other young women from the kingdom when a new queen was sought. Even after she had become the queen he went daily to the palace to make certain that she was well and continually kept in contact with her.
Mordecai showed “honor for the king” (I Peter 2:17). When he learned of a plot to assassinate Ahasuerus he sent a warning through Esther so that it became known, even though the king was a heathen who had no concern for the God of heaven or His people. But he was the king, and Mordecai gave him the honor he deserved.
Mordecai’s honor for those in authority was not raised to the level of bowing down and paying homage in worship. He would worship only the Lord God (Exodus 34:34). Even though the king had elevated Haman to such a position, Mordecai refused to bow down.
In the face of impending death and destruction of himself and all the Jews, Mordecai turned to God. When he learned that Haman’s plot had been approved by the king Mordecai tore his clothes, dressed in sackcloth, wailed loudly and bitterly, all signs of distress but a way of humbling oneself before God (Job 2:8-10). In addition he involved Jews in all the land to join him with fasting for their cause.
Mordecai acted. When the Children of Israel seemed trap between the Egyptian army and Red Sea, God said, “Go forward” (Exodus 14:15). When the next generation faced the unconquerable city of Jericho the Lord said, “Go forward and march” (Joshua 6:7). Faith in God’s deliverance or blessing His people calls for action on their part. Mordecai did what he could, and sent word to Esther that she also needed to act.
When he first asked Esther to act, she was reluctant. She knew that if she went to see the king without being summoned, she faced the possibility of death. But Mordecai was insistent. In the theme verses of the book “Mordecai to them to reply to Esther, ‘Do not imagine that you in the king’s palace can escape any more than all the Jews. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for te Jews from another place and you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?’” (Esther 4:13, 14 NASB).
Mordecai’s faith in God’s deliverance and salvation for the Jews was evident: “deliverance will arise from another place” but he also realized that it was His providence that had elevated Esther to her position in the palace just for this moment At his urging, she acted. And the course of history was changed.
Haman and his sons were all hanged. His position and possessions were given to Mordecai. Instead of being destroyed the Jews were able to destroy their enemies and enrich themselves. All as the result of Mordecai’s active faith. And God’s providence has place us in our present positions to act.
An Open Letter
This was written for our visitors to our Friends and Family Day but the message is for all those with whom we have contact.
You Have A Choice
Thank you so much for being with us today. Your presence was encouraging and uplifting to us; but more importantly God was glorified and worshipped. Putting Him first in everything is our goal and hopefully yours as well. As you reflect on today’s activities, here are four facts we would like for you to consider.
You have a choice! Adam and Eve had a choice and chose to listen to Satan. Joshua challenged to Israelites who had conquered Canaan “If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve” (Joshua 14:15a). The choice has to be made as Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth” (Matthew 6:24). One must choose to follow a God who loves them or Satan who hates them and offers only lies. Jesus said of him, “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, ad does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44, emphasis added). Moses knew the offerings of Satan were temporary when, “By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin” (Hebrews 11:24, 25).
We love you! As children of God we are called to be like our Father and allow His love to flow through us to all people. We do so by proclaiming God’s love in Jesus and encouraging everyone to consider what He has done for them. “This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (I Timothy 2:3, 4 emphasis added). Because we love you, we are ready at all times to share God’s truth with you. Even though we want you to meet with us whenever possible, our teaching is not limited to our meetings in the building. We are ready to meet at any time in any place, including your home, to study God’s word together. The choice is yours, can we help?
All scripture quotations from the NASB
A friend made the following (edited) observation on Facebook: “I don’t believe those committing all of these atrocities are “radicalized Muslims.’ They are Muslims–that is all they are–Muslims. When you study the life of Mohammad and realize that he was a rapist, murderer, pedophile, and believed in the slavery of women; and consider how Muslims are taught to idolize their ‘great prophet,’ it should not surprise anyone that they want to emulate the one they are taught to idolize. Some might ask, ‘Then why aren’t all Muslims doing these things?’ The answer: they simply never really bought into the teachings of the Quran, though they believe they have, or they know it but prefer to let others do their dirty work and keep silent.”*
As I read this statement I was struck by his answer to the question “why aren’t all Muslims doing these things?” that they have never truly bought into Mohammad’s teachings in the Quran. It occurred to me that even as “the prophet” is to be the role model for all Muslims even so Christians teach that the one we are to emulate is Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
But how many wear the name Christian and yet have never bought into the teachings of the Bible? It was disciples who were first called Christians (Acts 11:26) and the mark of discipleship is to become like the Master (Matthew 10:25). Still many want to wear the name Christian without truly buying in to the concept of discipleship.
Jesus practiced love for His enemies and taught His disciples to do the same. “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be save by His life” (Romans 5:10). We want the reconciliation, do we want to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44) as a disciple or do we seek at best to ignore them or even harm them?
On the cross Jesus prayed “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34) and taught His disciples, “If [your brother] sins against you seven time a day, and returns to your seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ forgive him” (Luke 17:4). Do we forgive all sins against us or do we keep score, judge another’s motives, and hold grudges?
Jesus spent a considerable amount of His time in prayer and solitude with His Father. Even when large crowds were seeking Him, “Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray” (Luke 5:16). And when His disciples asked Him, He taught them to pray (Luke 11:1). In addition to personal prayer, there are numerous examples in Acts of the church meeting to pray for strength in persecutions, for the sick, for prisoners, for evangelistic efforts. And we have the advantage of the completed Word of God given to us that we can read at any time, but how often do we commune with Him? For many, an hour or two a week is enough; but that is hardly true discipleship.
Think of the life of Jesus: His compassion, His love, His mercy, His companions, His sacrifice of possessions, His submission to the Father, His rejection of human traditions, His commitment to His purpose, and then remember it is the goal of a disciple to be like his Master. Those who live like this might be called “radical Christians” by others; but the truth is all they are are Christians. Christians who have totally bought into the complete life and teachings of Jesus Christ!
WM (All scripture quotations from NASB)
*I have only used this as an example and intend to make no political statement.