Dear Children

Letters From A Father's Heart

Archive for the category “Salvation”

“Meaningless! Meaningless!” Says The Teacher. “Utterly Meaningless! Everything Is Meaningless.”

Dear children,

There was a popular bumper sticker for a while that said, “excrement happens”.   Of course, it used a much more colorful word than “excrement”, but I hope you get the drift.  It conveyed the notion that life comes at us by random chance, and that some of that random chance is not so good, and it just “happens” without any reason or purpose.   That sticker reveals a worldview that is inconsistent with the view that I hope you adopt in your short lives.

We know that things do happen to everyone in life.  So when things happen to you, the question you will need to ask is, how will I respond?  And how you respond will depend on your basic philosophy of life which will revolve around a sense of purpose.  The temporariness of our lives attempts to steal purpose.  If this life you are living right now, residing your bodies is eternal, then that changes everything.  But your body will die, and so these few hours, days and years you spend occupying it will be spent by you like so much money in your pocket; and then it will be gone.

Some will spend all of their “money” (time) in the futility of simply reacting to circumstances.  Every decision they make in life will be in reaction to external forces guided by internal desires.  For others, their purpose will be to experience thrills, sex, and adventures. And still, for others, it be spent to start and sustain a career, get married, buy a house and raise a family.  But in the end, all of these endeavors have one thing in common.  They all end in death.  All will have spent their “money”, and it will all be then be spent.

But I pray that you will embrace the only purpose that makes sense of it all.  I pray that purpose would undergird whatever kind of life you live. You must understand that the only way you can grasp this is to know that you are not merely flesh but instead that you are flesh and spirit.  While your bodies will be wasting away, you can know that inwardly you will be being renewed day by day in your spirit.  Your eyes will not be fixed on what is seen but on what is unseen, for what is seen is temporary but what is unseen is eternal.  Your purpose will not be to breathe air and obey the whims of your flesh, but rather your purpose will be to do the work which God has prepared in advance for you to do.  Your goal and purpose will not be to simply enjoy life but rather to hear, “Well done my good and faithful servant” in the everlasting.

As I enter the autumn of my life I understand the book of Ecclesiastes more and more which says that life is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.  And no matter what path you choose, you can know that as the end draws near it will all be meaningless unless you have grabbed onto the eternal purpose that can only be found in Jesus the Christ.

I pray that at an early age you will commit to doing just that, grabbing onto Jesus with all of your might.  I pray that you will be able to defend the few hours that have been allotted you from the attack of meaninglessness that comes in the form of promises to the flesh.  I pray that as your life comes to an end you will be able to say, “I served my Lord” as you ready yourself to meet Him, and not, “I had a lot of ultimately meaningless fun”.   May our Lord grant you the ability to serve Him with steady devotion.  Amen

Your father

Read:

Eclesiastes 1

Ephesians 2

2 Corinthians 4

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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

Choose This Day Whom You Will Serve

Dear children,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your father

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