Dear Children

Letters From A Father's Heart

Archive for the month “January, 2015”

Love God*

Dear children

I  can sum up every thing I want to say to you in these letters by simply repeating the greatest command: Love God.  Those two words, as simple as they are on the surface, will require your entire life to unpack, and perhaps even an eternity for all I know.  So here are a few things to think about concerning this simple challenge.

1. Don’t get things turned around.  Jesus said if you love me you will follow my commandments.  Some get this turned around and hear “you love me because you follow my commandments”.  Love God first, then following God’s commandments will flow from the Spirit.  If you simply attempt to will yourself to follow rules and rudiments, splitting hairs on what you can and can’t do, then you will be living in the flesh.  Studying the law in order to live a hair’s width inside of it is not loving God, and it doesn’t lead to following God’s commands either.  When this is your mindset, you are not keeping the greatest commandment.

2. Pray.  Ask God to put in your heart ever more love for Him.  Loving God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength is not a natural thing, and so we are not, in our fleshy selves, inclined to do it.  Loving God is a spiritual thing, and God is capable of giving  you love for himself based on His grace.  Once you love Him, living your life free from sin will be easier, though not easy.  But don’t let the “not easy” dissuade you.  No direction that you take in your life will be an easy one, even if you decide to reject God and live in rebellion.  If it looks easy, or it promises ease, you can know that Satan is involved somewhere.

3. Read the scriptures.  As God, by His grace, puts a love for Himself in your heart, you will also love the scriptures.  As you love the scriptures you will find that they will increasingly become an anchor for you in a world that seems bent on going mad.  You will find, as your knowledge of God through the scriptures increases, that your Biblical worldview will at the same time grow stronger.  This will make you wise beyond your years, and it will guide you in avoiding much anguish and many tears, though not all anguish and tears.

4. Fight.  Paul, an apostle, and the one who physically penned much of the New Testament, said at the end of his life “I have fought the good fight”.  The love of God is worth fighting for, and your most formidable foe in this fight will be your own self and the carnal desires which lead to death.  What ever it takes, therefor dear children, fight the good fight and love God.

5. Choose friends wisely.  They will help you fight the good fight, and you will help them.  The love of God is contagious.  Time spent among a body of believers that loves God will encourage you to love God all the more, and you will likewise encourage others.  But those in your inner circle will in many ways determine who you become.  Choose friends who live in such a way that challenges you, and who also love you enough to challenge you personally by holding you accountable.

6. Be discerning.  In this endeavor doctrine is your friend, especially as it pertains to God’s holiness and man’s depraved condition. Put God’s word inside of you thought study and memorization. God teaches us in parables. He expects us to apply ourselves in gaining knowledge, wisdom, and understanding. Be skeptical of new things. Test all things by the scriptures. Think rather than feel. Don’t assume that all words are defined the same way for all people.

7. Love others. The first step in loving others is to refine the meaning of the word “love” according to scripture. It does not mean the same for this world and God. Extend ample grace and compassion for those who are not your brothers and sisters in Christ. Help your brothers and sisters in Christ run the race, fight the fight, and do what you can to help them get untangled from the sins that ensnare them. Help them where they are weak as they help you.  Pray to your Father in Heaven and ask Him to give you discernment.  You will need it!

Your mother and I remind each other often of our number one desire for you.  It is a desire that surpasses every other, including your education and how well you make it in your life financially, both of which are prevailing idols of this age.  We desire more than anything else that you would love God with all of your heart mind soul and strength.  We have desired it also for ourselves, and before we were even married we set as a goal to love God as the foundation for our lives.  As you have noticed, we have failed, but the goal is still there.  Pray for us dear children as we pray for you that indeed our God would become the love of our lives in ever deeper ways.

Your father

 

 

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The Word Grace**

Dear Children

Jesus came as an expression of the reality of God.  That is why John called him Logos, which is Greek for “word”, which means the expression of a reality.  It is for this reason that I study words, and spend so much time harping on them and their meaning.  Satan is clever in his corrupting of words and thereby the corrupting of our thinking.  We must ever be on our guard concerning words and their meanings, and think about them in depth, even over many years.  I doubt, for instance, that I will ever stop thinking about the word “love”.  It is a word that I have been studying for years now, and to corrupt a word that is so central to the Gospel is to corrupt the Gospel itself.  And then their’s “Grace”, another word that is worthy of similar examination and contemplation. In this letter I will speak of one of the ways God has grace on us.

When I was a young man, I was flying alone in a small plane late at night.  The fog had become so thick below that I was not able to complete my approaches to the runway at my destination, and I only had a few minutes of fuel left.  After two attempts at the general aviation airport, my next plan was to attempt an instrument approach to the international airport nearby that had two runways side by side. Then, even if I couldn’t see the runway at the bottom of my instrument approach, I at least could still plan on landing straight ahead on what ever ground I happen to encounter in the fog between the runways. By doing this, so I reasoned, I would have a fair amount of certainty that the area between the runways would be clear of deadly obstructions.  I felt pretty comfortable with my prospects with this plan, but I did not feel comfortable that I had enough fuel to see it through. So, there I was.

As I flew, alone, in the clear, a half mile or so above the thick fog below, it was quiet on the radio except for a conversation between a controller and a pilot on the ground somewhere.  It seems that this pilot wanted the controller to call a friend to pick him up because the only phone available at the little airport where he was sitting was inside of locked offices.  The controller was refusing to make the call and kept explaining that it would set a bad precedence.  But the pilot was determined and complained that at that late hour the controller was only talking to one other airplane, which was me, and that he had the time to help. Then all of the sudden the controller interrupted himself, “Wait a minute!”, he said, “What are the weather conditions where you are?”  The pilot told him that it was clear.  The controller came right back to me and said that that airport was close by, and that I could make a visual landing there.  I asked him to vector me to the airport, and in just a few minutes, by the grace of God, I was safe on the ground.

We generally think of that word “grace” as not counting our sins against us.  But grace means so much more.  In this particular instance, it meant saving me from an eternity of Hell fires, for if I had run out of gas on that foggy night, my prospects for surviving would not have been good.  To be saved by God then, we must also survive until that moment of salvation, and it is only by His grace that we do.  I can recount many close calls in my life, and those are only the ones that I am aware of.  But by God’s grace, he allows us to survive.  There are many other ways of understanding grace that were present toward me long before I was adopted into the Body of Christ, all of which were part and parcel to the sovereignty of God.  Why me?  I have no idea why, but I could give you a book’s worth of reasons why not.  I don’t know why.

This grace that I received, even while a heathen, was still an act of being saved by grace.  In fact, every aspect of my life, even before salvation, was grace, even as it is with every other human being that God saves.  When we focus on ourselves, and the things that our flesh demands, it is tempting for us to see grace in a corrupted sense.  That is, we see it as a permission slip to give in to our every carnal desire and then claim it to be under grace. Now, while it is true that we are covered by grace when we do succumb to temptation, it is not true that grace exists so that we can indulge carnal desires.  Beware of those who preach grace in this way.  There are many.  Grace is much much larger than this and the expression of it through the Logos, which is the Word, is an expression that not only demands, but invites contemplation.

So, dear children, I pray that you would set out to grasp this thing called grace.  I pray that the expression of it’s reality would not be corrupted in your understanding of it, nor mine.  And I pray that our Father in heaven would grant us the wisdom to know the expression of grace through the Son in an ever increasing way.

Your father.

Nothing Doesn’t Attack Anything*

Dear children,

You will live your lives in a world of competing worldviews. But it is worse than that really. It’s not as if these worldviews are in friendly competition for your allegiance. No, they are at war with each other. It is a war of ideas, yes, but eventually wars of ideas become bloody. You, my dear children, will pick a side in this conflict, and there’s no avoiding that fact. You will be touched by it as well, no matter what side you choose, even if that side is one of pacifism, Unitarianism, or live and let live.

If you follow the path that I’ve pointed out for you, that is to say, if you follow Jesus, you will likewise be attacked in any number of ways. Scripture is clear on this matter. So in this letter I would like to paint those attacks with a wide brush and then point out something worth noting. But before I do that let me define what I mean by “attack”.

To attack a thing can generally mean to act violently toward it. Or it can mean to impugn or challenge its cognitive structure, as in the “idea”. While both of these kinds of attacks on Christianity are happening today, I want to focus on the latter of the two, and specifically on the fact that these attacks should be interpreted from two different perspectives. The first of these perspectives is the actual challenge to your worldview. If someone, for example, is challenging your belief in God by offering his believed evidence that there isn’t one, then that evidence must be dealt with. You must think through what they are saying without fear. Keep in mind that you live in a closed universe. Solomon put it this way, “There is nothing new under the sun”. No one is making new arguments. You will never hear anything but old arguments being rehashed. But, since, from your perspective, your beliefs are being attacked, I’ll call this the “offensive perspective.”

The second perspective I’ll call the “defensive perspective” because you will be on offense.  Every attack emanates from its own belief system and therefore is a thing open to attack itself, and which ought to itself be defensible.  Because of the typical attacker’s immersion in this culture, most of those you will encounter won’t even realize that they are actually attacking from a position. They’re not aware of this because their belief system is drawn from culture and so their beliefs are the norm. And being normal, they are affirmed in a hundred different ways every day. They are attacking you because your beliefs contradict the norm. They attack you because you are different.

I would have your minds work so as to think within the framework of both of these perspectives, always.  As a Christian you are not, nor should you ever be, solely held to defending your faith against those who are attacking it.  You will find that defending your faith is a much easier task, even in your own mind, when you are able to challenge the challenger and make him defend his faith as well.  His faith will generally come in one of two forms.  The form that you are most unlikely to encounter is the one that insists that there is no god.  But there is another just like it, which you will encounter often too, even from many who profess to be Christians. This form is an epistemological one and it will insist that, although there is a god, you can’t know or be certain of who he is, what he’s like, or what he requires.  You will navigate attacks from these worldviews more easily when you realize that they are in reality nothing more than unwitting attempts at usurping your faith with a different faith. And one of the easiest ways to do this is to simply hold them to their own standards, like, how do they know that we can’t know? And if we can’t know, why are they so certain about what they think they know about knowing?

Keep this in mind always. In the end, attacks are offers to you of something different, and the different thing they are offering you will always be nothing more than another faith, because life, in its essence, requires faith.  You will put your faith in something, be it a Utopian idea, a man, a religion, a cause, a government, or any number of other things that can easily be turned into an idol for worship.  While you will encounter some who have faith in the gods of differing religions, these are easier to think through because it is plain to see that your faith is being challenged by another faith, and the one challenging you is aware that he is doing so, and doesn’t attempt to hide his beliefs.  But you will face precious little of that sort of an “attack” in your lifetime.  The attacks you will experience, rather, will come from a faith that doesn’t see itself as faith at all.  And though it will seldom be admitted to you, the name of this faith is “Secular Humanism”.  It bills itself as not being based on faith because it points to what it calls science. It worships no deity.  Or, the deity that it does worship is indistinguishable from the prevailing “morality” of the age.   But rest assured, this faith contains all the elements of just another religion with all of its ordinances, worship requirements, systems of morality, redemption and even its own little gods.

For this reason I would admonish you to study your culture in light of scripture. Know it. Understand that attacks on your faith are not coming from nowhere or nothing. They always have a source and belief system from which it lunches its attacks. Realize that it, like all other religions, are at war with God and His law, and it means to win. Understand that those who fall away from Christianity, and embraced this Godless culture, have not fallen away from religion but have merely exchanged the one true God for an idol. They have simply allowed that God to be usurped by another god, which in your culture’s case, is man.

I wish, dear children, that you could simply embrace the love of Christ and live out the rest of your life in peace and tranquility, and to a certain extent, you can though your belief in Jesus. But the Bible is clear. Trials will come… many trials. You will either traverse those trials with the light of God’s word, or you will traverse them based on some other belief system. But know that they will come, and you will walk through them.  I plea that you hold onto Jesus tightly, who promised us that though troubles will come in this world, He has overcome this world.

“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world”
(John 16:33)

Your father.

Eight Things You Can Do To Be A Better Human Being *+

Dear children,

It is my very nature to be self focused, self centered, and self aggrandizing.  It is also yours.  So here are eight  things that can become a life-long project for you in the betterment of yourself.   All of these things I wish I had known when I was becoming an adult, and earlier.  But I did not know them, and so have many regrets.  This need not be so for you.

1. Repent

Yes, we must repent before God and rest in his forgiveness. But that kind of “repent” is not exactly what I’m talking about here, now.  I am talking about being willing and ready to repent concerning other people.   Admit when you are wrong, behaved badly, or in any other way have given into your fleshy nature toward others.  Ask forgiveness and then try to do better in the future.  When someone points something out, like say a boss, a family member, a friend, or even a stranger, consider their words.  Contemplate the question: “Why did they say that?”  “Is that really true?”  Ask those who love you to be honest, then allow them to actually be honest.  They are your best resource for learning the many not-so-wonderful things about yourself that you don’t even realize are there.

2. Forgive

People are going to be people.  They are going to fail, make mistakes, and in many other ways hurt you just as you will do to other people.  There will come a time in your life when you will wish more than anything in this world that you had not said or done something in a moment of anger or weakness.  You will understand in that time what it means to be forgiven by the one you have offended.  Never forget that moment, and recall it when someone is genuinely sorry.  Put things behind you.  The older you get, or the worse the offense, the more difficult this will be.  Ask God for help.

3. Check your motivation

Everything you set your hand to in this life will be the result of a motivation of some sort.  There is no getting around it and that fact is not necessarily a bad thing.  But it is a bad thing when we are motivated by the praise of others, even when what we are doing is a good thing.  You will avoid much embarrassment if you would spend your life working diligently at keeping your base motivations, that is the lust for praise and approval, in check.  You may ask yourself, why am I doing this?  Why am I saying this thing about myself if not to empress?  Do I want to be seen doing this this or that thing?  The answers will be telling.

4. Check your thinking

Your thoughts are indicators of your future doings.  Control your thought life and you will be a long way down the road of controlling yourself, which in itself is a Herculean task.

Our thoughts toward others can also lead us astray.  It is in your mind that you will first make your worst assumptions and judgments about the motivations of others.  Many times, if you will stop and think about it, you will see that you are projecting onto someone else things that you know are true about yourself.  And quite possibly you may be correct in your judgments.  But all this means is that this is a fellow human-being being just that, a human being.  Keep grace on hand.

We are also quite good at conjuring up thoughts about future actions of others we think that they might commit.  We can become angry in our hearts toward someone for something that they haven’t even done, nor probably will ever do, and then become angry about it.  As I always say, think about what you are thinking about.  Catch yourself when you do this and make yourself stop.  Let someone at least actually offend before you become offended.  This will save you a lot of heart ache.

It is in your thought life that will be the battlefield where your worst battles will be fought.  Memorizing, and being familiar with scripture will be your best weapon in this fight.

5. Keep some perspective

We can always ask our self the question, “Compared to who?”.  No matter what our circumstances, it is possible to think of others who have had it worse, or better.  We are all individually one person in the midst of billions of people.   Things can always get worse or better.  We should be thankful for what we ought, work toward something better, and realize that no matter what happens we will end up one person in the midst of billions, some of which will be more or less nicer and personable than you, richer than you, poorer than you, intelligent than you, attractive than you, and so on.  So don’t think too highly of yourself, nor too lowly.  Try your best to realize the truth about yourself, and be content with that.

6. Ask questions, listen to the answers

I once read of a study on social interactions.  In this study they put a group of people together with widely varying levels of income and education to study how well they all enjoyed each other’s company.  One might assume that the wealthier and educated people would be drawn to “their own kind”.  But the study showed that the one thing that determined whether the interaction between the people was enjoyable or not was how much each person had the opportunity to share in the conversation.  This, I think, says quite a bit about human relationships.  We generally have no need, as persons, to teach ourselves to speak but we are naturally deficient in listening.  And when I say listening, I don’t mean biding your time until it is your turn to talk, but to listen intently.  Determine to know more about others rather than desire others know about you.

7. Build others up

The best way to build someone up is to compliment them, and there are a lot of ways to compliment.  I personally love complements.  They can change my whole feeling about life in general, as well as my demeanor, even for a few days.  This is true for everyone I believe.  But I do not love to be patronized.  The difference is in the sincerity of a complement.  So train yourself first to admire things in others.  Everyone has something to teach you about something.  Therefore, as you ask questions, seek to learn new things.  Your interest will be a compliment.  Ask for advice from someone you respect in a given area.  That will be a compliment also and will never be misinterpreted as patronizing.  Never be stingy in pointing out things that you appreciate about others.  If you look, I think you will find that all people have many things about them that deserve sincere compliments.

8. Avoid inferiority and superiority complexes

You will never be the smartest, best looking, richest, nicest and most talented person in any room that you will ever walk into for the rest of your life, and you need to know that.  I think I can confidently make this claim as a true thing about you.  But this is not true for just you, it will be true for all others in the room too.  You will have your God-given strengths, and your God-given weaknesses.  You should make it your business to have some sort of idea of what they are for you so you can become comfortable with them.  You will find that your weaknesses are in some ways a gift to others.  They allow others to shine in their strengths.  How does it make you feel when I ask you how to spell a word?  Both of you children are already better spellers than I am, and I know it brings you joy when I ask you to spell a word and you know how.  That is just a microcosm of the dynamics that happen in relationships.  Don’t be threatened if someone near to you is better than you in some way.  Learn to be comfortable with who God has made you to be.  Learn to be happy for others for the blessings that God has bestowed on them.  Don’t ever be jealous.

________________________________________________________________________

These are just a few things that I am telling you now that I wish I had known when I was your age.  All of them can be referenced to scripture verses, but there is one verse from 1st John that I would have you memorize:

For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.  (1 John 2:16-17)

As I stated earlier, and emphatically restate now, the picture painted by John in this passage is our natural way.  It will be a life time battle waged in your mind that will overcome your own sinful selves.  To the extent we are able to do that is the same extent to which we may perhaps be able to, not only please God, but to obey his commands of loving others and building up the Body of Christ, and be ever more Christ-like as we occupy this passing world.

Your father

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