"And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil."
 John 3:19

 

 "Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world."
1 John 4:1


Selected from Shadduck

When I was a barefooted lad I wanted wings. At least, I thought I did. If I  could have had Aladdin's lamp and the slave that went with it, I certainly would have made a mess of myself. It never occurred to me that with wings I could not put on my shirt.

I did not reflect that with wings, it would be necessary to roost on a pole and fall off when I slept, unless held in place with guy ropes. Alas, the world is afflicted with many half-baked theories that conveniently overlook or ignore the little nullifiers that go with it.

In past generations they had many theories for perfecting perpetual motion, but God seems to have the only perpetual motion theory that works. With wings, I could not go in swimming; I could not even scratch my head, unless I kept my arms and thus lacked only two legs of being an insect. Little did I realize in my childish simplicity that if I developed wings, I would disqualify millions and millions of ancestors that have been assigned to me. Multiplied multitudes who are now classed as my biological cousins would have no kinship worth recognition, and among the tails my progenitors have tried and discarded there must be listed another of feathers or membranes that would open and shut.

"Scientists" have not always agreed, and millions of pages were printed before my ancestors were elected, and for a boy to have wings would make it necessary to re-spin the yarn as far back as the reptiles. However, it would not baffle anyone who can explain how bugs came to carry taillights and fish to carry lanterns without being created that way. The Pithecanthropus erectus, that has been considered indispensable as an ancestor, would likely be replaced by the pterodactyl. I would not be left ancestorless; some missing link could be assumed to tie me in somewhere.

Not Every Kind Will Do

I did not hanker for just any kind of wings; I wanted to get off the ground without too much effort. We had fowl that lived so close to the corn crib that they could not fly over the garden fence. I observed the awkward flight of the crows that could not fly fast enough to escape the darting flight of the kingbirds. I seldom saw an eagle, but I envied the great hawks that soared and circled among the clouds without a wing beat. Playmates of the winds, they rode the invisible, and their lives were not cluttered up with duties, tasks, rules, and boundaries.

They were doing what they wanted to do, and my life seemed to be largely made up of doing what I did not want to do. I went to bed when I wanted to stay up and was called in the morning when I wanted to stay in bed. I had to be quiet when I wanted to make a noise and listen when I wanted to speak. I had to wash my neck and the scratched places on my legs when it seemed to me my health would not be jeopardized if they went unsoaped for another day.

Little buys do not have an internal gauge to indicate just when there is only enough space left to accommodate a slab of watermelon or a piece of pie. I much preferred to begin a meal with the desert. That was not permitted, and I often miscalculated. Why could not little boys be treated as well as horses? Horses eat their oats before they do their hay. When the weather was inclement I wanted to play ball in the house or make mud pies in the kitchen, but it seemed that little boys were victims of a nation-wide conspiracy. Something happened to Aladdin before he fixed the world so that little boys could have their own way.

In Sabbath School they used to sing a song that began with, "I want to be an angel and with the angels stand." It had an appeal for me, but I feared there was a catch in it. It seemed that one had to be uncomfortably good a long time and then die to be angel, and all I wanted was wings. Later on, I observed more closely the pictures of angels and wondered how they got their wings through the armholes of their robes.

With briars to scratch me, stones to bruise my toes, mud to avoid, fences to climb, there seemed a real need for wings. I once lived in Iowa and had occasion to cross the Mississippi River on the ice. On the Iowa side of the river the ice was thick enough to bear up a horse; on the Illinois side the ice was much thinner because of the faster current. As I neared the eastern shore I heard the ice cracking behind me. It meant death to go back and probable death to go forward. I think I was never nearer death than then. I hurried forward with ice cracking before and behind. I would have given five years of my life for one minute of flight. Years have passed, and I have never since crossed deep water covered with ice.

To have wings comparable to those of an eagle, a slender man would have a wingspread of something near a hundred feet, and a procession of flying fat men would darken the sky so that chickens would go to roost. Certainly the body of man is not designed for the eagle type of wings. Such wings would make it necessary to have hangars instead of bedrooms and airports instead of homes. Just as certainly, the spirit of man was never meant to be a prisoner in the fleshly shell of his body.

God Offers Wings

"They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint" (Isa. 40:31). Continuing the metaphor, the spirit craves altitude--above the briars, barriers, dirt, drudgery, and quicksands. The body responds to gravity that is earth-sodden, the spirit feels a pull toward God. No one wants the eagle's diet, his loneliness, his mental limitations, or his goal in life; but his freedom from care, worry, fear, unrest, and drudgery is a figure of what God can do for man's spirit.

Wings for the spirit fit the promises of rest, as, "Come unto me, all ye that labour ... " (Matt. 11:28); the promises of grandeur, as, "The wings of a dove covered with silver, and her feathers with yellow gold" (Psa. 68:13); the promises of altitude, as, "Heavenly places in Christ Jesus" (Eph. 2:6); the promises of joy, as, "God ... who giveth songs in the night" (Job 35:10).

God's eagerness to safeguard His people and raise them above the sordid treadmill level, and deliver them from fear and worry is evident in such reminders as Exodus 19:4 and Deuteronomy 32:11: "Ye have seen ... how I bear you on eagles' wings, and brought you unto myself." "As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them on her wings.

Sore trials may come, but there are wings to enable the troubled soul to see the rainbow from God's side of the storm. In the darkest hours of believers, Good, will give them visions of the glory side of the tempest.

Stephen saw the heavens opened; Paul was caught up into Paradise; John heard a voice from Heaven saying, "Come up hither, and I will shew thee, "On the Mount of Transfiguration troubled disciples had a preview of coming glory. Millions of saints have faced death with a face "as it had been the face of an angel."        

Imitations and Substitutes

The human spirit craves altitude, and to those who love sin, Satan and the world offer substitutes. The mountain peaks that sin offers are only sand dunes. I, have seen tiny drops taking a ride, clinging to soap bubbles that floated like little worlds of rainbows in the sunshine, and I have known the daughters of a proud racedevotees of cocktail partiesto float higher and fall harder. Carousal is often described as "hitting the high-spots." Hilarity that comes in a bottle or requires a tin horn and clown garments, may lift one to such dizzy heights that the fog is mistaken for clouds, but there is no mistake about the dizzy. Alas, that is as far off the ground as some people ever get. Talcum powder on a lump of dirt may look like Alpine scenery when seen through a magnifying glass. The allurements of sin are always magnified.

As a youth on the farm, when opportunity offered, I read tales of thrilling adventure, and my mind was in transport to other scenes. I hunted outlaws in the Wild West; I rescued heiresses held captive by crafty villains; I followed imaginary "redskins" through imaginary forests, and mowed them down with an imaginary rifle. I never humiliated them by taking their scalps, but I had to watch my Indian allies or they would return to the scene of my triumph and collect souvenirs. My mind was so fevered that I lost hours of needed sleep. Next morning the vision faded when there was nothing to kill but weeds and potato bugs. I felt sorry for myself that life must be so tedious. Millions of folk find life like that of a caterpillar on a pump handle: up and down and most of the time down.

Hoping to put thrill into life that sags, many people turn to clubs, societies, sports, games, contests, and entertainments. There is a wide range of opinion as to what associations and activities are harmless, and if harmless how much is too much? Why not ask yourself as to your soul altitude, after the game is over or the lights are out? I remember an old class motto, "Hitch your wagon to a star." People whose feet now drag on the ground may remember that they began with lofty aspirations.

"They Sow Not, Neither Do They Reap"

I envied the eagle because his life was free from toil. Some people will say, "I like to work." That may be true if one classifies delightful occupation as work-the dictionary offers many definitions of the word. On the farm, activity was grouped under three heads-doing what we wanted to do, doing what we didn't want to do, and "killing time." I wanted to dig out a ground hog; I didn't want to dig out a stump. When I say that I did not like to work, I mean only that I would have rather climbed a tree and watched the weeds pull themselves.

Can you imagine a woman so fond of work that when the clothesline breaks, it cheers her like a visit from Santa Claus'!

When I was little, I watched my mother make bread. I was so eager to help that she gave me a lump of dough and let me stand on a chair by the table. She made white bread, and I made brown bread. It was a delightful occupation until it ceased to be a novelty. I have not made bread since childhood.

God made man to be occupied with interesting and thrilling acts of government (Gen. 1:28 and 2:15); and of all creatures, man suffers most when forced to do nothing. If sin-lovers ever think seriously, they may ponder on what there will be to thrill them after death. Since man sinned, he and the creatures he has harnessed are the only ones who know drudgery.

Want To--Ought To

Two motives strive for domination in human life. What we want to do and what we ought to do must struggle till one is beaten, or they reach a compromise. They seem to be united in other earth creatures; they must be united in the angels; but sin has so warped the "want to" of humanity, and false teaching has so confused the "Ought to" that the race needs God as much as a madhouse needs sanity. Certainly man's happiness depends much on his wanting to do what he ought to do.

These bodies of ours are a heritage from a million ancestors, and some of them, in the language of cattlemen, were "scrub stock." Such as they are, we doctor them diet them, decorate them, and sometimes dominate them, yet they do not readily yield to the "ought to" of high ideals. Fortunately, the warped souls that come with the bodies may be born again. In that, God has made it possible for the "want to" of the spirit to approximate the "ought to" of life, and "mount up with wings as eagles."

Duty-Driven Christians

WHAT a difference it would make in the world, and perhaps in Heaven, if all Christians could want to do what they ought to do as members of the family of God! It would revolutionize the world if dances, bridge parties, roadhouses, clubs, societies, and sports were patronized only by persons driven by a sense of duty. Imagine, if you can, a husband saying to his wife: "We must go to the movies tonight. I have worked hard today, and you have done a washing. The pictures will not interest you, and I know I shall go to sleep in my chair, but it is our duty to go; the management depends on us." Why must God be on the duty side of any life?

I remember a young woman who was urged by personal workers to go forward in a revival meeting. After an internal struggle, she arose, and with a face that revealed her misery, said, "I will go, but I never expect to see another happy day as long as I live." That was as pathetic as it was heroic.

I knew a family in the hills of West Virginia that went five miles to every service at a country church, over bad roads. I have known them to come on a stormy day, when most men wore rubber boots and most women stayed at home. Two of them were young women, and seeing them standing by the stove in dripping wraps, I asked them, "Girls, why do you do it?" I hoped they would say that they found joy in the service, but the answer was, "To gain a home in Heaven." They were heroines, but neither would have accepted the attentions of a young man who had only a property settlement in mind. What wife could be happy in a home maintained by a husband who was driven by a sense of duty or to escape paying alimony?

Parable Of A Duty-Driven Courtship   

This will require some stretch of imagination.

A young farmer lived with aged parents who were much concerned for the future welfare of the son. One day the mother said to the son: "I am getting too old to do this work alone. There ought to be a young woman in the house. You ought to find a wife."

"Ma, you can think of the most disagreeable things for me to do."

"Is it such a disagreeable duty to take some of the work off your old mother?"

"I know I should make sacrifices for you, but can't we put it off a few years?"

"You have put it off till it may now be too late to find a woman who will take you."

"If Father and you say it is my duty, I will try, and if I succeed, that will be my hard luck. Do you have any woman in mind?"

"Just over the hill is a strong young woman, willing to work. Her parents are rich, and she is the only heir. Get her and in a few years you will have all the property. Take some peppermint candy and call on her tonight."

"Do I have to buy candy?"

"What if you do? You will likely get more than you give. She will likely give you cake and lemonade."

Trained to obedience, he went as reluctantly as a bashful man would go into a show window to have a lady dentist fill a back tooth. Later he came back in a despondent mood to report.

"Luck is against me. I hoped she did not like candy and would send her father into the room to talk with me. She acted as if she was glad to see me. She gave me strawberries with thick cream and powdered sugar and two kinds of layer cake. You know I would rather have prunes with buttermilk and corn bread."

"You must go again and take heartshaped candy."

"Do I have to buy candy again? They have no green beans in their garden; we have more than we can use; why not take something we can't use?"

"Son, you must be willing to make sacrifices. Be a hero."

On his return from his third call he was ready to collapse. This was his story: "She asked me if I was bashful. I said I was. She said she would help me all she could, and I thanked her, because I thought she would talk about the crops and the weather, but she didn't. She brought more cake, and only one plate for both of us. and the cake was sticky. I think she made the cake sticky so she could wipe my hand with a wet cloth and then hold my hand. You know I don't like to have my hand held by a young woman. When I came away, she followed me to the door, and she stood on tiptoe. I thought she wanted to whisper something she didn't want her folks to hear, and she didn't whisper. It was a mean trick. I guess you know what she did, and she almost a stranger, and oh, how I hate it!"

Some reader will say there never was a courtship like that. Perhaps not, but it does not strikingly misrepresent multitudes who hope to win Heaven, but find no joy in fellowship with God here. Certainly it fairly represents those who disapprove of any manifestation of joy in a religious meeting.

Some will say that any girl would be a fool to continue such a courtship, and we may reflect that though God is very merciful, He is not dull-witted.

There are blind children who never saw the lovelight of a father's face; there are deaf children who never heard the soothing lullabies of a devoted mother; and there are sincere believers who yearn for victory and peace that God is eager to give. Would that God may use some word of mine to help them!

I once heard a verse of a song that ended with the line, "Every day'll be pay day by-and-by." If there were no pay days until by-and-by, yet the final reward would be well worth the investment of a life; but the disciples at Pentecost had a partial demonstration of Heaven in this life.

In a log church in the hills of West Virginia, I have heard the singing of men and women, poorly clad, overworked, and perhaps undernourished. Tears flowed and shouts interfered with the singing as they sang such songs as:
Oh, happy day, that fixed my choice
On Thee my Saviour and my God;
Well may this glowing heart rejoice,
And tell its raptures all abroad.

They had a preacher but once a month, and it seemed that God loaned them enough Heaven to fill them to overflowing. I rejoiced with them and thanked God that people who had no paper on their walls or carpet on their floors could have ninety minutes of ecstasy once a month, which is far more than some churchgoers have in a lifetime.

"Joy Unspeakable And Full Of Glory" (1 Pet. 1:8)

It must be clear that most Christians described in the Book of Acts had something that most Christians now do not have and seemingly do not seek. The need then was very greatthey were "as sheep in the midst of wolves." The need now is very greatthe wolves are in the midst of the sheep. What a different world it would be if Christians generally found their greatest thrills, not in fiction and contests, but in Christian service. No worthy church would continue in debt, no Sunday school class would lack a teacher, no missionary work would languish, and no pews would be empty in churches true to the Word. On the other hand, some fraternal and social organizations would fold up and the demand for tainted literature would decrease amazingly.

Be Full Of Care For Nothing

The eagle is free from worry.

True, there is little or nothing for the eagle to worry about. He knows nothing of taxes, dues, rent, bills, and parking tickets. None of his family come home smelling of liquor. He has no fad or fashion to keep up with, no apologies to make, no need for locks and bolts, no need for a doctor, and doesn't know he must die.

We have worries. Some of them are because "we have too many irons in the fire," or too many fires to keep irons in. If there are some causes for worry that are unavoidable, why not let God do the worrying for us? Men acquire skill in other activities, but whoever heard of a good worrier? Worry in a Christian is a distrust or misunderstanding of God.

"He Shall Give His Angels Charge"

Some years ago I sat with a brother in a rowboat on the sheltered waters of the Erie harbor. The wind was less than a gale, and we could hear the roar of tumbling water on the unprotected shore of Presque Isle. Just as we neared the lookout tower of the life saving station, a motorboat, large enough for twelve, and occupied by a lone woman, passed the tower, and headed for the whitecapped waves. Why would a lone woman take that risk? There are so many things that could happen to the motor, and the wind might become a gale. I wondered if she drove her boat into the threshing water to divest her mind of unhappy memories, dull the edge of sorrow, or forget a sin.

As she passed the tower she called to the watchman, "I am going outside about six miles. Will you keep me under observation?" Since that day, I have many times offered a similar prayer to God. The guard touched his cap, and she opened the throttle and was soon lost to our low-level sight, but she was as safe as she would have been with a convoy of battleships. With a telescope pointed in her direction, the least indication of trouble would have brought a powerful motor driven lifeboat to her rescue.

Somewhere in the mystic towers of God, they watch the waves of time cast up wreckage on the shores of eternity. They know the stars by name, and note the sparrow's fall. He giveth His angels charge over some. Who are these favorites? They are the ones who have made God their favorite. Are the angels keeping watch over the group you like to be withthe ones who provide your entertainment? What do you think? Our Lord declared that the little children about Him were watched over by the angels (Matt. 18:10).

A company of schoolteachers went a two-days' journey into the wilderness to collect specimens and take pictures of wild life. They employed a naturalist who knew bugs and butterflies, and an experienced guide who knew the trails through thickets of fallen trees and second-growth saplings. It was planned that when camp was made, the party would break up into groups and go in different directions, returning before nightfall. To insure safe return, the guide required that camp be made on a hilltop where the campfire would be visible from any open spot within two miles. Each group must take extra rations, fire-making equipment, and a gun or horn for making signals.

The naturalist, who was called the professor, overruled this and announced that camp would be made by running water and no extra equipment would be carried by anyone on side trips. "We are neither half-wits nor children," he said. "No backwoodsman can tell me I must carry water to the top of a hill to wash my face, and take my playthings with me when I leave the camp."

"I am a licensed guide," said the woodsman. "If anyone of this party is lost, the public will hold me responsible. I have a reputation to maintain. I did not come with you to argue or give advice. The party must choose between us, and if you prefer the professor, he must take the responsibility."

The party had a hurried conference and decided that they wished to keep both, but if one must go, they would keep the professor.

"Good-by," said the guide. "The professor's education may not yet be complete. If you change your mind and want me more than you want him, make a fire on a hilltop and keep it burning night and day."

Two nights later a fire was blazing on a hilltop. Two groups had failed to return the previous night and were not found until late the next day. The professor was in one group. He was half-famished; his clothing was tattered; he was very meek.

 

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