Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Quotes: Jefferson

"Building a wall of separation beween Church and State." ~ Thomas Jefferson

If there is a more well known, more misunderstood, more misquoted, and more hotly disputed quote from our founding fathers, I have not been made aware of its existence.  Since the early nineteen hundreds, the phrasing of this solitary statement has been taken into account for nearly every religious freedom case presented to the Supreme Court.  I marvel, personally, at how quickly everything else he wrote in that letter has been forgotten- Indeed, even the proper phrasing has been replaced with the oft quoted "separation of church and state."
You may be asking yourselves why I would bring a quote with such unique political meaning to the pages of a ministry blog.  Perhaps you found yourself repeating the same quote I opened with, or some variation of it.  Maybe you would prefer that the increasingly sickening world of politics be left out of Christian ministry completely.  Know that I sympathize with these and similar sentiments, but alas- There is a season for all things.
We here at WarriorSoul believe firmly in the Christian's duty to arm oneself with the weapons of spiritual warfare, and to equip the full armor of God.  As you may recall, we have been encouraged to take up the sword of truth, but ironically, truth is the belt of the armor of God- It is what holds on the rest of the armor.  In the Bible, we are told that knowing the truth sets us free.  Hard truth is truth nonetheless, and we must be prepared to know it no matter where it comes from.
Having laid this foundation, it is time to reveal the truth of religious freedom in the United States, from the standpoint of Thomas Jefferson.

In October of 1801, the Danbury Baptist Association wrote a letter to President Jefferson congratulating him on his first year in office.  In the letter, they also outline a growing concern of theirs- A concern mirrored in our modern society, though not as eloquently. (The hysteria over the Chick-Fil-A veep's comments are just a small example.)  They wrote:
"...That religion is at all times and places a matter between God and individuals, that no man ought to suffer in name, person, or effects on account of his religious opinions, [and] that the legitimate power of civil government extends no further than to punish the man that works ill of his neighbor.  But sir, our Constitution of our government is not specific.  ...Religion is considered as the first object of legislation, and therefore what religious privileges we enjoy (as a minor part of the state) we enjoy as favors granted, and not as inaliable rights.  And these favors we receive at expense of such degrading acknowledgements, as are inconsistant with the rights of freemen.  ...If those who seek after power and gain, under the pretense of government and religion, should reproach their fellow men ...as an enemy of religion, law, and good order ...he will not, dares not, assume the perrogative of Jehovah and make laws to govern the Kingdom of Christ."
In other words, the men and women of the Danbury Baptist Association were concerned that the government may look upon religion's free exercise as a favor granted by the ruling body, and in the excuse of it being for the good of both government and religion, create laws restricting the free practice of it.  They were foreseeing the events of our modern age, where public prayer now requires a permit; where ministers cannot preach on the street without express permission; and where every day Christians many times cannot witness because it is "disruptive."  Today, there are even calls to remove any sort of Christian belief from the governing body, meaning that Christians would no longer be allowed to serve in public office.

The draft of Jefferson's letter
to the DBA. Click for full size.
Friends, Jefferson is quoted regularly now as having said that there is a separation of church and state, as if to affirm the encroachments upon religious freedom that are seen today.  This is not so, and could not be further from the case.  He writes back in January of 1802:
"...that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American People which declared that their legislature would 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between church and state.  Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties."

Jefferson believed that religion and its free exercise was beyond the reach of the federal government, and from other letters we see that he believed any attempt to control that practice was akin to treason.  For folks to use an erroneous quote in defense of the erosion of religious liberty; or to suggest men and women of faith cannot serve as public servants; these are an affront to everything Jefferson stood for.  Where we read "respecting an establishment of religion," Jefferson clearly saw that no law could be formed with respect to religion, because religious practice was not beneath the rule of government.  This is a far cry from today's twisted and perverted understanding, which would seek to destroy businesses, schools, churches and lives over speech covered by the First Amendment, but which is deemed "offensive" or "inconvenient" by the whiners and criers of society.

Now you know the truth.  Defend it.

(Author's Note: There is an excellent article written about the letter to the DBA that can be found here.)

(Note To The Reader:  Andrew is currently working on a project regarding the proper understanding of the religion clause of the First Amendment.  Upon completion, it will be offered on Amazon for Kindle, and possibly also in hard copy form as well.  We will keep you updated on the progress of this work.  In the meantime, we hope you got something from this foretaste.  God bless you all!)

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Finding The Balance (or, Pick the Jesus in the Middle, Stupid)

(NOTE: This entry originally appeared on Renegade's Rants, April 3, 2008.  It is being re-shared here because the message is more important than ever.  It is our hope that you are able to take something away from this that edifies, encourages and strengthens your resolve to know Christ for yourself; intimately and thoroughly, allowing no one to bring things out of balance!)

...I'd like to spend some time sharing my thoughts which sprung to mind after reading the following comment from a dear, dear friend of mine. He stated:

"I just don't like the intellectualism that so many live in that seems to crowd out the working of the Spirit... ...I think there's a better way then a Sunday morning sermon and not much else."

Indeed, I too have seen this brain over God approach. Sadly, many who follow this way are being led astray. They study and study the Bible, but without the Spirit of God providing understanding, it becomes just another book, albeit a rather ornate, expensive one.

My initial thought, then, is that we must rush to the Spirit. I'm sure this is where some folks now stand, honestly. If you were hurt in the church of the Dry Word, than you must immerse yourself in the Holy Spirit River.

The issue with these approaches, however, is vast, it is large, and most importantly, it is exceedingly dangerous.

You see, each of these approaches takes a bit from the Word of God, and runs the full field, not realizing that they are scoring for the rival team. Intellectual study has a very firm place in the church, or we would not be encouraged time and again to do so. The oft quoted verse is "study to show thyself approved."
However, we are also told not to study too much, because, as it says in Proverbs, "Too much study wearies the body."

We are told several times to listen to the council and follow the instruction of the Holy Spirit. However, we are also cautioned against false prophets, and perhaps the most direct, brutal and shocking caution regarding taking things out of context is found in Galatians 1:6-9, which reads so strongly I simply MUST quote it directly:

Galatians 1:6-9 (New King James Version)
I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.

As you can clearly see, changing the Gospel to say what it does not say is to be taken very seriously. From the very beginning, the words of God were considered sacred. Nowhere is it better shown than when Israel put the pieces of the tablets into the Ark of the Covenant. It was then carried by priests, defended by the nation, and by God Himself. He takes His word seriously, as should we.

What has this got to do with anything? Plenty.

You see, when people go to the other end of the spectrum and believe that the Spirit is the be all end all, certain issues arise. For one thing, the Holy Spirit is not the extension of God which is to be worshiped. When the Bible speaks of the Spirit, it speaks of a Helper and a Guide. All praise given the Spirit of God is deflected to God the Father.
The wonder working power which many are so earnest for is not meant for a special parlor trick or to tickle a fancy- It is meant for two things: Those who need it's touch, and drawing those folks to Christ, and through Him, to salvation. It is a physical manifestation of God's power.
Craving this power, to the exclusion of God, is not only wrong in that we seek the gift and not the giver, but also in that it GRIEVES the Holy Spirit. More to the point, dear friends, it is dangerous.

Take the example of Simon the Sorcerer. Here was a man who saw the wonders of the Spirit moving mightily through the followers of Christ. He saw it, saw what it did, and he wanted it. So, he went to Peter and said, "Give me also this power," and offered him money for it. He was refused, rebuked, and told that the reason the Spirit would not rest upon him was because of his heart condition.
Many of those who go actively seeking the Power without thought to the Giver do not have the right heart condition. This is the reason that, when the Spirit ministers to those it came to minister to, its physical manifestations leave and go where it is needed, even when those who are seeking the power are still claiming it.

The fact of the matter is that this life requires BALANCE.

Balance is not something that we as humans can do alone- We can balance a bike, we can balance to walk, we can balance our checkbooks... Most of the time. However, we cannot balance ourselves. As it states in the Word, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; Who can know it?" (Jer. 17:9) This fact is echoed throughout the Bible, such as in Mark 7:20-23, "...What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man.”

However, YHWH is a God of order, of balance. It is through Him and His power that we are able to achieve balance. To seek one aspect of Him alone is to once again go out of balance, falling out of His will, out of His grace, and as such, out of His protection.

Seeking the Spirit of God is a wonderful journey- But it is not one to be taken without the Word of God to guide you. Furthermore, the study of the Word in one's own private time is glorious- But only when the Spirit is with you.

A gifted author by the name of Ted Dekker once stated in his book THR3E that there are three persons in each of us- The good, the Evil and the soul caught in the struggle.

So it is with our search for God. We can seek His words, and die for lack of His Spirit. We can seek the Holy Spirit, and die for lack of guidance. Or, we can seek after and follow the example of Jesus the Christ, Jeshua, and achieve that balance which He embodied.

Scripture and Spirit; Works and Faith; Law and Grace- It is all modeled for us in the life of Christ Jesus.

I'd like to leave you with a quote from another good friend of mine, one who has walked some very dark paths in his life, and so is keenly aware of the Light:

There are three Jesus' out there.
The first Jesus is the one people invoke when in a theological debate.
{the Word alone}
The second Jesus is the one people invoke when their car won't start. 
{the Spirit alone}
The third Jesus is the one who calls us out of darkness.
{the balance}

Which Jesus do you serve?

Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Palette of God

(Author's Note: After completing this entry, I ran across a site that argues for segregation as a moral must.  I have linked to it here, and may very well craft a rebuttal some time in the future.  In the meantime, consider this entry as an extremely generalized argument against such views.)

Fair warning to those who are racially challenged; to those who believe the KKK and other such organizations are correct; and those who view skin color  differences as a clear sign that people should not mix interracially:  This entry will offend you.  You have my word on that.  (NOTE: All links open in a new window/tab)

I'll mainly be focusing on white and black colors, but believe me when I say that this entry is geared towards all discriminatory thoughts towards all races and nationalities.  I've addressed the equality of women in the Bible here on WarriorSoul, as well as the proper place of men and women in the home.  Now, we will address race.

One of the major reasons given over the centuries for differences in skin color, especially black, is that of the Biblical curse.  Beginning with the early Catholic Church, the first instance provided was the so-called "Mark of Cain."  For those who need a refresher, God placed a mark upon Cain after the murder of Abel to set him apart.  The theory set forward in those early years of Church existence was that black skin was the "Mark of Cain," thus making all blacks descended from the first murderer.
There are several things which cause this idea to fall apart, however, and from a strict Biblical standpoint, to boot.  The first is that the mark was not actually to set Cain apart, in that he was not to intermingle- That would violate the first command given to humanity.  If Cain was truly the first black man, and if interracial marriages were forbidden, then God would have forced Cain to violate the command to "be fruitful and multiply."  Secondly, it states in the account that it was a mark, not a covering.  Thus, a localized pigment change, such as a birthmark commonly called a "cask stain," would be far more likely than claiming he was completely black.  Finally, the mark was not a curse, but God's physical sign upon Cain to symbolize to all people that he was under Divine protection- The mark was a blessing, not a curse.

The second instance is that of Noah's curse upon Ham.  This was a severe misreading of the text, but we will come to that momentarily.  In case you can't remember what happened: The theory is based upon Noah's son Ham walking in on his father, who had passed out naked after drinking, and making sport of him.  When Noah was informed of what happened, he cursed his son for his insensitivity and dishonor. Look at the curse, though; examine the wording in Genesis 9:25.  Noah actually places the curse, not on Ham and thus all of his offspring, but upon Ham's firstborn, Canaan.  Thus, the curse rested upon one son and his descendants- Not all of Ham's. If dark skin were the result of some sort of curse that Noah pronounced, then wouldn't the people of Sheba and Dedan be under that curse?  After all, they had dark skin!  Yet Sheba and Dedan were the grandsons of Cush, not Canaan, and thus not under the curse.  No, after careful study, skin color cannot be attributed to any curse.  Instead, it is the result of prolonged exposure to a location specific environment and ecosystem, among other natural factors.

If interracial marriage was a sin in God's sight, then it would have been punished accordingly.  Yet Moses married Zipporah; daughter of Jethro, priest of Midian- And from the land of Moab.  Study the genealogy, and one discovers that Zipporah was the black woman that Miriam and Aaron would later speak against.  When they did, God Himself stood against them, shutting down their objections for good.  (Miriam was struck with leprosy.)  Yet for all of this, nothing ever happened to Moses on account of his marriage.
Another example is that of Ruth, who was a Moabitess.  Indeed, the book of Ruth uses this term to refer to her nearly as often as her own name!  The book of Ruth also refers to her dark skin in the original texts, though this is glossed over in most modern translations, including the King James.  This aside, she marries Boaz and they are blessed, not punished.
As a brief third mention, Rahab was most likely dark skinned also, as well as being covered beneath the curse of Noah- Jericho was in Canaan, the land of the descendants of the cursed son of Ham.

Now, there are three more points to make.  The first is that Jesus wasn't white.  Historical accounts of that time indicate the Jews were a great deal darker, resembling more the people of India rather than the Romans- Much less modern day Caucasians.  Secondly, Christ's lineage comes through at least two black women, (Rahab and Ruth), if not more.  Thirdly, Christ will return to take and marry His bride- and His Bride is made up of all races, colors and creeds.

With this said- If you still have a problem with interracial marriages, and other races in general, it's YOUR issue- Not God's.  The people who call you racist and bigot- They are right.  The proof you think you have does not exist.  You are 100% wrong on this issue, and God DOES NOT stand with you on it.

So... Maybe it's time for a change?  The only alternative is to continue spitting in the face of God.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Quotes: Voltaire

"A good book corrupts bad taste." ~Voltaire 

I have personally been very surprised at how many people of formerly questionable character seem to turn around after an encounter with a really good book.  Whether it be a classic, such as Mark Twain's Tom Sawyer or Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea; or more contemporary fare, such as Ted Dekker's Blink, Frank Peretti's Prophet, or Joel C Rosenberg's The Twelfth Imam, a good book works wonders in the reader.

Some books transport us to places of fantastic adventure.  For instance, J.R.R. Tolkien's immortal Lord of the Rings trilogy.  Some take us to the high seas, such as in Treasure Island; or pit our wits against nature itself, such as in Robinson Crusoe.  Some are filled with very obvious moral lessons, such as John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, while others trim theirs with magic, sword fights and fantasy, as seen in C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia series.

What is amazing is that some books which garner controversy today would have been commonplace in years past; likewise, classics from yesteryear are met with heavy criticism today- Declared as being insensitive and intolerant unless heavy revision is made.  Prime examples of this include the Harry Potter series- Which garnered a great deal of harsh words from many sources, not just Christians- As well as the Series of Unfortunate Events books; both of which would have been well received if written fifty or so years ago.  Many of the classics which people today deem worthy of massive revision include The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Uncle Tom's Cabin.
Conversely, certain things which are now well received would have, and did, cause controversy a mere thirty years back.  The book Lolita, for instance, was roundly denounced in many circles when it was written- Even being banned in two countries the same year it was published!  Yet today, somehow, it is finding its way into mainstream society's acquiescence. More recently, the book Fifty Shades of Grey was published to critical acclaim- But society in general would have rejected it for its subject matter thirty years ago.

In light of his quote, I believe Voltaire would be suffering from massive heart palpitations, (and possibly stroke), were he alive today.  Rather than good books corrupting bad taste, bad taste has corrupted good books.  Perhaps it began with the sanitation of classics, as I've heard one professor suggest, but it has certainly culminated with a mass loss of good taste and decency.
The "Slippery Slope Argument," which some will no doubt accuse me of making here, is only a fallacy when one ignores the fact that history proves it to be accurate, albeit simplistic, in many cases.  The decline and ultimate dissolution of of common society can routinely be traced to an at large societal decision of now questionable nature.  While I cannot say for certain if that decision was the revision of classic literature, it is clear that the over-sensitivity of society to foolish things, while remaining apathetic to things which demanded their concern, began somewhere.

An example of the vehemence directed
at the Bible
The number one book on the revisionist's hit list; the greatest transgressor of offense and political incorrect subject matter; is the Bible.  What is the reason?  Slaves in the Bible were not solely of darker skin- They were of all different nationalities.  The youth of married women, perhaps?  This was a custom that held even one hundred years ago; however, with all fringe movements aside, the majority of modern Bible followers agree such a marriage to be damaging today.  Perhaps it is the warfare, adultery and bloodthirsty actions of the kings within the pages of the Bible?  How so, when one look at the reception that modern entertainment receives shows not a one victim of the same vehement vitriol as is directed at the Bible.  Not a one is demanded to undergo revision for "insensitivity."

So, what could be the cause of the spite and anger revisionists direct at this single text?  Why is the demand for revision not extended to books such as the Qur'an, or the Mack Bolan series?  Why are shows such as The Shield not dealing with the same call?  Why are movies such as 300, Pathfinder, or Sin City met with demand for more, rather than a wall of silence?  What about music by such bands as Slipknot or Cannibal Corpse?  What makes the Bible such an offensive book?

The only conclusion I've been able to reach, my friends, is that which rests in a common nickname for the Bible itself: "The Good Book."  It is the best sort of book, where every evil is punished; where every wicked deed is answered for; and wherein is found a solid, concrete code of moral conduct.  The Bible is the ultimate enemy of a society consumed by bad taste, because it is the ultimate good book.  Because it stands as the last unflinching standard of unwavering morality.  Because it reminds all who read it that there is a final judgment; that they are responsible for the actions carried out in bad taste, or against anything else contained in that moral code.

Because, as Voltaire so accurately observed, "a good book corrupts bad taste."

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Things I've Learned From Blogging

I've been blogging in one form or another since 2001- Perhaps earlier, now that I think about it.  In the time I've spent doing this, I've discovered some interesting facts about myself, blogging in general, and life on the whole.  Considering how long it's been since I last posted consistently, I thought it may be a good idea to write about the lessons I've learned.

Some of these are very recent lessons, and others are not.  I hope that you get a good laugh out of these, and possibly learn something as well.

-Do Not Announce A Series Unless It Is Already Written.

I would like to say that I am always so passionate about what I'm writting that I do not need to write a great deal in advance, but frankly, that is simply not the case.  I've started several series in my time blogging, and in most cases, I've fizzled out.  Much like a fire log, I start out slow, burn brightly, and then for some inexplicable reason...  I go out befire the fire actually starts.  Anyone who has ever used generic fire logs knows exactly what I'm talking about!
SO- This more recent lesson is quite simple: Write the series ahead of time, and then announce it.

-Do Not Write An Opinion Piece Without Supporting Facts.

It is absolutely without question that if one has any sort of readership, opinions will be questioned.  Unless one is an expert on a subject, one MUST ALWAYS have supporting facts at the ready.  Cookie Monster may write a blog on cookies, and no one will question his expertise in the matter- But if he writes about garbage, you know Oscar will come along shortly to question him.
Object Lesson?  I'm not Cookie Monster, so I'd better have my facts straight.  Even if there's a difference of opinion, the facts can concievably support mine.

-Do Not Write An Opinion Piece Without All The Facts.

Never have I been so humiliated than when posting a retraction.  Writing about a news article, current event or similar issue is fine, but make sure that all of the facts have been examined- Or at least all those which are available at the time.  It is not always possible to get every detail, and in these cases, it is best to say something like "at this time," as opposed to "I was wrong on this."
Moral of the story?  Contrary to popular belief, words can hurt you, and most often, those words are in the form of retraction!

-Write About What One Enjoys.

I have attempted to write on several sorts of subjects, and without fail, any piece I start that does not have my full interest falls to the wayside.  This is often because I start thinking "I can do this," and wind up falling asleep- The subject was simply too boring to keep me focused.
So with that said...  Write about what interests you most, and success will most often be yours.

-Make Use Of Search Words And Phrases.

I once wrote a blog about what happens when I deal with insomnia.  In it, I detailed the trouble of getting my brain to quite firing on all cylinders; and how these times of sleeplessness often led to seemingly random thought patterns which wound up being rather profound.  I titled the blog "Random Thought Generator."  That one blog has more views alone than the majority of my other articles combined.  Why?  Because for some reason, when people are searching for "name generator," or something similar, my entry comes up.
Lesson: Use search phrases- but use them wisely.  Stringing them together can get you blacklisted faster than Lady Gaga's meat dress at a vegan convention.

-Write About What You Believe.

I once knew a gentleman who used to state repeatedly that if something was worth believing, it was worth discussing.  This is very true of blogging.  The articles that are written for a blog are, in effect, your half of a conversation.  Written properly, the article will garner attention and comments; written poorly, (say, written about something one does not believe in), will cause the entry to simply sit there, taking up space on the internet.
What to learn from this: Belief changes everything.  Write about what one believes, and watch it become pure gold.  Write about what one does not believe, and watch it wax archaic faster than the term "world wide web."  (Which, ironically, is all that your piece will gather.)

-Be Careful What And Who You Write About.

I once wrote a piece on the political leanings and donations of one Mark Z. while I was on Facebook.  Within a month of that piece, my account was shut down.  I probably spent far too much time on it anyway, so they actually did me a favor.  With that said, however, it really made me realize just how far some folks will go to keep their activities secret and hidden.  Needless to say, I've begun to pay as much attention to the individual's past practices when dealing with opposition as I do the story itself.
The lesson here is simple: Write about a person no one knows, or write a favorable piece on a public figure, and no one will care.  Write a story on what you witnessed the Mob doing last Friday, and be prepared for cement shoes.

I hope that you've enjoyed this little piece as much as I did in writing it.  If you actually made it this far, even more kudos to you!

If you're still reading, allow me to make a suggestion: Go write a blog of your own.  You never know just what may come out of you!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Fathers- Recognized Beyond Father's Day

“He didn't tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it.” 

I can think of no better way to start an exposition such as this than by these words spoken by Clarence Budington Kelland.  Though the human experience is one of differing relationships, running the gambit from excellence to tragedy, there is one truth that shines forth clearly: We all, every one of us, need a father.  A father is not merely a name in the home, regardless of how we’re brought up.  A father is the pattern by which we adjust our own lives, and it is to his influence that we bend.

When I see this quote, I often think of my own father, who in spite of his downfalls provided me with an excellent model to follow after.  As with all children, I did not pay close enough attention to all of those lessons.  Some of us must simply learn the hard way, and that’s that.  Yet when I look back, I know that there are many things about me that are completely thanks to his part in my life.

My father was a hard worker, and even when accusing me of being lax or lazy, (which I was), nevertheless instilled in me the desire to always move forward with my nose to the grindstone.  I am not work obsessed, but I do know the value of a hard day’s work- And that is thanks to my Dad.

My father also taught me respect.  Respect for women, and respect for authority.  Respect also for those with less than I, and for those who are my peers.  When speaking out of line with an elder, I had only to catch his eye to remember my place.  When teasing my younger sisters, or one of the neighborhood kids, I’d only need to think of him to bring it to an end.

Yes, my father had his shortcomings- So do we all!  He overcame those, though, simply by living.  Though he stumbled on the road of life from time to time, he showed by example that a life well lived is not about how few times one falls; rather, it is about how one chooses to carry on.  Like my Dad, I too have stumbled along this winding path; but I have learned well from him this lesson, and I refuse to be defeated.

This quote also reminds me of the words of Jesus Christ.  In John 8:28, He says that He did only as His Father taught Him.  Then, later on in verse 38, He says that He was speaking only what He saw His Father do.  Not a single person on the planet can say that Christ was anything but good- Not when speaking truthfully.  Some may doubt His existence, but they cannot deny the Gospels show Him to be, if nothing more, a good man.  Christ tells us that all which He said and did came as a result of His Father.

The beauty in this concept is awe inspiring.  Christ’s Father is also our own, for those who know Him.  For those who do not, He waits as the father of the prodigal son; ever watching from His hill, so that when we broken and battered souls take that first step, He can run to us and bring us the rest of the way.  He forgives the past, strengthens our present, and grants hope for the future.

He is the ultimate role model for fathers everywhere.

There are some of us today who have never known a true father.  My father, for all of his examples, was also absent a great deal.  When he was not out working, he was home working, and I look back on those times and wonder what things would have been like otherwise.  Looking back, though, never does anything for us; not unless we wish only to see how far we’ve come.  Still, many of us with less than ideal childhoods will gravitate, once or twice a year, to the greeting cards section.  Why?  Simply to read those lovely words, wistfully, and to dream.  Sometimes, we dream of what might have been, but other times, we dream of what we hope will be.

Someone once said, “Dad, your guiding hand on my shoulder will remain with me forever.”  Some of us have never known that guiding hand.  Others of us have known only a hand too heavy, and too hard.  While some wish for the fond memory of such a tender feeling, others wish to escape the sense of their father’s hand.

Here too, we find that God the Father is perfect.

We are told in Matthew 11:28-30 “Come to me, all of you who are weary and over-burdened, and I will give you rest! Put on my yoke and learn from me. For I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  His hand on our shoulder is never too heavy, and never too hard.  It is never rough, but always gentle and kind.  He is not the father some of us knew growing up- The one just waiting for us to make a mistake.  Rather, He is the father who knows mistakes will happen, and waits instead for the opportunity to make things right. 

The difference is slight, perhaps, but oh so vital!

Geoffrery Hill summed up the trouble all fathers face quite succinctly.  He said, “Finally coming to terms with Fathers Day. I blow as a Dad. I get it. No, I'm not an evil, abusive Father, it's just that while all my intentions and thoughts have been out of love for my kids, my actions and behaviour never measured up.”  Somewhere in the live of fathers was a father who gave up; a father who became so profoundly frustrated with himself, he simply stopped.  Perhaps for some of us it was even before we were born- Perhaps some of us had a father who never was.  Perhaps some of us knew a father that we wished were not.  Others may have earnestly desired a father of some kind, while others prayed for a father of any other kind.

What I’ve come to realize as I’ve grown older is that not every father is entirely responsible for his weaknesses.  Oh, they are responsible for their own decisions, and no doubts about that!  However, when a father makes a “bad call,” it is rarely due to their being absolutely evil incarnate.  Most times, it seems due to a flawed decision structure.  It is due to the fact, that somewhere down the line, a father gave up.

Here again is the beauty of God the Father, for He has stated “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”  He is not the giving up kind.  He is the type of father that will always be a phone call away; always ready to lend a helping hand; always ready to comfort; and always ready to forgive a hasty, angry word.  He is the Father that never stops.

There is something I find so comforting in this.  The fact that, though I fall a thousand times, He never quits picking me up.  Though I become angry, He never takes offense.  Though I ignore Him, He never stops listening for me.  He is the ultimate Father, and the ultimate role model.

“The heart of a father is the masterpiece of nature.”  -- Abbé Prévost

The very center of every child’s universe truly is the father- While mothers nurture, it is the fathers who provide the atmosphere; the sunlight, if you will, for the young to grow strong.  A single word from a father can affect the child directly, whether spoken to them, or to their mother.  The power of a father is tremendous and yet vital; for he who wields it, perhaps it is also a bit terrifying.

So, with this in mind and in closing, let me address the fathers in this room- All the fathers, those who are and those who will be.  The Lord has given us a clear model for fatherhood: firm discipline, amazing grace, abundant mercy, and never ending love.  This is the model every father should strive for, and the model that I would hope every father seeks to attain.  It is a worthy goal, and one that all should reach for.

Yet, with all of this said, there is one thing I believe is greater than even this; greater, only because it is absolutely imperative.  Only because it is required, if one is to ever achieve this goal.

Fathers, if I may pass on a single word of advice to all of you; a single statement that will make the difference between a failure and a father; it would be this:

Never Give Up.  The getting up is ultimately more important than the failing.

This has been an excerpt from an excellent book that was recently published with much more on the importance of fathers.  It is titled Fatherly Reflections, and I personally recommend it highly.  Along with this very post, one will find many other anecdotes, poems, advice, and memories of other fathers.  You can find it for Kindle as well as in traditional format.  If you like what you see, consider getting a copy for yourself!