Valle de Sombra

The banquet of eternity

Posted on | April 8, 2015 | No Comments

When we are struggling with God for something, and he seems to be deliberately taking an infuriating and quite unnecessarily long time in answering us, and we are long past the point where we would be philosophically willing to hear a negative, just to be able to get on with our lives, then we must stop to ask ourselves a few questions regarding the nature of God and of his relationship with us.

If he is indeed a benevolent God, full of love and kindness for his adopted children – and we hold as an article of faith that he is; and if he hears our prayers and desires to grant that which we ask of him as a father grants the requests of his children – and again we hold this to be an aspect of the very nature of God; and if we are no longer under judgement nor need have any fear of punishment – and this firm promise is based on the efficacy of the blood of the sacrificial Lamb; and if that which we are requesting has passed all the tests of what is good, wise, timely and appropriate (and if it hasn’t, then before saying one more word to God we need to back and rigorously submit it to the tests), then why is he forcing us to wait? He is not deaf to our pleas. He takes no joy in our pain. He is not impotent that he cannot grant that which we ask. We are not under judgement. We are acting as his children ought when we take our requests to him in prayer. To the extent of our ability to see, what we are asking for is good. Although we wish for an affirmative answer, we could deal with a negative. We just want an answer. Any answer. So why the silence?

I have come to recognize a very specific method in the way God deals with his children in these situations. We come to him in prayer asking for something good, something that does not go against his will to give us; something that, because he loves us, he would like to give us. But, you see, it is imperative that we learn – truly learn – that there is only one purely good thing in the universe, and that is God himself. As good as the thing we desire may be, learning this lesson is incomparably more valuable, for the thing we desire will turn to dust, but the soul is immortal. One day all the good things that we have accumulated in life – be they friends, family, possessions, experiences – will all pass away, and we will be left with only God himself as our treasure.

We must put away the popular yet childish fantasy that heaven is some kind of personalized theme park tailored to every desire to entertain us for eternity. Heaven is nothing more, and nothing less, than – for every single second of every single hour of every single day, month after month, year after year, millennium after millennium – to gaze unblinking upon the very uncovered face of God. And until we have acquired the taste for that banquet – which is the only banquet set in heaven – we are not prepared for heaven.

God is that which is good. Every other good thing (and there are countless other good things) is good only insofar as it reflects some aspect of God himself. It is not wrong to desire some good thing. On the contrary, we are expected to do so. But we ever fall into the error of forgetting that any goodness there is in anything other than God is only a reflection of him, and only truly a blessing as long as we keep that in mind. Nothing is purely good, save God himself. To put our hope in anything other than God is to lean our weight on a cracked staff that will fail us when we least can afford the betrayal. Until my heart can be truly satisfied in God and in God alone, I am putting my hope in something other than God. Until my internal definition of joy and delight and pleasure is based on the person on God, then any joy or delight or pleasure I take in any other thing in this world is a delusion and a fatal waste of precious, irreplaceable time.

I can understand this with my mind, yes. I can also understand, mathematically, how big the known universe is. But, simply because I understand it, I cannot claim to know it. It is too big for me, too strange to my fallen heart, too antithetical to the sin that still seeks to govern my mind, too different from the dirt beneath my feet and the hunger in my belly. It is only God, acting as my shepherd, who can educate my heart to truly comprehend that he and he alone is my hope and my joy and my consolation and my treasure and my reward. But God chooses to treat me as a person, not as a dumb animal, and he will not impose this on me. I must do my part. God wishes to be my partner in the preparation of my heart for heaven, and as in any partnership, I must do my part.

My part is to face with faith each silent day that passes, be it ever so weary. My part is to say to my disbelieving and fallen heart that I will trust in God and that he is the very incarnation of all goodness that I could ever hope to find in this life and in the next. And to say it again. And yet again. And each time I do so, by the miracle of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, my heart changes just a little. Each time I declare my faith in God (in God himself and not that he will do what I want him to do, no matter how badly I want him to do it, nor even how much I think he should), each time I say to God, “Father, I pray you grant this request, but your perfect will be done and not mine”, and that caveat isn’t mere rhetorical window-dressing, then I learn a little more how to live in heaven. Each time I bid my heart wait on the Lord, he prepares my palate for the banquet of eternity.

The window or the view

Posted on | June 25, 2014 | No Comments

The holy scriptures are a window into the soul of God.

They are a faithful and clear window, neither distorting nor adding anything to the soul of God.

Let us, however, not fall in love with the window. Rather, looking through this faithful window, let us fall in love with God.

The merit of this window is that it reveals God. To glorify the window is to miss the whole point of the window. The window exists not to receive glory, but to point to the one to whom all glory is due.

Of grains of sand and of mountains

Posted on | May 20, 2014 | No Comments

The large decisions in life are so often made up of many seemingly insignificant ones. When we make the small ones, we seldom perceive how they influence the large, life-changing ones. This is most true in relationships.

A point in case is marriage.

Anyone who has been married for more than a month knows that the continuity of a marriage depends just as much on decisions as did the beginning of the marriage. The ‘I do’ spoken before witnesses is only the first of countless others, each one as challenging as the first. Small decisions lay the foundations for large ones, and lead the way to them. We need not fear the large ones if we have been vigilant with the small ones.  No-one wakes up one rainy day and thinks, ‘Today I guess I’ll get divorced, and have toast for breakfast’. The decision creeps up on you, small, quiet step by small, quiet step. And suddenly you find yourself staring into the abyss of a terrible choice that you have practically already taken, and turning back is almost inconceivable.

You either let marriage transform you, as an amazingly effective tool in the capable hands of the Spirit, or little sin by little sin you will gnaw away at the foundation of your union, with each small and camouflaged act of selfishness, of impatience, egotism, anger, cowardice, rancor, disdain, uncaring, and so many other tiny drops of venom.

The choice to preserve your marriage or to destroy it is not one you will make at some terrible but abstract point in your future. It is a choice you make today. Now. And in ten minutes’ time, and in an hour’s time.

Every day you will take a dozen decisions, a hundred decisions, the sum of which will take you one more step down the road to the destruction of your union, vomiting out ruin and misery to all those involved in your life. Or that sum will add another layer of granite to buttress the roots of your marriage, to weather all the storms that life will bring, to harbour your children and be a light to their children in the gathering darkness.

The wages of sin are death.

Pandering to the little sins in your heart will surely destroy all you hold precious, and leave you with but dust in your mouth and incurable roots of bitterness in your heart.

But the gift of God is eternal life.

Did we depend on our personal aversion to sin, all would be lost indeed! But we have three mighty champions on our side, and do we but let them fight for us, victory is assured. On our left we have the active grace of our God who desires to bless us. On our right we have the redeeming blood of Christ which has delivered us from the just anger of God. And at our backs we have the tireless work of the Spirit in our hearts, to convict us of sin and to guide us to contrition and repentance, which give way to renewal and abundant life. But ours is the decision – repeated over and over again, moment by moment, day by day, year by year – to bend our hearts to the voice of the shepherd. From God comes mercy, grace and salvation, but to us it is given to receive or to reject, to humble our hearts before our God, or to harden ourselves to his voice.

Marriage is indeed a joint enterprise, a union between two people, but by having the courage to be humble before your God, you will not only have done your part to assure the continuity of your union, but will massively influence your partner, encouraging him or her to follow. As arrogance foments arrogance, so does humility teach humility.

Political tyranny and godless men

Posted on | January 30, 2014 | No Comments

The world’s people constantly demand freedom and self-determination, and any person or group of people who resist this call are demonized, and generally rightly so. Freedom is where man was created to be. Our genetic instinct is to be free. It offends our sense of identity when others impose their will on us and restrict our freedom. Yet freedom in an inherently unstable condition. It is not unstable due to any defect of freedom itself. There is nothing wrong with freedom. On the contrary, its opposites – forced servitude and subjugation – are indisputably bad things. The defect is not in freedom, but in man who cannot live in the condition he so yearns for, and for which so much blood has been spilled over the centuries and will be spilled again before our age is over.

Put man into a place where freedom reigns, and he immediately begins taking decisions the inevitable result of which will be the loss of his freedom. Make him pay a very high price for his freedom, and he will value it and protect it a bit longer, but only a bit. At the very best, the generation that paid in blood the price of their freedom will not too savagely undermine it, but the next generation will undertake the effort with a will, and will succeed.

We presume that freedom is the natural state of man, and that barring intentional assault, it will remain in effect. This is not so. It was so once, but it is no longer. Now our natural instincts demand of us things that require the suppression of others to achieve. The boundary between where our desires end and others’ rights begin is subject to legislation and the legalized use of violence. So we join forces in groups to impose our desires at the expense of the freedom of others. And we are pleased when we succeed, proclaiming a victory for democracy. We heed not that with each encroachment of the freedom of others, our freedom is also wounded, for we set the precedents that others will use against us and against our children.

Freedom is not a force of nature, like gravity, that with great effort may be momentarily overcome before the inevitable descent. Freedom is a delicate plant all too vulnerable to drought and plague and edged weapons. We rain down blows on the roots of freedom for self-serving egotistic reasons, thinking that the price someone else will pay is worth the benefit to us, and that freedom is strong enough to overcome the damage we have done. And so special interest joins special interest and negotiates with legislators the price of their eminently negotiable ethics, and the incestuous legislators and the executives that pimp them buy permanence in power by using the authority they were entrusted with to erode the freedom of the people they supposedly serve, buying votes with favors that come at the expense of the freedom of others.

And so freedom withers and is overtaken by the strangling vines of tyranny, and men lament that which they lost and yet the loss of which they themselves caused.

A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves money from the public treasury. From that moment on the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most money from the public treasury, with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy followed by a dictatorship. Democracies progress through the following sequence: from bondage to spiritual faith, from spiritual faith to great courage, from courage to liberty, from liberty to abundance, from abundance to selfishness, from selfishness to complacency, from complacency to apathy, from apathy to dependency, from dependency back to bondage.

Alexander Fraser Tytler

Is a fatal error to believe that genuine political freedom can be sustained without a God-fearing people. As soon as a democratic majority no longer fears God, they will see freedom as a currency to be bartered away, not a precious gift to be treasured and passed down from generation to generation.

Why on earth have children?

Posted on | February 24, 2013 | No Comments

If we were to follow simple logic and reason, there would be no earthly reason to procreate, at least not in a relatively advanced economy. In poor regions where the economic instability precludes saving up for old-age and/or where the political populist opportunism makes property ownership untrustworthy, then there is indeed reason. Have as many children as you can and hope some survive to adulthood to look after you when you can no longer work.

That’s about it. If you do not live in a poor region or you find some way to save up for when you are old and weary, then it makes no sense at all to have children. Mark – I do not say that you should not have children, I only say that, if you submit your decisions to logic and reason, then you should not have children.

All other observations invoke not reason but feeling and emotion and societal approval. The pride of successful progeny; the affection reciprocated; the fulfilling of society’s expectations; the warmth of family; the end of loneliness; etc.

I will even say more (for the rest of this article I will presume you do not live in a poor region as defined above). If you put on one side of a scale all the tangible benefits of procreating, and on the other side all the costs (and we’re talking at least 18 years, folks, perhaps more), then procreation is simply and utterly nonsensical. Of course the population needs to remain stable, but this motivation falls immediate prey to the tragedy of the commons. Why should I go to all the massive expense and bother to maintain the population just so others can laze through life and retire early, depending on my effort to maintain society when they are old?

Obviously either there is some real, tangible reason, or all the millions of people having children are either dirt-poor (demonstrably not so) or illogical fools (theoretically possible, but if we start from the premise of global idiocy, then why bother going on at all?).

Future post/s to continue on this topic are forthcoming. Or not. Who can tell?

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  • Perfection or mediocrity

    I have no illusion of creating or finding a perfect church, since any body comprised of imperfect beings must of necessity itself be imperfect. I nevertheless strongly and passionately believe that we must have an ideal upon which to mold ourselves and a concept of perfection by which to set our compass. To answer criticisms of having lost our bearings, replying that no-one is perfect, is a shallow reply born of defeatism and not worthy of the blood shed on the cross, nor of those who take up the mantle of leadership in the church redeemed by that blood.