The Knowledge of God: Part IV (The Institutes for Kids)

God revealed in his manifold works of creation

The best gift God can give us is himself. We’re only really happy when we know the God who made us and loves us.

So, because he loves us, God makes himself known to us. We’re small and he’s big (really big), so he reveals himself in ways we can handle. Like a stuffed animal trying to hold the sun, a full, unfiltered blast of God is a bit more than you or I can manage.

In kindness, and so we can enjoy him, God reveals himself to us in better ways:

First, he makes himself known in the biggest and the littlest parts of the world (and everything in-between). If we just open our eyes and look… SNAP! CRACKLE! POP! God’s glory shines out everywhere!

The world is beautiful! It’s a masterpiece! The whole universe is dazzling and dizzying in just how wild and wise and wonderful it is!

This doesn’t take smarts or religious chops to understand. You could be a prophet or a pirate, it doesn’t matter: when you look up or down or side to side, sparks of God’s creative wonders are everywhere (Psalm 19:1-4).

Have you looked into astronomy? Peaked into an anatomy and physiology textbook? Dabbled in nature studies? You’re going to quickly run out of fingers if you start to count the wonders of this world we all live in. That there is a God, and that he is a skilled designer, an artist to the max, should be as plain as peanut butter to you.

Each of the bazillion stars above are constantly dancing to an unheard tune, and yet not one of them has ever missed a step.

The human body is a marvel of balance, beauty, and usefulness; it’s a cleverly made meat-machine, that sings, dances, sleeps, cuts firewood, makes babies and is powered by (what else?!) bread and wine. Its Maker should get all the inventor awards there are.

Have you ever been caught outside in a thunderstorm? Is God’s power not obvious? Have you felt the wind and the rain pounding against you? Have you seen lightning, brilliant and terrifying, tear across the night sky? God stirs up thirty-foot waves, and then smoothes the sea out as easily as someone making a bed. God is good, but clearly not one to be trifled with either.

This world is a living, breathing, eating, baseball-playing, work of art-making work of art. But where did it all begin? Why does it continue? Because it was made by an eternal God who is good, and whose artwork is meant to reveal to us just a whiff, just a speck of his greatness.

The Knowledge of God: Part III (The Institutes for Kids)

The twin evils of superstition and craven fear

When we don’t go to God with good, believing hearts, and instead follow our own superstitious religiousish mumbo-jumbo, we sin in two ways:

1. By worshipping a fake and lame-o God.

God has told us what he’s like. He’s actually spoken. In Jesus we were with God himself. What does superstition do? It looks in the other direction and says, “Oh, hi God!” A superstitious person may put on a solid looking religious act, bow themselves, raise their hands, pray until they sweat, do the whole show, but they’re not looking at God and honouring God–they’re honouring not-God; really, they’re honouring themselves and their imaginations.

Many people think, “If it sounds spiritual, and I use the G-word often, all the religious people should applaud me and stop asking me so many questions.” But true worshippers know fakery when they see it. Worship of the real God conforms to God’s will. Since God is the same yesterday, today and forever, worship and obedience just doesn’t change from person to person, according to their likes and dislikes.

Approaching God is not like approaching a church potluck: “Pick what you like, leave what you don’t, and enjoy your very own God!” Like our elder brother Lactantius said long ago, “No religion is valid which is not also joined to truth.”

2. By thinking we can approach God on tip-toes, and only when we have to.

Superstitious people don’t like God — they fear him. They know he’s a Judge that loves good and hates evil. If they had their choice, they’d do away with God all together. After all, no God means no judgement.

Buuut, that darn God-stamp (or seed of religion) just can’t be suppressed or erased, and so the ever present God-stamp stays, and stays scary.

So, some are willing to do the religious thing from time to time, because they imagine, “That’ll keep God distracted for a while!” But this kind of “spirituality” isn’t sturdy; fear will only hold you back from sin so much — you’ll find ways to give in, and refuse to bring every last sin to God to terminate.

What true godliness entails

Superstitious religion is only a shadow (and calling it a shadow is being pretty generous). What we ought to be after is Believing Heart™.

True religion isn’t made up, but God-spoken, and only those with Believing Heart™ can receive it, and walk the long road of joyful obedience.

Believing Heart™ doesn’t make a God out of all its favourite things; Believing Heart™ loves God for who God is.

Believing Heart™ knows it’s naturally weak and so asks God to guard and protect it.

Believing Heart™ asks God for help all the time, and trusts that God is both generous and kind.

Believing Heart™ knows that in the face of every distress, God’s mercy is on deck to bring in the remedy.

Believing Heart™ knows that God is Judge, but also holds to him as Father.

(It’s important for you to know though that Believing Heart™ still fears God –but not like the superstitious do. Proper fear includes both a love of God’s good law, and a serious-minded reverence of God’s majesty.)

Friend, knowing God is why you were made. To miss this God is to miss why you were created. And it’s only when you know this God that you can truly know yourself.

The Knowledge of God: Part II (The Institutes for Kids)

An awareness of God is common to all

No human needs to be taught that there’s a God and that we’re his creatures. It’s in our guts. If you meet people five thousand miles in any direction, whether they live in a dark forest or a remote dessert or on a high mountain, they know there’s a God; they don’t need you to tell them about him.

That’s why wherever you go, you’ll find people who bow down to statues, visit temples, and pray. Whether they believe in one God or lots of gods, people can’t seem to shake “God”!

God stamped this feeling on all of us, and it can’t be wiped off.

So it’s pretty silly when someone tries to explain the stamp of God by saying, “There’s no stamp! This is what happened: a long time ago, some dude just made up the idea of God; probably to control people and get stuff from them!”

Now of course people have tried to use the stamp to scare, control, and take stuff from people. But it’d never work if people weren’t already convinced there was a God! These rotten thieves were at least smart; they tapped into something everyone’s already got.

Now some people totally deny God. “There ain’t no stamp on me!” they say. But such people usually start to grow something else: superstition. And superstition makes a person act pretty strange. They’re scared of the sound of a falling leaf! They knock on wood! They flip through a card deck think the cards are telling them things! If it’s not God out there, it’s open season. Explaining the stamp away just opens us up to a million far more zanier beliefs.

Humans can keep the feeling of God away with as much success as someone can keep a sealed sheep intestine filled with air under the water by first making sure it’s put down real deep.

The seed of religion is perverted by self-will

We can call this stamp of God-feeling “the seed of religion.” Everyone’s got it planted in them. This seed tells us that because there’s a God, a bunch of other things are true too: we’re his creatures, all good things come from him, we’ve failed to honour and thank him, and, we should only do what he wants.

But you and I don’t like that. We want to be our own boss. And because we’re selfish soil, the seed planted in us gets tainted. We can’t remove the seed, and because we’re selfish, it can’t produce what it should. Instead of producing whole-hearted holiness and a simple love toward God, we do just enough to get God off our back. We might even put on a big religious show, but really, we’re just doing this to keep our hearts far from him.

The Knowledge of God: Part I (The Institutes for Kids)

If you could pile all the stuff that makes you wise into great heaps, you’d basically end up with just two. They’d be called: KNOW-GOD and KNOW-YOURSELF.

To be wise, you need both piles.

KNOW-GOD shows you how amazing God is! He’s big, he’s strong, he’s good! If you KNOW-GOD, you want to sing and jump and bow to him and spend lots of time with him… until you get into that second pile.

KNOW-YOURSELF shows you how miserable you are. You’re small, you’re weak, you’re sinful. If you KNOW-YOURSELF, you want to hide and cry and you get filled with sadness.

But remember how I said you need both KNOW-GOD and KNOW-YOURSELF to be really wise?

KNOW-YOURSELF tells you you can’t find happiness and goodness in yourself. KNOW-GOD tells you that the only place in the whole world where true joy is offered is in God.

Do you see? KNOW-YOURSELF can actually walk you by the hand, right up to KNOW-GOD!

Self-knowledge impossible without the knowledge of God

It’d be great if KNOW-YOURSELF were always this helpful. The problem is, KNOW-YOURSELF can sometimes be a bit of a trickster.

KNOW-YOURSELF might whisper to you that you’re actually pretty good. Sure, you’re weak and silly and sinful — but there’s usually someone you know who’s even more weak, silly, and sinful than you. That can (strangely) make you think you’re actually good.

I know your parents told you not to look at the sun, so just imagine this: When you look around a room and see things, you might think your sight is strong. But what happens when you go outside on a cloudless day and try to stare at the very heart of the sun? Ah! It’s too bright! All of a sudden, you have to admit your sight isn’t that strong.

If we only look at ourselves with KNOW-YOURSELF at our side, we might think we’re pretty good, pretty smart, pretty strong. But as soon as KNOW-GOD chimes in, we realize we’re not good, smart, or strong AT ALL!

That’s why people in the Bible often completely freaked out when they felt God near them. You might think Abraham, Isaiah, and Peter were fine, saintly people, but when they got near God they wanted to tuck tail and run (Gen. 18:27, Isa. 6:5, Luke 5:8)!

So to make sure KNOW-YOURSELF behaves, KNOW-GOD always has to stay right beside it.

Prefatory Letter to King Francis: Part VII (The Institutes for Kids)

Satan’s purpose: to discredit the gospel

There’s a pattern here: God’s word lightens things up, Satan tries to close the curtains. God’s word starts its march, Satan prepares the ambush. Yes, things were quieter before we started preaching, but that just means run-of-the-mill preaching helps Satan gets his eight hours a night. Now that we’ve woken him up, he’s whetting his knives.

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Like highwaymen, there are rebels who will use this gospel to conceal their hatred and evil plans. But they’re rebels! They’ll use anything to get what they want. Their misuse of the gospel doesn’t make it false or dangerous.

Look at Jesus and the Apostles: wherever they went, things got heated. Wicked people twisted what they said, too. Should Jesus and the Apostles have stopped their work and said the gospel was bad, because it often led to trouble? No way! They simply steeled themselves, took up their shields, got ready for a rough road ahead, and kept right on preaching.

That’s our plan too, and we’re sticking to it.

Conclusion

Please don’t get tricked, O great king! I’d be angry too if I thought teachers outside the Big Shiny Church were trying to take your throne away and burn your kingdom to the ground. But look at us: when we’re imprisoned and beaten, we pray for your safety. When we’re taken from our homes, we pray that God protects your kingdom. When what we have is taken away, we pray you will prosper.

There are many who say they’re part of our cause but are just imposters and real evil people. Some of your counsellors will say we’re all like that; don’t believe them. That’s why I wrote you like this, to try to soften your heart enough so you’d give us a fair listen-to. Please, don’t plug your ears to the good news of Jesus because of how the frauds make us look or how our enemies paint us.

But even if you won’t listen to us, we’ll be patient and persistent and prayerful.

May the Lord Jesus, the King of kings, build you a throne of justice and fairness, our strong and honoured king.

Prefatory Letter to King Francis: Part VI (The Institutes for Kids)

Custom is no substitute for truth

If men were foolproof, we’d be okay. But they’re not. The church has a big pile of the church father’s teachings and called it ‘custom.’ Now there’re hot-lies in the pile and it’s threatening to burn the house down. Yet some of you would rather preserve and honour the whole pile than save the house!

Listen: I’m not saying that “custom” is bad, but that bad custom is.

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True church and false church

We’re not a new church just because we don’t like that whole burning pile. And, we don’t think we’ve picked a fight with a true church.

Since some insist the church must always be visible, and the Roman church is the most glittery, they conclude that that must be the church. But that ox won’t plow.

Listen to how Hilary put it: “I urge you, beware of Antichrist. You look no further than the walls, seeking God’s church in beautiful buildings, thinking that they enclose within them the fellowship of believers. Can we doubt that this is where Antichrist has his seat? I consider mountains, woods, lakes, dungeons and deserts to be safer and more trustworthy. For the prophets who hid in them prophesied.”

It’s like their best argument is: he with the biggest church, wins.

But that’s not God’s way. He’s always been preserving and hiding his people, even though outside it appears they’re not there. Remember Elijah feeling like he was all alone (1 Kings 19:10)? The temple-people were evil evil. But hidden among Israel were seven thousand faithful people (19:18), without a glimmer of outward glory.

They say, pastors of the church can’t err. Wha?! What about that whole Aaron-and-the-golden-calf-thing (Ex. 32:4)? Were Ahab’s four hundred prophets insiders or outsiders (1 Kings 22:6)? What about the priests, teachers and religious leaders of Jesus’ day–were they correct to plot against Jesus because they had the temple–the most visible church (John 11:47)?

Shall I bring up how you once had two popes at the same time? Ya, let’s go there. Which one of them was the real schismatic? Is the true church just the side that wins?

Your beliefs about the church are as rotten as your lives.

Prefatory Letter to King Francis: Part V (The Institutes for Kids)

Testimony of the Church Fathers

We like the ancient Fathers of the church. We’re big fans. But they’re not the top-bosses of the church. And even if they were, like the churchboyz think, they’d be on our side.

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The Fathers were good guys, but like everyone, they made mistakes. But our critics’ genius plan is to quote all the Fathers’ errors and toss aside all their good stuff! They spit out the meat and chew the bones.

Let me give you just a few examples:

The Fathers said that God isn’t impressed with gold and silver–churchboyz bling everything up.

The Fathers said don’t set up images of God or man–churchboyz cram every corner of their buildings with images.

The Fathers denied that the Lord’s Supper contained Christ’s physical body– churchboyz say every bit of him is in the bread.

The Fathers said marriage is for ministers–churchboyz demand singleness.

They pretend like they’re the good kids, but really they’re being stinkers. They play up their loyalty but it’s just an act. And it’s lame.

Prefatory Letter to King Francis: Part IV (The Institutes for Kids)

The question of miracles

Ugh, are they serious? They want us to produce miracles to prove what we preach is true?

If we taught something new, okay, they’ve got us. eberhard-grossgasteiger-371628-unsplash.jpg

But this is not new. So, we’ll just point to Jesus and the apostle’s miracles, thank-you-very-much! Those miracles gave our gospel God’s big-forever-stamp of approval.

Those who fight against us believe their (let’s be honest) silly or fake “miracles” can erase what God has already confirmed.

Nope. Not going to happen.

Besides, miracles don’t prove that much. Even Satan has his “miracles.”

When our great-great-great-uncle in the faith, Augustine, wrestled with the false-teaching “miracle-workers” of his time, he said what we say; Jesus prepped us good for such people when he warned “false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect” (Matt. 24:24).

I can already hear their squeals: “We’re not false teachers! We’re saints! Our miracles are legit!”

This is my surprised face :O

Even Satan has the brains enough to pretend to be an angel of light (1 Cor. 11:14).

The deal-breaker for us is, before even considering miracles, do they teach truth? Is it biblical? Does it glorify God or glorify man? I mean, just look at what they teach! My point is made.

Prefatory Letter to King Francis: Part III (The Institutes for Kids)

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Our adversaries’ motives

These guys don’t listen to God anymore. They get paid from the Roman church and then use that pay to keep their kitchens stocked. If disobeying what God has clearly said in the Bible and teaching all kinds of ridiculous things means keeping their big bellies full, they’ll do it! Plus, they like being bossy.

They might say that what we teach is brand new and sneaky, that we haven’t done any miracles to prove what we say is true, and that our ancient church-fathers would give us the frowning of a lifetime if they only knew what we taught. But of course what we say sounds silly to them, because when we start talking they just stick their fingers in their ears and shout, “I’m not listening!” over and over again. So listen up!

New teaching or old?

Sha, our teaching is new! New to them! But if anyone has read, say, Romans 4:25, where old St. Paul says “Jesus Christ died for our sins and rose for our justification,” then they know it’s not really new; it’s just the old, true, but forgotten teaching from God himself.

If it meant getting in trouble or having an empty cupboard, our enemies would drop all their false teachings like hot-mutton. But because our message is, “Because Jesus died for us, God has no more wrath for you,” we’re willing to die and face the wrath of man to keep on teaching this good news.

Prefatory Letter to King Francis: Part II (The Institutes for Kids)

Plight of the persecuted

I know what you’ve heard sounds real bad, but what they’re saying about us just isn’t true! And it’s not fair if you take their side without listening to our side of the story too!

foxes.jpgThey say what we believe will rip up your kingdom, make everyone fuss and cry, and start a never-ending fist fight. Basically–so they say–we want to ruin everything for everyone everywhere. Now if they’re right, they’re right: we deserve a time-out and countless early bedtimes. But how do you know what they’re saying is true if we can’t say a word to defend ourselves?!

I want you, most seriously big-crowned King, to give us a listen. Let me make the case. Let me defend God’s poor little church. Because, to be honest, if you don’t lead according to God’s word, you’re not a king but a crook.

I’ve heard people call us stupid, foolish, and easily-tricked. That we’re a bunch of poor stinky weaklings. Meh, I say to all that. Jesus saves people who can’t brag about a thing and so go to him for help. If we’re naked, he gives us clothes. If we’re empty, he fills us. If we’re blind, he gives us sight. The thing we believe, the thing that’s making everybody so mad at us, is this: we’re weak and needy, and God is strong and loves us.

Anyway, we’re not that offended. This is all out of the Bible, not out of our heads.

Of course, those complaining priests of yours don’t agree with this. But have you ever wondered why?