Dear Children

Letters From A Father's Heart

Archive for the category “Reality”

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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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

The Reality Of Man’s Basic Goodness, Or Not So Much

–Continued From previous post–

Reality number 4, Man is not “basically good”

Years ago, while watching the evening news, I saw something that I’ll never forget.  A woman in a courtroom had just received a verdict for something she’d been accused of concerning her children.  I can’t remember what exactly it was, only that is was pretty rotten.  But what struck me was her outburst in response.  As they were taking her out of the courtroom she was in tears crying out over and over, as if defending herself against the real charge, “I am not a bad person, I am not a bad person!”  Had she been living in reality it would have already been settled in her heart and mind that not only was she not a good person, the fact that she wasn’t was probably one of the few things that she had in common with every other person in the room.  That word “good”, in her judgement of self, called forth a standard.  This is true for all of us.  Without first accepting that our judgments demand a basis, it is quite impossible for us to reside in the land of reality.  This is certainly true if we are making moral judgements, and especially true if we are making them about ourselves.

When we are exploring the condition of man, you see, we are not so much attempting to answer the question, “Is man basically good?”, as we are attempting to define an all too common word in the English language.  Man is by his nature quick to run to his own defense when his basic goodness is in question.  He will in general declare it as a self-evident-truth in the same way the convicted woman did when she insisted that she was, in spite of and after all the evidence to the contrary, a good person.  But is this reality?  Is man really basically good?

When we hear someone assume man’s goodness, or appeal to it in defense of a popular sin,  we can know that “good” was generally defined loosely by a bunch of assumptions that are as common as the word itself.  But don’t you make those assumptions.  Know that the word always necessarily refers to a standard.  So to answer the question concerning our goodness, we must first seek the standard to which the word refers.  The standard we humans usually appeal to is no standard at all but rather an emotional opinion, our own.  “I am a good person.  Why you ask?  Because I think so, that’s why.”  But the Bible presents us with another standard, the very standard as it turns out that God will measure us by, and so therefore the same standard by which we ought to measure ourselves while we can.  And that standard is nothing less than perfection.

So if we use God’s standard, it is safe for us to realistically conclude that we, as human beings, are not basically good.  So not only does reality match up with this truth, so does history; not to mention the last 2000 years of church doctrine, all of which are good indicators that we are on the right track for living in reality.  And Indeed, not only does the Bible proclaim this truth once in some obscure passage, but throughout it drives the point home like a hammer driving a nail.  The scriptures insists that man is fallen, that he is not basically good, that he is a law breaker, that he is at war with God and that he is inclined toward evil at all times.  Unless we are masters of denial, it is impossible to read the Bible and conclude that man is basically good.  We must therefore either reject the Bible, or confess what it says, which is that we not only need a savior, we are in a horribly desperate situation and in dire need of a savior.  This truth, as you might guess, is not a popular one–not even among those who claim to love and know God.  But that should be expected I suppose.  Anyone, after all, even if  they’ve done something horrible to their children, can appeal to the sliding scale of their social counterparts and come away content that they’re doing just fine, thank you very much.

So the reality of man’s true condition is an unpopular one, which is probably why the Bible, with all of its talk about love, is still very much hated and despised.  Take Hell for instance.  The Bible paints awful pictures of this place, and Jesus says Himself that, without an intervention,”good” demands that we are all condemned to go there.  Now why would God respond so over-the-top harshly to people who are basically good?  He doesn’t.  If we think He does, then we don’t understand “good” in such a way that sheds true light on our “bad”.

The truth concerning our condition is a stark one.  The standard against which we must begin our judgments of ourselves is a one that only Jesus has ever achieved.  And that was what made Him worthy of a sacrifice on the behalf of those who are inherently bad. If I could never get you to understand anything else about the Gospel,  I would that you understand this:  It is in His righteousness, and in His righteousness alone, that any claim by anyone can be made to goodness.  It is folly to compare ourselves to others for a basis of declaring ourselves good.  It is worse than folly to appeal to our bearing of God’s image.  It is also folly to define good according to a standard that we create for the express purpose of declaring ourselves good.  No, the reality is that man is not basically good.  To deny this is to deny reality.  But to accept it is to open the door to the gospel, the very door that leads to repentance.  We truly are in a bad way, but it is in the depths of our despair that we are finally able to, not only hear the good news, but to embrace it with great praise and thanksgiving.

I pray that you would never lose sight of these few of the many realities that you must accept and which you cannot change, that you would grow in righteousness, and be saved, and renew your mind.  These are starting points; a place to begin.  You need to know that you are living in a society that every day ventures further from reality, so it is of the utmost importance that, as you go out into this evil world,  you not only have a place to stand, but that you are able to stand, and after you have done all, to stand.

Your father

Realities That Must Be Accepted To Live A Life At Peace With Reality

Dear children,

There is a popular and simple little prayer you will see framed on people’s walls and in various Hallmark cards and the like.  It’s simple, it’s true, and I think it’s worth considering.  It is called the Serenity Prayer, and it goes something like this:

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;

courage to change the things I can;

and wisdom to know the difference.

In this letter I want to talk about the first and last line in this prayer, except that I want to add a caveat.  We can’t “accept” what we can’t change until we “realize” what is, and we can’t realize what is unless we are living in reality.  And we must first live in reality if we are to have any hope of living serenely.  And while you will find that living serenely before others is a fairly easy thing to do, living serenely in the deep-down self is another story altogether.  That indeed is the center of most of our battles.  And to fight the good fight there, we must not waste our time fighting the unchangeable outside realities that govern our existence.  In this way scripture likens our lives to a race, or a boxing match.  (1 Cor 9, Heb, 12)  In 1st Corinthians we read:

Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified. (1 Cor 9:24-27)

If we do not live in reality we are doomed to boxing the air; expending ourselves in our war with God by kicking against His ordained reality.  Yes, you are to fight.  But you are to fight the good fight.  And to fight the good fight, you need a place to stand, a foundation, a starting point if you will.  You will need in fact to be living in reality and not a self-created fairy land.  Here are some numerated realities upon which it is safe to stand so that your stand may be valiant.  They are elementary, yes, but unless they are established first in your heart, the rest fall down:

Reality number 1, God exists 

There is a God.  There is a cause behind your existence, a creator.  He is many things to us that happen to be acceptable to man, but he is also the One to whom we are all ultimately accountable, which, as it turns out, is the ultimate rub.  Man is by his nature a religious being.  Even in a secular society such as ours in which the non-existence of God is preached day and night, very few people believe that there is no God.  They know deep down inside that there is.  You will notice that the modern outspoken atheist has actually evolved.  He used to be an “a”-theists–with “a” meaning “not”.  But he has become the “anti”-theists.  There is a big difference between the two.  The anti-theist is not content to simply believe that there is no God.  No, he must war against the the God that he believes is not, and in so doing has become a good example of “beating against the air”.  The fact is that God does exist.  This must be our starting point.  It is a reality we must accept.  It cannot be changed.

Reality number 2, The God that exists commands

Law is reality.  It can either be loved or hated but it still is.  But law is also misunderstood.  No one, for example, would desire to live in a society in which nothing is against the law.  That would be chaos.  Furthermore, the very existence of good depends on law, as does evil.  If we deny the existence of law we deny the existence of both.  But the existence of law raises questions that you, my dear children, ought to spend a little time during your short lives contemplating, lest you end up fighting against things that you cannot change.  The first questions you must answer concerns law’s author.  Is it man?  Or is it God?  Reality dictates that how a person answers these questions will determine whether or not that person can in fact live in reality.  While man is a religious being, he also is a rebellious being.  His very nature desires to escape God’s sovereignty and seek his own.  He wants to determine for himself what is good and evil.  But if mortal man appoints himself as the author of law, then good and evil would necessarily have to be capricious.  Law would have to be dependant on the whims of man in a given age, which is to say that good and evil would ultimately be non-existent.   History bears this out.  The very righteousness you fight for today may well be deemed by future generations to be “evil”.  That, children would be beating against the air.  It is running without aim.  No, the reality is that God commands His creation.  This is a reality we must accept.  It cannot be changed.

Reality number 3, The God that exists is not silent

Suppose that I give you a multiple choice test.  The only catch is that there is nothing written next to  “A”, “B”, “C” and “D”.   You are left to guess the right answers.  As you can see, this would be a test impossible to pass.  It would be absurd.  But if God were silent, such a test would be the reality of your existence.  We, as corruptible man,  would be left to ourselves to figure it out with no way of knowing, even if we did get it right.  But that is not reality.  God is not this way.  He provides the questions and the answers, and depending on where we put our faith, there is either no way we can pass, or no way we can fail.

The study of the Bible is a fascinating study in and of itself, even if we never opened the book.  It is like no other book in the history of man.  What other book has been so preserved, despised, hated, assaulted, suppressed, fought over, died for, studied, memorized, ridiculed, impugned, or loved for thousands of years?  The Bible is in a class all its own in every way imaginable, as we would expect the very Word of God would be.  If we reject God’s word we must also reject other realities.  We would be left in the dark concerning reality number one, for even if we acknowledged that there is a God and creator, we cannot know Him.  We would also be blind when it comes to reality number two?  We could not know what God commands.  For all practical purposes God might just as well not exist or command.  This is the reason that so many who believe that there is a God have everything in common with atheists and almost nothing in common with Christianity.  They have rejected God’s Word.  They are left with guessing at the right answers to life’s most probing questions, the answers to which are required for a life lived in reality.  To reject God’s word is to run the race without aim; it is boxing the air.  But the reality is that God is not silent.  He has spoken.  This is a reality we must accept.  It cannot be changed.

_______________________

(to be continued)

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