Dear Children

Letters From A Father's Heart

Archive for the category “Deception”

A Familiar Story Of Apostatizing Youth

Dear children,

As you might imagine I am keenly interested in any advice that would help me to help you develop a stronger faith.  So when I see an article entitled 3 Common Traits of Youth Who Don’t Leave the Church, it gets my attention.  It is but one of many appropriate articles that express concern at the number of today’s youth who are abandoning their Christian faith when they leave home.  But what caught my attention, and what I would like to discuss in this letter, was a comment left by a young woman, fresh from her parent’s home herself, who explained why she abandoned her “faith”.  The first half:

These articles keep popping up all over the place in my feed and I find it so interesting. You see I am one of those kids. I am one that was raised in a very Christian home and now am definitely not a believer. I was very involved in my church. I sang up front many many sundays. I helped out in the nursery. My entire social life was wrapped around the church. That was all I knew. I loved God. I read the Bible cover to cover many many times. I prayed fervently on the constant. I witnessed to those around me. I published a Christian girl’s online magazine/newsletter. I served at the nursing home about once a month. I went to Africa with the Jesus Film. I was the definition of “youth that don’t leave the church.” You say it’s not a formula and yet you basically endorse it as if it is. 

As a father I can say that I would be encouraged by these things; encouraged yes, but not persuaded.  Your mother and I do the best we can to examine your hearts.  We don’t just assume that your conformity to the surroundings that we’ve immersed you in is evidence of a regenerated heart.  For all we know, a different environment will bring about a different conformity. We can see that this has been the case with this poor soul.

When she continues with her comment she transitions from herself as the topic to accusations against the Church.  She explains why not any of the external evidences that she manifested earlier mattered in the end:

I’ll just say in my case, I am a naturally very curious person. And I had questions about Christianity that apparently are not really encouraged to be asked. I found a huge gap between Christianity and authenticity. I left because it wasn’t real to me anymore. I left because I saw how it’s all a show and fear tactics. I left because I had discovered what real love looked like. I left because I honestly can’t believe in a God that created us so he could enjoy us and yet send most of his creation to Hell for eternity. I left because I FINALLY found peace….Instead of writing articles on why the youth are or aren’t leaving the church, why not just ask us? You may be really surprised at our answers. 🙂  

I’d like to respond to this part of her comment for your sake.  So let’s look at each statement individually.  She starts:

I’ll just say in my case, I am a naturally very curious person. 

Curiosity is a human trait. No one need deny it in order to be a Christian, nor does having more of it keep anyone from being a Christianity.  But we do begin to pick up on a veiled arrogance as we read this sentence in the context of the rest of the comment.  It is but an arrogant assumption that curiosity and Christianity are not compatible, which is an unsubstantiated assumption.  That arrogance will become more blatant as we continue with her comment.

 And I had questions about Christianity that apparently are not really encouraged to be asked.

You will hear this accusation often, but is it true?  Does “Christianity” really discourage the asking of questions?  While I can’t speak to her personal experience, I can speak to Christianity in general.  But before I do, I’d like to speak to her–unwitting I’m sure–sleight of hand in this statement.  She makes a general indictment against a very large, old and encompassing thing, Christianity.  And she bases it on a narrow and limited thing, her experience.  Where was her curiosity?  If she felt discouraged from asking questions in her limited experience, why didn’t she go elsewhere for answers?   She is, after all, living in the age of the internet, with lots of answers at her fingertips available to anyone with just a little bit of curiosity.  But man is a blame shifter by nature, and he is quick to shift blame from self to others, and I think that’s what’s happening here.  I’ve never been discouraged from asking questions.  That’s been my experience.  And I certainly haven’t discouraged you from asking them.  But even if I had been discouraged I would not have been thwarted, I have more curiosity than that.

But there is another side to this equation.  Some of the answers will necessarily be, “I don’t know.”, which is the truth.  And that is the rub for many I think.  There is so much that we don’t know.  But remember that this will be true regardless of whether you are an atheist, Muslim, Buddhist or whatever.  It is not as if this poor soul has moved into a system of thought that has all the answers.  We can know she hasn’t.  But as far as Christianity is concerned, God promises to save us from our sins.  He doesn’t promise to make us all knowing.

I found a huge gap between Christianity and authenticity.

Here I’m sure she has a point.  She herself was obviously not authentic.  But even had she been authentic, she would have still been surrounded by inauthenticity within the Church.  Jesus tells us that weeds are planted among the wheat.  So it should not have surprised her.  But even if she were surrounded by “wheat” only, she would have still been surrounded by inauthenticity.  This raises a serious question that demands an answer.  If others had looked at her life alone, and judged Christianity on it alone, would they have seen a “huge gap between Christianity and authenticity”?  I know the answer because I know humans.  The answer is yes, they would have seen a gap.  So have grace my dear children on your brothers and sisters in the Lord.  They are running a race and fighting the fight just as are you.  True authenticity is the admission to each other that we are not authentic.  The believer understands this.  The unbeliever can’t.

But I will chalk this up to her youth, which is naturally idealistic.  She will in time discover that no matter what she pursues, the lack of authenticity will be a part of it.  Even if she pursues lawlessness, she will still be inauthentic, because she will be offended when others steal from her, harm her, lie to her and so on.  Should she become an environmentalist, a secular humanist, an activist, it won’t matter.  She will still be in the midst of inauthenticity, and I can say this with the utmost confidence.  Why?  Because man is fallen.  He can’t be authentic in anything. There was only one authentic person to ever live, and she has rejected Him.  She will eventually have to either accept this fact, or shut down her curiosity altogether.  She will have to lie to herself, which might finally, after all, allow her to exist in an authentic, if unreal, world.  Man is most authentic when he is deceiving himself.

I left because it wasn’t real to me anymore.  I left because I saw how it’s all a show and fear tactics.

Given the rest of her comment this makes sense.  But it raises yet more questions.  What is real?  If she was so convinced all her life that Christianity was the real thing, and then it suddenly becomes unreal, what then?  How can she ever trust herself in judging “realness” again?  She will necessarily discover, with even a tiny bit of curiosity, that this lack of realness will follow her wherever she goes, unless, again, she deceives herself.  Christianity confronts the lack of realness head on.  It provides answers concerning our purpose, evil, pain and suffering.  That is real.  She won’t find these answers elsewhere.  At best she will only be able to expend herself attempting the impossible task of rebuilding Eden.  And she will fail like the millions who have attempted it before her.

I left because I honestly can’t believe in a God that created us so he could enjoy us and yet send most of his creation to Hell for eternity. I left because I FINALLY found peace.

The vail has been removed now and she is revealing her true reason for leaving, which is that she hates God.  She hates Him because He is Sovereign, and she is at war with Him, hence no peace.  But most of all she hates Him because he is Just.  She, like all people, has broken God’s law.  She, like you and I, have lied, and stolen, and have hated–which Jesus equates to murder.  We are all guilty, and there is a just reward for us all in our guilt.  But God, in his love, sent his Son to die on the cross.  He has reconciled us to Him through His Son.  He has made peace with us.  Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you.”  Sure, there is a measure of peace that can be found in living in self-deception.  Whistling in the dark can gain a measure of peace I suppose.  But it doesn’t change the reality that not only will she sin against those around her, those around her will sin against her.  And while her sin might not seem all that bad to her, we can know that the sin of others, who do not buy into her way of thinking, will steal back what peace she might muster, and then some.

I left because I had discovered what real love looked like.

This is arrogance completely unveiled.  Can she really believe that she, a young person in the 21st century, has figured something out that 2000 years of scholars, martyrs and devouts missed?  Evidently so, and there is the arrogance.  Those lovers of God would be in tears to “learn” that the whole thing has been nothing but a hoax, perpetrated on hundreds of millions of people over thousands of years.  But not her.  Oh no.  She’s smarter than all that, and in her thinking herself smarter, she exudes pride.  She knows what real love is, and all those who have gone before were fooled, lacking perhaps the curiosity to not be fooled.  They had no idea what real love was.

Her curiosity ought to have led her to the realization of her ignorance.  Real love was Jesus dying on the cross for those who hated God, and then reconciling them to Himself while they were in the very act of warring against Him.  That’s real love.  Real love has nothing to do with feelings.  It has nothing to do with what’s in it for me… like achieving a few temporary and fleeting warm and fuzzies.  Dear children, please understand, you do not want her “real love”.  The love of self, and how others, or things, make the “self” feel is often mistaken for love.  But in reality it is only self-centeredness.

 

So what do I, your father, think about this?  I think that she is the victim of her times.  You will notice that she rejected a religion, and not the Gospel.  It is a religion that preaches grace without justice.  And, “God loves you unconditionally”  is a religious message devoid of the Gospel, and devoid of a need for the Gospel.  But you will hear it preached time and again.  And it will be preached to unsaved people who are already convinced that God loves them.  And some of them, with a little more curiosity, will know that the threat of eternal Hell fires make the message of unconditional love seem ever so slightly… inauthentic. In fact it is this very thing that she is pointing to in her statement: “I left because I honestly can’t believe in a God that created us so he could enjoy us and yet send most of his creation to Hell for eternity.” 

You will live in a time that has confused social service and unreal love with the Gospel, which removes the power from Christianity and relegates it to just another religion.  The Gospel is key, but the Gospel is not about how great you are in God’s eyes, but rather about what a sorry state you are in, in God’s eyes.  That is an extremely unpopular message in this day.  But once you understand it, the Gospel, and grace, are beautiful; much too beautiful to trade in for a worldly counterfeit.

I came out of the world that this poor girl has fallen in love with.  I know what lies ahead for her and can only hope she will be “very curious” after all.  But for me, I will never forget the words of Peter in John 6.  Jesus had just preached what seemed to those present to be a bizarre message, that one must drink His blood, and eat His flesh to have eternal life.  Most abandoned Him on hearing this, but not His disciples.  After all were gone, Jesus looked at them and asked, “Are you going to leave Me too?”  Peter responded, “To whom shall we go?”   If this girl had received the Gospel, if she had understood justice, and then mercy, she would have asked the same question.  “To whom shall I go?”  She would have known that that question is the question of the ages.

I pray that God would arrest you.  That you would understand justice too, and then mercy.  I pray that you would understand, in the great scheme of things that extend outward, far beyond your being, what a great salvation the salvation offered us through the cross is.

Your father

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One Way To Free Yourself From The Surly Bonds Of Common Deceptions

Dear children,

Sometimes different things get mixed up and start swirling around together in such a way that makes them dangerous.  They can get so out of hand, in fact, that they wind up tearing lots of stuff up while standers-by watch, wide-eyed and gasping with hands over their mouths.  If you could pretend for a moment that separating the debris from the wind in a tornado would render it harmless, that would go a long way in helping me to explain what I want you to understand here.  For the truth is, in a lot of different things that seem to bring confusion, if we could separate the parts that make them that way, it might bring clarity.  In short, we need to be able to look at the whirlwind while discerning the dust from the wind.  I have learned that it is possible to train oneself to do this.  If I could teach you to do the same, perhaps I can help save you from some confusion, or at least to better understand the confusion that you will be finding yourself emersed in.

The difficulty in getting this across is first one of words, for I must attempt to explain it well enough, and with enough examples to get you started, while at the same time not bore you too much.  So, in order to attempt that, I’ll simply move right into a few kinds of examples of what I’m talking about:

Education and morality -I was working with a man recently who told me that his 16-year-old step-son was living alone in another state.  So I asked him how the boy was coming along without adult oversight?  He answered by telling me that the young man was making good grades.  But that didn’t answer my question.  He was confusing good grades with morality. You will find this to be quite a common thing.

As for me, I’ve seen news reports where young people have gotten into terrible trouble. The response from those who knew one of those involved was all too common. They always seem to be shocked. And, they’re shocked because, after all, the kid did make good grades.  You are living in a culture that idolizes education, and as such, I think it may be a little challenging for it to separate its little god of education from its morality. So when you are older, know your children’s heart as much as you are able.  Don’t confuse their smartness, or their accumulated knowledge, with their goodness.  And remember that really smart people can be really evil too while mental slowness is by no means a sign of a moral handicap.  I’m personally thankful for that one.

Another similar thing to education that gets mixed up with morality is health.  I asked a woman once why she thought her daughter’s fiance was a good man for her.  She seemed as though she had been caught off guard by the question. It was as if the thought had never occurred to her.  After thinking a bit she finally said that it was because he was healthy.  “Oh”, I said.  Still, many others confuse beauty with morality. But probably worse than anything else along these lines is the confusing of feelings with morality, as in, if it feels good, it’s moral.  But all of these are totally separate things and should be discerned from each other when deciphering the realities that whirl about you.

The institutionalization of sin – As I write this we await what might be the greatest spectacle of hubris ever put on display by man.  Nine judges are going to decide if a square can be a circle. Of course, that’s not what they’re really deciding, but it might as well be because deciding whether or not a man can marry another man is equally as absurd.  Of course, the court’s decision will have no bearing on reality, but rather it can only succeed in changing the meaning of a word: “marriage”.  It will also determine in many ways whether or not we will be a nation that plans on living in reality or some fantasy land.

But be that as it may, the Church has for some time been in a difficult place concerning such cause-celeb sins of our day, only because so many in its midst have not separated the debris from the wind.  As is typical, there are many things that are happening at the same that must be understood separately if they are to be understood at all.  For example here are two things that work together.  On the one hand, Jesus clearly taught His followers to love their neighbors as themselves. And I am inclined to believe that Jesus did not mean to exclude those who practice any certain sin as being our neighbor.  But, on the other hand, there are political movements afoot that are much greater than any one individual and we must not confuse a poor soul with a political movement.  These movements appear to have as their goal the wiping away of all vestiges of God, family, and Church as the Bible defines these entities; preferring instead to redefine them in ways that are more malleable and palatable.  They approach under the cover of compassion, and they seem to only be requesting from the Church what Jesus commanded of it anyway.  But Jesus also taught that the Church is the light in this world.  He never taught us to have compassion for political movements that seek to justify sin.  Sadly, many Christians bristle at the suggestion that there should be any resistance to these movements because they are simply unable to differentiate between resisting collective evil and loving an individual caught up in that evil.

We are to preach the Gospel to the individual, which includes repentance and forgiveness.  We are to shine a light into dark places in this world, which we know will cause it to hate us, and our Savior.  But Jesus tells us that some will repent and become redeemed children of God.  We are to be the very hands of God, pulling individuals from the torrents of collective evil, and not fearing what man thinks of us for daring to call those torrents evil.

Judging others – Sin destroys.  So, we have on the one hand your sin.  And then on the other we have my sin.  And the two are similar things in that they both destroy.  But they are different things too, in that we are two different human beings.  When a loved one calls us out on our sin we have a choice. We can feel attacked, and we can make counter-accusations, but in doing so we cause a destructive whirlwind.  If I, your father–or someone else who is a friend–points out sin in your life, it is a loving thing for them to do and you ought to see it as such.  It is foolish to evade such love by daring them to “judge” you because they themselves are not without sin.  If anyone wants to discuss the sin in my life, let us do so. There is much to discuss. But let us not discuss my sin at the same time as we discuss theirs.

If we dare not help each other pick the splinters from our eyes, we will end up both blinded, and the best we could ever hope for is to not wander into a pit. Blinded is where much of Christendom lives today, but you don’t have to live there.  Thank the brother who loves you enough to hold you accountable. And don’t be afraid to love others enough to hold them accountable.   It is important to understand that no one else’s sin makes your sin not sin.  Desire to live righteously.  Ask the one who points out your sin to help you overcome it as you help others in any way you can.

______________________

So here I have given you just a few examples of how some things that would otherwise confound can be better understood.  I hope that you will train yourself to disassemble them and grasp and interact with their component parts separately.   If you work on thinking in this way it will become your second nature, and you will be all the wiser for it.  I pray that you would grow in this area.

Your father

Beware Of Church Forms

Dear children,

When I was a child my dad had our driveway paved with concrete.  It was an exciting time for us because we would have a place to ride our bicycles and roller skates.  He began the project with an old farm tractor, scraping the driveway as level as he could.  Then those who were experts in concrete came out and set up little wooden barriers along the sides of where the driveway would be.  Next the cement truck came and poured the formless “mud” in between the barriers, which are called forms.  It filled the area, flowing out against the forms, and adopted the shape of what would become our new driveway.  Once it hardened, we threw the forms away.

But think about it.  Did the concrete need the forms to become a useful driveway?  Not really.  The concrete could have just as easily been poured right out onto the ground and the top smoothed out for a place to drive.  But there’s something about the order of the straight edges that is more pleasing to our eyes.

I would learn later in life that more things use forms than just concrete; many more things in fact.  One of those things is the church.   In some ways the church is like wet concrete in that it has liberty.  The Bible really doesn’t say that much about how we ought to do church, so in some ways the whole Sunday morning observance is formless.  It’s like the cement truck pouring out wet mud for us to do with as appeals to us most.  Some like to simply pour the mud out and let it flow wherever.  Others like to build elaborate forms that make elaborate shapes.  And then there’s everything in between.

But like concrete, the church also hardens.  It takes jack hammers and chisels to change the shape of hardened concrete, and pretty much with church forms too, which is not necessarily a bad thing.  This is true… well, maybe mostly or somewhat true, for every church form, even the “formless” forms.  Yes, some like to think that since they didn’t use a form that they are still malleable.  But that’s not true.  Just try to put some shape into a hardened pile of concrete and you’ll see what I mean.  The formlessness is itself the form.  And others like to think that because they have elaborate forms, that their forms make them orthodox, or at least protect them against unorthodoxy.  That’s not true either.

I just read of a pastor who surprised his congregation one Sunday by installing a pulpit and wearing a suit and tie.  In other words, he tried to changed the form of the service a tiny bit.  He said that even though his preaching style didn’t change, nor his message or doctrines, he was accused of being a false teacher by some, changing his doctrines by others, and still more unpleasant things by yet others.  He was shocked by the response.  My guess is that if a preacher who wears vestments and uses a big elevated pulpit, removed the pulpit and wore a tee-shirt and skinny jeans one Sunday, the result would be much the same.  Why is that?  It’s because the forms are important to us as man, and we all need to realize that so that we can actively distinguish between truths and forms.

Western “Church” 1  has an overall shape something like this:  We sing some songs as a form of worship, and then we listen to a message.  You would be hard pressed to find a church that doesn’t fit this basic form. Since the Bible is not specific on exactly how it’s done, there is liberty to do it this way, or to not I would say.  But within that form you will find many different sub-forms.  Some want upbeat songs with lots of instruments, and others want more solemn songs, or no instruments, or whatever.  Some people want a preacher who gives a little chit chat, and others want a preacher who yells to make his points.  So each believer goes to the particular church that suits his particular fancy, and that’s kind of how it all works; and that’s fine I guess.  But be on your guard.  The mere existence of all of these forms can invite decption into your midst and your minds.  Here’s how.

As someone once said, the mind of man is a 24/7 idol factory, and church forms are not immune to becoming, in themselves, idols.  They, in fact, can become such an idol that the form becomes more important than the content.  Consider that performing is an idol for a musician.  Then it’s easy to see how the “worship band” form can become a performance opportunity for that man.  Many apostate pop-stars in fact got their start right there on the worship team at some church.  Or for the rhetorician want-a-be, perhaps the preachers’ unique style, or ability to engross, can be an idol.  Then there’s the experience worshipper, the form of emotional music with an emotional “message” might be more important than teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs 2  for that person.  There really is no shortage of ways to turn forms into idols.  Some worship families, others youth, and still others liturgy; all of which are fine to a point.  But then again, that’s what makes them a more hideous kind of deception.  It’s all so good and righteous… until it’s not.

You ought, therefore, to watch yourselves.  I would that you simply love God’s Word, and His truth that is revealed within, no matter what form it’s poured into.  Rote singing of doctrinally sound hymns with cold, dead indifference is worse than singing a twenty minute, upbeat ten-word song with great joy and thanksgiving over the truth it conveys.  And, in like manner, all the joy, hand clapping, yelling and dancing in the world can’t make up for singing the singing of a lie to the same kind of music, even if it does have the word “Jesus” somewhere in the lyrics.  Guard your hearts.  Form is not an indicator of truth, and truth is not confined by forms.  Yet, if reverence for God and His Word are not present, then that’s a good indicator that things have gone awry.

It is glaringly apparent that no form has thwarted the deluge of apostasy in our day, but only the hearts of men who have kept God’s Word.  Truth always trumps form.  Always!  So the more you love God and His truth from scripture, the less the forms will matter to you.

I pray for you dear children that God would put an unquenchable thirst for Himself, and His truth in your hearts; that you would see past the distractions that are so plentiful, and that God would bless you with discernment.  I pray that wisdom would reign in your hearts and minds, and that you would not get swept away by this fad or that, but that you would set your faces toward the mark, eyes fixed on Jesus, and that you would walk the path laid out for you.

Your father

________________________

1. We should always remember that “Church” is much more than a weekly service, but here, the weekly service is all I’m referring to.

2. Colossians 3:16

Oh How I Love To Hate

Dear children,

As you know all too well, I used to listen to Rush Limbaugh religiously, but not so much any more.  Not that I no longer like him, it’s just that I began to notice the affect his show was having on me. The thing that drew me to him for so many years was unhealthy.  It was his ability to stir up in me the base emotion of hatred; and I realized that,  not only did he draw it out,  I loved it.  And as Life may have already taught you, such base and unsightly emotions come easier to us than better things like self-restraint and refinement.

It was a revelation to me actually; that I, by my nature, loved to hate.  I was actually drawn to it like a moth to flame.  It was almost as if I loved, in a sordid kind of way, for people to make horrible decisions and say outrageous things so that I might relish in my hatred of them.  “Look at what they’re doing now!  Just look at em!!”

Facebook, I have discovered, is similar.  As I scroll through my feed I see teasers like:  “You won’t believe what so and so just said.”, or, “Look at what this person plans to do with your children.”, or such things as that.  It’s called click bait.  It assumes that I’m ready to be outraged, and will click on their site and provide it with traffic.  Not that I think that those who run good sites should do it for free. But this is not about good sites versus bad sites.  It’s about my heart; and you and your heart.  I still have a great fondness for Rush Limbaugh too, though I like his guest host, Mark Steyn better.  And I hope he’s on the air for a long time to come.  But I try to be mindful of my heart and motivations before listening or clicking, which, as it turns out, I hardly do anymore.

Just so you know, my problem has nothing to do with “conservatism”, it merits or failures.  No, rather it is a sin problem.  And as such it taints man, no matter what “cause” he’s signed onto.  There are lots of conflicting ideologies that are buoyed by people’s hatred.  Your fellow man is liable to hate different people for different reasons.  Large corporations, politicians, genetic modifiers of food, vaccination supporters are just a few of the causes that seem to give us reason to hate.  Some, I’ve found, even hate haters–with a passion actually–with “hate” being defined generally as anyone who holds a differing opinion than the one who is the hater of “haters”.  “Look at those evil HATERS.  Kill em all I say!”

I think it’s possible that any of us could find a cause that we feel is worthy of our hate, though perhaps not all of us.  Your mother doesn’t seem to be drawn at all beyond her strong dislike of misguided thinking into a hate benge.  I’ve met others who were the same way, as far as I could tell, and I was perhaps more than once inclined to hate them for their lack of hatred… except your mother.  I love your mother.

The book of Hebrews tells us that each of us has our own particular sins that beset us, and against which we ought to strive against becoming entangled with; except for those who believe God did away with law, and who apparently don’t believe anybody can sin at all anymore because God loves them unconditionally, and there is no law to break in order that sin can even exist in the first place. They are free to run their race unencumbered I guess.  It’s a strange world.  You’ll have fun figuring it out.

But back to our love of hatred. Please don’t think that I’m saying that we ought not strongly disagree with and oppose lies and harmful worldviews.  We should.  We should even become upset when they prevail.  But there’s a difference between opposing lies and loving and basking in hatred.  Love should reign in our hearts; and by “love” I don’t mean we should  accept and approve of everything that popular culture tells us is good and righteous.  That would be love, yes, but it is love of self, as in “I love myself way too much to subject myself to the disdain of popular culture.”  True love however is much more involved.  A father who loves his toddler will not approve of him playing in the busy street, for example…, even if the child wants to real bad–and even if the child hates the father for the moment for making him stop–because he’s likely to get killed or hurt.  Real love also doesn’t, for example, exclude us from “destroying arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God 1 either, for the same reasons.   In a more eternal sense, love would never downplay or otherwise attempt to hide the more unsavory points of the Gospel, like the fact that man is by his nature sinful and is in dire need of some Good News.

I had a phone company call me, and try to persuade me to do business with them, many years ago.  It just so happened that this company was one who had thrown itself headlong into supporting things that ought not be supported by anyone.  Here was my chance I thought.  So I let that guy know just how bad his company was and how I would NEVER do business with it.  His reply was a punch in my face.   He simply said, “Well thank you for your time sir, and God bless you.”  And then he hung up.  He might have actually meant it, or he might have, in a roundabout way, been calling me a hypocrite.  One thing’s for sure, if his main goal was to get under my skin, he certainly succeeded.  And please dear children, unless you really mean it, don’t tell people God bless you, especially when you really wish they were dead.

As you know, there are still companies that I won’t do business with for the same sort of reasons.  And I wish that others would do the same.  But you won’t see me in a rage over it, not at those who don’t see the need, not with a representative of the company, nor the company itself, nor by yelling it in the streets.  That’s because I don’t hate them, but I do hate what the heads of some companies are promoting.  I work for a company that promotes the same sort of nonsense.  Should I hate myself?  None of them are doing anything that should surprise anyone, especially the Christian who understands man’s carnal nature.

There is one group of people who are still able to make me quite angry, though I can honestly say that I don’t love to hate them.  It is the people who call themselves christians, and who have rejected the Bible, its message, and the Gospel, and have replaced it cultural opinions, and who are attacking the Church of God, as if from within, with great zeal.  These make me very angry.

I did learn that I had a problem, and God, I believe helped me to merge onto a different avenue.  You too will find yourselves on side roads, rabbit trails, and even in an occasional wreck.  But it is my prayer for you that you will find yourself always back on the narrow path, on the road to, as John Bunyan put it, the Celestial City.  Guard your hearts, as you resist evil, against loving hate.  Weigh your motivations.  Beware of myopia, and involvement in causes that are too singular in nature.  Tether yourself with a short line to the Gospel.  Never get too far from it, and its wonderful message.

Your father.

____________________

1. (1Cor 10:5)

Living In Reality

Dear children,

Every now and then you will hear someone say that so and so has lost touch with reality or some such thing.  Or they may even question the existence of reality.  So I think it’s worth thinking about, the question, what is reality?  It might seem like a dumb question at first, but it isn’t really.  In fact, it’s a question you should be asking yourself regularly.  So, to begin, let’s look at the definition of the word.  It is  “The state of things as they actually exist”.  My own one-word definition is, “truth.”  And as you will learn in this life dear children, truth can at times be quite evasive.

As I’ve discussed before in these letters, we are living in two different worlds at the same time.  There is the natural world and the spiritual world.  So granted, if we are defining reality in terms of this material world only, then the question of reality might rightly be judged as a dumb one.  Not many people question the existence of physical things.

However, we should remember that some things are abstract, that is to say that they’re neither physical or spiritual.  A man can be living with his wife, for example, and have no idea that she is secretly planning to divorce him in a year.  He may be making plans for his family’s future, but unfortunately, he’s not living in reality. He is in fact ignorant of reality and is on a collision course with it.  So let us first conclude that one does not need to acknowledge the existence of a spiritual world to understand that reality extends beyond physical things.  That is the first challenge, even for the atheist, of keeping our feet firmly planted in reality.  And it is also important to consider that had this man acknowledged the spiritual world, namely the existence of a personal God and Savior, it might well have helped him avoid his blissful ignorance.

Another barrier to grasping reality is change.  As time moves along things seem to be in a constant state of flux.  Standards appear to morph over time.  So, since we all experience this change, especially in social mores, we can see how we could see change as normal.  And we can also see how we could then define reality as that which we consider normal based on our experience.  It has become normal and acceptable, for example, that it is good for a woman to have her unborn child put to death because she doesn’t want him. That is normal, so it is what we experience, and so it is reality and so it is moral. Increasingly, understanding reality as a mixed bag of propositions that contradict each other defines the culture in which you live.  Such a culture is in the process of losing touch with reality.  So be warned, to buy into the cultural mindset of “normal” is to exit reality.  But we will discover that reality is not simply wished away.  It has a way of imposing itself on us after all.

As older generations die, with them die an old and more realistic way of seeing this world.  As the young of each new generation enter society they will not only be the product of 12 years of secular humanist education, they will also increasingly be the product of parents who are themselves products of secular humanist’s education.  The world you are living in, therefore, is in the midst of a great shift.  The mindset that there is no truth will not only be prevalent in your world, it will become even more prevalent with the passage of time.  You can expect, therefore, that anyone who holds that absolute truth does exist will be seen as abnormal, and even immoral.  This reality will present you with some challenges that are, perhaps, unique to your time.  You must not only hold fast to the truth that there is truth, you must hold fast to the truth.

Indeed, the belief that there is truth, is the starting point.  You will discover that there is another question, which is epistemological in its nature, and which must be considered if you will have any hope of living in reality.  That question is, “Can truth be known?”  We can believe all day long that truth exists, but if we are also convinced that truth cannot be known, its existence makes little difference.  So, let me emphatically answer that question for you: Yes! Truth can be known!  There is a higher order.  Reality exists, and you can know it.  The claim that truth cannot be known is a proposition that, like many popular propositions in your time, that is self-defeating.  It ought to raise the question right away,  “How can you then know that your claim is true?”  If one is to be consistent he must admit that he can’t know.  But you will find that those who do not live in reality seldom concern themselves with the internal consistencies of their worldviews.  Don’t be like that yourselves, especially if living in reality seems like something you’d like to do.

It is a stubborn thing, reality.  Man cannot create or rearrange it to suit his preferences or pleasures.  You will either live in reality, or you will be on a collision course with it.  If I believe that I can jump off a cliff and not get hurt, the moment I jump I will have set an appointment with reality, no matter how much I deny its existence on the way down.  In the same way, if I set sail on the sea of life in a ship constructed on the basis that truth can’t be known, I will have also set an appointment with reality.  Unfortunately for me however, since I deny that I can know truth, I won’t even realize that it was my own faulty compass that brought my life smashing against the rocky shores of reality.  Such is the nature of truth I suppose.  If you deny it can be known, then a shipwrecked life is nothing more than “stuff happens”.  But you don’t have to live this way.

Jesus told us that He was the way, the truth and the life.  There are reasonable and rational reasons to believe that He was indeed all of these, and much more.  So, with this in mind, let us look to His words:

Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it. (Matt 7:24-27)

To be sure, “stuff does happen”.  Storms were a reality for both of these houses.  They will also be the reality in your life. The only real question is, will your house still be standing when it’s over?  Will your “reality” going into the storm be the same as your “reality” coming out of the storm?  Are the particulars of  your mindset, your worldview and your reality strong enough to withstand the winds of reality?  I pray that they are.

In closing, let me simply give you a few pointers to help you live in reality.

First, be open to the fact that you will have blind spots.  In the same way that you can see things in the lives of others that they can’t, they can see things in your life that you can’t.  If they love you they will won’t to help you.  Don’t dismiss their concerns.  Their love for you is trying to move you toward reality.  God made us to be relational, and part of relationships is just this sort of “building each other up”.  In that regard be approachable.  The truth often hurts and as such is often difficult to hear from a friend.  Love those who love you you enough to hurt you in order to make you better.

Second, renew your mind.  Paul admonishes us to not conform to this world, which is not according to reality, but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds.  (Rom 12:2)  We renew our minds by programming it to think Biblically, and we program it to think Biblically by reading the Bible and asking God to teach us.  As our minds are renewed reality becomes increasingly clear.  We can discern the rocky shores long before we can see them.

Third, resolve inconsistencies.  Here are four ways to be consistent in your life and thinking.

  1. Live a life that is consistent with scripture.  God speaks to us through His Word.  Ask for God’s help that you may live according to his Word.  Remember that you are not earning your salvation, but are simply living it out.
  2. Avoid holding to internal inconsistencies.  We can’t, on the one hand for example, claim that God’s law no longer applies and then, on the other hand, say it’s wrong when someone steals our wallet.  That would be inconsistent and so therefore unrealistic.  Be aware that some internally inconsistent ideas are more difficult to resolve than they may at first appear.  That’s Ok.  Wrestle with them.
  3. Learn history, and especially the history of God’s Church, then think consistently with that history.  Don’t get sucked into “normal”.  God did not change his mind about things according to how they fit with an era or culture.  Still, you will find that consistency with historic views will be inconsistent with contemporary views.  Be aware also that old does not mean true.  Every age and place is impacted by the winds of that particular culture and place, so always start with scripture.  Look for consistencies throughout the history of Christianity, then try to remain consistent with those things.  God leads and directs His Church.  Be careful of “new-found” thinking or revelation.  You, right now, are living in a great falling away from the Church in America, a great apostasy.  The same denominations that are now confused about sins that are popular with culture, were the first ones to embrace other “new ideas” a hundred or so years ago.  Think beyond your own times.
  4. Understand your words.  Think about what they mean when you speak them, but more importantly, when you think them. Many times inconsistencies are present without our even realizing it simply because of the way we define words.  This is most evident in how we understand the word “love”, as well as what we expect from those who love us, and how we interact with those we love.  We can know that we are not living in reality when the meanings of our words morph, but our use of them does not.

I pray that you would live your lives in the city of reality.  I pray that you would be ever growing in the truth and knowledge of Jesus Christ, as the deceptions of this world grow ever darker.  It will be a battle for you, but it will be a battle that you, and your mother and I,  can fight shoulder to shoulder.

Your father

There’s A Worm In Everything, Managing Expectations And Preparing For Marriage

Dear children,

A friend once told me over a cup of coffee, “There is a worm in everything”, and it’s true.  No matter what the wonderful thing you’re looking forward to is, you can count on there being worms in it once that wonderful thing happens.  You build something up in your mind with great expectations and it becomes this perfect thing to look forward to.  But then the day finally comes and things happen that seem to get in the way of your fun.  And the bigger the expectations the bigger, even small problems, can seem to become.  Those problems and other unexpected difficulties are the worms, and you need to know that those worms are going to find their way into everything.  That’s just life.

But if this is true for a young person who is looking forward to simpler things like, say, camping trips or birthday parties and the like, think about how much more it is true for big things like marriage and family. Well you can know that there will be worms in those too.  No matter how wonderful you think something is going to be now, it will not be perfect then, so you would be wise to prepare yourself ahead of time by expecting the worms along with your other expectations.

It is my desire for you to learn these things, and to think this way about the things that you look forward to in your young lives. It will not only help you to overcome disappointments that are coming, and so therefore be a happier person, it will also help you to learn while you are young to approach all of life with this same mindset.  Then when you do move into those bigger life events, you will not be torpedoed and sunk because of a little worm that finally showed up.

When marriage does come for you, it will probably be the most expectation filled adventure that you will ever have, and likewise, it will also be the one place that worms can do the most damage in your life.  God made us to feel a powerful feeling when we find ourselves attracted to someone who is attracted to us.  There’s nothing like it.  It’s almost like a drug.  But also like a drug, it wears off, and then you realize that you’ve been blinded for a time and there are some worms that you will be dealing with, perhaps for the rest of your life.  But don’t feel bad.  Your spouses will be dealing with their fair share of worms too.  Such things are a given.  It doesn’t mean you ought to abandon your new family and go off chasing that high again.  It means that it’s time to begin the work of loving and sacrificing for someone else, in the true sense of those words.  And whatever you do don’t forget, those who trade in their old worms only trade them in for new ones.  Better to let the familiar worms perform the work of turning you into a good, decent and faithful adult who knows how to love someone even when you don’t feel like it.

That all said, I feel it necessary to talk a bit about my marriage to your mom.  It might be misunderstood that I am insinuating that I’m not happily married.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  The real truth is that, because I never expected perfection, or marital bliss, I’ve not been in any way disappointed in our marriage.  I married a fellow sinner which means that I married all the little things that make her a sinner.  And she married someone much worse, as I’m sure you both can attest.  And we have managed to love each other through the years, and in fact, we have become pretty adept at slaying and managing worms, and are looking forward to a long life together with godly anticipation, should God so grant us that privilege.  But we both had to slay and quarantine some worms to get where we are now, and that doesn’t happen by running from one can of worms to the next, ever searching for that empty can.   I promise you, it is not out there.

A friend gave me some good advice about marriage.   He said to keep both eyes wide open before the wedding, and then afterward to close one.  That was good worm management advice.  That “drug” induced fog we can find ourselves in has a way of minimizing worms, or making them disappear altogether.  But that is the very time that you need to be taking a close look at worms because they have a way of growing.  After you both become one with someone else, then both your and your beloved’s worms become your worms; “your” meaning the two of you.  So one of the things you might keep both eyes wide open for is to see how your future spouse manages worms, because he or she will have plenty to manage.  Such is life.

Keep in mind that some of the worms that you can encounter can grow to monsters.  Believe me also on this, my beloveds, love will not overcome some worms.  We humans are masters at lying to ourselves to get what we want, and then to get rid of the same when we realize that we no longer want it.  The best plan is to have realistic expectations, ask for and listen to Godly counsel, and be willing to put yourself through a little pain early to save yourself from a lot of pain later.

I talked to an 85 year old man just the other day.  He was on his 68th year of marriage and his wife is now suffering from dementia.  As I talked to him I didn’t have to ask him if he had lived through 67 years of marital bliss.  Ups and downs are a part of marriage, and the ups can be high and the downs can be low.  But learning that love is more than some blissful high, and in fact can endure dark days void of any feeling at all, will not only pave the way for the happiest life you can expect, it will grow you up into a sound, grounded and mature human being.   As your father I want you to live as happy of lives as you can possibly live.  But I am a realist, and I desire that you be a realist also.  So I pray that you would thoroughly understand that you live in a fallen world, and that you bring your own fallen nature to bear on that world also.  I pray that you learn to manage disappointments and even to flourish as a husband and a wife in spite of them, and perhaps I might even dare to say, because of them.  I pray that you would be godly, raise godly children, and would love God with all you can muster, all the days of your life.

Your father.

Hell On Earth Is Rejecting God

Dear children

As a father who honestly and sincerely believes that there is much more to this life than simply working, playing and sleeping until death overtakes us, I don’t think it is possible for me to overstate how important it is that God would overtake your hearts and dwell within.  You see, I don’t believe for a second that this earth and all the life that lives on it simply popped into existence by mere chance.  I don’t think that you or I are mere flesh machines running to and fro, guided only by the chance electron flows in the gray substance that just happens to fill our heads.  No!  You have a purpose that transcends all that your eyes can see, your ears can hear, your skin can feel and your mind can think.

But there are those who reject God, indeed God says that very few will not reject Him.  And in their rejection they march on past the narrow gate which leads to a narrow path and then to an eternity, free from the sin, and all of its fallout, that corrupts this world.  But by passing the gate, they forego more than all that.  Much more.  They pass up an eternity in the presence of their creator and redeemer.  They pass up all that they ever wanted, their Utopia, free of death, free from tears, free from pain, and free from the chains of time.

And for our short lives here, when we reject God we necessarily reject along with God other things that, though they may not be acknowledged, they nevertheless undermine.  We reject:

Eternity. Just like those who came before you, you were born.  And likewise you will also die.  Do not be fooled.  That day is a certainty, though it may seem now to be far off.   Life as you now know it will not go on forever.  It is finite.  But its worse than that.  For those who reject God, any hope of eternal remembrance is vane.  The sun will one day burn out and this planet will be but a cold cinder in space; no one left to remember, no purpose, no nothing, just cold dead matter.

Purpose.  Without eternity the idea of purpose is just another meaningless spark in the neurons in your brain.  Anything “good” that was ever done, any sacrifice that was ever made, any great feat that was ever accomplished, all will disappear and are ultimately as meaningless after the sun burns out as they were when they were accomplished.  Without eternity there can be no purpose, no ultimate reason to do good, nor any ultimate reason to avoid or embrace evil.  There in fact will be no ultimate reason for anything.  Matter, even matter with electrical impulses, is still only matter.

Absolute truth.  Without eternal meaning and purpose there can be no truth.  The very words good and evil become finite and relative.  Good for me can mean what the meaningless thoughts in my brain tell me it is.  I could just as well consider it a good thing to kill someone and take their food when my body tells me I’m hungry.  Who’s to say it would be evil?  The masses on the road to destruction like to think that they can derive truth from themselves through consensus.  That is to say, they believe that good and evil can be determined by simply programming the majority of their fellow flesh machines to agree.  Of course they must destroy and oppress those who refuse to be reprogrammed for they are defective.  But in the end it is meaningless either way.

Men have risen to power and lorded themselves over other men since time began.  And they will until it ends.  They will become little gods for awhile, decreeing this and that good and evil.  But their decrees, just like the electrical charges that cause them to think that their decrees have meaning, are ultimately meaningless.  They will die and turn to dust just like all that came before them.

Love.  God is love.  In a world that rejects God, love is corrupted also.  God is love becomes “God is what I think love is”.  But man cannot even know what love is unless he first knows who God is.  To know God is to begin to get a glimpse into the meaning of “love”.  But without God, love becomes just as meaningless as everything else.  It becomes the result of some warm and fuzzy feelings brought about by chemicals and electrical impulses in the brain.  To love might very well be to murder.  When I, your father, am old, it might seem like the loving thing to do is to give me a pill that will put me out of my suffering and send me back to the dust from whence I came.  But more importantly, by labeling it love, you can go on without any feelings of guilt for murdering your father.  There are perhaps a million ways that hell can be unleashed on this earth in the name of love, for when you reject the Father, you must therefore reject any true meaning or understanding of “love”.

Hope.  The Bible says that “hope that is seen is not hope, for why does one hope for what he already sees?  When we reject God, we abandon all hope except that our eternal state will be nothingness and we really aren’t ultimately accountable for our decisions in this life.  But if our eternal state really is nothingness, then all meaning, all purpose, all truth, and all hope are just as meaningless while we exist.  Man is  left with YOLO,  (you only live once)  and he becomes an hedonistic animal attempting to somehow derive meaning from self-gratification; ever on the lookout for that next thrill or pleasure, driven on by nothing more than minuscule little electrical and chemical signals in his head.  His short existence is plunged into a Hell as millions claw and scratch in their attempts to live this one and only meaningless life doing what the impulses in his brain tells him to do.  He is a slave to his flesh and without hope.

___________________________

Life on the narrow path is nothing like this bleak and hellish existence.  Jesus said “pick up your cross and follow me”.  Picking up our cross is rejecting the flesh’s rule over your destinies.  We are liberated from our slavery to the flesh through the cross.  In the eyes of a world that has no basis for purpose, truth, love or hope, a world that orders itself according to YOLO, picking up your cross and following Jesus will of course make no sense.  But for those on the narrow path it makes perfect sense and in fact,  for them senselessness is trying to derive meaning from nothing.

It is my prayer that you not suffer during your short life.  But I also pray even more that you enter through the narrow gate and walk along the narrow path.  I, in fact, pray that even if the narrow path is filled with suffering, and it may well be, that you will walk that path anyway in God’s abundant grace.  His grace is able to sustain you in temporary suffering much more than all the riches in this meaningless world can in a comfortable pain-free life, and I pray that His Grace will do that very thing.  Paul tells us that “For the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared to the glory that will be revealed to us.”  So I admonish you dear children, ask your Father in heaven to give you the grace to enter through that narrow gate, and then to walk along that narrow path, and to set your sights beyond the grave which, you should remember, looms much nearer than you think.

Your father

Is God Really “Good”? Are You?

Dear children

There are some words that we use… that I use, which I have termed “neon words”.  I call them this because it seems that every time I hear them they shine bright in my thinking and generally suggest the need of a definition.  These words are so common that we often make assumptions that they mean the same thing to everyone when they don’t; and that causes a lot of confusion.

Today I want to talk about one “neon word” in particular.  It is used often and it often communicates very little between people.  That word is “good”.   Here are a couple of things to think about when you hear it:

First, the word “good”, when you think about it, appeals to a standard.  It in fact must.  No confusion there just yet.  The problem comes when the source of the standard is unclear, or whether that standard is subjective or objective. For example, if someone says: “Chocolate ice cream is good”, good appeals to a subjective standard. It does not imply that the goodness of chocolate ice cream is, or ought to be, universal. But imagine if the speaker, or hearer, was making assumptions about that the statement.  Suppose someone understood that statement in universal terms.  That would change everything?  The statement would then be an objective and would appeal to a universal standard which would make it an objective truth.  But, when we’re talking about ice cream it is easy to discern that the statement is not making an objective or universal claim.  But trust me, it is not always quite so clear.

Consider, for example, the statement, “I am a good person”. Unlike the goodness of ice cream, this is appealing to an objective standard. While ice cream is subject to personal tastes, in order to assert that I am a good person I must then compare myself to another standard completely; a standard that is independent of, and outside of, myself, and which is universal.

With a little thought we can see here how, if we confuse the source of the standard, not only will our communication suffer but so will our thinking. Consider for a moment the statement: “Mr. Smith is a good teacher”. What is most likely heard is that Mr. Smith conforms to some objective standard for teaching. But the person saying this might well be communicating that Mr. Smith makes him feel good about himself while in Mr. Smith’s class. Mr. Smith may well not be a good teacher at all but rather good in the skills of personal relations. There is no way the hearer can know without exercising a little curiosity about what is meant.  He must ask some questions like “Why do you say that?” Or maybe someone thinks Mr. Smith, although he has great interpersonal skills, is a rotten teacher.  That person may ask, perhaps sarcastically: “If he’s a good teacher then I’m wondering what your idea of a bad teacher would be?” Such questions are seeking to understand the standard being used.

We’ve all probably heard the phrase “God is good”? Does standard does this statement appeal to?  Is it a subjective or objective standard? Is God “good” because His character aligns with a definition of good derived from my own personal desires? To correctly convey the reality that these words represent, these questions must have answers. Is God’s character being compared to a higher standard than even Himself? What standard does one appeal to in such a statement that God might be judged as having measured up to it? Our own personal standard? What if, as I believe to be true, “God” is the standard? In that case we can rightly say with Job “Though He slay me, (a bad thing) I will hope in Him”1  and it would make sense? But if God’s goodness is subject to my own personal preferences, then not only is God diminished, but so is the word “good”. In such a case we can only say “God is good” when we, say, get that one thing that we’ve been wanting.  But we can’t then also say “God is good” when we then lose that one thing for what ever reason.  That would necessarily make God bad, would it not, since his goodness or badness is measured against what good or bad thing happens to you?  To judge God according to what you think ought to be, or a standard based on your own likes and dislikes will lead you to a misunderstanding of both, the meaning of the word good, and the very nature of God.

Second, it doesn’t help that we live in a time in which all standards are considered relative. The idea that an objective standard exists has been rejected because it is believed that there is no objective standard except what man determines that it is on any given day.  With this view we need not examine our own lives according to any standard other than the one we create for ourselves… which would of course be subjective. Using this sort of reasoning a mother, having just been convicted of horribly abusing her children, could still proclaim loudly to the court that she is a good person, as happened a few years back here in Arizona. Why shouldn’t she say it? To what objective standard would anyone appeal to argue differently?  We are all, after all, little cocoons wherein our own self-created reality, and its standards, aligns with our own desires. We can see why then that any suggestion that there is a standard that exists beyond our own personal tastes and pleasures is met with fierce opposition.

But it gets more confusing yet. You will hear that it is not good for you to impose your standards on others, and we are not to judge others either, as if the world outside our cocoon is now somehow subject to the subjective standards that exist on the inside. The fact that we feel better about ourselves because we are living according to a standard we created ourselves, for the purpose of making ourselves feel better about ourselves, hides the fact that we are now twisting ourselves into logical pretzels and are in reality functioning in an absurd world.

In this world the very word “good” is rendered meaningless and in many cases — according to any given person’s subjective framework — it is no longer distinguishable from “bad” so that good for some becomes evil for others. 2   Yet the word lingers in our language as if there were still a standard from which its meaning could be derived, while at the same time that standard’s existence is denied. The language therefore becomes confused and communication between souls breaks down so that we live in a modern-day kind of Babel.  3

In such a world it is then pondered, why are people these days so isolated? Why can’t we all just get along? Why is there such division and loneliness? One reason is that they have killed and dismembered a key and core concept. They have treated a foundational thing like the idea that is represented by the word “good” as if it were a pre-born child and ripped it from the womb of our thinking, and having thrown it into the trash bin, have celebrated the freedom to do so.  But such freedoms are not free.  They come with a price that apparently very few realize that we are paying.

So dear children.  Hold fast to the foundations laid long ago by God.  Don’t think yourself in a position to judge God, but instead cry out for his mercy as he judges you according to a perfect standard that was laid before the foundations of the earth; a standard that all have fallen short of.  As Paul admonishes us, so do I, cloth yourself in Christ that you may rise to God’s holy and perfect standard in Him, and therefore become good in the sight of God.

Your father.

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

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.

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