Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Why Trees Don't Make Good Fathers

"Can a virgin forget her ornaments or a bride forget her attire? Yet my people have forgotten me days without number." - Jeremiah

These are chilling words that echo out of the Old Testament into our 21st century lives. How many days have we forgotten our Lord? How long has it been since we've seen him for who he is and treasured him?

Earlier in this chapter of Jeremiah idolotry is portrayed as someone saying to a tree, "You are my father" and to a rock, "You who gave me birth." It doesn't take too much imagination on my part to see that this is exactly what I am all about today.

I find idolotry really easy. And I can relate to the hopeless dope who calls a tree his father and a stone his mother. I am so quick, as Jonah says, to "cling to worthless idols and forfeit the hope that is mine."

I don't know about you, but I love stuff. I believe in it. After all, I can see it, taste it and touch it. While I don't find myself licking trees, there's plenty of stuff out there that tastes good and quickly subplants God's place in my life.

Idols are a hot topic these days. With Tim Keller's book, Conterfeit Gods, it's kind of redundant to be blogging about them. But I wonder what it is that has us so hooked on stuff. And realize here that I'm not just thinking about material things but also the other idols of prestige, power, influence, respect, comfort, etc., etc., and alas etc.

As someone once said (I think it was GK Chesterton) we humans are "idol factories." We pump them out left and right. Just watch TV for a little while with a pen and paper and right down all the idols that are presented during commercials. Our whole culture is built around this stuff.

And these idols, in my opinion, are all focused on doing one thing, keeping us from living in or with reality. Just like the man sauntering up to trees and stones, we're a whole culture gone blind to the reality that the universe centers around one being - God.

So are idols bad? No, we are. We're the ones who don't want to wake up, to be healed, to see reality. Why? Because we don't believe God loves us, has our best interest at heart, or simply don't want to know him (or all of the above).

After all, we're made in God's image, able to do and create marvelous things. Why do we need to face reality? Let's live in our fantasy until we die. That's the world's mantra. I hear it in every song on the radio, longing simply wed to empty fantasy.

God's offering us reality. Implicit in his frustrated statement that humans are calling trees and rocks mom and dad, is the reality that we were made to have one father. One being in whom we belong. One source of joy, peace, comfort and pride. That's why Jon Piper says over and over "God is most glorified when we are most satisfied in him."

The Bible is a portrait of a God at war with idols or lies. He wants the truth to win out in our lives and for us to come home to him. We were decieved to eat from a tree, he dies on a tree. We call a tree father, he covers a tree with his blood. He covers the tree that represented Roman power and domination with blood and compassion. And last but not least there's a tree in the city of God who's fruit will heal the nations.

Even as I write down all this random stuff, I'm eagerly awaiting a package in the mail. And to anyone who knows me, it's got to be a mountain bike part. Yup! I know that what's got me all worked up and giddy is just so much of a hunk of metal. Am I willing to call it father? Not in my head no but in my heart perhaps that's exactly what I'm doing.

My heart longs for what this hunk of metal represents: freedom, independance, joy and excitement. But I know that it will just result in a collosal let-down. For God is my only true father.

And even though he's invisible to me now, I know that my heart will be satisfied withnothing less than him. It's found in Jesus' parables on the kingdom that there is a God out there and in hear (our hearts if we're his) who is of inestimable worth. I hope that he enables me to believe it more and more, but for now, I've got a package that's about to arrive. Maybe this time I won't be thinking "Dad" when I tear it open.

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