Dear Children

Letters From A Father's Heart

Archive for the month “July, 2015”

Choose This Day Whom You Will Serve

Dear children,

I want to say something to you that I admit scares me.  It scares me because I’m going to challenge you to choose whom you will serve.  I understand that by doing this I may be also challenging you to turn your back on the only hope for eternal salvation that you have, and the thought of you doing that is enough to keep me awake at night.  Yet I’d rather that you not be deceived.  I’d rather that you turn your back on Jesus, and know it, than to live your life with your back to Him anyway, and not know it.  I’d also rather not be deceived myself.  I’d rather not have to constantly search for evidence in your life, having to twist the least sliver of it into some kind of comfort for myself that all is well with your soul, while knowing deep down that all is not well.

Once you leave my house, if you manage to show up for church on Sunday mornings I will be pleased because your presence there will give me hope that your external act of coming to church will be a true reflection of what is happening in your heart.  But if the seed that was planted there becomes unfruitful, or simply dies, your presence in church will only serve to deceive.  Worse, it may deceive you more than it does anyone else, and that would be a tragedy.

The Bible tells us that when we have idols, we become like them; though having eyes we are unseeing, and though having ears unhearing.  (Ps 115, Mt 13)  We humans are masters at self-deception you see.  We deceive ourselves into thinking that we can live a life of neutrality, neither being for Jesus or against Him.  Or we deceive ourselves into believing that we can serve Him and other masters too; that we can somehow straddle the fence between God’s kingdom and this world.  But the scriptures explicitly deny this option.  We see it when Joshua admonishes the Israelites to make up their minds, to choose whom they will serve, either the LORD, or other gods.  We see it when Jesus warns us that we will either gather or scatter, that we will either be for Him, or against Him.  Any middle ground you think you might hold is, all of it, set against Jesus.  He admonishes us in Revelations to either be hot or cold, and that lukewarm repulses Him.  It’s better for us to accept that reality and either embrace or reject Jesus than it is to live a life of delusion, thinking that we are co-heirs in one kingdom when in reality we are mere subjects in another.

So what does this mean?  At issue here is your heart.  There are the externals, yes.  But then there is the heart, the part of us with which Jesus is concerned.  We can live a lie and fool people by our externals.   But Jesus called those who do that white-washed tombs, full of dead men’s bones.   While man looks on the outside, you see, God looks at the heart.  It’s not how we appear on the outside therefore that matters, it’s who we are on the inside.  So the question that you need to keep asking yourself is, how is my heart?  Does my sin bother me enough to repent?  Do I really fear God?  These are important questions that we need to ever be asking ourselves.  I have found John’s first letter to be a great help in this matter.  This passage is from chapter 1:

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.  If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.  But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.  If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.  (1 John 1:5-10)

John teaches us what to do with the sin in our lives.  He’s speaking to those who are “walking in the light”, and yet he acknowledges that those who do walk in the light still sin.  We must discern between the externals and the heart, even in ourselves.  The externals are the things we do to draw the praise of men and to make ourselves acceptable to our culture or community.  But the heart concerns who we know we really are, and who God knows we really are.  Sin must be dealt with in the heart.  And we either do this through the blood of Jesus, or we attempt to rationalize it away somehow, or to shift blame or something else.  But the sin remains.  Later in John’s same letter we read:

Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness.  You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin.  No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him.  Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous.  Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.  No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother. (1 John 3:4-10)

The key word to understand in this passage is “practice”.  To try to please your Father in heaven and fail is one thing, and it is a Christian thing.  But to use God’s love, expressed through the death of His Son on the cross, as a licence to practice sin is another thing altogether.  The difference is a heart difference.  One heart will love the sin more than it loves Jesus.  It will twist Jesus’ words to rationalize.  It will blame shift.  It will accuse those who call it to repentance of being mean-spirited and judgemental.  But the other heart will be broken.  It will beat its chest and cry out, Lord be merciful to me, a sinner!  It will run the race with perseverance, and fight to cast off those sins that so easily entangle it, because its eyes will be fixed on Jesus.

In the end, it is better, I think, to reject Jesus than to live in deception, thinking that you are in Him when in reality you are not.   But, if you choose to fight the good fight, and to run the race with perseverance, you will find yourself in the company of many fellows fighters, runners, and yes, forgivers and sinners too in the Body of Christ.  That’s just how his body functions.

So I pray, that you seek the face of your God, that you repent, and that you live a life of repentance.  I pray that you experience the joy of salvation, the taste of which will make the seemingly sweetest sweets of this world taste bitter.  It is your father’s prayer, and so I pray it.  Lord, please arrest the hearts of of the children you have entrusted to me.

Your father

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Judge Yourself First

Dear children,

Your existence will be one marked by transition.  Even as I write this I am in transition, and as you read it you will be also.  From what you will be transitioning our of and into at any given time is hard to say, but know that you will always be in transition.  So since transition itself is a given, it would be wise to be in control of it lest some awful new idea of man, that seems good at the time, leads you astray.  I direct you right away to the Bible.  Paul tells us not to be conformed to this world, with its lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes and pride of life, but rather be transformed into Christ likeness by the renewing of our minds.  But to conform to this world is to transition also with the world as it meanders through an existence by which the writer of Ecclesiastes calls meaninglessness.

Of particular interest in this letter however is your own sin, and how you look at it, or see it.  We humans have a propensity to give ourselves a pass when it comes to our own sin, a pass that we are not so willing to give to others.  My mind does not see a particular thing that I’m guilty of in the same light as it see others who are guilty of the same thing.  But I’ve been in transition concerning this truth for a long time, and I’ve come to the conclusion that seeing my own sin rightly involves three separate outworkings that are taking place.

First, we live in a world that is self-oriented.  What I mean by self-oriented is when one appeals to their inner self as a reference point by which all things are to be judged.  If I like something, for example, it is good. If something repulses me,  it is bad.  With a mindset like this, you can see how my view of my own sin is skewed.  The scriptures speak to this mindset by the way.  It says that that is “living according to the flesh”.

I would advise you to read all of Roman’s one and two.  Paul goes into considerable detail inventorying the sins “they” commit in chapter 1.  But pay close attention to chapter two.  Notice that he stops directing his words to “them”, and instead directs them to “you”, which means “us”.  However harshly we judge “their” sin, know this, it is not nearly as harshly as God judges them, for He is Holy, and we are not.  So we ought to judge our own sins in the same light, and in the same way.  Seeing the sin of others gives us some perspective.  We can begin to get an objective view of how our own sin looks from the outside.  And our own sin ought to be more repulsive to us than the sins of others.  This will have the effect of keeping us humble, and growing us up in Christ, as we ought to be.  This is what Jesus meant, I think, when he instructed us to first remove the log from our own eye.  But if we are self-oriented we might be tempted to get this backward.  This is done by basing my judgments of things on me.  I might assume that logs in eyes must not be bad because if they were I wouldn’t have one in my eye.  So since I do have one in my eye, perhaps it’s not such a bad thing, so why in the world would I want to pick the one out of my brother’s eye?  That would be backward from the intent of this scripture of course, but it’s how it is most commonly lived out I think.  But the goal Jesus had in mind was that both logs and splinters would be removed from everyone’s eyes.

Second, when you see the sins of others, always look at it as through a mirror.  See it behind the image in the foreground, which is you.  Know that you do things just as bad, or maybe even the same things.  This will help you put away any harshness in your heart.  The harshness of the truth is plenty sufficient.  Be ready to walk alongside any who desire to repent, as you allow others to walk alongside you as you repent.  Help the brother in sin, if he desires it.  Do not fear rebuking a brother, for it is the loving thing to do.  Do not reject the rebuke of your brother for if he does not rebuke you when he ought to, he is not following the great command of loving you.  I would suggest you never accuse anyone of judging you, but rather judge yourself.  If you feel someone else is judging you, then let the light of their judgements either vindicate or convict you.

Also, when you witness the sins of those outside of the Body of Christ, realize that they cannot not sin.  Do not get angry at the individual, but rather have compassion.  His only hope of ever seeing himself in the hands of an angry God is through the Gospel.  Clothe yourself therefore in the Gospel of Jesus, which calls sinners to repentance of sin, and into the glorious light.  Have grace for failures just as you need grace for your own.

Third, Western Civilization is in decline and becoming darker.  It is therefore tempting for one to see himself more highly than he ought.  You may be tempted, having been cleaned up a little, to compare yourselves to others and then think of yourselves wrongly.  The renewing of the mind, however, ought to take us in a different direction and instead focus our sights on Jesus, who is holy and righteous.  When we then see our own sin in the light of His holiness grace becomes an amazing thing.  Our view of grace is proportional to our view of sin, so see your sin in the proper light so that you will live with a proper attitude of thanksgiving.

I pray for you, that you would transition into warriors, with the accouterments of the warrior.  I pray that you would wield God’s word with precision and that God’s armor would protect you as you advance His Kingdom.   I pray that you would grow stronger by casting off every sin that entangles by seeing it in the true light that you ought to.  I pray for you, I, your father, pray for you that these things will mark you.

Your father

Light Illuminates Darkness, Righteousness Illuminates Sin, Evil Hates Them Both, But Grace Is Beautiful

Dear children,

Jesus gave us some insight into what his arrival meant when he said,  “the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.”  

He also told his followers that, “You are the light of the world. People [do not] light a lamp and put it under a basket…  In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. You are the light of the world.  A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.  Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.

In your life know that you will either hate the light that exposes who you really are before God, or you will love the light that exposes who you really are before God.  And who you really are is the same either way, and you need to understand that if you understand little else.  To understand it is to understand grace, to not understand it is to not understand grace.  And to not understand grace properly is to not understand God properly, or His love.  And not understanding all of these is epidemic.

We start with God who is holy and righteous.  I would ask you dear children to meditate on those words, holy and righteous.  I’ll say it again for emphasis, He is holy and righteous; holy, holy, holy is He.  Ask yourself what that means?  The notion of His holiness is not to be passed over lightly.  They deserve your deep consideration.

I heard R. C. Sproul say once that in a poll more Christians believed that Jesus was raised from the dead than believed that he lived a sinless life.  Holiness is an almost unfathomable thing for us, more unfathomable even than being raised from the dead.  Yet Jesus lived a sinless life.  He was holy.

Then we work our way to us.  We are sinful, and that sin causes a great chasm between us and God.  We must understand how utterly sinful we are.  I might be able to pull off a temporary appearance of sinlessness for a few hours before men, but I really am is know to me, and it is known to God.  My thoughts will betray a different man.  There is every kind of wickedness in me.  God is holy, but I am unholy, and His light illuminates that unholiness.

You will either hate that which shines a light on your unholiness, or you will love it.  Whichever path you find yourself on will depend on the effect the light has on you.  Or, perhaps the other way around.  Whichever way the light effects you will determine what path you find yourself on.  But key is the effect holiness has on you.  If you love your unholiness, you will hate the light.  If you hate your unholiness, you will love the light, even though it exposes your evil deeds.  If you hate the light it is because you are central and foremost in your own eyes.  You will live righteously on your own merit even if you have to make up your own righteousness to do it.  If you love the light, Jesus is central and foremost.  He is righteous and that is enough, indeed it must be enough, lest you be eternally condemned.  For it is by His standards that your righteousness will be judged, not yours.  And likewise, it will be by His righteousness that you will meet His standards, not yours.  Therefore amazing grace.

But beware my dear children.  Men who love darkness pervert grace in an effort to again put the light under the basket.  The light does not hide our evil deeds, it exposes them.  If the true beauty of grace is to shine forth; if it is to be witnessed and glorified in; if we are by grace to endure suffering as fellow heirs with Jesus; if we are to praise God rather than ourselves and the emotions that our “selves” conjure up, then we must understand grace. And if we do not understand the evil of the sin that the light exposes ,we do not understand grace, nor the love of God.

The more that we are sanctified, the closer we come to the light.  The closer we come to the light, the more that sin is illuminated.  In the end, there is only grace.  Grace allows us to enter the intense light of holiness, and in that intense light see what we have been forgiven of, and to then live in praise and gratitude for that forgiveness.  And the more we draw near to that light, the more forgiveness we realize we have received, and the more forgiveness that we realized we have received, the more gratitude we have.  And the more gratitude we have, the more our hearts are drawn nearer to the light that exposes us, and the more we are inclined to worship, praise and glorify the God who provided forgiveness.

“Grace” that is exploited to hide our sin from our own sight also hides true grace from our sight.  If our sin is no big deal because of grace, then that grace is no big deal when we sin.  That kind of grace does not cause us to worship God in gratitude for forgiveness, but rather it forgives us for worshiping ourselves.  It brings us to worship an image of ourself  seen in the dark; our sin unexposed.  And we glory in our perception of God’s approval of that image. But either way, whether we rebel against God through rejecting His law outright, or by hiding behind “grace”, the end will be the same, the light will be hated.

Be ever discerning my children.  Jude said that “...certain people have crept in unnoticed, …who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.”  You will live in a time of sifting.  Hold tight to God’s grace.  Remember who you were without Christ so that you won’t forget who you are in Christ, and the mighty and powerful work that was done in you.  Cling to Him ever harder as you draw near to Him and the light increases.  Increase in joy increasingly for what you have received, and are receiving, as the light increases with ever more light, and forgiveness increases with ever more forgiveness, so that you may cross the river of death, and enter into the Celestial City, utterly cleansed and utterly forgiven… and utterly grateful.

Your father

Understanding The Nature Of Your Christian Subculture

Dear children,

The fish might live over here in the water, or perhaps over there in the water, but he is destined to live in the water.  Likewise, you will live in culture, either in one kind or another.  But there is a subculture of sorts that you ought to seek out and join.  It is unique both in its age and in its scope.  And there’s no subculture as unique in these ways as the Christian “subculture”.

For comparison’s sake, let’s look at one popular subculture. There are so many to choose from so, how about environmentalism?  The environmentalist subculture is neither unique in its age or scope.  Subcultures are by their nature defined by their gods and environmentalism is no different.  They also generally exist in harmony with the larger culture. A good culture, for example, understands that protecting the environment is a good thing.  But for the environmentalist the environment is a god, and as such supersedes man and deserves to be worshiped.  Though not all in culture are earth-worshipping environmentalists, there is still harmony between them and the collective cultural-mindset.  For the environmentalist, the worst thing that ever happened was a strip mall.  And since the strip mall was the result of evolution, then evolution must have made a serious mistake for evolving the likes of strip-mall builders into an otherwise pristine ecology.  And so man ought therefore to self-exterminate for ecology’s sake.  And while no one is volunteering to take one for the gipper, so to speak, most nod in unsure agreement that perhaps they should.  But for the time being there’ll have to be contentment found in the extermination of millions in the womb.  The Bible says that, “all who hate [wisdom] love death”.  So any subculture that sees the extermination of itself as an ultimate good ought to, at the very least, be judged as foolish.

By comparison the “subculture” of Christianity is unique in both age and scope.  It is 2000 years old in one sense, but it is as old as the known existence of man if its jewish roots are considered; and they ought to be considered.  In scope it is practically world wide.  In most cultures there will be found a subculture of Christianity.  Not so with environmentalism, which seems to afflict only a culture with enough accumulated wealth to convince itself that it can afford to alter the planet’s temperature.

And unlike environmentalism, there is no harmony between Christianity and the larger culture.  But that might seem somewhat confusing at first.  The larger culture and Christianity both advocate for justice, stewardship of the environment and protection for the weak, to name just a few things.  Christianity and culture both disdain murder, lying, stealing and so on.  Yet there is no harmony.  That’s because of fundamental differences.  While the individual man does not see himself as a contributor to culture’s maladies, he has no problem seeing society as the cause.  And society, for whatever reason, seems to him much easier to fix than the man.  Christianity is the opposite.  It says that if the man be fixed, society will fix itself.

But there is a deeper reason for the disharmony than disagreement on solving cultural problems, and it is one of authority.  Christianity is therefore also unique in that it isn’t a subculture at all, but a Kingdom with Jesus as King.  And as King, Jesus dictates and illuminates.  He dictates in that it is His authority that determines what is right and wrong, not man’s.  He illuminates in that he shines a light on the heart of man, and in that light man does not like what he sees, so he prefers instead the darkness.  This is why environmentalists, and their fellow Western subcultures, find themselves irily unable to condemn Islamic cultures, who incidentally have become especially adept at turning the greenhouse-causing petroleum underneath their land into a handful of billionaires and swarms of angry zealots who promise to subject the world to allah and his prophet, muhammad.  Islam exterminates its enemies, especially those who are in the Kingdom of God.  In the end you will find that in the deepest crevices at the center of every man’s soul is the motto, “Anything but Jesus”.  Man, except for those regenerated by God, is at war with God, and he will find himself with the unlikeliest of allies.

As you are probably aware by now, there is a subculture that is more true to the definition of subculture that goes by the name “christian”.  And like its counterparts, including environmentalism, it is very much in harmony with the larger culture and in rebellion against God.  Unlike environmentalism however, it is as old as Christianity itself, and scripture is by no means silent concerning these false teachers.  Be aware therefore my dear children that these are in your midst, and though they go by the same name, you will know them by their fruits.  They will normally side with whatever culture is saying at a given time, or at least willing to compromise until acquiescence can be achieved.  So be warned and discerning.

But here is the good part.  If you are in Christ, and Christ is in you, you are a part of a Kingdom that transcends borders and cultures.  You will have brothers and sisters in Christ all over the world, and you will find it easy to fellowship and to love these brothers and sisters.  You will know them because of their submission to and their love for their King.  He will be preeminent in every part of their lives.  They will not be according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.  In short, they will not worship sheetrock, guitars, pop-stars, fancy cars, or the environment… to name just a few.  What the King is doing now will be their number one interest, as they seek to be a part of his activity.  You will feel a kinship, though your language and culture may not be the same.  And you will find them throughout this world.

I pray that you would everyday grow in your knowledge of Jesus, that you would walk closer to him as you cast off your entanglements from whatever culture you find yourself immersed in.  I pray for you, and for me, that we are able to be a light in this dark world, that Jesus would use us to snatch some, if not many, from the flames.

Your father

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