Until the end….

Eva, Ok, after a number of weeks, we are back to my list as I promised. It is summertime in Seattle, Washington, and it is hotter than you know what. We have been buying fan after fan from Home depot, trying to get the house to cool down. You are sleeping in your crib for your naps now. Your mother is doing such a good job with you. I couldn’t have married anyone better than your mother. I want to be a man worthy of her love and the gift that God has given me in her. The fourth item on my list that I try to read to myself, reads like this: Lead Angela and Eva in to the heart of God, which is worshiping Jesus through His Spirit and Making disciples who make disciples. Life is not about making money Brian, nor is it about fame, it is about the Kingdom of God following Jesus. Mk 8:34-9:1

God has to redirect the focus of my life to this reality continually Eva. I am naturally drawn away from this truth everyday. Not only by the outside world, but by my own desires and wants  I am tempted to rebel against The reality that God has set forth in His Son. Sin living in me wants to get the best deal I can get on God’s Son. This is what lives in all of us Eva, even after we come to know God through Jesus, what we want is to get the best bargain we can on the innocent death of God’s Son. We all have Jesus innocent blood on our hands. We all have a firm grip on the mallet that drove the spikes through his hands and feet.

The entire world owes it’s continued existence to God’s grace and allowance of its existence. While humans smugly repudiate Jesus, He holds their very breath in his hands. Eva, Jesus is the only being worthy of worship (adoration, allegiance, devotion, exaltation). He is the only unique Son of God and glorified King. He is the only answer to the worlds main problem…which is rebellion against God. The more and more you pay attention to what is going on in the world, the more you will see that there is something wrong inside of man…innately wrong. It is our rebellion against God and our denying him of the worship he is due as creator and the one who sustains our existence that has brought about ALL of the worlds problems. In response to this Eva, God had to and has to be just. He has to punish and put down rebellion and sin. Someone has to pay for our strong, pungent offense against God. Someone must bear the consequence of our reprehensible action and attitude against God. If not, then God can not be holy and just. He must punish sin for Him to be just and perfectly holy and right. What person could or would knowingly bare such wrathful punishment of guilt of the entire world…past, present and future? Jesus Christ of Nazareth.

God laid on him every act of rebellion, every lie told, every secret of the heart, every abusive hand laid to a child, every human sold into slavery (past, present and future), every hypocritical attitude and act committed by a Christian, every adulterous act committed by a  man or woman done in secret, every provocation of every heart to murder, every murder, rape, assault of the poor and powerless. Jesus innocent blood soaked it all up. God poured out on Jesus, what you , your mother , myself deserved and everyone who has ever lived. We deserved the unbridled wrath of God, yet he sent his Son Jesus to the 1st century gallows to hang on a cross to pay the debt we could not, and never will be able to fathom mentally. Eva, If you take the time to read Matthew’s and Luke’s account, in Matthew chapter 26 and Luke 22, you will read the story of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane just prior to his betrayal by Judas, His trial before the Sanhedrin and his crucifixion  (Matthew v 36-46, Luke 39-46).  He is talking with God the father and as the narrative goes on, he goes into deep agony so much that , “His sweat became like drops of blood, falling down upon the ground” (Luke 22:44). Jesus is in such agony because he is taking on and baring Brian Bailey’s sin, Eva’s sin and Angela Bailey’s sin…and the sin of the rest of the world.

God’s answer to our innate rebellion and sin against him, was to lay our punishment upon His Son. This is why Paul can write in Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast”. Eva, grace is unmerited favor. In biblical terms it means not giving some one what they do deserve (in our case wrath and condemnation), and  giving them what they do don’t deserve (unmerited favor, forgiveness of the debt of innumerable and indwelling sin, being counted as righteous before God and eternal life). In the death of God’s Son, He was not giving us what we deserved …unbridled wrath and he was giving us what we didn’t deserve…..unlimited forgiveness of sin in front of God, unending joy and satisfaction and most importantly Eternal life with Him. It follows that God would find ultimate value in His Son because he is the only means by which we can be made right with God. God is looking at how we respond to His Son’s life, ministry, death and resurrection from the dead.

God finds ultimate value in His Son and Eva, he invites us and the nations to do the same. That truth is seen in Jesus’s words in Matthew 28:18-20, “And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 [e]Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you [f]always, even to the end of the age.” Jesus is commanding that his disciples go to the nations and proclaim that God has raised Jesus, His only Son, from the dead. God did this testifying to everything that Jesus claimed about himself.  To put it another way, God has cast his vote on whether or not Jesus was telling the truth about himself by raising Jesus from the dead. By raising Jesus from the dead, God is saying that Jesus is who he said he is.

Therefore, His disciples did exactly what Jesus told them to do….they went through out the world proclaiming, preaching, teaching and defending that Jesus is who he said he was, that God had raised Him from the dead in the power of God’s Spirit and that Salvation from sin and reconciliation to God is found in no one else other than Jesus Christ. Eva, this command from Jesus, to go and make disciples of all the nations still stands today. Notice what Jesus says at the end of verse 20, “…and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” The disciples obviously didn’t live until the end of the age….so that command stands until the end of this age. Eva, you will do nothing greater in this life than to believe on the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth for the  forgiveness of your sins, to repent (to turn) from them and yourself and trust in Him for salvation and eternal life beyond the grave. And inseparable from from that truth, is Jesus’ command to His disciples…. to go and make disciples. Eva, implicit in being a disciple…is making disciples…who make disciples…who in turn make disciples…all to the glory of God. Eva, if you never get married, own a home, gain notoriety, amass tons of wealth; but are passionate about making disciple-making disciples and spend your life pursing Christ and making his glory known to the ends of the earth like the first century church, this is the best and more importantly, the wisest decision you can possibly make (Mark 8:34-9:1).

Life is not about money nor is it about fame. Life is about the Kingdom of God and responding to Jesus and acting on what He said…specifically in His command to make disciples. Remember Eva, God the father is looking at how we respond to His Son whom he has raised from the dead. Look at the book of Acts and see how the New Testament Church responded to Jesus in the great commission, and then join them in doing the same in the 21st century. Eva, sow God’s word in your heart, value and love God’s Son and marry a man that is satisfied in Jesus…. not Jesus + the American Dream. What matters in this life Eva, is how you respond Jesus now in the present, because this is the same Jesus who will judge you then in the future.

Eva, what God is saying in Jesus and the Biblical writers is that Jesus is enough and all together satisfying in this life. What God the Father is looking for is people will agree with that statement with their hearts, lives and pursuits. What the world will say to you (and will seem attractive because of sin in you) will be,” make much of yourself, get all you can, do what feels good, you are your own god.” Those people will have to answer to God someday, and they will be on the deepest remorse. We just got  back from Portland for the 4th of July, it was awesome. you played in the bubbles, played with your cousins and relatives. You had a great time. The weather  was so hot. I am looking forward to cooler weather hopefully soon. Eva, I love and enjoy you so much. You are such a sweet joy to me. I am so thankful God gave you to your mother and I. You will have to decide if you want to follow Jesus or not. However, I will tell you now, He is worth it and He is worthy. Daddy loves you so much Eva, Your dad, Brian

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About Him….

Hello Eva,

At work, the day is just about over and I am tired. You will be one years old on the 16th of this month. I swear we were just trying to sleep train you 6 months ago. I did not believe people when they told me that time flies when you have children. They were right.

I wanted to write you about something I am learning in the midst of a very difficult season in mine and your mom’s life.

We are at a crossroads in our life. I really feel called to get my PhD, and I feel like that is the only thing I know for sure, but I don’t know how we are going to pay for it. Your mother’s friends are buying houses and I so want to be able to give that to your mother (and you for that matter). So I am feeling very insecure about that.  The difficulty is that I want to give your mother, and you the best life possible, and I don’t feel like I can.

So my knee-jerk reaction has been to try and find a job that makes more money. I make pretty good money right now. The temptation is to try and get some sort of security for you and your mother. The only problem is, I don’t think I will be able to feel secure enough. The more security I can get or establish means that I will need more security to guard the security that I have gotten. It is a never ending cycle.

I think throughout all of this, at various points, God keeps bringing me to a place where I realize in a peace-giving way, life is not about security, but about Him….God’s Son.

Life is about Jesus and living in a way that pleases him no matter what circumstances you are in Eva: whether poor or rich, whether hungry or satisfied, whether you know what God is doing in your life or not….Everything was created to be unto Him. All of Creation’s purpose and sole aim is to exalt the Son of God. ….this includes your life as well Eva. Don’t let anyone ever tell you any different. He allows everyone on earth to exist. Without him, there wouldn’t be a humanity, or earth or the universe. When you get a moment when you are older, go outside and look up at the stars. I know, when I do, I get this sense of amazement at how big God must be and how amazing and grand He must be. He literally spoke what you see in to existence…and it glorifies Him. All of Creation exalts our God Eva. It is a grand symphony which ever resounds God’s majesty. Sometimes I think I can hear it (that sounds a little nutty, I know).

Eva, as I was saying above, all of life is about Jesus. It is meant to be lived making much of Jesus (remember to ask yourself, “Do I feel most loved by God, when I am made much of by him, or when I make much of Him”). Make much of Jesus Eva. It is what you were created for, and to feel most loved when you make much of Him. Your marriage, your education, your relationships (all of them), your inward thoughts and feelings, your speech and conduct….everything to the aim of making much of Him and pleasing Him.

Most of your friends Eva will want nothing other than to be made much of…all the time. It will be all around you…facebook, twitter, youtube, instagram, television. All of these media mediums are used to the end of making much of ourselves (Yes, people use them to stay in touch and stay connected and no they are not evil in and of themselves. Heck even I am on twitter). However, for the most part, they are directed at one end……myself and people making much of me. Watch your heart Eva. You can easily deceive yourself and be deceived in to thinking life is about you and the way you feel every moment of every day. This is most evidenced in the pursuit of the American dream and happiness. I once heard a Christian say, “Brian, don’t you think God wants us to be happy?”. I said “no”. I don’t think God wants us to be happy, and I don’tbelieve human happiness is even on God’s radar. When human happiness is placed in God’s mouth, as a the supreme goal…..God becomes like us. He likes what we like, He never intrudes in on our lives unless we really need him (usually when we are feeling unhappy) for some reason to make us happier or to bare the brunt of some evil atrocity in our world (either at the hands of man or by nature). He has no scales by which to judge our actions for right and wrong, He does not judge, He loves making us feel good, giving us all the money, power, sex and self-exaltation we can possibly want. A God who looks like us, has the sole aim of glorifying humans. This is a lie Eva. Do not believe it.

Eva The mindset I described above is so easy to fall into. When we face trials and times of disorientation in life, we are prone to feel entitled to happiness. This is a lie Eva. The pursuit of life is not happiness rather it is the knowledge of God and the Kingdom of God.

The knowledge of God is not intelligence ( although it isn’t separate from that). The knowledge of God is knowing God. It is The revelation of who God is, as revealed in the scriptures, in your mind, heart and soul. It is the filling of your entire being with the knowing of Yahweh (God). As you look though The Apostle Paul’s letters in the New Testament, you will see this streamed through his writings….that his audience and he himself  would know and desire  God (Ephesians 1:17, Philippians 3:10-11). Knowing God is the single greatest aim in life Eva. The depths of knowing him are bottomless. The riches to be found him are fathomless (Ephsians 3:8, Colossians 2:3). Just as well Eva, the Kingdom of God is the purpose of life. As you search the New Testament Eva, listen to how the Old Testament writers, and specifically Jesus and the New Testament writers talk about the Kingdom of God.  You might be thinking that the Kingdom of God is a place, like the United Kingdom, but it is not. The Kingdom of God, is the rule and reign of God. It is the reign of God. So when Jesus says in Mark 1:15, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and [k]believe in the gospel.” He is saying that the rule and reign of God is near, that God is acting or doing something. Eva, God’s rule and reign was and is acting in His Son delivering mankind from the power of sin and the final word that death had over mankind. Those who enter the rule and reign of God by repenting from sin and self and trusting in God’s answer to sin and death, His Son; they will be granted eternal life. That’s right Eva, God will grant eternal life to those who love and adore His Son.

So, Eva, God’s aim is not human happiness in this life, but rather the knowledge of God, His rule and reign being sought and valued most and Him being made much of. Eva in this life, you will bombarded with so many worries. Sometimes, in some season of life, it will feel like an ongoing train of worries. Jesus is well aware of this. Please remember, that life is not about you and your happiness….it is about joy and satisfaction in God. Jesus says in Matthew 6:33, in contrast to the worries of this life, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things (food, clothing, etc.,) will be added to you.” Eva Seek the rule and reign of God in your life. Embrace God’s rule over your life.  Love Him, treasure Him and adore Him with all you affections. When God is the supreme affection, everything is in right connection.

You just turned one years-old and you are getting smarter everyday. You love walking around the kitchen and the living room. The first time you started walking, you fell down and hit your head really hard on you pushy-cart. It looked like it hurt really bad. Of course your mother and I felt horrible. When I get home, for some reason, you want me to take off my shoes and socks. It is really cute. I love coming home and seeing you and your mother. I just enjoy you two so much.

I love you so much Eva,

I will write again soon,

Daddy,

Another nail…another laceration

Eva,

I wanted to take quick moment of pause from my daily list to share something that might give you some privy into my experience. I was asked to write an article on my experience as an African-American in a predominantly white church culture. Here is what I wrote….

Over the course of the last 2 years I have been applying for PhD programs in New Testament Theology. As I fill out applications, there is a reoccurring trend I see in the faculty of each institution: The noticeable absence of minorities in general, and the lack of African-Americans in particular.

Out of the 232 faculty members at seven different schools, 31 of them were minorities, and 17 were African-American—- Roughly 7 percent. This reality has lead me to ask three questions: Does Evangelical academia, as a whole, believe that higher theological education should be a predominantly white profession? Do we believe that only Caucasians are able to produce exceptional research, add to the scholarly community and think deeply about theological and biblical issues? The more dreadful question I ask myself is: because of the lack of African-Americans in undergraduate, graduate and post-graduate theological education, does the African-American community believe that the position of the scholar is reserved for middle-aged, middle class white men? As I pursue teaching God’s word as a career, I have had to wrestle with these questions, questions which have no easy answer.

The conclusion I have come to on the above questions is one that cannot deny either side of the issue. In my experience I have had to search for a committed biblical academician of my own race. During my time at both the higher education institutions which I have attended, there have been a handful of black students. Some graduated, others dropped out. Currently, I know of only two black students pursing doctoral degrees in theology (and I am one of them). In addition to this, during my education, the only encouragement I have ever received to continue on in my education to doctoral studies has come from my Caucasians instructors. Never once was I encouraged to strive for a PhD by anyone from the African-American Community (except from my own family). Instead of an academic career, they would steer me toward some form of pastoral ministry (not that pastoring is a less worthy career than teaching). This leads me to question whether the lack of blacks in post-graduate seminary positions is an indicator of its worth among the black community. Or is it an indicator that we actually do believe that such work should be undertaken only by white males?

The other side of the issue from statics alone, does make one wonder if there is some form of racial or socio-economic bias. 83 percent of the faculty members of the schools I applied to or attended are white. To a young, black aspiring academic, this gives off a message of “you will be the exception, not the norm” or even worse “you are not smart enough to do this”.

One of the greatest difficulties which racial reconciliation faces, is each group approaching the problem from an opposing perspective. Through my interactions with my white peers, I am convinced that they have real questions and concerns about race. However, what they desire is to be able to bring their questions, concerns, feelings of guilt and innocence to the conversation without being dismissed. They are concerned about being held responsible for every African-American’s individual experience; or will they blamed for the atrocious stain which slavery has left on our country? Will minorities take ownership of their side of this very complex issue? The other side of the coin, for minorities seems to be this: Can they bring their experience to the table with all of its ins and outs, occasional anger, sensitivity and history without it being dismissed? Can their experience be honest and forthcoming without them being written off as “just another angry black person?” Are Caucasians open to the idea that they may have some subconscious racism?

Even with the confusing and complex difficulties which surround this problem, I experience joy in it, by believing God and His answer to it: the death of His only Son. Racism, inequality (of any order) and injustice are results of sin and rebellion against God. God has brought peace in the deepest parts of this contentious predicament, by sending His Son to the cross to die. God put his Son to death in order to pay the penalty we could never repay. It is and was the single greatest act of love and self-sacrifice in all of history….he did it for us that we might be brought into right relationship with Him again.. Each nail that was pounded into His hands when he was crucified, and each bloody laceration which was whipped across His back satisfies our deepest need: to be reconciled to God. Thank God for Jesus, who “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor 5:21).  The answer to this complex issue is nothing other than the Gospel and the mediating presence of God in the person of His Son Jesus Christ.

Therefore, the biblical response (the response we should be aiming for)  to the sin of racism is repentance (to turn from sin and turn to God). Much like the epidemic of other sins in the church, racism and anything which hints of it must be repented of. Unless and until we (both minorities and Caucasians) view racism as sin, it will always exist in our congregations. Unrepentant sin puts another whip in Jesus back, and another nail in his hands. Our approach to this complicated issue must have the same kind of weight and perspective to it.

Unless we are seeking holiness and blamelessness on a heart level specifically on this issue, our love, forgiveness and humility with one another will always be duplicitous and insincere. In order to enjoy the unity which the Holy Spirit brings and which we are to keep (“guard” Ephesians 4:3), we must view racism as rebellion against God. This can only be done through honest confession birthed out of conviction walked out in the community of the repentant. We cannot and must not respond to racism on merely political and cultural level. This is how the rest of the world responds to it. The adequate Christian response must be commensurate with the value of God’s Son and the cost of Christ’s cross. We repent of racism, socio-economical prejudice and injustice because Jesus is worthy. Repentance from the sin of racism is a of discipleship matter, not a political one. The world needs to see tangible proof that Jesus is more enjoyable than the sin of racism. In essence, The church’s joy and the joy of the nations are inseparable. Silence on this topic is not an option for the church because the person of Christ calls us to action.

Is there hope for the future? Yes there is. That hope is becoming more evident by the very fact that I have been asked to write about this  for a magazine discussing this very issue. As God pulls back the cover on this heart issue, and as Holy Spirit brings deeper and deeper conviction of where God stands on this dilemma in relation to the eternal worth of His Son; we will see the fruit of discipleship and the spread of God’s global glory in a powerful way “from every tribe and language and people and nation.” (Rev 5:9).

Mommy and Daddy love you so much Eva,

I will write again soon,

Love Daddy,

 

Most loved…

Eva,

The third item on my list that I read to myself almost every morning is, “Brian, you should feel most loved as you and when you make much of God. “Do you feel most loved when God makes much of you, or when you make much of God?” (John Piper).

I realize that a good deal of my quotes and statements come from John Piper. He is not only a good writer, but he has shown me both through his writings and sermons, that desiring, loving and obeying God above everything, is the sole goal of human existence.

The aim of the question, Eva, strikes at the heart of what you treasure the most. The point of human existence (your mother’s, mine and yours), what you were created for, was to glorify God by enjoying him forever. This is why God created the entire human race. He didn’t create them because he needed friends. He didn’t create them because he was lonely. If someone tells you either of these things, they are lying or confused about who the God of the Bible is. Glorifying God is the most satisfying place a human being can be, God knows this and he won’t settle for anything less from the human race. He knows that He is the person/thing to be enjoyed the most. 

Therefore, Eva, you should feel most loved by God as you and when you make much of Him. Does that sound weird? Does that feel odd to you? Do you bristle when you read those words? You shouldn’t. If you do, it could mean that God has some work to do in your heart toward himself.

In American culture and specifically the American church, you will hear so much of how much God loves us. While this is completely true, God loves us to the end that we might enjoy him the most and glorify him the most……he loves with the purpose that we might make much of Him. It is sad Eva, now that I think about it, how much we make of ourselves both outside of the church and inside the church. There is virtually no difference between believers and the rest of the world. We both pursue making much of ourselves, and to make it worse we twist God’s love for us so that we can do it. I wonder if God can see a difference between us and the world in how  much we love and enjoy Him, and how much we make of ourselves. In a world filled with the pursuit of self-promotion, self-love, selfiies (that was a poor attempt at a joke), selfishness and the like; I wonder if God can see a difference in who we worship both in the church and outside of the church.

As you search the scriptures Eva, please take note of how the authors of the Bible speak of God and how they speak of themselves. Pay attention to how Moses speaks of Yahweh the God of Israel, notice His power and Kingly authority as he delivers them by His mighty acts from Egypt in Exodus. Listen to the Psalmist cry out to God as his only deliverer, listen to the words of God’s great prophets calling the nation of Israel to repentance and holiness….He delivers them because Yahweh is holy and for the sake of His great name on the earth. Listen as Yahweh fights for Israel for the sake of His name and His glory so that the nations might know the God of Israel. Listen to Job. God, allowing Job to be tempted, tested and to suffer, shows us that even He is the the thing to be enjoyed the most…even in and through (what seems to be) pointless or unfair suffering. Eva, God is glorious and all together wise.  He is majestic and all together lovely and powerful. There is no other God but Him, and no one compares to Him. Serve and obey him, no matter what station of life you’re in.

Finally, listen to the words of Jesus in the New Testament. The entire Old Testament points to the coming of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. It all comes together in Him, and God has made this abundantly clear by Jesus’s incomparable ministry, showing himself to be the ultimate revelation of God in the flesh; His sacrificial death which washes away the world’s sinful rebellion against God, and his all together powerful resurrection from dead which vindicated every one of His claims. Thank God for Jesus.

Eva, you should feel most loved as you and when you make much of God, not when he makes much of you. We were created to make much of Him. This is what were created to be satisfied in. The way the world has fallen through sin and rebellion, it is wired to impress upon you to satisfy yourself, exalt yourself, promote yourself and to love yourself. It has everything backwards from God’s perspective….which is the only perspective that should count to you Eva. As the world and your flesh draw you into loving yourself, Jesus commands you to “disown yourself, to take up your cross and to follow Him” (Mark 8:34-9:1). Eva, it will be imperative for you to listen to Jesus’s words in these verses.

Loving, following and obeying Jesus’s words run directly against the american dream. The life that Jesus has called us to is radical…radical in it’s submission to Him. What Jesus is saying here, is that if you are going to follow Him, then your very being (your ambitions, goals and self-worship) ends, and His goals, His glory, His ambitions ( to make much of himself, bring glory to Himself and the Father among “all the nations” Matthew 28:18-20) becomes the governor of your life….obeying his commands and making much of Him becomes your worldview.

I can honestly say that  it is entirely possible to glorify God by enjoying him forever and to feel most loved when I and as I make much of Him….because God is the person/thing to be enjoyed the most.

Daddy and Mommy love you so much Eva,

I will write again soon

Nothing to prove…

Eva,

The second item on my daily list reads, “You have nothing to prove and everything to give”. This is a phrase I picked up while in college and it has served me well. As you go through life Eva, you will meet people who have something to prove (in relationships, sports, work and in general). They have to be seen as the best. Attention always has to be on them. This must not be so with you. As a woman, this will be very hard for you. There will be a natural inclination for you to desire the attention of a man and of people in general. This may cause you to compete with other women for a man’s attention. Do not buy into it Eva. Unfortunately, like I mentioned in the first letter I wrote you, you live in a culture that is intoxicated by fame and self-exultation. Some of the women that you will grow up watching on television (we are doing out best to raise you without television, but you like looking at screens already) got famous by doing some extremely ungodly and disgusting things. They traded in their purity for fame and they can never get that respect back….and they don’t want to.

If you take the time to read the book of proverbs you will see a picture of the type of woman I am writing about. In Proverbs chapter 7, Solomon is warning and advising his son to love, cherish and invite wisdom. Eva, wisdom is not intelligence..it is God given understanding that helps us and leads us to avoid evil rebellion against God (James 1:5-7). If you listen to the description of the woman in Proverbs 7 and 9, the one Solomon is warning his son against, she is described like this in v10-13,

Then out came a woman to meet him,
    dressed like a prostitute and with crafty intent.
11 (She is unruly and defiant,
    her feet never stay at home;
12 now in the street, now in the squares,
    at every corner she lurks.)
13 She took hold of him and kissed him
    and with a brazen face

Do you hear that Eva? She is an attractive women obviously, dressed like a women who sells her body for money. She is defiant and unruly. She is a women who has no shame in her behavior and everyone knows it. She does not stay at home, she lurks about town. She is this way, because she disregards wisdom. She has no regard for wisdom and it will be  painfully obvious to those who love wisdom.

According to Solomon, Eva,

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
    and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.

Eva, to fear the Lord, is to desire his pleasure in your life, to reverence his commands above anything else…whether you like them is irrelevant. This should be the top priority in your life. So many women you run in to as you grow up (even from a young age) will have no fear or value of God’s desires, His wants or what he finds pleasure in. They will only be lead about by what they feel. Do not buy into it. Pay attention to what God’s word says, obey it and you will get wisdom. Get understanding Eva, It will guard your life from evil.

Pay attention to women who are attention seeking. This will be hard for you, because you will want attention as well. You will attract the right kind of attention by loving, enjoying and obeying God…and leading others to do the same.

Having nothing to prove is directly connected to your satisfaction and joy in life. I wish I would have learned the secret of contentment earlier in life; It would have saved me from a great deal of emotional and relational turmoil. I felt I had a great deal to prove to everyone (friends, employers, girls etc.,) mostly because I had no joy or satisfaction in life ( or the joy and satisfaction in my life was controlled by others. Probably both were true of me). The only thing that continually changes this (it is an ongoing thing for me) in my life is the unending satisfaction of Jesus himself. Loving Him, enjoying Him and having Him enjoy me, continually squelches the need I feel to prove something to others. In affect, the need you feel to prove something to someone, is just another form of self-praise. However Eva, the only person or thing that is worthy of worship is the God who has revealed himself in the Bible….not you or anyone else. This includes any man, no matter how wonderful he is, including me. The man that you will want to give your love to, is the man that will tell you and lead you to worship God, and who will help cultivate a life of worship and love of Jesus.

I guess what I am trying to say Eva is, those who seek understanding and love wisdom are satisfied in God. They hunger and thirst after His righteousness and holiness. This will be evident in their lack of having something to prove and the ease by which they are able to give….they will be able to give and receive love because they find ultimate satisfaction in God’s Son and because they have experienced the goodness of God’s grace.

Take notice of the senseless man in chapter 7 as well,

I saw among the simple,
   ” I noticed among the young men,
    a youth who had no sense.
He was going down the street near her corner,
    walking along in the direction of her house
at twilight, as the day was fading,
    as the dark of night set in.”

He is a “youth who had no sense”. Stay away from these types of boys Eva. Read my previous letter to you about what a husband should be and do. As you start to date, you will see whether or not he has sense or not. Watch where his emotions get out of control. That will be a good litmus test of his satisfaction in God, and his fear of God. Ask him if he has or is looking at pornography directly to his face and watch his reaction. Pay attention to if he loves wisdom, or if he has something to prove.

I am doing my best to love Jesus and be satisfied in Him as I raise you so that I can model what you should be looking for in a man. Ultimately I will wound you in some way and for that I am sorry. Please know that you and your mother are the biggest part of my world and bring me so much joy.  Daddy loves you so much.

I will write again soon,

Daddy and mommy love you so much

The List…..Satisfied

Eva,

Everyday, I try to read a list to myself  that helps me remember the most important things in life. I want to walk through this list with you. This list helps to refocus my mind on the most important person in life…God.

God (by this, I mean, the God revealed in the in Bible, who has decisively revealed himself in Jesus Christ) is the most important person in life…not me, not you either Eva. I try to read this list every morning. I use it  to focus my mind, heart and affections on God, His glory and exultation. The reason you were created, was not so that God would make much of you, but that you would make much of Him to “all the nations” (Matthew 28:18-20). I took this quote from a pastor named John Piper, and I believe it wholeheartedly. God has created you, Eva, so that you would make much of the most satisfying, incredible, most enjoyable thing in all of life……Him. 

So, I want to start out with  the fist item on my list, which reads, “God is most gloried in you, when you are most satisfied in Him“-John Piper (if you couldn’t tell, I really enjoy this John Piper’s writings).

When I read this in the morning, I ask myself, “Brian, are you most satisfied in God himself?”. I guess the deeper question would be, “Would God say that you are most satisfied in Him?”. Honestly, I can say that most of the time my answer to this question is no, and I can see the areas in my heart that reject the satisfaction that God offers us,  primarily in the areas where my emotions are out of control and I lack self-control (maybe one in the same). One of those areas is money. A good litmus test of your satisfaction in God, Eva, is where your money goes, how you budget it and what you spend it on. I seek to spend money on myself primarily. That is the truth of the matter Eva. But the reason that is the case, is not, primarily, because I need money management classes (this is part of it). The main reason I think to spend money on myself first, is because of my lack of satisfaction in God. As I become more satisfied in God, and enjoy him as the most enjoyable thing, I spend less money on myself.  This doesn’t mean that I don’t spend money, but the more I enjoy Jesus, I began to think about money in the sense of what can I give, instead of what I can get.

As I hear the voice of Jesus and the New Testament writers over and over again, the Holy Spirit changes my heart and eyes so that I enjoy Jesus the most….and he can be enjoyed ultimately. 

The point of the quote by John Piper, Eva, is not behavior change, but it is a change of what you worship. It is changing  from worshiping yourself (your desires, your comfort,  your wants, your needs, your future, your career etc.,), to worshiping, valuing and loving God’s Son Jesus (His desires, His wants, His needs. It is all about Him) when we do this, we are filled up with satisfaction in God…unending satisfaction. 

The greatest desire I have for you Eva, is not that you would have monetary success. Monetary success and wealth can be dangerous in 2 ways: 1. Worldliness – Or a better way to put it would be,  “the love of the world” (John 2:15-17). Money by itself,  is neutral. However, in the hands of evil, rebellious people (like myself and every other person on this planet), it can lead us to love this world more than we love God who created the world. This is one of the many fundamental truths of what it means to be in rebellion against God….we naturally want something or someone other than Him. It is only by the work of God’s Spirit in our hearts, that changes our desire for sin, to a desire for Him. The apostle John goes on to write the reason we are not to love the world, “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the arrogance of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.”. Eva, monetary gain can easily lead you to desire stuff (whatever that stuff maybe) more than God. The pursuit of  money and having a good deal of it, can easily lead you to lust after and pursue self-satisfying evil and the hoarding of more money. It can also lead to being arrogant about life. Eva, God allows you to exist. Without him allowing you to breathe, work your job, take care of yourself and live, you would be dead. God is the creator and the one who sustains every person’s life. This mean that we as humans owe God praise as our creator and the one who allows us to exist.

This leads to the 2nd danger of monetary gain: 2.Self-reliance. Eva, money and the pursuit of it can, and in most cases gives you a false sense of security, when, in reality, it can offer you nothing. Jesus makes this abundantly clear when speaking to a crowd along with His disciples in Mark 8:34-9:1, he says, “36 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? 37 Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?”

Eva the answer to both of Jesus’s rhetorical questions is “nothing!”. There is no amount of money, wealth or power that you could possibly have that you could offer to God, that he would accept in exchange for your soul. If there was, this would make the life, death, resurrection and eternal exaltation of His son pointless. Be careful Eva, money can seductively lull your soul in to a self-reliant sleep. It can penetrate your heart and mind so that you actually believe your money gives you some form of asylum. Ultimately, it can lead you to a place where you begin to question your need for God himself. Many of your peers and some of the men that pursue you will try to sell you the exact opposite of what I have just written. Do not believe them. It is a seductive lie, built into the fabric of the American dream. It is a lie. God finds ultimate value in His Son, He invites us to do the same Eva.

John writes in 1 John 5:17, “And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever.”. Did you hear that Eva? If you will do God’s will, which is inseparable from loving, obeying and following God’s Son, God will grant you the gift of eternal life. This is the most important thing you can do with your life. This is what God will talk to you about some day……how you responded to His Son and act on what His Son has said.

Your mother and I love you so much,

Daddy,

Lacking…

Eva,

I have been listening to a video of a panel of different preachers, teachers and theologians about different topics. It is an open forum type deal. One of the questions that was asked was about the lack of Godly men in the church and who will step and lead a family. This is unfortunately the case in the environment  and culture you are growing up in…Specifically in the church. 

I know this to be a fact, because I was partially one of those men. I was not raised with clear direction on what a Godly, biblical man was or should be. It was exactly the opposite actually. I was shown how to care only about what inconvenienced me, what made me feel good and what was important to me….not the God of the Bible. I want to steal on an acronym from one of the pastor/theologians on the panel. I think he explains what a Godly and biblical man is suppose to look like. Before I do, i want to say, I fall so short of this still today, but I know that Jesus is making me into this in order to bring Him and the Father glory, therefore, I have hope.

The speaker who said these things which I am going to repeat, his name is Voddie Bauchman (pronounced “voady”). He gave these descriptions of what a Godly man should be:

Priest: The man who leads you, should be the representative of you, your children and himself to God. He should be the first to repent of sin, the first to the cross, the first to ask forgiveness from God and from you (if he has done something wrong or sinful). He should think of himself as the representative of your household before God. In order for him to do this, he needs to know the scriptures…and he needs to know them well. He cannot do his duty as priest representing you before God, nor can he delight in God himself, without a deep love and understanding of God’s word. If anyone tries to sell you something different, they are lying to you.

Prophet: The man who leads you, should be the prophet of God’s word to you. Again, he must know, enjoy and love God’s word…even above the way he feels about it, and you or your children feel about it. He must be and have a desire to lay out the scriptures to you and your family. Look for a man who loves God’s word…and desires to obey it above anything else.

Provider: The man who leads you must be able to provide for you. He doesn’t have to or need to be rich. As a matter of fact, I would advise you to steer clear of any man who has a good deal  of money, is in pursuit of riches or who desires to keep alot of money. The Bible is chucked full of scripture dealing with the pursuit of monetary gain, here is one that is straight forward and pointed, it comes from Paul’s letter to a young pastor who he training up named Timothy, “Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” (1 Timothy 6:9-10). Please pay special heed to these verses Eva, for yourself and for the man who will lead you through life. This doesn’t mean,  he should shirk the responsibility of providing for you and your family. Paul also writes, earlier in the same letter, “Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8). It is his responsibility to provide for you. It is not his responsibility to get rich for you or provide you with wealth. This would put his soul in danger of “all kinds of evil”. Join with him in pursing God above riches Eva. Be a conduit for the Holy Spirit in his life to pursue and enjoy God and His Son, through God’s Spirit.

Protector: The man who leads you must protect you. Voddie put it this way, “The man must put himself in between harm and his family.” The man who leads you must not be looking for trouble, but he must not run away from trouble.” He must not be fool, he must have sense and wisdom…but he must have courage to fight if need be. He doesn’t need to be big and strong, he just has to be able to stop and neutralize a threat.

Eva, no man was ever perfect, except Christ Himself. He was the only man without sin. You should not expect perfection out of any man. Nor should you look to a man to be fulfilled…completely. God is the only person who can fulfill you through and through…over and over again. You were made to worship and bring glory to God….to enjoy him above anything or anyone else. So do not hold it over your husbands head to bring you ultimate fulfillment. With that said, enjoy your husband :). God created you to enjoy Him together with your husband and to enjoy each other. Let your marriage reflect the beautiful union that is the triune Godhead (the trinity). God exists in distinct persons which make up the trinity: The Father, The Son and the Holy Spirit. These three have existed forever, and they have been knowing and enjoying each other completely from all of eternity. Let your marriage reflect the purity, love, selflessness and innocent enjoyment of the trinity Eva; let it overflow into your children’s lives, and your grand children’s lives.

Your marriage is not just about you and what will bring you the greatest amount of satisfaction. It is ultimately both of you enjoying God’s Son fully, and bringing glory to His name by making disciples and spreading the absolute satisfaction of loving and enjoying God to all the peoples (Matthew 28:18-20).

Your mother and I love you so much Eva,

Daddy

Bewildered….

Eva,

The church culture (if God graces your life with a desire to follow and worship His Son) you will grow up in, will put such a unhealthy pressure on you to get married. Don’t get me wrong marriage isn’t just great, it is biblical. What I mean by this, is that it is an idea that originates from the mind and action of God. God created us to be in relationship with one another, and the closest form of relationship is marriage. Your husband, who ever he will be, (this article is causing me to pray not just for you but for him as well), should God allow it, will walk through life with you until one of you is dead. Unfortunately, Eva, you will grow up in a culture (in the world and in the church, though slightly less) that does not value marriage…..because it has no value for God’s opinion.

You will commonly hear people say how hard marriage is….and they are right. Marriage is tough. However, Eva, remember Marriage is tough mainly because of sin. Before you meet your husband, your main problem in life with be sin. It will not be having enough money, finding the right person or picking the right career. Sin is man’s greatest problem. What is sin? Sin is hostile rebellion and disobedience against God, his holiness and his commandments. This is mankind’s greatest problem.

Eva, the more I repent (turn) from sin privately and in community with other people who love Jesus and follow him, the better I treat your mother, and other people for that matter. What is repentance? Repentance is to agree with God on what He calls sin, with your mind, your emotions, carried out with your actions. We don’t set the standard or meaning of Sin, God does. What He calls Sin is what matters. Don’t be fooled Eva, you and husband’s main problem will stem from how you treat God’s Son. The more I love, value and follow him, the better I treat your mother. The less I value Him, the more I become the God of my own life, and ultimately destroy every relationship in my life. This plays out in several way.

Marriage has so much to do with how we treat and value Yahweh (God). When we have a healthy fear and respect for God, walk in His commands, we value and love our spouse so much better than we ever could on our best day without Jesus. Give your heart fully to God and enjoy His Son, and find a man that is doing the same before you meet him.

Be careful Eva. So many men will tell you that they are Christians. Please know that this is not always the case. I know because I did it. I would profess to be a Christian, but I was only one in name, not in reality. I was fooling myself and others, all the while crippling my soul (and the souls of others) from valuing and desiring Jesus above anything else. Thankfully God in His mercy gave me a desire for Him that was greater than my desire for sex before marriage. This is the only way  it can be. Because of the power of sin and our propensity to choose it over God, pure determination to not do something will never work. God has to give us something more desirable than the sin we naturally crave. Fortunately,  He has given us himself in His Son. Obeying, valuing loving Jesus became more desirable than premarital sex to me. Thank God for Jesus. Remember Eva, we don’t come to God to get stuff, we come to God to get God. He himself is the thing to be enjoyed above everything. No one believes this to be true more than God Himself. 

If God allows me to live to see you get married (which I am hoping he does), my desire for you is that you would fall deeply in love with God, enjoy His Son above anything or anyone else, make disciples, expect the same from your husband and show your children how to do the same. Find someone who loves God and is willing to suffer on account of Jesus name. Find someone who has been “through it” with God. Find a man who loves Jesus more than pornography (which plagues our church culture today). Expect the man you marry to treat you as though he will have to give an account for how he treats you and others.

Daddy and mommy love you so much,

I will write again soon sweetheart, miss you.

I am distressed Eva….

This morning I dropped off your Aunt at the airport, as I drove back, I was noticing tents and cots under bridges with people laying on them and living in them. I am distressed Eva, because you are growing up in a world that increasingly values people who are famous, attention getting, self-exalting, money-producing and able to produce and drive social momentum and the like. I am not distressed because these people exist, I am concerned because the desire to be like them will pull at your soul, and you may buy in to it. I am concerned that the desire to exalt yourself will become intoxicating and that you will give in to it. It is interesting Eva, in a good majority of the world, western culture is not the the norm. A good majority of the world lives in abject poverty (utter humiliating poverty). In some places parents have to watch their children die in front of them due to curable diseases and or (maybe both) preventable famine and starvation. Not only this, in a good majority of the world, many people your age (and much, much younger) are trafficked and transported daily, even hourly. They are lured away with the promise of a better life, and then forced into the most deplorable sexual acts or forced labor. Eva, do not be fooled by the sick shallowness of American/western culture, which will put a false veneer over the pain of the world. God sees the pain and violence of the world and does not look away. Instead, He has sacrificed his only beloved and innocent Son in order to make us right with Himself.

I am worried about the pull that money and status will have on you as you grow up in american society and how, even in the church, you will not be able to escape this. From many pulpits you will hear how Jesus wants you to be healthy, wealthy happy and rich. This is an absolute lie. Do not believe it for one second. In Matthew 5 Jesus gives us a list of those who He considers “blessed” (and His list is the only one that should matter to you). In Matthew 5, Jesus says those who are, “poor in spirit….Those who Mourn…the meek…those who hunger and thirst for righteousness…..the merciful…the pure in heart…the peacemakers….those who are persecuted because of righteousnessBlessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me” (Matthew 5:1-11). It would seem that Jesus sees things much different than we do. Thank God for that.

However this is not all Eva, Jesus invites us in to something much deeper…He invites us to follow Him, to love Him and to treasure him above everything else….including ourselves (Mark 8:34-9:1). Jesus calls us to disown ourselves for the sake of His name and His glory. For the New Testament disciples, they saw this as the most worthwhile pursuit they could live for…and they all lost their lives because of it, save John. At the heart of the Gospel is God the father’s invitation for us to find ultimate satisfaction in His Son. Unfortunately, Eva, you are being raised in a culture that has said a stern “no” to this invitation from God. In essence, the world, in so many ways, has replied to God, “the death and resurrection of  your Son is pointless. Maybe you should have thought of a better plan”. Do not join the world in this type of response to God. Remember Eva, the thing that should concern you is that God is perfectly Just.

Daddy and Mommy love you so much,

I will write again soon.

I am worried Eva…..

I am worried about several things….

I am worried that you are being brought up in a culture (western culture) that cannot tell itself “no”. I am fighting back tears as I write this, because I know what awaits you in the next 21 years. There will be so many decisions for you to make, and the society you will be growing up in will tell you in so many ways, in the more formative years of your life to  “do what brings you the most monetary gain; do what makes you the most monetarily and emotionally comfortable and do what affords you the most pleasure”. You are a beautiful little girl Eva, and as you grow, my concern is that the society you are growing up in will make a dangerous assault on your innocence. I guess, a better way to put it would be, it will teach you to disregard a value for innocence….and I am concerned that no matter what I do, you will buy into it and like it. Innocence and purity (not just sexual purity) will be something you will have to decide that you want Eva. I am concerned that you will not want it. I can’t blame our culture for something you want. As a father , I will do my best to show you and teach you to want the right things and not want the wrong things. I guess, what I am trying to communicate is that, our culture (your friends, the media and possible even some relatives etc.,) will approach life by beginning with the thought, “what ever is easiest, feels really good, get’s you attention and gets you what you want….do it”. Unfortunately, you will grow up in culture, where people get paid large amounts of money to exist (celebrities). Just remember, Jesus never sought fame, money, status or accolades….and they killed him anyway.

I am concerned about you growing up in a society which promotes an ambivalent and indecisive attitude. Especially to men. I I know, because I struggle with this myself. Making a decisive decision, you will notice, is not a skill that many people possess. For some reason, your peers will struggle with having too many choices, and this will cripple them mentally and emotionally. It will be hard, but demand from yourself the ability to make decisions. This is only possible by having values that serve as moorings or non-negotiables that serve as binding  and valid for you. You will be able to detect that your peers (for the most part) will not have these by their inability to make decisions. Your mother and I will do our best to show you how to make decisions that value God, yourself and people. It is imperative that you pay attention to this skill in a man. Also pay attention to what kind of decisions he makes concerning God, himself and you. All three of these cannot be separated. Demand to be treated as though you are made in the image of God. Demand to be treated as though, someday, your boyfriend/husband will give an account to God for how he treats you. I am reminded every week , that I will be held to account for how I treat your mother.

I am concerned that you will be growing in a church culture (if you decide to be a follower of Christ, the choice is yours)  that will not teach you how to make disciples. In Matthew 28:18-20 Jesus’ says to His followers after He has been resurrected from the dead,  “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”. How Jesus’ disciples did this is portrayed in the book of Acts (it is after the Gospel of John). His disciples responded to Him and His authority and acted on what he said. We join with the New Testament church when we do the same. Jesus, in the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) sees no problem demanding complete allegiance and fidelity to himself and his mission. I am concerned that as you grow up, you will be continually told to just love people well, raise a good family and be as comfortable as possible. I want to be as honest as possible with you in saying, this kind of attitude is completely unbiblical. If you are going to be a follower of Christ, it comes with a a cost. It is, as Dietrich Bonnhoffer put it, “The cost of discipleship”. I am concerned that, more and more, in several ways, your soul will be lulled to a worldly, false sleep and security; and that someday God the father will talk to you about how you treated His Son, in whom he finds complete satisfaction and ultimate pleasure. Please do not be fooled Eva, God finds ultimate value in His Son, He invites us to do the same.

I am worried about many, many more things. I will write you again.

Your mother and I love you so much,

Daddy