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I was fortunate to grow up in a home where my father was both a loving and disciplining presence. I guess I would have to say that if there is anything I really remember about my dad is this, he possessed a presence unlike any other person in my life. To me he was always larger than life. He towered over me and just had a way of peering down at me that, depending upon the situation, could either rivet me to the spot in guilt or immediately cause me to reach out in search of his love. My dad had a smell about him that was uniquely him. There was always the faint odor of aftershave no matter what the time of day. This, mixed with the ever-present tinge of Chesterfield aroma, was always a sure sign that he had passed this way. Dad also had a unique way of clicking his teeth and clearing his throat. I knew that he was around and that my world was protected and safe when I heard those distinctively “dad” noises I had become so accustomed to. This was what made up the physical aura of my father.
There were other things about my dad that fleshed out his presence. The way he mixed his peas with his potatoes. The way he always used pepper on his food as well as the inevitable sneeze that followed. My dad wore argyle socks and very seldom wore shorts. He liked to walk barefoot in the grass while he sprinkled his precious lawn in the summer. Over the course of the years, image after image was plied upon his presence as I came to know the man in whose footsteps I knew I would some day walk. To some people his habits might have been annoying, even irritating. To me they were simply images of a man I was trying to know and conform to. Just like most boys, I wanted to be like my father when I grew up. I wanted to smell like him and sing like him. I wanted to drive a car like him and go to work like him. I swing a hammer a certain way today because that’s the way he swung it. I shave in the manner he shaved, first a swipe on the right, then the left, then under the chin and done. In this sense, dad over the course of sixteen or so years was shaping the purpose of a young man who had all of life in front of him.
As I grew older and more perceptive, I became more able in my study of the man. I began to observe his life as well as his presence. I saw his times of joy as well as his times of pain. When he lost his job I was only a little boy but I remember his deep sorrow followed by a stern commitment to make everything better. I saw his anger as well as his gentleness. The way he hugged my mom and kissed her even when we kids were around is an image I have carried with me to this day. When I left home at eighteen I was confident that I was on the way to becoming my “own man.” I didn’t find out until later that I was simply flexing my wings in pre-course to a flight that would bear a great similarity to the way my father had soared above me for years.
In the many years since I launched into my own flight as a man and a father, I can now reflect back and see the greatest lesson my dad taught me; that a man’s presence is a mixture of joy and pain. This is what makes him a man. This is what gives him purpose and value. Happiness is not all joy. Rather, it is having a purpose in life that is founded on the growth a man achieves when he builds on his misfortunes as well as his successes. The pain was as good as the joy. In fact, we can’t really know joy without the pain. To many Americans today even the suggestion that we conform to our suffering in order to know true happiness would be just plain foolishness. In a culture bent on a “no pain” attitude molded by the misguided belief that the end of all living is comfort and happiness, there is no room for such introspection. When we are confronted by trouble the first thought is to escape from it, not learn from it. Our purpose has become a purpose bent on escape from pain. The idea of embracing pain seems almost un-American. Nashville pastor Byron Yawn writes,
“Because of this distorted perception, we rarely stop to search for the ‘hand of God’ in the midst of our trouble. Seeking to understand God’s purposes in our pain is all but foreign. As a result, embracing pain’s role in our sanctification is usually the farthest thing from our minds.” (Preaching Now Vol. 1, No. 20. Tue 9/3/2002)
God has called each of us to conform to the image of His Son, Jesus Christ. Like our fathers, that is an image of joy mixed with pain. There is now escaping it; this was His life and it is ours as well. His purpose was to glorify the Father in His suffering. Our greatest purpose is no different. May each of us be “counted worthy of his calling.” Embrace the pain and learn from it. Make this the cornerstone of your purpose as a believe in Christ Jesus our Lord.
You share Christ by imitating Christ. A story is told – by Fredrick Beuchner I believe – called “The Happy Hypocrite." It is a story about a man who was born with an awful facial deformity. He grew up alone and lonely. When reaching adulthood, he decided to move from his town to begin a new life. On his way he discovered a beautiful mask that fit his making him look handsome. At first the mask was uncomfortable and he was afraid that people would find out who he really was, but he continued to wear the mask everyday.
In his new hometown, he made many friends and fell in love. But one day a wicked woman from his old home came to his town and discovered this man’s true identity. In front of his friends and fiancé, she forced him to remove his mask. When he removed the mask, it revealed a handsome face. His face had conformed to the mask.
Becoming like Christ is analogous to this. Go ahead and put on Christ. At first it may feel unnatural or uncomfortable, and maybe you may think, “who am I trying to fool?” But everyday just keep putting on Christ and everyday you will grow to look more like him.
R. David Reynolds
James S. Hewett tells this story. “A tyrannical husband demanded that his wife conform to rigid standards of his choosing. She was to do certain things for him as a wife, mother, and homemaker. In time she came to hate her husband as much as she hated his list of rules and regulations. Then, one day de died—mercifully as far as she was concerned.
“Some time later, she fell in love with another man and married him. She and her new husband lived on a perpetual honeymoon. Joyfully, she devoted herself to his happiness and welfare. One day she ran across one of the sheets of dos and don’ts her first husband had written for her. To her amazement she found that she was doing for her second husband all the things her first husband had demanded of her, even though her new husband had never once suggested them. She did them as an expression of her love for him and her desire to please him.” [--James S. Hewett,
Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1988), p. 501].
This is the spirit of submission Paul envisions in the Christian home.
Have you ever wondered what makes the difference between a spotlight and a laser beam?
How can a medium-powered laser burn through steel in a matter of seconds, while the most powerful spotlight can only make it warm?
Both may have the same electrical power requirements.
The difference is unity.
A laser can be simply described as a medium of excited molecules with mirrors at each end.
Some of the excited molecules naturally decay into a less excited state.
In the decay process they release a photon, a particle of light.
It is here that the unique process of the laser begins.
The photon moves along and “tickles” another molecule, inviting another photon to join him on his journey.
Then these two photons “tickle” two more molecules and invite two more photons to join the parade.
Soon there is a huge army of photons marching in step with each other.
It is this unity that gives the laser its power.
A spotlight may have just as man...
Common sense suits itself to the ways of the world. Wisdom tries to conform to the ways of Heaven.
In Discipleship Journal, Carole Mayhall tells of a woman who went to a diet center to lose weight. The director took her to a full-length mirror. On it he outlined a figure and told her, "This is what I want you to be like at the end of the program." Days of intense dieting and exercise followed, and every week the woman would stand in front of the mirror, discouraged because her bulging outline didn’t fit the director’s ideal. But she kept at it, and finally one day she conformed to the longed-for image.
Daily Bread, August 8, 1990.
"DON'T SIT ON ME, LORD!"
Romans 6:8-14 Key verse(s): 6: "For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the bod of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin...”
There are many things that a dog does not like. Chief among them for many dogs is the seeming innocuous task of having their nails clipped. Dogs have very sensitive paws. I have often been amazed as to the amount of time our little dachshunds and the lab spend grooming them. The lick and lick is often followed by nibbles and chomps directed at the skin between the toes. Taught at a very early age to be fastidious groomers by their mothers, what we might regard as almost ritualistic and surely repetitive is really more than it seems. Dogs don’t sweat. For the most part they exchange body heat largely through panting. But there is one place on their bodies that is the exception and that is the bottom of their paws. The only place on a dog’s entire body that sweats is its paws. Stress a dog and make it pace, then touch the bottom of their paws. Surprisingly they are quite moist. It is no surprise, therefore, that dogs are so sensitive to the manipulation or grooming of their paws. Their paws are precious to them, providing not only their sole means to escape enemies and pursue prey, but also the one avenue by which they are able to employ evaporation as a means of cooling down.
The longer you allow a dog to go without grooming, especially a dog that is kept indoors and away from the natural corrosive environment that will normally serve to keep a dog’s claws blunted and short, the harder and harder it becomes for it to walk. As the claws grow, the paw is pushed upward, causing an abnormal pressure on the spine. Eventually a dog with unmanicured claws may develop back problems or become listless or agitated. Yet, as good as grooming is for a dog, the dog doesn’t seem to recognize the boon. It will pull, bite and writhe in your grasp as if you are trying to inflict great harm on it. And, the fact is, nail clipping is uncomfortable for most dogs since their paws are very sensitive to touch, temperature and pressure. The very thing that benefits them is the one thing they most fear.
Sanctification, the process by which we are made holy, like Jesus Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit seems to have the same effect on humans as nail clipping does on dogs. We want to be like Christ. We long to conform to the image of our Savior in every way possible. We long to walk uprightly and in a "holy" manner. Yet, the old Adam in us, has grown disproportionately to our ability to maintain a holy balance in our life. We often stumble and fall. But, sanctification? Sounds kind of painful and harsh, doesn’t it? Perhaps it is just better to let well enough alone and go on coping as opposed to confronting the nuisance and pain that must be involved to rid us of our old but "thank you, it will do and I will cope" nature.
As a dog must be sat upon in some instances just to convince it that what we are about to do will ultimately be for its own good, so too must our God sit upon us with the weight of his grace. Our hearts are sensitive and we strive to avoid any pain to them. Yet, they are fated to become calloused and anemic unless something crush them and break away the layer upon layer of daily sinful grime and worldly grief that serves to lacquer them. Sound painful? Death always is and that is what is transpiring on a daily basis in every Christian’s life. God is plucking the covering from our hearts; a covering we have worked hard to secure, even nurture. It is a destructive but necessary process in order to reveal what He designed in us from the beginning of time. The comfortable and warm covering of sin that helps us get through the day is seems like such a necessary enemy. We are willing to let it have its way just so we can avoid the cure that would, on the surface, seem more difficult than the illness. So on and on it grows, insidiously and silently wrapping layer upon layer so skillfully and cunningly that we are almost completely unaware of its stifling heaviness. That sin-loving nature we inherited from our father Adam will eventually hobble us. It’s crippling effect robbing us of our ability to walk uprightly in the presence of our God. Unless He sits on us, crushing our natural will to be sinful and clipping away the filth of sin, we will never know the tremendous relief that such a clipping can bring.
Author C.S. Lewis confirms these suspicions in his book God in the Dock, "Man or Rabbit?" He compares the rabbit’s nature to be careful while cowardly to our inherent willingness to avoid trouble by avoiding pain: "All the rabbit in us is to disappear--the worried, conscientious, ethical rabbit as well as the cowardly and sensual rabbit. We shall bleed and squeal as the handfuls of fur come out; and then surprisingly, we shall find underneath it all a thing we have never yet imagined: a real Man, an ageless god, a son of God, strong, radiant, wise, beautiful, and drenched in joy." (God in the Dock, , para. 10, p. 112.)
A LIFE OF RESOLUTIONS
Jonathan Edwards, the 18th-century revivalist, sat down at age 17 and penned 21 resolutions by which he would live his life. Throughout his lifetime he would add to this list until, by his death, he had 70 resolutions.
He put at the top of his list: "Being sensible that I am unable to do anything without God’s help, I do humbly entreat Him by His grace to enable me to keep these Resolutions…. Remember to read over these Resolutions once a week."
Edwards didn’t casually make New’s Year’s resolutions with an expectation of eventually breaking them. Each week he did a "self-check." He regularly summed up how he was doing and sought God’s help in the process.
Christ calls us to commit to actively work at becoming conformed to His image. This coming year resolve to be come a person committed to a ...
CHARACTER: PROTOTYPE PLUS PNEUMATIC FORCE
Jesus is the very imprint or prototype of God’s essential reality. The word used in the Greek here is pronounced "kah-rahk-TEER" (sometimes "kah-rahk-TAYR") and it is the word from which we get "character." In the original Greek usage, it meant an imprint or reproduction of what something or someone looked like. The image of an emperor or king was imprinted on coins to show by what authority the money had been minted and the stamp, die, or press that enabled the image to appear in the metal was the "character."
I remember working in a tool and die shop when I was in college. Aluminum in a roll would reel through these giant machines and great pneumatic engines would thrust a die down into the unformed metal—cutting, shaping, and bending the raw metal into the washers, gaskets, louvers, and grills we made for aircraft. Yes, even this guy in front of you was allowed to work the little punch press machine that made washers used in the Apollo space program. And yes, before you smart-alecks make a comment about what a crummy mechanic I am, they MIGHT have gone on the Apollo 11. But it was amazing! These machines would force the impress down upon the metal and out would come a product conformed to the design.
Now, bear with me. Character could also refer to a tooled prototype that served as a model for the Greek and Roman craftsman to build or sculpt something. By measuring their work against the character, the prototype, the essential design, they were able to build an accurate construction.
In the same way, it is only as we open our lives up to the influence of the PERSON of Jesus Christ that we are able to conceive of what God wants from us. He is the prototype of what God wants a person to be, the metric against which we are measured. So, when we fail, we are able to let our Creator (Jeremiah’s potter) as we know God in Father, Son, and Holy Spirit keep shaving off the problems to make us conform to the prototype, the character of Jesus.
But we can’t follow the prototype alone. We can’t manage the transformation needed to be what God wants us to be by ourselves. We need the pneumatic force of God’s Presence in the Holy Spirit to conform us to God’s Will. And when we allow that to happen, we actually begin to take on the shape of "sons" of God who are becoming and acting more according to the character of the Son of God.
SPHERE OF INFLUENCE
There's another interesting definition I want to look at -- it relates to astrodynamics
A sphere of influence (SOI) in astrodynamics and astronomy is the spherical region around a celestial body where the primary gravitational influence on an orbiting object is that body. This is usually used to describe the areas in our solar system where planets dominate the orbits of surrounding objects (such as moons), despite the presence of the much more massive (but distant) Sun
Now, let's for just a moment consider the spiritual implications of this astrodynamic definition of "sphere of influence."
When we're conforming to the world, we might look at ourselves as moons. Despite the presence of a much more massive, much more powerful Son, a planet which is nearby influences or dominates our orbit, keeping us conforming to an orbit around that planet, rather than the significantly larger influence of the Son of God, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
How does that look in real life? As followers of Christ, we know what the driving influence of our lives should be in this analogy -- the sun, (or Son) which is the things of God, as outlined in His Word, which tells us all that we need to know about faith and practice.
But the reality is, because of the way we sometimes choose to conduct our lives, there are things, like planets in this analogy, that are closer to us, and these things often have a greater influence on our thinking, and thus on our behavior, than the purity of devotion to Christ.