Dear Children

Letters From A Father's Heart

Archive for the category “Doctrine”

God’s Word, The Beacon Of Truth

Dear children,

The Bible is not a book suitable for fools, for it is the fool who approaches this work of works with the premise already set in his heart that the claimed author doesn’t exist. You must make up your mind about this your own self, but as you make up your mind, do so only after you’ve made up your mind about your own existence.

For one, you exist in time. One of the most profound passages in the Bible is God answering the question put to Him by Moses, “Who shall I say sent me”? The two words “I Am” was his answer, and this is our creator’s signature to His magnificent work. I was told of this passage before I read it, and it put me into an immediate state of awe and wonder. “I am” speaks of existence, but not only of existence, but an existence as it relates to time and space, or perhaps better put, to an existence from the perspective that is outside of both.

It is difficult to think outside of one’s own perspective. I am a westerner now living in the early twenty first century. My mind interprets all things from that perspective. And while I might manage to capture and confine a few of the influences bearing on me from the perspective of my 21st century western experience, I’m convinced that it is a hopeless endeavor to escape the myriad influences sufficiently to evaluate myself and my world from any other perspective. I can never say, “I am”. I can only say that “I am here and now”. Indeed my own history as late as yesterday is already fading from my grasp, and tomorrow is completely unknown.

Yet still, I am aware of a history that preceded even my own existence, but even the study of that is limited by my perspective and made more hazy by the perspectives of those who witnessed it and played their part in conducting it to the present. It is clear to me that man can never “be” in the same sense that the “I am” is. Man is a blind fool wandering around in the annuls of time, seeing his own short history of existence in the light of a dim flickering lamp that creates long shadows which hide truths. And he is completely blind as it regards his future. He is led about by a ring in his nose, that ring being his fleshy desires.

As a result of such contemplations of “time” you will inevitably be led to your origins. On this matter the Bible and your culture are not compatible. Pay no mind to anyone who attempts to reconcile evolution and scripture. If it be concluded for you that your existence is the result of evolution, then reject God and accept the consequences of that faith. But if it be concluded in your heart that the faith required to be an evolutionist is beyond your ability to reason, then reject it. Your father lacks the required faith to believe the tenets of evolution. It is an easier task for this feeble mind to see the “I Am” as the author of man’s existence, and so by extension your father’s existence. Still, I understand those who put their faith in a system of knowledge that denies the a coming day of judgement wherein an account will be required. Man generally prefers to see the world as he wishes it to be rather than how it really is. But know this, in the whole of it reality dangles precariously for any of us on the tiny thread of that portion of the total of truth which we hold to be true.

On the second matter, you exist in space. That is to say that you exist on a slab of land on a planet in a gravitational relationship with two heavenly bodies, all three of which are spinning and churning through the cold nothingness we call space. But more importantly than this, you exist in another sort of place that is multifaceted. You live in a family, a community, a region, a culture and a nation. And just as well, if you are in Christ, and He is in you, you live within a global community of believers who together make up the body of Christ. It is these facets that exert themselves onto your existence. They pull and push you this way and that. In fact the Bible calls it being “blown this way and that by every wind of doctrine.” Without some sort of stabilizing force in your life you will have no recourse but to look inwardly for direction, and in so doing subjecting yourself to feelings and the prevailing thought patterns in which you find yourself emmersed.

God’s word is the only answer for such chronological and spatial disorientation. It is a beacon on the horizon by which you can fix your position in time and space according to the great “I Am”. You will not be lost, your direction and purpose will be sure, and you will endure the course set before you, which, though not beaten, certainly not untrodden by former witnesses either.

I pray that God’s Word would become a lamp unto your feet, a beacon of hope, and a comfort in your trials.  I pray that you would hear and trust the promises of God and that you would set your face like flint in the direction that God has marked for you to go. I pray that you would not falter, that you would rise up as a mighty warrior in Christ’s army, and that where I have failed and fallen, you will succeed. May you in the end hear those blessed words, “Well done my good and faithful servant”. I desire nothing for you more than this.

Your father.

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God Is Love, And Perfect Love Casts Out Fear

Dear children

You, being human beings, have a propensity to see what you want to see, and to not see what you don’t want to see.  We all have this fault to one degree or another.  I know I do.  The singer Paul Simon wrote a popular song many years ago with the lyrics: “All lies and jests, Still a man hears what he wants to hear, and disregards the rest.”  I think Paul got this one right.  But also, like most of our faults, we can more easily see this in others than in ourselves.  But see it in ourselves we must, by looking beyond our assumptions to find truth; which is easier said than done.  In fact, much more than that, we must ask God, indeed earnestly beseech Him, to show us truth.

So why do I say such things?  We, being human, also have a propensity to see God the way we want to see Him, and to disregard those things about Him that we don’t want to see.  We in fact must resist turning the God of the scriptures into a god of our own making.  We’d sure rather have a god that we don’t need to fear more so than one that strikes fear in us.  But our desires don’t dictate reality.  If the Bible says over and over again that we ought to fear God, ignoring all those verses by misinterpreting one verse that would, on the surface, seem to suggest that we need not fear God, would not be wise; as in, “The-fear-of- the-Lord-is-the-beginning-of-wisdom” not wise.  (Prov 9:10)

To help us ignore most of what the Bible tells us about fearing God, there is a go-to verse that we often hear quoted.  “Perfect love casts out fear”.  Here is the passage from which it is taken in its entirety:

7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.

13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21  And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. (1st John 4)

This raises a couple of questions.  First, are we suppose to fear God or not?  Second, why do we need to fear a loving God?

The answer is yes, we are supposed to fear God.  And second, yes, we need to fear Him because He is Loving.  We fear Him, not because of His love, but because of our lack of it, as this passage beautifully points out.  So let us look more closely.

As it turns out, the Bible has a lot to say about love and fear.  The word Love is mentioned often in the Bible, and more often than not–actually most often–it refers to us loving God, and us loving our fellow man.  Read the passage above and you’ll see a microcosm of how the word “love” is used throughout the entire Bible.  Out of all the times it’s used, only one is a proclamation of God’s love for those who are His.( verse 10)

Also, in a passage like this with such a rich emphasis on love, it would behoove us to understand what is meant by that word.  That, in itself, will be a life long project for you.  Grasping the love of God is no small feat.  But this passage gives us a good hint, as is similar to most others that proclaim God’s love.  Right next to the proclamation of God’s love for us is an allusion to the cross.  (…and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.)  It is a rare thing actually to see God’s love proclaimed in the New Testament without an allusion to the cross nearby.

So, if we can look past our biases and assumptions we can see that this passage is about two things: 1)our love for God, 2) and mainly, our love for our fellow man.  But key to understanding the point I’m trying to make using this passage is the word “perfect”, for that word has caused many a soul to set this verse against what the entire rest of the Bible teaches.  In verse 12 we see the first use of the word “perfect, which has to do with our love for others brought about by His love abiding in us.  The second use (perfected) is in verse 17, and again it refers to our love, not Gods.  And in the next verse we see it (perfected) for the third time.  “Perfect love casts out fear“.  After the semicolon the same point is restated, “…whoever fears has not been perfected in love”.  The “whoever”, by the way, is not referring to God, but us.  So this ought to raise a question.  Do you love God perfectly?  Are you perfected in love?  If you can answer yes, then you need not fear God, and the entire rest of the Bible can be ignored by you because you have already been perfected.  I, on the other hand, still fear God, and until I am removed from this sinful body, and stand before the judgement seat of Christ clothed in His righteousness, I don’t see that changing.

In the end, pulling a Bible verse from the context of the rest of the Bible, and then using it for the purpose of–in the words of Paul Simon–disregarding the rest,  is unwise.  If you study this passage you will see that it is in complete agreement with the rest of scripture’s command to fear God, so we should, therefore, fear God.  We ought not, by the command of scripture, create a god in our minds that need not be feared.

I pray for you my dear children, that you would understand who God is, and that you would love and fear him, for that is right.  I pray that you would worship Him in spirit and truth, the true Him, and not a made-up version of Him that you find more appealing.  May our Father in heaven bring this about in your minds and hearts as you grow in revelation and love for your Father and Savior.

Your father

 

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

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

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

Legalism, God’s Law, And Confusion

Dear children,

I do so desire that confusion not plague your lives in Christ.  And one thing that seems to have wrought a fair amount of confusion in this current age is a misunderstanding of legalism.  The confusion revolving around legalism is twofold and  involves both an increasingly doctrine-adverse Church and a culture that is becoming thoroughly intolerant of moral absolutes.  Each seems to feed off the other as God’s law becomes ever increasingly hated in the culture and shunned within church congregations and among their leaders under the guise of avoiding legalism.  And while legalism is a bad thing, the definition of it is being turned on its head with the effect of more and more people in and out of the Church living according to what is right in their own eyes.  To point to God’s Word and suggest that God has a law designed to restrain evil is now met with charges of legalism.  But it’s not legalism.  God has already determined what is right and wrong, so we don’t get to now change that.  Also, appealing to God’s law to determine right from wrong, and legalism are two different things.

So first let us start with my first premise by pointing to a fundamental doctrine.  Good doctrine, by the way, helps us to steer clear of error and confusion so it’s always a good starting point when confronting confusion.  So, in order to work through reconciling “God’s law” with “God’s grace” let us start with the doctrine of “God’s sovereignty” which teaches that there is absolutely nothing that man can do to save himself.  Legalism, on the other hand says that there is not only something that man can do, but there is something he must do, to be saved.  But the Bible does not teach that no more than it teaches that grace is a licence to abandon God’s law.  The doctrine of God’s sovereignty teaches that our salvation is totally God’s doing.   Paul gave us the reason for this.  It was so that “no man may boast”.

So to help us think through this let us ponder a little question.  “Why should God let you into heaven when you die”?  The answer to that question cannot use the word “I”, not even once, because to use the word “I” means that did something.  And if did something, even a tiny little itty bitty thing, then have reason to boast before my fellow man and before God.  And God will not have that.  If the evangelist knocks on your door, for example, and presents the Gospel to you, and you understand it and repent, and after he leaves your house he goes to your neighbor’s house and presents him with the same message, and he rejects it, what is the difference between you and your neighbor?  Were you smarter than him?  Wiser?  More open-minded?  If so, you have a reason to boast.  But scripture is clear that  no man has reason to boast.  This truth is our starting point for everything.  Our salvation is a work of God, begun while we were still living in rebellion.

Secondly, it only stands to reason that if there was anything at all, no matter how small, that you could do to receive the Gospel, then there is also something that you could do to lose the Gospel.  Again, not possible.  It is by God’s will that you are saved, and not by your own will, not even a molecule-sized piece of it.  So if there is nothing you could have done to gain your salvation, then there is no law that you could break once you’re saved to lose your salvation.  So three things to consider here: 1) To earn your salvation through your own works is legalism. 2) To keep your salvation through obeying God’s law is also legalism. 3) God’s law still exists.

Even though we know that no righteousness on our part can earn us salvation, it’s still a good thing to desire to live righteously, and the Bible teaches as much.  And to desire to live righteously requires a desire to know what righteousness is.  That knowledge comes from God’s law, without which righteousness would become subjective and worldly.  It would simply mean doing what is right in our own eyes.  We are experiencing that all around in this age.  Keep in mind also that any righteousness we attain comes from the indwelling Spirit of Christ, which is a free gift from God.  It is not you, but Christ in you.  We can thank God for that, and indeed thankfulness and praise is the only appropriate response.

You need to make peace with the fact that you will never keep the law. It can no more be done than being the perfect child, or the perfect father.  But the desire to be good children, or good parents, is not thwarted by our failures, nor does it change the fact that we are children and parents.

For now I love you and I am praying that you will continue to fix your eyes on Jesus, casting off every sin that entangles you, and running with perseverance the race before you.

Your father

Start With God. Work To Man. Not The Other Way Around

Dear children,

I’m sure you will remember a common question that I’ve asked you, and the answer that I’ve taught you to give.  “Are you smart/fast/handsome/pretty?” and so on.  I’ve taught you to answer “Compared to who?”  There is a reason for this silliness.  Indeed such questions demand a reference point.  All of us are smarter, faster, and so on, than some, but not others.  It is my hope that you would always realize the need of a reference point outside of yourself for making determinations about yourself.  In other words, I want you to think objectively and not subjectively.

Objective thinking will be an indispensable concept for you to grasp as you form the lense through which you will ultimately see and interpret your world.  If you become subjective you must put yourself at the center of the universe and be the measure of all things.  But to think objectively you must look for a higher standard, a standard outside of yourself, and a standard that has proven itself by withstanding the test of time and assault.  That standard is your very creator, God.  He has given it to us though His Word, the Bible.  So, as we interpret our world we must begin with God and not Man, and then work our way to man.  So here are two examples of starting with man.  One was written by what appears to be a fine young Christian man.  And the other example is from a God hating atheist.

The first I found in an article that was addressing an often quoted scripture,  Isaiah 64:6., which says: “We all have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.”  The writer wanted to make the case that not all of our righteous deeds really are as “filthy rags”.  He does a good job of appealing to the context of the passage and to good Bible believing theologians.  Whether or not his claim has merit is not my point in this letter.  What is my point is that he uses one argument that starts with man and then works to God.  Here is an excerpt:

“What father do you know looks to his children and says, “Your works are worthless, and they are nothing but complete trash in my eyes?” Hopefully none. Or maybe some earthly fathers are like that, but our heavenly Father isn’t one of them. “

He is correct.  I do not know of a father who would do such a thing.  But that’s the very reason that this argument has such an appeal.  It has a good feeling to it.  But the argument starts with man, and then attempts to work its way to God, and that is a mistake that I hope you will avoid, and here’s why.  While I don’t know a father who would do such a thing, I do know that all fathers are men.  And in being men I know that they have sinned horribly.  If they are true Christians then it is safe to say that their minds are being renewed.  But it is not safe to say that their minds have become renewed.  Their view of perfection and righteousness is still tainted.  The bottom line is that they are in no position to say whether anyone’s righteousness is actually righteous or not.  So do we really want to look at what an earthly father would do and then impose that standard on God? Of course not.  Better to start with God, who is holy, righteous, perfect, and oh, by the way, sinless, then work our way to man, who is corrupt and fallen in his nature.  God’s holiness and righteousness is the objective standard.  And we have all fallen short of that standard.

The second example is from a video which attempts to challenge the Biblical concept of eternal punishment of mankind for the sins of Adam, as well as Jesus’ payment for those sins on the cross.  It does so in the context of a make-believe family of five.  The story centers around the youngest brother.  He lives in fear of the horrible punishment he’s going to receive because his older sister disobeyed her parents before he was even born.  She had eaten some chocolate that she was forbidden to eat.  The video goes on to talk about a third brother whom the parents punished horribly because of the sister’s disobedience.  In short, the video presents a caricature of the Gospel message, and then it attempts to refute that messagel by appealing to man’s sensibilities.  The narrator asks, “Can you imagine if this story was true?  Wouldn’t the parents be labeled as psychopathic and be locked away somewhere for child abuse?”

Can you see it?  He is appealing to what man would do, and then he is judging God by those standards.  But what if he were to start with God?  What if he started with the fact that God is holy, righteous, perfect and just? All of a sudden disobeying God is not a small thing but a very large thing.  Add to this that, because of Adam’s sin, it is the very nature of man to rebel against God, to actually be at war with God, and to hate God.  When we see things the way they really are, the innocence of man sinks into an ocean of sin.

But let’s continue our analysis.  Imagine that God still loves His creation anyway, and wants to save some of those who hate Him, and who are at war with Him.  So He uses a means that allows Himself to remain righeous and just while still foregoing the punishment of those who hate Him and are at that very moment in rebellion against Him.  So He he pours out His justice on His Son, even while the recipients of God’s grace are still warring against Him so that He can make peace with them.  Can you see how that is starting with God?

Now let us continue as we work our way to man.  We do this by attempting to see things from God’s perspective rather than seeing God’s from ours.  Suppose therefore that you are surrounded by people who hate you with a passion, and who want you dead.   Now suppose that you could kill all of them in a flash, but instead you loved some of them in spite of their hatred of you.  And suppose also that to simply forgive them would be unjust and therefore wrong, and so therefore against your nature.  But suppose that your love was so great that you decided to punish your own son, who had never broken even one of your laws, and who loved you more than any of those people out there could even imagine, so that you could forgive them and call them into your own love and protection.  This is more like the real Gospel.  And think about it, would not those on the outside then also hate those whom you had brought in to be with you?  Would not those on the outside call you insane?  Yes, they would.  But that’s just it.  If you are in Christ, God’s love for you is rooted in His love for His Son.  It actually is an insane love.

So, dear children, it is my desire for you that you would pick up on it immediately when man makes appeals to what man would do to determine what God would do.  It is better to understand the attributes of your Father in Heaven, who He is, and what He’s like, and start there, then look at man in light of those realities.  And I pray you would do just that.  I pray that God would give you the discernment to differentiate between man’s vain wisdom and the God’s truth.

Your father

To Be Ashamed Of God Is To Judge God

Dear children,

God is real.  He is the creator of everything, and He is the creator of you.  God is also good.  But he is not good according to man’s judgement of what good is.  He is good according to His own standard.  And in that God is good, he is necessarily just.  He judges all things rightly.  And there we, his creation, find ourselves in an overwhelming predicament, for we are not good, according to God’s judgements.  God’s justice rightly condemns us because all have broken His law.  But there is good news!  God loved this world in such a way that we do not have to abide in God’s wrath.  He sent His son to pray the price for our sin.  That, dear children, is the best news you will ever hear.

Yet, here is the problem for sinful man, even in light of God’s Gospel.  Here I will let the Bible speak, for I do not want you to think it is me saying this:

What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it  [salvation] depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. (Rm 9:15-16)

This is, in my own opinion, one of the most difficult passages in the Bible.  But whose opinion is my opinion?  Am I in a position to judge God?  Of course not!  Should I be ashamed to serve a God who has mercy on some and not others?  On the contrary, I have but one question that matters more than any other.  Did He in fact have mercy on me?  Like the old Hymn, which was sung as a prayer, says: “Just as I am without one plea, but that thy blood was shed for me…”  But the writer understood that there was more, and that “more” is of the utmost importance.  So he adds to his one plea another: “…and that Thy bidest me come to thee..”  This is the question that you ought to be asking also, and pleading to God that He grant to you His mercy so that you may come to Him.

So here is the objection that causes many Christians to be ashamed of their God.  It normally goes something like this:  “What about the man who has lived his whole life in some remote tribe, and who has never heard the Gospel?  What happens to that man when he dies?”  I admit that this is one of the most difficult questions that you will ever be asked.  I think Paul answers the question in this same chapter, Romans 9, albeit not an answer that anyone likes.  And while probably millions of pages have been written in attempts to answer this very old question, the only point I want to get across to you now is to not ever be ashamed of your God for not having mercy on some, for to be ashamed of your God you must first judge your God… and that will never do.  God is our creator.  He can do with us as He pleases, and in the end He will still be good according to the only standard that matters, His.

We must begin all of our thinking with God, and then work our way from Him to man; not the other way around.  We start with God, who is good, holy, righteous and perfect.  Whatever He does, regardless of what we think, does not change that fact.  What we think doesn’t matter because our thinking has been corrupted with sin.  We, as mere men, are in no place to judge God for his decisions.  He can do as he pleases, even if it doesn’t please us.  But then again, that is the very thing that we have to be thankful for.  For it pleased God to send his Son to die on the cross so that we can escape His wrath.  He poured out that wrath on His sinless Son!  We, as sinful man, are in big trouble without this sacrifice.

I saw a bumper-sticker once that said “Born Ok The First Time”.  Born OK?  According to whose standard?  God says that we were born not OK and that we need to be born again.  That was His decree.  We must put our faith in His mercy, and plead with Him that His blood was shed for us, and also that He bid us come.  We must be born again.  We must not be ashamed of God because He does not measure up to man’s–read, our own–ideas of justice.  Look about you, man’s justice is corrupt.  You don’t need a magnifying glass to understand that.  The last thing in this world that we should desire is that God would live up to our views of “justice”.

I believe that both of you are born again.  But so many children in this day get caught up in this world.  Troubles come and they fall away.  The cares of this world and the deceitfulness of wealth can choke out your faith.  And many young abandon their faith when they are older.  I pray that you would grasp that, no greater love is there than the laying down of one’s life for another.  I pray for you daily that God would bid you come.  I pray that God would grow you up into people who are according to the Spirit, and not the flesh.  I pray that you both would become mighty warriors in God’s army, and that you would not be lost to God’s wrath. I pray that he would overcome my failures and weaknesses as a mere man, and direct your eyes and your minds to Himself.  It is my number one prayer for you.  And again I pray that God would grant me this one desire, Amen.

Your father.

 

The Main Stream

Dear children,

We are all in this life faced with a choice between being in the so-called “mainstream” and not being there.  You will hear that word bandied about a lot in your life and when you do hear it, it will almost always be used in what is called a logical fallacy that argues in favor of something on the bases of “everyone else is doing it”.  So if you don’t either do it or agree with it being done then you’re not in the “mainstream”; and that’s suppose to be bad.  Unfortunately, this convinces many people to go with the flow, (pun intended) because it is only natural to want to fit in and be accepted.

But that word, “mainstream”, connotes a river flowing down hill.  It is flowing according to the course set by the happenstance of geography; and according to the least amount of resistance.  And it is flowing with great force.  Its flow might be temporarily impeded at times, as with a dam, but the river will overcome and destroy the impediment eventually. It is always only a matter of time.  In the middle of the river the current is strong and that is where the greatest mass of water exists and moves .  But then you have the water that is close to the edge that might be flowing slower, or perhaps almost not at all.  I think therefore that the word is quite accurate as it describe the masses of humanity.  I would also say that I do not want to be in the mainstream, nor do I think that that we are called by God to be there.  So let us go to the scriptures and see why.

Let us begin with one of my favorites which is Romans 12:

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.  (Rom 12:2)

Paul could have just as easily used the word “mainstream” instead of “world”, because in reality the main flow of this world is based on how the world thinks.  Our thinking is formulated.  We think about things according to a framework that is either installed by our culture, or by something else.  That framework is constructed of points of reference from which we make determinations and judgements.  Those who are in the middle of the river do not feel the current.  Their reference point is the water around them, which appears to be sitting still.  Rather it is the river’s edge that is moving.  But here God calls us to another set of reference points for our thinking.   He calls us to touch the bottom of the river, to stand up, and to begin our walk to the edge.  But as soon as we attempt to stand, the current becomes powerfully obvious.

We also have this gem in 1st John chapter 2:

Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.   (1 John 2:15-17)

John is also giving us a contrast between the mainstream and our walk with God.  Those in the mainstream love the mainstream.  They work hard to appeal to the thinking of the mainstream, with all of its lusts, and they are proud of the fact that they “fit in”, and they do not like those who don’t.  If you walk out your life with your feet on solid ground, that is, not being “carried about by every wind of doctrine” (Eph 4:14) you will experience the ere of this world.  But for me, being hated by the “mainstream” is comforting and assuring.  It is when I find myself in agreement with this world’s thinking that I become afraid.  And that is as it should be because Jesus warns us that the world first hated him and it will hate us also.  He also warns us to be concerned “when all men speak well of [us]” (Luke 6:26).

The idea of being called out of this world’s way of thinking, as it turns out, is not a New Testament idea.  We have God calling Noah out the world and into an ark that separated him and his family from the “mainstream”, which killed everyone. And again, we see God beginning the operation of redeeming His world by calling Abram out of the world as Abram knew it:

Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go forth from your country, and from your relatives and from your father’s house, to the land which I will show you...”  (Gen 12:1)

After God called Abram into his new life, he gave him a new name, Abraham, the progeny of which, many years later through providence, ended up in Egypt.  And then God called His children out of Egypt as well.

And then in the end of the scriptures we see again, as we read in the apocalyptic writing of Revelation, God commanding “His people” to “come out” of what might well be considered the “mainstream”:

“For all the nations have drunk of the wine of the passion of her immorality, and the kings of the earth have committed acts of immorality with her, and the merchants of the earth have become rich by the wealth of her sensuality.”  I heard another voice from heaven, saying, “Come out of her, my people, so that you will not participate in her sins and receive of her plagues; for her sins have piled up as high as heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities. “  (Rev 18:3-6)

Remember that the mainstream flows downhill.  It does not war against its flesh, but on the contrary it embraces and celebrates it along with all of its carnal desires.  (Romans 1) Rather than war against the flesh, they war against those who do “war against their flesh”.  But man knows deep down all is not well.  He knows that he is in trouble.  So many attempt to console themselves beyond the approval of the masses by adopting the parts of the Christian religion they like.  They find consolation by extracting verses from scripture like the one that promises that God will remember our sins no more. (Heb 8:12)  But this promise is clearly only true for those who are hidden in Christ.  In this passage from Revelations, it is a downright terrifying thought that God “has remembered her iniquities”.

There is one passage that is perhaps the most explicit and poignant when it comes to calling people out of  the “mainstream”.  Jesus is crystal clear in this short passage that following Jesus is not mainstream, and the mainstream are not following Jesus:

Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.  (Matt 7:13-14)

Not only are we to make our way out of the mainstream–and its thought forms and lifestyles–we are to then walk along a narrow “stream”, so to speak.  The water in this path does not push you along with great force.  It is quiet and gentle, and there is peace to be found in its midst.

We are living in radical times.  The battles being waged against God and His law are hot and often.  The force of the mainstream, which was impeded for a time in the nation into which you were born, has breached the dam.  There are tumultuous times ahead for those now floating comfortably in the backwaters.  But if you will be found in Christ, while you will not be spared trials and hardships, if you will cling to him you will find your feet always planted on the solid rock that cannot be swept away by the raging torrents.

Dear children, we don’t know how strongly our feet are planted until the floods come.  But I pray that that your feet, and our, your parent’s, feet will be planted firmly.  I pray it often that God would fix us fast to His Son in order that we would not be swept away.  All around us it is happening.  Everyday news comes of some church, or man of the church, who has lost his footing and has been swept away.  So as the scriptures point out…

You will not be afraid of the terror by night,
Or of the arrow that flies by day;
Of the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
Or of the destruction that lays waste at noon.
A thousand may fall at your side
And ten thousand at your right hand,
But it shall not approach you.
(Ps 91:5-7)

 …so I pray for you.  May it be so dear LORD, may it be so.

Your father

God Is Not A Man

Dear children,

It’s a good thing to think about God, to ask questions, to ponder the attributes of our Creator as we walk down this path we call life.  And I think our heavenly Father invites us to do just that.  In doing this we realize that God is not a man, and then others times it’s a little too easy to forget that.

That God is not man is the easy part.  What man can create heaven and earth, is all knowing and almighty?  These attributes of power and strength give us comfort for good reason.  Still, there is another way that God is not like us that might seem a little odd at first, maybe even wrong, until we think about it a bit.

Man, that is you and I, possess personality traits that are sinful.  We might think of someone who is jealous, who is a “glory-hound”, who is self-centered, or who always has to have things their own way, as having personality flaws.  But what if I asserted that God possesses these same traits and in doing so is holy and righteous in possessing them?  Is it possible for God to possess the same traits for himself that are sinful for mere man to possess?   Is it wrong for God to want attention, to demand all glory, to be self centered, and to always want everything His way?  Well, if God is nothing more than a glorified man, perhaps not; and I’m afraid that’s the very way that many actually do see Him.  But God is no a glorified man.  He is our creator, the maker of heaven and earth, holy and righteous, perfect in every way; and he is worthy of all praise, and all glory and all honor forever.

The first time I heard someone say that God was self-centered it sounded like blasphemy to me.  But as I thought about it, I realized that God set some standards for Man that He did not set for Himself, the center of all creation.  While it is bad for man to be self-centered, it is a good thing for God.  He is God. What other “centered” would we have Him be?  What other “centered” could He be?  Man centered?  As Paul would say, “May it never be!”

Thinking about attributes that would be sin for man and righteousness for God will help you to guard yourself against diminishing God and raising up man in your thinking; which is a common tendency that we mortals seem to have.  It helps us to remember that He is the reference point for all things, not us.  And again, that is a good thing.

I pray that you would spend your lives contemplating the attributes of God.  That you would see His hand in the smallest of things just as much as you see it in the large things.  It’s probably all small to our Creator, after all.  I pray that the awe you have of Him would grow stronger through your years as the “you” diminishes, and the “He” looms ever larger, and ever more powerful, and worthy of our praise.

Your father.

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