Dear Children

Letters From A Father's Heart

Archive for the month “December, 2014”

Think!

Dear children,

It is my desire that you would live your lives as thoughtful beings, that you would think about things deeply in ways that would lead you to difficult questions.  And then I desire that you would spend a lifetime answering those questions.  I desire that you would contemplate common but profound words; words like, “good”, “love”, “beauty”, and “truth”, along with the concepts that these kinds of words represent.  For to understand the weightier matters of your life, you must have some inkling of what the ideas being expressed by these words are.  Without thoughtfulness, this will not happen, nor can it.

Words are representations of ideas.  They are mere sounds.  But for the real purpose of the word to take place, communication, the representations of the speaker and hearer must be the same.  Satan’s initial attack on man involved words. His first words in scripture were, “Has God said…?”.  While the words of men naturally morph from one meaning to another over time, the ideas represented by the Word of God can not and must not.

What does that word “good” mean for example?  Is mercy good? Why?  There’s good ice cream, and then there’s a good God.  It’s the same word, but is it the same meaning?  Why?  Where do you go for the answer?  Do you go to man?  If it is legal is it therefore good?  Or do you instead consult your emotions?  If it “feels” good to your senses, is it therefore good? Can something be pleasing to the senses and not be good?  Why not?   And if not, then how does man know what is good and what is not?  And how do you know?

What does “love” mean?  Is it a feeling?  An action?  A decision?  The Bible says that God is love, yet we see much evil in this world.  Does love allow evil?  How is evil defined?  Some say that God forbids Himself from intervening in the affairs of men, and that man has free will, and that is the reason for the evil.  Is that true?  How do we know if it is true or not?  Does the Bible have anything to say about that?  Can we even know?

Some say that it is wrong to ask questions like these.  Why is it wrong?  Is willful ignorance good?  On what truth does one base such an assertion, and can we know if that basis is true?  Is it good to not know what is good?  Others say that what is true for one person may not be true for another.  Is that true?  Still others yet reject the existence of God altogether because they say that religion, and the belief in God, is evil, and causes evil.  How does one then define evil and truth?  You, my dear children, must contemplate these things and much more, for if you do not, others will surely do it for you.

At the core of understanding these words is one word: “truth”.  That must be your starting point.  Without that one word settled there will be no basis upon which to build an understanding of any other word.  It should be no wonder then that the Apostle John introduced Jesus as “the Word”: “In the beginning was the Word…” (John 1:1).  Or that Jesus called himself  “the Truth”.  (John 14:6)  All of the words I mentioned, you will notice, point to a standard without which they are meaningless.  That standard must be true.  If truth is corrupted, then the ideas must be corrupted too.  If God is love, and the word “love” has been corrupted, what truth about God can that statement represent?  Answer: None.   The word “love” must have a true meaning or it is meaningless, and any sentence that uses it is meaningless also.

There is truth.  That truth is timeless.  That is to say that what is true now has always been true for the entire world for all time.  Any other understanding of truth is not true.  Man is not the arbiter of what is true.  Man can be, and is deceived.  That does not however mean that man cannot know.  To not be deceived requires contemplation and thoughtfulness.  It also requires a reference point outside of himself by which he can be oriented.

“There is no ‘truth'”, “We cannot know Truth”, “What is true for one is not necessarily true for another”,  will be the “truths” in the zeitgeist in which you live.  These statements will not only not support their own weight, they are not consistent with each other.  They therefore demand thougtlessness.  But that fact will not cause those who attempt to live according to such assumptions from militantly making the claims.

For the thoughtful, the Bible provides a reference point.  It is trustworthy.  It is consistent.  It paints a true picture of you, of your world, and of your Creator.  It is a book unequaled by any other in the history of the world.  It deserves study.  Indeed it has been studied like no other book ever.  Millions have found comfort and answers in its words, and millions have studied it for the purpose of destroying it… and yet it lives and continues to impact the world today.  It is loved.  It is hated.  It is relevant.  It belongs in your heart and it belongs in the public square.  It said what it meant when it was written, and it says and means exactly the same thing today.  The words it has spoken has and had meaning, and that meaning has not changed.  Thoughtful men have embraced that meaning through the ages, and God’s enemies have schemed against them though the ages.

My dear children, think, therefore, about things deeply.  Ponder them.  Examine them.  Refine.  Ask questions.  Seek answers.  Discuss.  Do all these things in the light of scripture.  It will withstand your thoughts, questions and examinations.  No other claim of objective truth can nor will.  Pray always.

Your father

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Surviving Spiritual Vertigo

Dear children

When I was training to be a pilot one of the things I had to learn was to fly the airplane by sole reference to instruments.  It was difficult for me to imagine, before experiencing it, the sensation of it not being readily apparent which way is up.  But inside of a cloud, with the way that forces are exerted, it can be impossible to know that very thing.  When you first enter it is easy.  But that easiness is short lived as your orientation quickly becomes confused.  You find yourself staring at your instruments because there is no helpful information outside the window.  The only life saving information available is those six little gauges.

Instrument panel

This is all well and good, but then you begin to develop a phenomenon known as vertigo as your inner sensations begin to disagree with what your instruments are telling you.  Couple that with a fear instilled into you in a training program that revolves around recognizing bad instruments so that an instrument failure will not cost you your life, and the fear is very real and intense.

So there you are, alone in a cloud, you can’t trust your senses, and on top of that you are skeptical of your instruments too as your life hangs in the balance.  Your heart races.  You are fighting panic.  You realize that your life depends on thinking straight, ignoring your feelings and crosschecking your instruments.  Yes, these are the sensations in the beginning, but that all changes as experience is gained.  With the passing of time vertigo became a novelty for me; a thing to experience with amusement, but which is now easily ignored.

I have found that these truths concerning instrument flying have easily transfer over to my spiritual life.  As a young Christian I loved my new life.  But then I would hear things that would threaten my new beliefs.  I can remember watching a television show on PBS about the Bible.  It, of course, was from a secular humanist’s perspective, and it almost shipwrecked my faith as a new believer.  There were also questions that I would encounter, specifically designed in hell for someone with a not-so-renewed mind.  All of these gave me that same feeling spiritually as vertigo gave me physically… not knowing which way was up.

You will discover, if you indeed have a reference point, that the culture you are living in is spinning out of control.  The “pilots” have destroyed their instruments and are flying by “the seat of their pants”, doing what “seems right to them” (Pr 14:12) at the time.  Their reference point is the inside of their “airplane”, that is, the airplane could be up side down, and they are satisfied that “up” is toward the ceiling.  But you don’t have to live that way.  The scriptures tell us that “His word is a lamp to our feet and a light unto our path“.  But we must trust His word; trust it with our very lives, and as if eternity itself were hanging in the balance, because it is.  I can tell you that it won’t always be easy, especially in your young lives.  But I can also tell you that the older you get, the more everything will make sense, and “flying” by the scriptures will easily deliver you safely to your destination.

I pray that you learn to love the scriptures, and that you would trust them.  I also pray that you would grow up into maturity that easily sees right through the nonsense that is currently passing itself off as wisdom, and that you would teach your own children from their youngest years to do the same.

Your father.

When Necessary Use Words. It Is Always Necessary.*

Dear Children

It is our nature to make excuses for ourselves and sometimes our excuses are so good that others borrow them.  Sometimes these excuses catch on and become mottoes.  It is my loving advice to you that you be on your guard against such things.  To lie to yourself is easy, and you will be especially good at believing your own self deceptions.  But when others approve, and even agree with your lies, this makes them all the more easy to believe because of the affirmation it gives you.  And when that deception becomes a motto, then, perhaps, it is almost impossible dislodge.  Always be on your guard.  Test everything against scripture.

There are many such mottoes that make their way around Christendom. This letter is to address just one.  The source of this one is thought to be Francis of Assisi, and it will sound something like this:

Preach the gospel, and if necessary, use words.

The really good deceptions will contain some, even much, truth.  This little motto implies that to live the Gospel is enough.  And it’s true that we shouldn’t live hypocritical lives.  But the deception can be found in these two words, “if necessary”.  It is a lie because it counters clear scriptural teaching which tells us that words are necessary.  Consider a couple of passages:

(1) How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? (Rom 10:14-15)

We see actions.  We hear words.  This passage alludes to speaking, not acting.  But words are difficult for us.  They commit us.  They reveal truths about us that we might rather stay camouflaged, one of those truths being that we believe all men are sinners and fall short of the glory of God.  And that “falling short” is not a little-bit “falling short”, but a lot falling short, as in deserving of Hell-fires falling short. This truth is not popular as you might imagine.  But to hide it is to hide the Gospel.  Living a nice and friendly life, as we ought to do, does not make anyone realize their plight, which from an eternal perspective, is a horrible thing.  And without that realization, Jesus is a joke to them, a mere curse word.

Here is another passage that you might consider:

(2)[Paul speaking]…and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak. (Eph 6:19-20)

This passage leaves no room for the idea that we should only use words “when necessary”.  According to scripture, it is always necessary.  But using words is difficult to the extreme, which is why so many prefer to simply “live it out”, or hint and hope.  Here are a couple of pointers that might help:

First, have compassion.  Christians are often made into a caricature of a wild-eyed fanatic, exclusively and gleefully fixated on the Hell fires and the wrath of God.  But the caricature is devoid of compassion.  Train your heart to see the lost with a desire that they be saved, that not only that their lives would be better here in the here and now regardless of their circumstances, but that they may be able to say with all the rest of the Kingdom of God, that “I consider the sufferings of this present time not worth comparing to the Glory that will be revealed to us“.  (Rom 8:18)

Second, you need to understand that it is a requirement to preach the Gospel, but not to change hearts.  You, in fact, cannot change hearts.  You will never beg, reason, coerce, lure or frighten anyone into the Kingdom of God.  As Paul pointed out in the Ephesians passage above, it really is a mystery that God uses your inept words in revealing it to some.  Somehow, some simply understand their condition before a holy and righteous God and seek the refuge that God provides in His Son.

I pray that you would ever be on your guard against mottoes that do more to console yourself than they do to advance the Kingdom.  I also pray that your lives would be seasoned with love and compassion and that you would also “fearlessly make known the mysteries of the Gospel”.

Your father.

Should You Judge Others?*

Dear Children

Does the Bible ever tell you to not judge others?  The quick answer is no, but with some caveats.  But before I explain that, let us discuss the word “judge”.

To judge is to hold to some sort of standard or law.  Olympic sporting events have judges and these judges are judging the contestants according to a standard.  A policeman who gives you a speeding ticket is making a judgement as well.  If you don’t like his judgement you can appeal to a higher authority, which would be a judge.

But more likely than not, when you encounter that word it will refer to negative thoughts supposed to be had by someone.  For example, when I see a young man walking down the street with his pants hanging down around his knees, my thoughts about that young man will be negative based on the social standards of my place and time. Those negative thoughts are what judging is in the current sense.  It is considered a sin by Secular Humanism to have bad thoughts about someone else’s behavior or beliefs.

Be aware also that many times when you encounter that word it will be the result of self-judgement projected onto others.  A man might walk into church and get the feeling that he’s being judged by people there.  But unless that man is a mind reader, he can’t know what kind of thoughts others are having about him, positive or negative.  But he may know deep inside that he is falling way short of the standards in the Bible. And he may feel as though all there are looking down on him because of that.  If that man would come to his senses he would know that all the other people there are falling short too, and that the work of the Church is all about building up the body of Christ, not deciding who is “good” and  worthy, who is not.  Real Christians are conscious of their own sins, and therefore love Jesus for going to the cross and accomplishing the work that He did there. The key is to work with others so they can help you overcome your failings as you help others overcome theirs.  When you are living in relationship with brothers and sisters in Christ in this way, you are in the body of Christ.  On the other hand, if you walk in daring anyone to “judge” you for what it is that you know that you have done, then you are on the outside looking in.

With this in mind let us go to the often quoted scripture in which Jesus tells us “Do not judge…”.

Do not judge so that you will not be judged. “For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. 3 “Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? “Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.  (Matt 7:1-5)

A few things to point out here.  First, as you can see here, the main goal is to help the brother.  We are all about picking logs out of eyes so that we believers might see more clearly.  Can you see how that would build The Body up?  Keep in mind that this requires that we also must be open to the idea that we have a log in our own eye, and not get offended if someone try to help us with it.

Second, it is a loving thing to do to help the brother get the speck out of his eye.  Jesus is not here telling us to get off by ourselves and get the logs out of our eyes so that we can come together as speck pickers.  We are to build each other up as Paul aptly points out here:

And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.  As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.  (Eph 4:11-16)

How will the Church ever “build itself up” if it turns a blind eye to every sin as it refuses to “judge”?

Third, it is always important to determine who it is that Jesus is speaking to in a passage.  This passage is Jesus speaking to His disciples instructing them how to interact with brothers.  If every time a brother fell we excommunicated him our church’s would consist of empty buildings except for those able to hide their sins.  When you fall, dear children, first admit it to yourself, then to those close to you.  Repent, then work toward restoration.  Then be willing to work with others who have fallen.

Forth, always look at any passage of scripture in the context of the rest of the Bible.  If we take the words “Do not judge” in a wooden sense, we will set it up against the rest of scripture, including Jesus Himself in the same sermon who warns us against bad fruit and false prophets.

So now let us look at the second, and perhaps the least known and quoted scripture regarding judging.  It comes from 1st Corinthians 5:

I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world. But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler — not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? But those who are outside, God judges. REMOVE THE WICKED MAN FROM AMONG YOURSELVES.  (1 Cor 5:9-13)

We can see how the building up of the Body reigns supreme.  Paul distinguishes between those who are part of the Body and those who are not.  The two will behave differently, but they are also to be treated differently.  We are to expect unrepentant sinners to sin without remorse.  But we see our brothers and sisters in light of God’s standard and His grace.  The key is repentance.  If we sin without blushing, and dare anyone to “judge” us while throwing Matthew 7 out there, then we are unrepentant and so love demands that we be removed in order to protect the Body, and in hopes that the unrepentant one will find it in himself to turn from his wicked ways.

Also, be on your guard. There are many false teachers in our day. And it is a favorite thing for them to set Jesus against Paul.  This passage would be an example of such a tactic wherein some will try to make the case that Jesus and Paul contradict each other.  But the Bible doesn’t tell us to just “kick someone out of the Church”.  There is a process, and none other than Jesus gives it to us in Matthew chapter 18:

If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that BY THE MOUTH OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES EVERY FACT MAY BE CONFIRMED. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.  Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.  (Matt 18:15-18)

The world hates God and His law.  As an ambassador for Christ, it will hate you also.  Some express that hatred outright. Others try to infiltrate the Body in order to destroy it from within by preaching false doctrines on judging others.  But as Jesus points out, His sheep know His voice and when a stranger comes they see him as a thief and robber and so they run the other way.

So dear children, love your brothers and sisters.  Let grace reign in your hearts.  But do not be afraid of seeing yourself, as well as others, in the light of God’s law.  Such will bring us to love the work that was done on the cross.  Live a life of repentance, as you help your brother’s and sisters in Christ do the same.  Admit your sin to yourself, and to others.  Don’t be afraid to call sin sin, whether it be in yourself, or others.  Desire rather to restore the repentant brother or sister than to excommunicate, but do not be afraid to live according to God’s plan for the Church.  I pray your success in all these areas.  It will not be easy.

Your father

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