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A Letter for the Children
Dear Young Friend,
First, I would just like to say a few words to Father and Mother before I write to you. Is that alright?
I hope no one is offended that I am taking up reading space in the Banner to write a letter to younger children. When asked to write for the Education section of this periodical, I wrote out a lengthy article directed at adult-level readers. But upon completion I was quite dissatisfied with it and was sure you would be too. Then, one day, while opening our school day with the students, I realized that speaking to young minds and souls is my calling, and so I felt that I had to write my article to children. So please bear with me and call younger son or daughter over to your chair and ask them it they wouldn’t want to read a letter sent especially to them. Please read it to them if they can’t read it for themselves. (Younger children usually have a fairly short attention span, so you may want to read the letter in parts. There are little stars to help divide it up for you.)
Hello. I don’t think you know me, but that is not important. I think I know you. You see, I am a teacher in a Christian school, and so I get to know all kinds of children. Maybe you are like one of the children I teach.
I think, for most of you, the weather is getting a little warmer outside. Winter has gone away. I know that to my young friends in New Zealand and Australia who are reading this, or if you live in Africa or Indonesia, your weather is not as chilly as ours here in North America, since you are now just ending summer. Anyway, when winter goes away, and you go outside, there is such a beautiful smell in the air, isn’t there? Do you ever listen to the birds singing so nicely when the warmer weather comes? I think they are so happy to be free from the icy cold winter. Don’t you think so? It is easier for them to find food, too.
That is just what it’s like to get a new heart. It is just like the birds in early spring. When God gives people a new heart (children too) He makes them feel warm inside. God lets them see that sin is just like the cold in winter. The warmth is love in the heart for God and His Word, His people and His house. The cold is when that love is not felt so much as it should be. And for us not to have a new heart is just like the winter for the birds—they can be so hungry. Did you ever feel like you missed God or really wanted to know Him in a special way? This is what the Bible means when it talks about hunger and thirst after God in Psalm 42:1 and Matthew 5:6.
Always remember that God has given you just the very teacher you have, put you in the class you are in, and even has made it turn out that you will study the lessons you have!
Did you know that the sunshine makes the earth warmer? Of course you knew that. But did you know that Jesus, who is God’s Son, can make your heart warmer and make it melt just like the sun melts the snow and ice? That’s why we have to pray to Him every night and every morning and even during the day when nobody sees us. He wants to hear you pray to Him. He said in His Word (and He never lies) that He wants little children to come to Him. We come to Him by praying. Just think what that would be like if you were as happy as those little birds in spring…and just think how nice that would be to feel your hearts grow warm inside with love for God just like your face feels warm in the strong, spring sunshine. He can do that for you. Why not ask Him right now if He would please do that for you? Remember to ask Him to do it for Jesus’ sake. He will certainly do it if Jesus asks Him to.
I also wanted to ask you how you are doing in school. Do you like to go to school? It’s so nice to see how most young children do like to go to school. It’s very sad for me to see that some children, when they get older, sometimes don’t like school. There are times I have to remind the children that if they don’t like school, God might give their place in school to some other child who will like it. Did you know that God saved a place for you in your school? Yes, we believe that God makes everything in life turn out just the way He planned it. He has made it so that you would be in the very school you are going to. I hope you always remember that God has given you just the very teacher you have, put you in the class you are in, and even has made it turn out that you will study the lessons you have!
It is sad that in some schools (we call them public schools) teachers can’t and don’t talk very much about God and the wonderful things He has done. If you go to a school like that I hope you pray extra hard that God will some day teach you everything you need to know. Pray also for Mother and Father that they might teach you the right way to live even though the public school doesn’t.
If you go to one of our Christian schools, I hope you will remember to •thank God very much that you may go to such a school. It may be that you don’t like to do all of the work you are given to do. Maybe you hear about what other children are allowed to do in other schools and wonder why your school had to be so different. Please remember that we have schools just because we don’t want them to be like other schools in every way. Everything that looks like fun, isn’t. Many times it is really sin, but being young, you may not notice that. We hope the teachers take care that you do only those things that are really good for you…will you try to remember to ask God to help them do that?
Always try to do your best in school and ask Cod if He would please help you to like what you do. Please don’t forget about your school and teachers when you pray. (You do pray every day, don’t you? Sometimes by yourself? I hope so.) Remember that the teachers need your prayers and help. Please try not to forget catechism and Sunday-school teachers and the minister. We should pray for them, too.
How have you been feeling lately? Maybe some of you say, “O.K.” or “fine.” Are you sometimes sad? It may not sound so nice, but I hope you are sad sometimes. It’s nice to be happy, but it is important to be sad sometimes, too. Do you know why? Let me tell you a little story.
There once was a woman whose husband died. She was all alone as far as we know. She was probably sad sometimes, being all alone. But what was worse was that someone was trying to make her life even harder. We don’t know how this mean person was doing this…but he is called an “adversary,” which means something like an enemy. Well, things got so bad for this poor woman that she went to the judge. You know that a judge is supposed to help people in trouble and to try to find out who is doing wrong and have them punished. So this poor woman went to the judge. It just happened that this judge was not such a nice man. That was sad. He didn’t fear God or love Him or even care much about what other people thought either* Because he was this way he didn’t help the poor woman right away. But she kept coming to him and coming to him with her need for help until he finally helped her. He did it because he began to worry that she would keep coming all the time asking him, and he would have to listen to her every day.
This story is in the Bible. If you would like to read about it (or have Mother or Father read it for you) it is in Luke 18 in the New Testament. Jesus told this story. He wants us to learn a lesson from it. You see, this poor woman needed help so much…she was so sad and in trouble…that she just had to go to the judge for help. And we read that it was her coming time after time that finally got the judge to help her. Jesus is telling us, by this story, that you should try to pray to Him very much. Not that He is like that judge who didn’t care so much about things. No, God does care very much. He takes care of those birds we talked about and makes sure they get food every day. He notices when they fall to the ground, too. But Jesus is telling us that if we are sad, or if we are in trouble, or really at any time, no matter how we feel, we should pray to Him and not be sad if He doesn’t seem to answer us right away. He promised that if we call to Him when we are in trouble, He will answer us, and it will be to His glory (Psalm 50:15). It may seem that He doesn’t hear you, but be sure that He does. It’s just that He knows better than we do the best time and the way to answer our prayers. Sometimes He doesn’t answer a prayer because He knows that it would be better not to. Or, He might answer our prayer very differently from what we thought he would.
Some of you may wonder what to pray about. What do you say to God when you go on your knees and pray by yourself to Him? I hope you don’t mind my asking this. It is very important to talk about, I think. Maybe, when you were really little, Mother or Father taught you a simple prayer and you were to say the words they taught you. I have to do the same with my little children at home. My mother did that with me when I was little…I even remember the simple prayer she taught me. This is good. But when we get a little older, like maybe some of you are, we should also start to think up our own words to say to God. It’s not that the prayers we were taught are not good anymore…they are still good. But God is real and listens and wants to hear just what you feel inside. You can tell Him all the things that make you sad or afraid or tell Him that you need a new heart. It may seem different to talk to Him and not hear anything said back to you, but you can be sure He listens.
Ask God to let us feel a little of how holy and good He is. This will help us to pray.
It could be that you just don’t know what to say to God. I have that same trouble sometimes. And, do you know, that there are times when I don’t feel I can say much, because I feel so bad about myself? Yet, the few words we do say still might mean very much to Him. There was a woman from Canaan who just said to Jesus, “Lord, help me.” Another man who was in great trouble said, “Lord, remember me…” Peter, the follower of Jesus, once said, “Lord, save me.” The important thing to remember is that we ask God to teach us how to pray and ask that He give us the words. Do you know what else is important? To ask God to let us feel a little of how holy and good He is. This will help us to pray. We must never pray without being very reverent…that means to be serious and to mean every word we say. Did you ever hear about the publican in the temple? He said only, “God be merciful to me a sinner.” But Jesus tells us that this man really meant every word. This was a prayer that God put into the publican’s heart and God was pleased to hear it. Why, Jesus tells us that all those in heaven are happy when one sinner prays like that (Luke 15:10). So you see that it is not how much we pray, but how we pray, that is most important. We should often ask God to teach us how to pray even though we think we already know how to do it. He can give us very special prayers in our hearts that He will surely answer. Please ask Him to do that for you.
I asked you before what things you say to Cod in prayer. Let’s talk about that for a minute, O.K.? First it’s important to remember that we don’t pray because God needs us to tell Him what we want or need. No, He knows just what we want and need before we even pray to Him. We should remember that God wants us to pray to Him mostly so that we remember that we need Him for everything. So we can and should pray to Him for everything and about anything that’s good. In school you should quietly ask Him to help you do your lessons and that He would help you be a good child for the teacher. We should ask Him to help Mother at home and Father at work. Why, there are so many things we should pray to Him about! But you know that we are all sinners, right? (I hope you understand what I mean when I say sinner.) Well, because we are sinners we can’t hope that He will give us what we need just because we asked Him to. No, we have to ask that God would do what He thinks best and that He would do it for Jesus’ sake. You see, without Jesus our prayers are no good. Maybe this is hard for you to understand right now, but I hope some day you will. But why don’t we talk just a moment more about Jesus, shall we?
I’m sure you have all heard about Jesus. Maybe Mother and Father have told you Bible stories about Jesus. Does teacher in school, or Sunday school teacher, tell you about Jesus sometimes, too? And at the end of every prayer don’t we hear, “For Jesus’ sake” or “In Jesus’ name”? But let me ask you something. Do you know who Jesus is? Maybe you are ready to say, “Of course, I know.” I think it’s time for a little story.
You know that when Jesus was dying on the cross, there were two bad men who were put on the crosses too, right next to Jesus. This was because they did very wicked things to people. Being put on the cross was their punishment. Both of them saw Jesus on the cross. Both of them started to make fun of Jesus when He was there on the cross. They mocked Him saying that He should let them all come down from their crosses. But maybe you have heard how God gave one of those mean men a new heart right there while he hung on the cross. And do you know that as soon as God converted that one man he didn’t mock with Jesus any more? In fact, he told the other man that he should stop making fun of Jesus, too. Young friend, do you hear that one thief, who now has a new heart, speaking to Jesus? Let’s listen to what he says to Him. “Lord, remember me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom.” Did you hear? Just before he was mocking Jesus because he thought Jesus was just a weak man like himself. Now he prays to Jesus as though Jesus were a king. He asks Jesus to remember him when Jesus goes to His kingdom in heaven. This man thought he knew Jesus when he was making fun of Jesus before. But after his eyes were opened by God and he was given a new heart, he saw Jesus differently than before. Now he loved Jesus and wanted to be with Him always. No longer did this thief think Jesus was a weak man. He saw that Jesus was a King and was God. The thief felt sorry for his sins now, too.
When you read the Bible, quietly ask God to make it special for you and that He would speak to your soul.
This is what we need, young friend. We may know about Jesus from Bible stories, but we need more than that. We have to meet Jesus ourselves. “But Jesus is in heaven,” you might say, “and how can I meet Him?” Well, there are people, God’s people, who meet Jesus sometimes. Where? Right in their hearts! Only when we meet Jesus like this do we really know Him the way we need to. But how can I get to meet Jesus in my heart? Let’s look at another little story to help us understand.
Maybe you have heard of the story of Zacchaeus. He was a man who was a tax collector. As far as we know from the Bible, he wasn’t a very nice man. It seems that he cheated people out of their money. (I hope you never cheat). Well, one day, he heard that Jesus was coming by the place where he was. He wanted to see what Jesus was like so he climbed up into a tall tree. Why did he do this? Zacchaeus was a short man and lots of people wanted to see Jesus that day. Maybe taller people would stand in front of him so that he could not see Jesus. Anyway, see what he did? He went up into one certain tree which stretched right over the road Jesus would walk on. He knew that Jesus would come by that way. Now we don’t read that Zacchaeus loved Jesus or that he had a new heart…he just wanted to see Him. But you may also know that when Jesus came to the place where Zacchaeus was, He looked up and at the same time gave Zacchaeus a new heart. Why, Zacchaeus didn’t even ask Jesus for it. How wonderful of Jesus to do that for him!
The reason I told you this story is to show you that Zacchaeus was very careful when he picked out the place where he would stand. He went in that tree because he knew that Jesus would pass by there. Just before, we wondered how we can get to meet Jesus in our hearts. Well, we should try to be where Jesus often comes when He visits people. “Where is that?” you might say. Jesus often comes to people when they read His Word —the Bible. Other times He comes when we listen to a sermon at church or when we read a good Bible story book. But does He always come when we are in church or reading the Bible and Bible story books? Well, we should try to remember that the Bible is God’s Word… He is speaking to us every time we read it or hear it preached in church. But we need to have Him visit our hearts in a special way. God comes in a very special, close, and warm way to those who have a new heart. Remember how we talked about that warm feeling inside our hearts, like the sunshine on our faces in spring time? It’s not easy to tell you what a special visit by Jesus is like. It is much nicer if you could feel it for yourself. That’s why you need a new heart so much. If we are not converted, then we just will never know what it is like to have God near us in that special way. Always try to pray before you go to church, or while you sit quietly in church before it starts, that He would visit your very heart right there. When you read the Bible, or when someone else reads it, quietly ask God to make it special for you and that He would speak to your soul. You won’t be sorry if He does.
Children, there are so many things we could talk about, but maybe this is enough for now. This letter is quite long, and we both have a lot to think about now, right? Maybe Mother and Father will talk to you about some of the things you found in this letter. I hope someday I can write to you again. May God bless your young heart.
D. Lipsy is principal of the Ebenezer Christian School in Sheboygan, Wisconsin.
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Bekijk de hele uitgave van woensdag 1 april 1987
The Banner of Truth | 28 Pagina's
Bekijk de hele uitgave van woensdag 1 april 1987
The Banner of Truth | 28 Pagina's