God loved the birds and invented trees.
Man loved the birds and invented cages.
In the words of an old rock song, “The Bird is the Word” (Surfer Bird).
Don’t cage God’s Word in your life; let it fly.
The most common denominator in our prison system is the overwhelming absence of inmates' father figures. Thank you Artie! Artie was my grandfather and the man who raised me in the absence of bio-dad. That biological father was a convicted career criminal and divorced by my mother. Artie labored for over forty years making Mack Trucks, raising two sons, a daughter, and then, later in life, me. Every Fathers Day is Artie's day to me.
The second person I think of when Fathers Day comes around is the one who so often stands in the shadow of Mother Mary, Joseph, the stepfather of Lord Jesus. As Mary pondered all those things in her heart, I can only imagine what was going on inside Joseph. Joseph is an unsung hero. I can't help but believe that God not only favored Mary above all women, but also fashioned the best loving man to care for and mentor our Lord and Savior. Happy Fathers Day!
I've been thinking about how God is not restrained by time and once stopped His sun and earth in their motion stopping time for His purpose. Aside from knowing that today is the day of salvation and remembering our Lord all the time, we worry too much about time. Time dragging on, time running out; time to do this and that, etc, etc. So today's meditation brings me to a quote from my favorite philosopher:
Time flies like an eagle. Fruit flies like a banana.. Groucho Marx
Staring at the outside of the refrigerator door, while contemplating a raid, this meditation hit me in the face:
Those who love you are not fooled by the mistakes you have made or dark images you have of yourself. They remember your beauty when you feel ugly; your wholeness when you are broken; your innocents when you feel guilty and your purpose when you are confused.
May I add, that in the believer, God remembers "His" beauty, "His" innocents and "His" purpose in our confusion.
He was a magnificent, a creature of strength and dignity. Now he was getting on in years, but still a conqueror. He bore the scares that had won him the right to oversee his flock. Like the man David he had fought off all predators in protecting his ewes and the lambs he treated so gently. The fall of the humans had dictated his life's struggle and he had met his burden with an unmatched resolve. The day came when his instincts took a turn and he left his beloved flock on his journey. It was a journey to the other side of the mountain, a steep climb without memory or previous purpose.
The old man's life was directed from above. In his youth he followed the call to wonder dangerously until he found his first promised land. He had fought life's struggle against our sinful bent and in the end always walked close to his creator.
The day was sunny and hot as he worked the field. He was prosperous and his workers could have accomplished the tasks without him, but he would pull his own weight, as would his wife, Sarah. The call came from above, a call that would pierce his heart. It was a call of sacrifice to God, but this time the offering was to be his only son.
He had already lost the son of a maidservant, now protected by God, but out of his life. Isaac was all he had to fulfill his life and the promise he had of generations to come. The man, Abraham fell on his knees and then to his face, not questioning but pleading for strength and the salvation of his son.
Isaac was no child, rather a young man. Abraham called him to the field just as his Father had called him from Ur so many years before. "Isaac, we must go prepare a sacrifice for the Lord our God."
The ram could see that stony hill of a mountain ahead, a place without food and an obstacle of no past purpose. Still, he forged on.
The old man and his son gather some wood, a few servants and a donkey and set off on their journey to an unfamiliar destination. Isaac was perplexed, this was not to be the place where past sacrifices had been offered up to God. Yet, he did not question for his father had always provided the answers in own his time.
The journey was long but after three days they would view the prominent mount of Moriah in the distance as the sun rose over it's rolling peak.
The ram was now digging in, it's muscular frame well engaged as evidenced by the rippling hocks and shoulders of the two hundred pound beast. His trunk-like neck bobbed with each stride creating momentum and supporting his noble head and crowning horns. He looked directly ahead, never high enough to yet see the pinnacle that waited.
At the foot of that massive hill Abraham directed the servants to stop and wait for their return. Not to wait for his return but for their return in the hope of the boy's resurrection. Stooped and struggling father and son carried the wood and the fire.
Isaac could wait no more. He'd seen his father's unusually troubled countenance and slow gait. "Father, I see the wood and the fire, but where is the lamb for the sacrifice." Abraham's rely, "God will provide the sacrifice." Even with that, Abraham silently prayed for a miracle just as the birth of this boy had been a miracle.
They reached the top, gathered stones and built an alter, not of man made creation but of God's geology fashion before time began for that very purpose.
The ram could now see the top, baron except for a heavy thorn laden thicket. Perhaps thorns that would some day pierce another sacrifice.
"Isaac, lie down and rest." The young man's mind was spinning, was his father just testing the structure or was he to be the sacrifice? He knew that his father would provide the answer in due time.
A new instinct beset the ram as he plunged into the thicket. A short, quiet struggle ensued before a heavenly calm settled on the entangled beast. He stood waiting.
Abraham lifted his knife, and with tears in his eyes, initiated its descent as he prayed for salvation and a painless kill. Then a voice, it was an old friend, not just an angel of God but the Angel of God. "Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me."
Abraham lifted his boy from the altar. As they turned, the ram could be seen from within the vines, a suiting sacrifice was made.
The account is preserved in God's word for those who would see but it is not history, as we know history to be, for God is not bound by time. Neither was Abraham's faithfulness a surprise to the Lord for God knows the heart. Was God's work an affirmation for Abraham, the continued birth of a chosen nation or a lesson for us all? The answer is yes to all those questions, yet it is even more. It is a foretelling look at the love and mercy of a time when Father, Son and Spirit would fulfill the ultimate sacrifice that alone provides for our adoption by the only perfect Father.
Where do we see ourselves in this journey? Are we Abraham, Isaac or the ram? We would do well to fashion our lives after any one of them.
WHEN MOVED WITHIN YOUR WILL TO SEEK;
WHEN WITH CONCEIT YOU MOVE TO SPEAK,
RECALL THAT DARK AND DREADFUL MORN
WHEN THE CLOAK OF TRUST WAS TORN.
WHEN A PRIMAL URGE CONTENDS
AND YOUR BETTER MAN DOES BEND,
RECALL THE VOWS AND LOVE FORGOT,
RESIST THE WORDS, "I KNOW HIM NOT."
THE STRUGGLE LIES WITHIN THE SOUL,
AS CHIMES OF LUST AWAIT THEIR TOLL.
ALONE WE FIGHT A LOSING WAR,
WHEN FIRST IT'S SELF THAT WE ADORE.
KEEP YOUR EYES ON THE VICTOR'S FACE,
ONCE LIFTED UP AND IN DISGRACE.
NOW HIGHER STILL UPON A THRONE,
PROVIDING ALL YOU NEED TO OWN.
LEAN NOT UPON YOUR OWN DESIRE,
IT'S BOUND TO STOKE A FUNERAL PYRE,
AS PRIDE MOVES ON TO LOFTY GROUND,
CAN'T YOU HEAR THE ROOSTER SOUND?
CHRIST LOOKED WITH LOVE UPON THE MAN,
WHO WITH THE SCOFFERS TOOK A STAND.
HE LOVES YOU TOO, I THINK YOU KNOW,
KEEP IN MIND THE ROOSTER'S CROW.
You may say that any argument about defining pride is just a matter of semantics, and it very well may be in some cases, however, the destructive power of pride, especially in the first person, must not be taken lightly. God hates that which is haughty. Words are more than air and should never be tossed to the wind in the way western culture has discarded the word sin. Sin has become the irrational word of ignorant bigots and therefore the fodder for comedians everywhere. So in a subliminal we have justified our destructive driving by re-lettering the stop sign, unfortunately we have not devised a way to eradicate the deadly consequence. When considering our sin nature, we can't escape the conclusion that it is consistently born of selfishness. Selfishness and pride are brothers; brothers like Frank and Jesse James or more appropriately like Antichrist and Satan. Only on occasion can pride be seen as light, but selfishness never.
Even when a father expresses pride in his sons accomplishments or behavior, he must be careful that such credit is lovingly attributed to the child and that dad is not saying: look at what I have made out of that lad or those are some genes aren't they? Conversely, a young boy getting to first base for the first time may gaze beamingly at his father in the stands. This cannot be construed as pride, but is joy in pleasing his dad and is best defined simply as love. Remember the words of the ultimate Father, This is my Son in whom I am well pleased, not in whom I am proud. This analogy may be quite shaky, as the Trinity is not humanly defined, but Jesus possessed a will and in agony He struggled and submitted to the will of His Father. This was pleasing to God, whom even as Godhead took no first place pride, but only pleasure in His Son.
We live in a world of competition not only to win, but also to just survive. The problem is that we don't understand what winning really means, so we survive, but at the cost of fading satisfaction. Pride is a killer from self-induced morbidity to global war, but worse of all it turns our adoration inward and away from family, friends and God Himself. No wonder He hates it. It is the destroyer of those His Son came to save.
When teacher, coach, employer and those same family, and friends exhort you to take pride in your accomplishments keep control and remember that it is very easy to claim the glory that is God's alone, and in doing so, stand at the temple and declare yourself lord. Scripture tells us that there are many little antichrists. We should take care not to claim the title.
Sight, hearing, touch, sense of smell and taste, God provides all not only by which to survive, but from which we gain the general revelation that there must be a magnificent creator. Even when one or more are diminished by this fallen world He enhances others to best compensate. Without guidance and correction the senses may all serve to corrupt, especially through temptation, but the good news is that they also serve to lead us to salvation.
After general revelation a door is opened to the truth. Next we may hear the witness the gospel is spread, then we may see as we read God's word and begin to realize that the fragrance the garden and the feel of the baby's cheek is the work, not just of some higher power, but of one reaching for us.
Next we learn that the greatest sense of all is taste. All other senses are in many ways unavoidable and require little or no conscious effort on our part, but to taste we must freely partake. We must desire our nourishment. Our food is our fuel, it becomes part of us as we grow and replenish; without it our bodies perish. When we trust that Jesus is not poisonous myth, but the very bread of life, our spirit is replenished as it grows and we will never perish. David knew this and told us so in Psalm 34:8 "Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who trusts in Him!"
You may have heard that sports build character. This can be true, but it is not always the way. What is true is that sports usually disclose a man's character, as will the struggles of life in general. Be careful that you do not confuse a man's success in terms of victories on the field, in school or in the marketplace with living a victorious life in Jesus. The real struggle lies within each of us and the path to victory is through Jesus.
In many ways the truly victorious life is a struggle against what we have always sought to attain and that is self-reliance. Most of your formal education seeks to prepare you to succeed on your own, but if you fail to consider or recognize God in any endeavor, even the sweet smell of success will eventually stink of death. Many who in pride stand-alone will fall the same way. A wise man works to become all that he can be, but in thanksgivings, seeks God and gives Him the glory in all things. We are created for this and created to uphold one another.
Unlearning something is sometimes harder than learning it, so pay heed to this author: "I grew up learning to be self-reliant, but now, to grow up in Christ, I must unlearn self-reliance and learn self-distrust in the light of His all sufficiency."