Learning from the Father
NOTES FROM THE VALLEY - June2, 2000
"Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of
death, I will fear no evil for you are with me." Psalm 23.
TOPIC: LEARNING FROM THE FATHER
I've talked to you in the past about how God can and will use any
method available to get a message through to us. It can be as subtle
as a whispered word in your ear or as spectacular as a rainbow
painted across the sky. The method usually depends upon us - upon
where our focus is and how open we are to hear from Him. But
Atheist, Buddhist or Believer - He never stops trying to communicate
with us. In fact, I'm convinced that anyone who says God doesn't
talk with them - just isn't listening.
Recently, God used a number of sources (friends, Cathy, a sermon, and
some audio tapes) to talk with me about "commitment"
and "compassion." Now, I know some of you look at God as some
distant and very strict disciplinarian, who sits on His throne
issuing a lot of orders about things we must do and handing out
punishments for those who don't. And you're probably figuring God
talked with me about being more "committed" to Him and
more "compassionate" towards others - or else! I'll admit that such
a talk would not be misplaced, but if that's what you're thinking -
you're wrong on both counts. And that's the revelation in His
message this week. The focus on "commitment" and "compassion" wasn't
the disciplinarian pointing His finger at us, but God, the loving and
caring Father, pointing His finger at Himself - revealing Himself to
us. Consider the following:
From the very beginning, when Adam and Eve were lost as the
consequence of their sin, God committed Himself to their recovery. I
know many of you think God "went off" on Adam and Eve for what they
did that day, but you really need to read the Bible's account more
carefully. God "went off" on the serpent, punishing him for his
deception and then issuing him a promise of the final defeat that was
yet to come. Then God turned to His children in compassion and told
them the heavy price they were going to have to pay for their sin.
Separation from Him and from the Garden. The loss of their God given
birth right, dominion over the earth and all that dwelt within it.
Their lives now subject to the devil as he exercised the power of
that birth right he stole from them by his deception. The earth now
filled with sin, sickness and death. God prepared His children to
face the harsh world they had to enter. He counseled and clothed
them. Then He had to let them go.
When I read Genesis, Chapter 3, I never see God raging at Adam and
Eve. I see a heartbroken Father saying good-bye to His children.
They violated the law. The price of that violation had to be paid.
They had to pay it. But ringing in their ears as they left the
garden - echoing off all the corners of the universe - was His
promise of the "Seed." You've got to remember that Adam and Eve
lived and worked in a garden. A "seed" had definite meaning to
them. A "seed" is a beginning, the foundation and promise of a new,
life giving harvest. And from that moment on, through thousands of
years of recorded history, the entire Old Testament, everything bears
witness to God's steadfast commitment to that promise and His
unconditional love for His children. Each page, each prophet pointed
the way to the coming of the "seed." And the devil was powerless to
In the Book of Revelation, Jesus tells us that He destroyed the gates
to Hell and has the keys. Those gates symbolized the barrier that
was placed between God and His children for thousands of years as the
result of man's sin. And thanks to Jesus, the "seed," that barrier
was finally removed one Sunday roughly two thousand years ago. The
God I know as Father could only have one response to that long
awaited moment. He spread His arms open wide and embraced His Son
and His long lost children - welcoming them back home. And the
universe was rocked by the celebration of their family reunion.
Commitment and compassion. God eternally committed. God eternally
compassionate. We've all heard and read the words in John 3:16
hundreds, maybe even thousands of times before. "For God so loved
the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in
him shall not perish but have eternal life." Maybe we've heard it so
much we've begun to take it for granted. Maybe things are getting so
bad in this world God thought we could use a reminder. A reminder
about who He is; His commitment to us; His love for us. He had
reasons for the words He spoke to His children in the Garden of
Eden. He has reasons for the words He's speaking to you and me, His
According to an old legend, a man became lost in his travels and
wandered into a bed of quicksand. Confucius saw the man's
predicament and said, "It is evident that men should stay out of
places such as this." Next, Buddha observed the situation and
said, "Let that man's plight be a lesson to the rest of the world."
Then Muhammad came by and said to the sinking man, "Alas, it is the
will of God."
Finally, Jesus appeared. "Take my hand," he said, "and I will save
There is another promise yet to be fulfilled. Jesus is coming again -
for us! The Savior's hand. The Father's arms. A family reunion.
His love. His promise. Our future.
I remain your brother and His not so patient servant,
SOMEONE WHO UNDERSTANDS
Bob Weber, past president of Kiwanis International, told this story.
He had spoken to a club in a small town and was spending the night
with a farmer on the outskirts of the community. He had just relaxed
on the front porch when a newsboy delivered the evening paper. The
boy noted the sign Puppies for Sale. The boy got off his bike and
said to the farmer, "How much do you want for the pups, mister?"
"Twenty-five dollars, son."
The boy's face dropped. "Well, sir, could I at least see them
The farmer whistled, and in a moment the mother dog came bounding
around the corner of the house tagged by four of the cute puppies,
wagging their tails and yipping happily. At last, another pup came
straggling around the house, dragging one hind leg.
"What's the matter with that puppy, mister?" the boy asked.
"Well, Son, that puppy is crippled. We took her to the vet and the
doctor took an X ray. The pup doesn't have a hip joint and that leg
will never be right."
To the amazement of both men, the boy dropped the bike, reached for
his collection bag and took out a fifty-cent piece. "Please, mister,"
the boy pleaded, "I want to buy that pup. I'll pay you fifty cents
every week until the twenty-five dollars is paid. Honest I will,
The farmer replied, "But, Son, you don't seem to understand. That pup
will never, never be able to run or jump. That pup is going to be a
cripple forever. Why in the world would you want such a useless pup
The boy paused for a moment, then reached down and pulled up his pant
leg, exposing that all too familiar iron brace and leather knee-strap
holding a poor twisted leg. The boy answered, "Mister, that pup is
going to need someone who understands him to help him in life!"
Crippled and disfigured by sin, the risen, living Christ has given us
hope. He understands us--our temptations, our discouragements, and
even our thoughts concerning death. By His resurrection we have help
in this life and hope for the life to come.
Justice - When you get what you deserve.
Mercy - When you don't get what you deserve.
Grace - When you get what you don't deserve.
GUIDEWORDS - "AMAZING GRACE"
(Author Phillip Yancy - What's So Amazing About Grace?)
Bill Moyers' documentary film on the hymn "Amazing Grace" includes a
scene filmed in Wembley Stadium in London. Various musical groups,
mostly rock bands, had gathered together in celebration of the
changes in South Africa, and for some reason the promoters scheduled
an opera singer, Jessye Norman, as the closing act. The film cuts
back and forth between scenes of the unruly crowd in the stadium and
Jessye Norman being interviewed. For twelve hours groups like
Guns 'n Roses have blasted the crowd through banks of speakers,
riling up fans already high on booze and dope. The crowd yells for
more curtain calls, and the rock groups oblige. Meanwhile, Jessye
Norman sits in her dressing room discussing "Amazing Grace" with
Finally, the time comes for her to sing. A single circle of light
follows Norman, a majestic African-American woman wearing a flowing
African dashiki, as she strolls on stage. No backup band, no musical
instruments, just Jessye. The crowd stirs, restless. Few recognize
the opera diva. A voice yells for more Guns 'n Roses. Others take
up the cry. The scene is getting ugly. Alone, a cappella, Jessye
Norman begins to sing, very slowly:
Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost but now am found --
Was blind, but now I see.
A remarkable thing happens in Wembley Stadium that night. Seventy-
thousand raucous fans fall silent before her aria of grace. By the
time Norman reaches the second verse, "'Twas grace that taught my
heart to fear, And grace my fears relieved...," the soprano has the
crowd in her hands. By the time she reaches the third verse, "'Tis
grace has brought me safe this far, And grace will lead me home,"
several thousand fans are singing along, digging far back in nearly
lost memories for words they heard long ago.
When we've been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun
We've no less days to sing God's praise
Than when we first begun.
Jessye Norman later confessed she had no idea what power descended on
Wembley Stadium that night. I think I know. The world thirsts for
grace. When grace descends, the world falls silent before it.
Guidewords is compiled and mailed (Monday thru Friday) by Sharon
Paxton with the Springtown Church of Christ in Springtown, Texas.
They are a wonderful source of inspiration during the week. To
subscribe contact Sharon at Btlfan910@....
(Received from Heather via net153 - Author Unknown)
Not long ago I heard a story about a young man and an old preacher.
The young man had lost his job and didn't know which way to turn. So
he went to see the old preacher. Pacing about the preacher's study,
the young man ranted about his problem. Finally he clenched his fist
and shouted, "I've begged God to say something to help me, preacher,
why doesn't God answer?"
The old preacher, who sat across the room, spoke something in reply,
something so hushed it was indistinguishable. The young man stepped
across the room. "What did you say?" he asked.
The preacher repeated himself, but again in a tone as soft as a
whisper. So the young man moved closer until he was leaning on the
preacher's chair. "Sorry," he said. "I still didn't hear you."
With their heads bent together, the old preacher spoke once
more. "God sometimes whispers," he said, "So we will move closer to
hear him." This time the young man heard and he understood.
We all want God's voice to thunder through the air with the answer to
our problem. But God's is the still, small voice. . . the gentle
whisper. Perhaps there's a reason. Nothing draws human focus quite
like a whisper. God's whisper means I must stop my ranting and move
close to Him, until my head is bent together with His. And then, as I
listen, I will find my answer. Better still, I find myself closer to
God. And there is no better place to be .......Amen?
DOES GOD STILL SPEAK TO US?
(Contributed by Casey of HeartStrings - Author Unknown )
A young man had been to Wednesday night Bible Study. The Pastor had
shared about listening to God and obeying the Lord's voice. The
young man couldn't help but wonder, "Does God still speak to
people?" After service he went out with some friends for coffee and
pie and they discussed the message. Several different ones talked
about how God had led them in different ways. It was about ten
o'clock when the young man started driving home. He began to
pray, "God . . . If you still speak to people speak to me. I will
listen. I will do my best to obey."
As he drove down the main street of his town, he had the strangest
thought, stop and buy a gallon of milk. He shook his head and said
out loud, "God is that you?" He didn't get a reply and started on
toward home. But again, the thought, buy a gallon of milk. The young
man thought about Samuel and how he didn't recognize the voice of
God, and how little Samuel ran to Eli. "Okay, God, in case that is
you, I will buy the milk." It didn't seem like too hard a test of
obedience. He could always use the milk.
He stopped and purchased the gallon of milk and started off toward
home. As he passed Seventh Street, he again felt the urge, "Turn
down that street." This is crazy he thought and drove on past the
intersection. Again, he felt that he should turn down Seventh
Street. At the next intersection, he turned back and headed down
Seventh. Half jokingly, he said out loud, "Okay, God, I will."
He drove several blocks, when suddenly, he felt like he should
stop. He pulled over to the curb and looked around. He was in semi-
commercial area of town. It wasn't the best but it wasn't the worst
of neighborhoods either. The businesses were closed and most of the
houses looked dark like the people were already in bed. Again, he
sensed something, "Go and give the milk to the people in the house
across the street."
The young man looked at the house. It was dark and it looked like the
people were either gone or they were already asleep. He started to
open the door and then sat back in the car seat. "Lord, this is
insane. Those people are asleep and if I wake them up, they are going
to be mad and I will look stupid." Again, he felt like he should go
and give the milk. Finally, he opened the door, "Okay God, if this
is you, I will go to the door and I will give them the milk. If you
want me to look like a crazy person, okay. I want to be obedient. I
guess that will count for something but if they don't answer right
away, I am out of here."
He walked across the street and rang the bell. He could hear some
noise inside. A man's voice yelled out, "Who is it? What do you
want?" Then the door opened before the young man could get away. The
man was standing there in his jeans and t-shirt. He looked like he
just got out of bed. He had a strange look on his face and he didn't
seem to happy to have some stranger standing on his doorstep. "What
The young man thrust out the gallon of milk,"Here, I brought this to
you." The man took the milk and rushed down a hall way speaking
loudly in Spanish. Then from down the hall came a woman carrying the
milk toward the kitchen. The man was following her holding a baby.
The baby was crying. The man had tears streaming down his face. The
man began speaking and half crying, "We were just praying. We had
some big bills this month and we ran out of money. We didn't have any
milk for our baby. I was just praying and asking God to show me how
to get some milk." His wife in the kitchen yelled out, "I ask him
to send an Angel with some.. Are you an Angel?"
The young man reached into his wallet and pulled out all the money he
had on him and put it in the man's hand. He turned and walked back
toward his car and the tears were streaming down his face. He knew
that God still answers prayers (and talks with His children).
Copyright © 1998-2000 by Stephen J. Hall - Weekly letters of
encouragement to Christians written by Stephen J. Hall unless
otherwise indicated. Notes from the Valley and Humor from the Valley
are never intended to offend anyone. They're meant only to brighten
your day and encourage you along the way. Most of "notes"
and "humor" are a collection of items provided to me by subscribers
and friends. Credit is given to both the contributor and to the true
author, where known. If you are blessed by them, please feel free to
make copies and pass them along to others. If you have something
you'd like to contribute to a future edition or would like to ask us
a question or make a comment, please contact us at:
Your love, God, is my song, and I'll sing it! I'm forever telling
everyone how faithful you are. I'll never quit telling the story of
your love - how you built the cosmos and guaranteed everything in
it. Your love has always been our lives foundation, your fidelity
has been the roof over our world. (Psalm 89:1-3 The Message)