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Wednesday, July 11, 2018

INCHES AND MILES


Blogging Exodus 5: 1-9

Afterward Moses and Aaron went in and told Pharaoh, “Thus says the Lord God of Israel: ‘Let My people go, that they may hold a feast to Me in the wilderness.’ ”
And Pharaoh said, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? I do not know the Lord, nor will I let Israel go.”
So they said, “The God of the Hebrews has met with us. Please, let us go three days’ journey into the desert and sacrifice to the Lord our God, lest He fall upon us with pestilence or with the sword.”
Then the king of Egypt said to them, “Moses and Aaron, why do you take the people from their work? Get back to your labor.” And Pharaoh said, “Look, the people of the land are many now, and you make them rest from their labor!”
So the same day Pharaoh commanded the taskmasters of the people and their officers, saying, “You shall no longer give the people straw to make brick as before. Let them go and gather straw for themselves. And you shall lay on them the quota of bricks which they made before. You shall not reduce it. For they are idle; therefore they cry out, saying, ‘Let us go and sacrifice to our God.’ Let more work be laid on the men, that they may labor in it, and let them not regard false words.” 

“If you give them an inch, they’ll take a mile.”


It’s a cliched excuse to maintain high walls of exclusion.  When the powerless ask for small concessions, for reasonable accommodations, the people with power tell each other that it’s a trick. They tell each other that the people without power are secretly plotting to take ALL of the power. 

It’s cliched, but it’s not entirely incorrect.

The Lord sent Moses to lead all of the children of Israel out of Egyptian slavery and all the way into the Promised Land, but that’s not what Moses told Pharaoh.  God told Moses to ask Pharaoh, “now, please, let us go three days’ journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the Lord our God”  (Exodus 3: 18).   Three days out, a minimum of one day of sacrifices and 3 days back.  Conservatively speaking, Moses was asking Pharaoh to give the Hebrew slaves a week off.   

A small concession.  A reasonable accommodation for religious observances.  An inch.

Moses never expected pharaoh to give them the inch.  God had already told him But I am sure that the king of Egypt will not let you go, no, not even by a mighty hand.  (Exodus 3: 19). 

And, Moses hadn’t left his contented life a thousand miles away in Midian, argued with his wife, miles nearly died on the road, and hustled his way into an audience with the most powerful monarch in the ancient world just to request a week’s vacation.

Moses asked for an inch, but he was really, always after the mile. 

Women’s suffragists didn’t JUST want the right to vote.  They DID as their critics warned want to run for office and own their own companies and wear pants and be bosses.

LGBTQ activist didn’t JUST want to have their relationships recognized as civil unions.  They DID want full, legally protected and endorsed marriage.

Negro civil rights activists didn’t JUST want an end to lynchings and a chance to work in factories and send their children to decent school.  Black folk wanted to be mayors and sheriffs and generals and judges presiding over the trials of White defendants. Yeah, we’d been plotting on the presidency for a long time before Obama.

Immigrants and refugees want a shot at full citizenship and all the rights and responsibilities therewith. 

And neo-nazis, and Klansmen, and the ceo of Papa John’s don’t JUST want to be able to use the N-word in public without consequence.  They want to be able to discriminate against Black and Brown people.  They want to be able to abuse and murder us.  They want the whole spectrum of privileges and immunities of 19th (and 18th) century White Supremacy. 

There were surely many Israelites who would have been satisfied with a little time off, with just a little relief from their heavy labors.  There are many individuals within each  group who sincerely only want that ONE inch.   But generally speaking, when a  group dispatches representatives to ask for the inch it’s because they’re strategizing how to get the mile.

How they (the less powerful) leverage their inch to get the mile is a test of their character.  How we (the powerful) respond to their request for an inch demonstrates our character.

The powerful Pharaoh responded to Moses’s and Aaron’s request for a reasonable religious accommodation by calling all the Israelites lazy and shiftless. 

Then the king of Egypt said to them, “Moses and Aaron, why do you take the people from their work? Get back to your labor.” And Pharaoh said, “Look, the people of the land are many now, and you make them rest from their labor! . . . For they are idle; therefore they cry out, saying, ‘Let us go and sacrifice to our God’” (Exodus 5: 4, 5, 8).

Pharaoh responded to the request for just an inch by doubling-down on his angry rhetoric and oppressive policies.

So the same day Pharaoh commanded the taskmasters of the people and their officers, saying, “You shall no longer give the people straw to make brick as before. Let them go and gather straw for themselves.  And you shall lay on them the quota of bricks which they made before. You shall not reduce it. . .   Let more work be laid on the men, that they may labor in it, and let them not regard false words”   (Exodus 5: 6-9).

The Lord judges us by how we respond when they ask for an inch.

God judged Pharaoh hard-hearted and made him and his nation the target of Divine wrath, not because Pharaoh refused to free the slaves, but because he refused to make give them the week off to worship. 

In that first inch we decide whose side God will take when we compete over the rest of the mile.

But I am sure that the king of Egypt will not let you go [three days into the wilderness to sacrifice], no, not even by a mighty hand. So I will stretch out My hand and strike Egypt with all My wonders which I will do in its midst; and after that he will let you go. (Exodus 3: 19-20).


 --Anderson T. Graves II   is a writer, community organizer and consultant for education, ministry, and rural leadership development.

Rev. Anderson T. Graves II is pastor of Miles Chapel CME Church in Fairfield, Alabama. He writes a blog called A Word to the Wise at www.andersontgraves.blogspot.com

Email atgravestwo2@aol.com
Follow me on twitter @AndersonTGraves 

Click here to support this ministry with a donation.  Or go to andersontgraves.blogspot.com and click on the DONATE button on the right-hand sidebar.

Support by check or money order may be mailed to 
Miles Chapel CME Church
P O Box 132
Fairfield, Al 35064

Monday, July 9, 2018

BAD TEAM BUILDING ADVICE (A Lesson from Moses and Aaron)




Blogging Exodus 4:14 - 16, 27- 31
14 So the anger of the Lord was kindled against Moses, and He said: “Is not Aaron the Levite your brother? I know that he can speak well. And look, he is also coming out to meet you. When he sees you, he will be glad in his heart. 15 Now you shall speak to him and put the words in his mouth. And I will be with your mouth and with his mouth, and I will teach you what you shall do. 16 So he shall be your spokesman to the people. And he himself shall be as a mouth for you, and you shall be to him as God.  
. . .  27 And the Lord said to Aaron, “Go into the wilderness to meet Moses.” So he went and met him on the mountain of God, and kissed him. 28 So Moses told Aaron all the words of the Lord who had sent him, and all the signs which He had commanded him. 29 Then Moses and Aaron went and gathered together all the elders of the children of Israel. 30 And Aaron spoke all the words which the Lord had spoken to Moses. Then he did the signs in the sight of the people. 31 So the people believed; and when they heard that the Lord had visited the children of Israel and that He had looked on their affliction, then they bowed their heads and worshiped. 
Moses & Aaron

Moses and Aaron were brother-believers.   They both cared about the plight of their enslaved brethren in Goshen.  They’d both accurately discerned the voice of the Lord leading them in His will.  In every other way, they disagreed. 

In Exodus chapter 4, Moses was leaving a peaceful and contented life of shepherding which had been preceded by privileged and pampered life in Pharaoh’s family.  Aaron was basically a slave sneaking off the plantation. 

They had opposing ideas about cultural diversity and ethnic inclusion. 

Then Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married; for he had married an Ethiopian woman (Numbers 12:1).

Moses was pursuing a grand vision to free all of Israel from centuries of genocide and oppression.  Aaron was just going to check on his brother ‘cause the Lord had put him on his heart (Exodus 4:27).

Moses believed that a leader should set the standard for righteousness and use his power to enforce a high moral ethic.   Aaron thought that you had to give the people what they want (Exodus 32). 

The common advice about leadership, excellence, and team building is that you should make sure that the people around you agree with you, have the same vision as you, and prefer the same approach to leadership that you employ.  Basically, we’re told to build a team of people who are going in the same direction.
  




When the brothers met on the road at Mt. Horeb Moses was going from Midian to Egypt.  Aaron was going from Egypt to Midian.  They were, figuratively and literally, coming from different places and moving in different directions. 

Combine the prevailing advice on leadership and unity with the age-old caution against working with family, and it's obvious that the partnering Moses with Aaron was bad team-building advice.

Of course, that is exactly the advice that God gave.  

In team-building as in many things, we often confuses easy with good.  God's "bad" advice reminds us that a team-leader needs truth more than he/she needs encouragement.  

God wanted Moses to have a team that included people who did NOT think like him, who did NOT come from the same socio-political place as him.  God wanted Moses to put people in his innermost circle who heard God for themselves.  Sometimes that meant they would (accurately) hear God telling them something different from what Moses had (accurately) heard God say.  

The deepest spiritual truths are found in the uncomfortable void between apparent contradictions.

When the team collectively hears and shares all the different ways that God speaks on their mission, then the leader of the team has all the truth he/she needs to direct the work.

When you only include the people who always agree with you, when you squash dissenting ideas and approaches you block key channels by which God can send you direction and correction.  

And sometimes the opposing voices will be wrong ---- really wrong, like Aaron was about the golden calf and about Moses’ interracial relationship.  But, you don’t have to automatically believe every criticism.  And, you shouldn’t automatically believe every compliment, either. 

Jesus intentionally gathered a team of men who didn’t always agree with each other or with Him.  Sometimes directing them was frustrating, but it was ultimately fruitful.  Jesus’ team was so well-chosen that He told them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father” (John 14: 12).

That is why we build teams, isn’t it?  

To get the work(s) done.   To do greater than we could have done on our own. 

To achieve greatness and greaterness, you need people who don’t just receive their leader’s vision, they amplify it.   Like Moses the prophet needed Aaron the priest, you need teammates with perspectives and observations you would not have and could not have arrived at alone. 

You can build a team that always agrees with you, or you can build the team that God wants you to lead.   But don’t get it twisted.  Those are 2 different teams.

 --Anderson T. Graves II   is a writer, community organizer and consultant for education, ministry, and rural leadership development.

Rev. Anderson T. Graves II is pastor of Miles Chapel CME Church in Fairfield, Alabama. He writes a blog called A Word to the Wise at www.andersontgraves.blogspot.com

Email atgravestwo2@aol.com
Follow me on twitter @AndersonTGraves 

Click here to support this ministry with a donation.  Or go to andersontgraves.blogspot.com and click on the DONATE button on the right-hand sidebar.

Support by check or money order may be mailed to 
Miles Chapel CME Church
P O Box 132
Fairfield, Al 35064

Sunday, July 1, 2018

TEMPTATIONS, TESTS, & TESTIMONIES (audio)

Message #5 in the Hebrews preaching series: TEMPTATIONS, TESTS, & TESTIMONIES.
(message 5, chapter 2:17-18)


Listen well and leave a comment.


If you can’t get the audio on your device, visit the main podcast page at http://revandersongraves.podomatic.com/

---Anderson T. Graves II   is a writer, community organizer and consultant for education, ministry, and rural leadership development.

Rev. Anderson T. Graves II is pastor of Miles Chapel CME Church in Fairfield, Alabama;  executive director of the Substance Abuse Youth Networking Organization (SAYNO);  and director of rural leadership development for the National Institute for Human Development (NIHD).

Subscribe to my personal blog  www.andersontgraves.blogspot.com .

Email atgravestwo2@aol.com
Follow me on twitter @AndersonTGraves 

Click here to support this ministry with a donation.  Or go to andersontgraves.blogspot.com and click on the DONATE button on the right-hand sidebar.

Support by check or money order may be mailed to 
Miles Chapel CME Church
P O Box 132
Fairfield, AL 35064

Thursday, June 28, 2018

A PARABLE IN PARALLEL TEXT: JESUS AT GENERAL CONFERENCE



Matthew 23:1-4
Jesus, Infinite Episcopal District, Nazareth region. 
Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples,
To the members of this great Zion and especially to the delegates,
saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat.
The officers and bishops sit in the line of Miles and Vanderhorst.
Therefore whatever they tell you to observe,  that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do.
So you should follow the rules of the Discipline they have published.  Read it and do what they say.   But, don’t act like the people at the general conference because they say, “Follow the rules, but they don’t follow them.”
For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.
For we pass resolutions that saddle local churches with burdensome mandates, but we don’t do a thing to provide them with the means to fulfill those requirements. 


Matthew 6:7

And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do.  For they think that they will be heard for their many words.
And when you offer a motion, do not repeat a bunch of clich├ęs and compliments appealing to a leader’s vanity like you’re worshipping a heathen idol ‘cause it sounds like you’re fishing for attention.


Mark 12:38-40

Then He said to them in His teaching, “Beware of the scribes, who desire to go around in long robes, love greetings in the marketplaces,
Watch out for those folks who demand elaborate and highest commendations for themselves every time they appear
the best seats in the synagogues, and the best places at feasts,
And who feel entitled to the most prominent positions
who devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. These will receive greater condemnation.
But they exploit the most vulnerable churches and the least powerful groups in the church while making a pretense of holiness.  They will receive greater condemnation.


Luke 11:42-48

42 “But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass by justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone. 
Oh, you leaders!  Don’t you see how broken you are?  You raise and pay and administer the money with meticulous efficiency, but you don’t do right by all your folks; you don’t love them like you love yourself.  Yes, you should collect and disburse the budget, but you should do that AND give your people justice and love as well.
43 Woe to you Pharisees! For you love the [m]best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces. 
Come on, don’t you see?! You are addicted to accolades.
44 Woe to you, [n]scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like graves which are not seen, and the men who walk over them are not aware of them.
And not just THEM.  You other leaders, too.  You act inconsistent with your professed ethics and morality.  Your ruthless politicking is like an overgrown cemetery with no tombstones.  If this weren’t called a church meeting observers wouldn’t know the work had anything to do with Jesus. 
45 Then one of the lawyers answered and said to Him, “Teacher, by saying these things You reproach us also.
“Mr. Chairman, point of order!” cried one of the delegates.  “The way his complaint is worded, it would accuse ALL of us, not just bishops and general officers.”
46 And He said, “Woe to you also, lawyers! For you load men with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers.
Response:  That is correct.  You don’t see how broken you are either.
You vote to sustain the boot that will be placed on your neck without providing a way to pay for the boot.” 
47 Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets, and your fathers killed them. 
Don’t you get it.  You/ We are digging the church’s grave, a church that generations were killing before millennials were born.
48 In fact, you bear witness that you approve the deeds of your fathers; for they indeed killed them, and you build their tombs. 

In fact, you/ we are accomplices in the death of the church.
We receive the reports and recommendations of its poisoning with “highest commendations.”


Luke 11: 52-54

52 “Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter in yourselves, and those who were entering in you hindered.”
And to you/ us who know the Discipline forwards and backwards, you/we who have “dedicated my life to this church,” we who KNOW the way things are done in the church:  a bunch of us are going to Hell after a career of keeping people out of Heaven.
53 And as He said these things to them, the scribes and the Pharisees began to assail Him vehemently, and to cross-examine Him about many things, 
And when Jesus finished his statement, the chair was inundated with rebuttals screamed out from the floor and the stage. 
On his way to his seat, other delegates confronted him, “Who did he think he was?  What did he mean by . . . ?  Why would he say that in front of everybody . . . .?  Aren’t you worried about annual conference?”
54 lying in wait for Him, and seeking to catch Him in something He might say, that they might accuse Him
But it was the quiet ones who were the real threat.  The louds ones yelled about him being taken down.  The quiet ones planned to do it.    


Monday, June 25, 2018

WHEN MOSES' WIFE PULLED A KNIFE AND CUSSED HIM OUT

Blogging Exodus 4:18-26

18 So Moses went and returned to Jethro his father-in-law, and said to him, “Please let me go and return to my brethren who are in Egypt, and see whether they are still alive.”
And Jethro said to Moses, “Go in peace.”
19 Now the Lord said to Moses in Midian, “Go, return to Egypt; for all the men who sought your life are dead.”
20 Then Moses took his wife and his sons and set them on a donkey, and he returned to the land of Egypt. And Moses took the rod of God in his hand.
. . . 24 And it came to pass on the way, at the encampment, that the Lord met him and sought to kill him. 25 Then Zipporah took a sharp stone and cut off the foreskin of her son and cast it at Moses’ feet, and said, “Surely you are a husband of blood to me!” 26 So He let him go. Then she said, “You are a husband of blood!”—because of the circumcision.


On the way from Midian to Egypt, Moses' wife performed an emergency circumcision of their son. 

Son.  Singular.  

Moses and Zipporah had two sons and both of them were with them on the road to Egypt, which means that one of the boys was circumcised and one wasn’t.  And that may explain why God was so upset with Moses that   it came to pass on the way, at the encampment, that the Lord met him and sought to kill him (Exodus 4:24). 

Circumcising one child showed that Moses knew the Abrahamic rule of circumcision, knew that God wanted the men committed to faith in Him to bear that physical symbol, knew and applied that knowledge.
But only halfway. 

Moses compromised with the anti-circumcising culture of greater Midian.  He acquiesced to the oldest of heresies: “It doesn’t take all that.” 

God thought otherwise. 

I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth (Revelations 3: 15-16).

  The Lord had tapped Moses to confront 4 centuries of tradition, social norms, and economic policy, and break them.  Moses was assigned a task that required total  commitment and the idea of Moses negotiating some kid of half-way freedom from Pharaoh was so sickening to God that it came to pass on the way, at the encampment, that the Lord met him and sought to kill him.

Fortunately for Moses, he'd married a strong and spiritually discerning woman.  

Zipporah saw Moses sick without cause, or facing a vision of a vengeful angel, or whatever form the Divine threat to his life manifested, and she intuited both the cause and solution for her husband’s terminal condition.  Then Zipporah took a sharp stone and cut off the foreskin of her son and cast it at Moses’ feet, and her husband recovered.

Unfortunately for Moses, he had married a strong and spiritually discerning woman. 

Here was her baby (no matter his age) on the side of the road, wounded, in the kind of pain no male ever wants to be in, by her own necessary hand, and it WAS ALL MOSES' FAULT!  Likely still holding the bloody blade, Zipporah  angrily presented the priest of her household with the proof of circumcision.  She cast it at Moses’ feet, and said,“Surely you are a husband of blood to me!”  In British slang, she said, “Bloody husband!”  In Mississippi Black slang, she cussed him out.

 And after the Lord released Moses from the attentions of the death angel, she cussed him out again.


So He [the Lord] let him go. Then she said, “You are a husband of blood!”—because of the circumcision.

MOSES had been trained by her father the priest of Midian. MOSES had been educated in the best schools of Egypt.  MOSES had seen the burning bush and heard the voice of God. MOSES was the spiritual one.  But SHE had to recognize the move of God AND do the thing with the razor sharp knife on her baby’s wee-wee. 

So yeah.  Zipporah was cussin’ mad.

To be clear, Christians SHOULD NOT CUSS. 
But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth (Colossians 3:8).

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear (Ephesians 4:29).

Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving (Ephesians 5:4).

But, Exodus 4 reminds us that you can be saved, sanctified, filled with the Holy Ghost, and on a mission for God; but every now and then somebody still makes you (want to) cuss.

So, the morals of the story are:
1.  You must be FULLY committed to your God-given purpose because God is deathly serious about your calling.

And 2. Do what you’re supposed to do cause if somebody else has to do your job, you might get cussed out.

 --Anderson T. Graves II   is a writer, community organizer and consultant for education, ministry, and rural leadership development.

Rev. Anderson T. Graves II is pastor of Miles Chapel CME Church in Fairfield, Alabama. He writes a blog called A Word to the Wise at www.andersontgraves.blogspot.com

Email atgravestwo2@aol.com
Follow me on twitter @AndersonTGraves 

Click here to support this ministry with a donation.  Or go to andersontgraves.blogspot.com and click on the DONATE button on the right-hand sidebar.

Support by check or money order may be mailed to 
Miles Chapel CME Church
P O Box 132
Fairfield, Al 35064

Monday, June 18, 2018

FATHER, ABRAHAM


A Father's Day Follow-up Blog

Instead of audio from our Father's Day sermon, I'm sharing thought from the message in this unusually long post.  Enjoy.

Abraham was a father.  Abraham was all kinds of fathers, well 5 kinds. 

1.  Abraham was an uncle who was like a father.


Haran begot Lot. And Haran died before his father Terah in his native land, in Ur of the Chaldeans. . . Then Abram took Sarai his wife and Lot his brother’s son, and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people whom they had acquired in Haran, and they departed to go to the land of Canaan (Genesis 11: 27, 28; 12:5).

After Lot’s dad and grandad died in the city for which Lot’s father was named (or the city named for Lot’s father),  Abraham took his nephew into his household.  When God called them  to complete the journey their father Terah had begun (Genesis 11:31), the patriarch brought his nephew along.

Abraham loved Lot.  He gave Lot herds and flocks and land out of what he gained in Egypt and Canaan.  When the young man and his staff started to chafe under Abraham’s rules and closeness, Abraham offered him first choice of the available pastures and his blessing.  When warring kings kidnapped Lot, Uncle Abraham immediately launched a rescue mission and in the aftermath of the mission, when the other kings tried to acquire Lot and his people as slaves, Abraham refused to sell them out even though it cost him his share of  the spoils of the battle (Genesis 14).    When Lot became an adult, Abraham referred to him as  his “brother” (Genesis 14:14), but he provided for and protected him as a father would a son.

When the Lord told Abraham of His plan to destroy Sodom, Gomorrah, and the other cities of the valley Abraham must have thought of his nephew living in Sodom because Uncle Abraham negotiated with God for the salvation of the wicked city.  Though there weren’t even 10 righteous men in all of Sodom, the faith of Lot’s uncle and surrogate father saved Lot and his family from dying with the sinful citizens of Sodom.

And it came to pass, when God destroyed the cities of the plain, that God remembered Abraham, and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow, when He overthrew the cities in which Lot had dwelt (Genesis 19:29).

A father is an agent of spiritual covering for his children.   When a man steps into the space left vacant by a father who died or walked away, that man, like Uncle Abraham, can administer spiritual covering to his surrogate children. 

You may never replace your nephew’s/ neice’s/ grandchild’s/ little cousin’s/ foster child’s biological father because losing a parent is a lot of pain to process.   Young adult Lot’s rebellion against Abraham might have reflected the lingering grief of and anger of a child whose father and mother “died on him” while he was still young.   Nevertheless the man who stands in the gap as a father figure can, like Uncle Abraham, cover their surrogate child in prayer with the same faith that covers their own biological children.

2.  Abraham was a mentor who was like a father. 

Eliezer worked for Abraham.  He became Abraham’s steward, his right-hand man, but Eliezer wasn’t just a trusted employee.  Eliezer was for all intents and purposes, a member of Abraham’s family.   No.  More than that.  

Before Abraham’s first biological child was born, Abraham had named Eliezer as his legal heir. 

But Abram said, “Lord God, what will You give me, seeing I go childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?”  (Genesis 15:2)

Eliezer was like a son to Abraham. 

When you mentor youth in your community and young professionals in your industry, you have a chance to not only share knowledge but to pour out love.   When you mentor you can and should, like Mr. Abraham, see your proteges as heirs of your legacy.   

When Ishmael and Isaac were born, Abraham changed his will to direct the inheritance to his son; but Eliezer never lost his place of trust and significance in the house of Abraham.   Through all the drama that arose in the family, Eliezer remained loyal, and when the time came, it was (apparently) Eliezer whom God guided to the woman who would marry Isaac and become the literal mother of Israel (Genesis 24).

Abraham was over 147 years old when Eliezer brought Rebekah out of Syria and into Isaac’s arms.  It may be a long time before the young ones you mentor, teach, train, advocate for, and love are in  a position to help you.  It’s likely that you’ll never have to call on them for aid.  But, by mentoring a younger generation, you develop a pool of future leaders who can bless you and who will bless the world. 

3. Abraham let becoming an ex-husband make him an ex-father.


Because Sarah couldn’t get pregnant, Abraham took a 2nd wife, an employee named Hagar. 

 So Hagar bore Abram a son; and Abram named his son, whom Hagar bore, Ishmael  (Genesis 16: 15).

Abraham loved Ishmael.  He didn’t even want another son.  When the Lord appeared to remind Abraham that the promised descendants were still to come through Sarah, Abraham said to God, “Oh, that Ishmael might live before You!” (Genesis 16: 18)

But when Isaac was born, Sarah demanded that Abraham divorce Hagar and disown Ishmael.  Therefore she said to Abraham, “Cast out this bondwoman and her son; for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, namely with Isaac” (Genesis 21:10).

Abraham didn’t want to lose Ishmael, but God allowed the breakup, promising to take care of Ishmael and make a nation of the son of the bondwoman, because he is your seed” (Genesis 21:11-13).   God’s response indicated that though Abraham’s and Hagar’s marriage needed to end,   Ishmael was still under God’s favor and, thus, Abraham and Ishmael could stay connected without threatening the covenant God would execute through Isaac.  

In other words, Abraham had to divorce his 2nd wife but not his eldest son.   But based on what’s in scripture, Ishmael didn’t see his father again until his funeral. 

Millenia later, the descendants of Ishmael founded a new religion and called it Islam.  Central to the Muslim faith is a narrative of the life of Father Abraham in which Ishmael is the promised child and  the Jews, as descendants of Isaac, are usurpers of Ishmael’s rightful place. 

Because Daddy Abraham let baby mama drama estrange him from his eldest son, Osama Bin Laden funded the 9/11 attacks.  Because Daddy Abraham allowed the break-up of his marriage to Hagar to be the breakdown of his role in his son’s life, the term “radical Islamist terrorist” is part of our common vocabulary. 

Sometimes, the dissolution of a marriage or relationship is so bitter that one  party keeps the child away from the other.  Sometimes that separation is warranted.  Most of the times I’ve seen, the separation isn’t. If you CAN’T see your child, neither God nor I fault you.

But if you just DON’T see your child ---- bro, you’re wrong.   You’re as wrong as Abraham.  Maybe more wrong because at least Abraham had a Divine guarantee that his son would be all right.   Ishmael lived 137 years and became the patriarch of 12 nations of his own (Genesis 25:13-18), but thousands of years later the pain of Dad’s abandonment still afflicts those of Ishmael’s blood.

As far as it is in your power, don’t let the differences between you and your ex prevent you from seeing, teaching, rearing, and loving the children you and they share.  It’s so much harder when you two aren’t together, but the extra effort may save the world a lot of trouble in the long run.

Every father has a legacy through his children.  That legacy may be good or evil.  Abraham’s legacy with Ishmael is negative.

But his legacy with Isaac is positive.   Not perfect, but positive.

4.  Abraham became a faith-full father.


When his relationship with Ishmael fell apart, Abraham focused all of his paternal affection on Isaac.  He loved Isaac like he was his only son (Genesis 22: 2).  Abraham loved Isaac so much that you had to wonder if he loved Isaac more than he loved God.  So, God devised an extreme test.  He told Abraham,“Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you” (Genesis 22:2).
Abraham obediently took his son to the sacred site, but before he and Isaac went up to the altar, Daddy Abraham told the rest of their party, “Stay here with the donkey; the lad and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back to you” (Genesis 22:5).

Abraham’s whole heart was tied up in Isaac:  all of his hopes, all sense of purpose for his labors, and struggles, and losses resided in the life of the only son he had left.  But Abraham’s FAITH was tied up in God.  Abraham believed that the Lord had not brought Isaac this far to leave him.  Abraham believed that God would fulfill all the promises He’d made, and God had promised to make a great nation out of Isaac’s descendants.  Abraham believed that even if he gave his son to God, God would give him back.  This was Abraham’s legacy of faith. 

(Note:  If YOU take your child out to sacrifice them to God, you’re going to a highly secure  psychiatric hospital and your child is going into foster care.  In fact, if you believe you’re hearing God tell you to sacrifice your child, call the department of mental health and after you explain and give your address ask them to transfer you to DHR.)

As a father, Abraham failed in several spectacularly tragic ways.  But with Isaac, Abraham successfully combined a bottomless store of fatherly love with unerring faith in his God into
such a deep and immovable foundation that the family’s religious faith survived being surrounded by pagans and polytheists.  It survived famine and the betrayal of brothers.  It survived immersion in Egyptian culture and centuries of discrimination and slavery.  The faith bequeathed by Abraham survived wilderness and war and exile and the attempts at eradication by the greatest empires of man. 

Abraham’s love and faith were so genuine and absolute that after seriously intending to stab and burn Isaac on a sacrificial altar, father and son still had a strong relationship.  Think about how deep your father-son connection has to be to walk out of that incident together, continue living in the same camp, and trust your father to arrange your marriage.

LOVE and FAITH.

Love your children with all you have.  Be good to them.  Be good for them.  And trust God.  In thought, word, deed, and demeanor be the greatest example of faith in God that your children could ever experience.  Be a loving father full of faith so that no matter what happens to you or between you all, your children will KNOW beyond a shadow of any doubt that Daddy loves them and God is real.

But DON’T offer your kid as a human sacrifice.

But the Angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!”
So he said, “Here I am.”
And He said, “Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him (Genesis 22:11-12).

5.  Abraham was a human father.  He failed, but he kept trying to do better.    


Abraham didn’t like being alone.  After Sarah died and Isaac started their own family, Abraham again took a wife, and her name was Keturah (Genesis 25:1). 

Yes, he was somewhere north of 147 years old at the time.  And yes, they had children: six boys (Genesis 25:2-4).

But the time Abraham’s and Keturah’s boys came of age, Isaac was established as the primary heir to Abraham’s lands and connections.  Abraham gave all that he had to Isaac (Genesis 25:5).  But, old Daddy Abraham didn’t make the same mistake he’d made with Ishmael.   He didn’t leave them with nothing.  He gave them enough wealth to set themselves up out of town.   Abraham gave gifts to the sons of the concubines which Abraham had; and while he was still living he sent them eastward, away from Isaac his son, to the country of the east (Genesis 25:6).    Abraham tried to balance the favor/ favoritism toward Isaac with fatherly love and fairness to his youngest children. 

One of Abraham’s and Keturah’s sons founded the Midianite nation.  The Midianites eventually fell into general idolatry and tried to spiritually sabotage Israel in the wilderness (Numbers 25).  However, some of the children of Midian remembered the faith that Father Abraham had taught them.  One of them was a shepherd-priest named Jethro, or Reuel. 

Jethro did for Moses what Abraham had done for Eliezer and Lot.  (Exodus 2; 4; 18).     Jethro took Moses in, mentored him in the faith of Abraham and the ways of a good shepherd.  He made Moses part of his family (Exodus 2:15), supported Moses in his calling (Exodus 4:18), celebrated Moses’ success and with his wife and children, and shared wise advice (Exodus 18).

Through 500-plus years, Abraham’s faith endured among the descendants of his 3rd wife.  Even Ishmael’s descendants, after centuries of apostasy, remembered Abraham and returned, in Islam, to reverence for the Old Testament. 

Abraham was a great and imperfect man, a human and, therefore, flawed father.  But he tried and kept trying.  It paid off.

Eliezer did well.  Ishmael did well. Isaac did well.  Midian did well.  Even after the craziness that happened to Lot after Sodom (Genesis 19:30-38), his descendants Ruth (book of Ruth) and Naamah (1 Kings 14:21) joined the royal and messianic lineage of Abraham. 

HOPE, FAITH, LOVE.

No matter what kinds of father you are, you will be an imperfect one.   Recognize your failures but never stop trying to do better.

Love your children and your adopted children and your community proteges and your children by your ex and your children by your baby’s mother and your stepkids and your other kids.  However you are made their father, love them.   Love them and trust God.  

Believe that the Lord has power, grace, and favor enough for all your sons and daughters.  

Teach your children to believe.  Fill all of them with a sense of hope, with the knowledge that no matter how their family is built or broken, God has a plan for them, a plan for good and not for evil, to give them a future and a hope.


--Anderson T. Graves II   is a writer, community organizer and consultant for education, ministry, and rural leadership development.

Rev. Anderson T. Graves II is pastor of Miles Chapel CME Church in Fairfield, Alabama. He writes a blog called A Word to the Wise at www.andersontgraves.blogspot.com

Email atgravestwo2@aol.com
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