"So," they say, "nobody's perfect!"
But the Vinedresser won't buy that.
Given the opportunity, He will trim the unproductive suckers and shape the branches so each one will bask in Sonlight.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

TODAY News Article

An article in Today today reported that the Morning Show hosts at 98.7 The Bull are "spreading the love" around the Northwest by planting $100 bills in grocery stores. The Portland, Oregon country music station owned up to conducting the on-air promotion.

I find Today's reporter Eun Kyung Kim catchphrase, "spreading the love," more than slightly disquieting, in that she equates love with cash money. Does that usage of the word reflect the current state of Popular Culture? If so, that would explain a lot of today's social dysfunction. The Bible holds love up to a far greater standard, as every Christ-follower should know. Let us not allow ourselves to be so influenced by Pop Culture that we adopt its warped attitudes toward all the most important aspects of life.

I Love Hateful People

Well, at least I try to. You see, they weren’t born hateful. Like you and me, they were born self-willed, with a propensity for lying, disobeying, stealing, and hating

You think not? How often have you watched two-year-olds playing together? All toys are theirs. And somehow, when a chunk of chocolate cake turns up missing, Mickey didn’t do it, even though there’s chocolate all over his face. Also, you don’t wanna make him mad, ‘cause he’ll make you regret it in the most ingenious ways.

You see, Mickey is a fledgling sinner, as was I, and even you. And I continued sinning until I turned my life over to its rightful Owner. That’s why I can’t, in good conscience, hate hateful people—I was one. But Jesus said to love my enemies(Matthew 5:43), and since he’s my new boss, I gotta try(and try again, and try harder). Thing is, he loved me, even when I was still his enemy, so I know he wasn’t just blowing hot air when he told us to do the same(Romans 5:8).

Will said hateful people fall all over themselves loving us back? Not likely. In fact, they’re likely to stab us in the back. We can always try avoiding them, but somehow they’ll always find us. But that doesn’t exempt us from obeying Jesus’ command, if we belong to God through Jesus’ cleansing blood. And if we don’t, it doesn’t really matter, does it?

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

My Latest Adventure

Most people probably wouldn’t call it an adventure, exactly, but fooling around with computer operating systems, and even building computers, takes a certain … well … daring do. For example, I just replaced Windows 7 with Linux Mint 15, which seems to lack a software driver for my sound card. But for the fan noise, my computer is mute. I must say, though, everything else works better than ever.

In a way, that relative silence is a blessing, as Netflix isn’t nearly as appealing without audio. Who knows, I may have to read or something.

Speaking of reading, God’s Word has been blessing me hugely of late. I discovered while volunteering at the Health Center that while listening to the spoken Word while reading it opens up new vistas of comprehension, the audio portion tends to rush me through passages that I would otherwise study in detail. So deeper, more detailed Bible study is another adventure, and an unwitting side benefit of my computer experimentation.

All this leads me to the inevitable question: Will I ever learn not to try fixing “it” if it ain’t broke?

I doubt it.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Please Call Me James

A brother at church asked if he might address me as James, even though I usually go by Jim. I think the name Jim always seemed right to me, not because James was too formal, but because my given name conveyed a dignity I felt I lacked. Though I don’t know exactly why he opted to address me as James, I like to think it’s out of respect and brotherly love.

I’m certainly not worthy of my namesake, Jesus’ brother James, as his reputation in Jerusalem was that of a wise and holy man. In fact, they referred to him as “Yakub the Sadiq.” While speaking with an unrelated woman in public was disgraceful in those days, Yakub did it routinely, and no eyebrows were raised because he was trusted.

For years I’ve prayed for that kind beyond reproach reputation, and for years I’ve fallen short. But I’m gaining on it. My vision is to have my inner thoughts and motives as pure as my outward actions.

Am I a hypocrite, because what goes on inside is different from what I do? I suppose that depends on your definition of hypocrisy. I like to think of it as exercising a modicum of self-control, and such small victories in my thought-life represent huge leaps of spiritual growth, at least for me.

My Mission Impossible is to be like Jesus. For years I suffered frustration, even anger, for falling short of that ambition. I allowed the enemy to snare me with self-condemnation, and I occasionally succumb to that temptation even now, but understand that it is not of God. Instead, it is from the enemy of my soul(Romans 8:1).

Even though, as everyone, I haven’t reach the standard of holiness Jesus raised, I now don’t mind hearing myself addressed as James. It’s a reminder of who I want to be, and by God’s grace, will become.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

C. S. Lewis, on Living In The Present Moment

TO MRS. RAY GARRETT: On the real program of the spiritual life—living in the present moment.

12 September 1960

The whole lesson of my life has been that no ‘methods of stimulation’ are of any lasting use. They are indeed like drugs—a stronger dose is needed each time and soon no possible dose is effective. We must not bother about thrills at all. Do the present duty—bear the present pain—enjoy the present pleasure—and leave emotions and ‘experiences’ to look after themselves.

That’s the programme, isn’t it?

From The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume III
Compiled in Yours, Jack

Could Lewis succinctly express profound truths, or what?

“Tolerance,” is a double-edged sword. While we must practice tolerance of others’ faults, or become guilty of judging, we must not develop tolerance(become desensitized) for “methods of stimulation,” such as emotional pleasure or pain. This moment is all we have to give our Eternal Lover, and to experience life in the moment, we must not anticipate the pleasure, dread the pain, or regret the inevitable mistakes.

Of course, to experience our fullest life we must do our best to be our best, and we can achieve that best only in the power of God’s Holy Spirit. Our Savior created us as we are—warts and all—so he might empower us to become the man or woman of his vision.


Monday, September 16, 2013

Thompson’s Old-Guy Relationship Guide

I’ve been thinking a lot about relationships lately, probably because I so miss being in one. At my age, most unmarried women have been hurt by a man at some time, so I completely understand the “once burned, twice shy” fear. But all men are not control freaks; we just tend to be. So mature women tend to prefer friendships with other women, as they can communicate at a more intimate level without fear of encouraging attempts at domination.

Relationships between women take place at a whole different level than a woman with a man. Women are more intuitive about feelings, while men think more concretely—as in, dense. Women tend to be more patient in their pursuits, while men have a harder time appreciating the long-view, and “want it now,” whatever “it” might be. Both men and women expect the opposite sex to understand their unique perspectives, which they usually don’t, any more than an apple can expect to taste like a grape. Fact is, expectations are poison to relationships.

That’s where Christ’s love comes into the relational picture, both within the church, and between men and women. Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. (1 Peter 4:8) The NASB New Testament has 108 instances of “one another” statements, all of them detailing relational aspects within the church. Trouble is, many couples fail to understand that every standard for “brethren” relationships also applies to them. Of course, total compliance to those standards is lemon-cream-pie-in-the-sky in this largely carnal, church social climate, but where such standards are taken seriously and obeyed in interpersonal relationships, there is no “once burnt” to be “twice shy” of.

To establish and maintain godly relationships, we must first cultivate loving intimacy, individually, with our Father, through Christ Jesus. That’s, first, as in before even thinking of pursuing intimacy with another. Of course, already established couples have to try much harder.

Second, we must crucify our expectations. Otherwise, we’ve torpedoed the relationship before it even leaves the pier. Wow! That’s a hard one, as our human nature manufactures expectations by the submarine-load.

Third, we must love one another as Christ loves his bride, the church. Period. That’s First Corinthians Thirteen-love. All else will develop on God’s timetable.

And forth, we must pray hard—together! Because only God’s Holy Spirit can keep those bonds pure and strong.

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Sunday, September 15, 2013

Quote From An Atheist

“When you open your mind to the impossible, sometimes you find the truth.”
Dr. Walter Bishop

Okay, I’ll admit; Dr. Bishop is a character on the TV series, Fringe. Nevertheless, he’s an atheist in the series, and wastes no opportunity to malign belief in God. Which is odd, considering one would think the writers would spot inconsistencies in their scripts. I mean, I do, and they’re at least as smart as I am.

So, back to the impossibility at hand: Theoretical physicists deal with the “impossible” every day; that’s why they qualify their title with the word, “theoretical.” They can’t prove their postulates, but they must come up with something, regardless how impossible-sounding, as an alternative to God’s existence. Even if God’s existence is more plausible than their unsubstantiated, “scientific” theories, it is entirely unacceptable, as to them such thinking is “closed-minded” and “irrational,” while their attempts at debunking theistic belief is obviously “open-minded” and “rational.” Obvious to them, anyway.

Perhaps I’m not the first to admit that many who call themselves Christian are, in fact, closed-minded and irrational, but I’m not too far from the head of the line. The problem with Popular Christianity is its, dare I say it, superstitious and mythological historic and social ties. Where Christian teaching aligns with God’s Word, that’s not the case, but most, if not all, of the denominations and movements within Christendom carry with them remnants of Romanism, which was the first, and greatest, apostasy of Christ’s church.

Honestly, I’m not even sure how much of what I believe is God’s Truth, as I’ve picked it up along my way from generations of similarly indoctrinated teachers. That’s why I question everything but the fact that God is, eternal, self-existent, and personal. And Jesus the Christ fulfills at least dozens, and possibly hundreds of Hebrew prophesies, which leaves me no choice but to believe Jesus is exactly who he said he is.

That’s why I’m a Christ-follower, and not a “Christian,” even though the two terms are supposed to be synonymous. I love, especially him, because he first loved me, sinner that I was, from the moment he spoke the universe into existence. I don’t understand much of God’s revealed Word, but as Sam Clements once said, “It ain't those parts of the Bible that I can't understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand.” And by “bother,” I mean convict. My life’s quest is to learn as much as possible about God in this life, so I won’t be all that surprised by what I find out in the next. That, and I want to share God’s love and goodness with as many as I can, so they can experience the unspeakable and glorious joy I have now, and is just the beginning of my eternal joy.

That atheists are determined to escape God’s eternal glory grieves me, but I can only influence those who are willing to be influenced. What grieves me far more, however, is all the “good” folks who believe in, “the Man upstairs,” and refuse to know him personally, through the Son he gave just for that purpose.

Friday, September 13, 2013

C.S. Lewis On Grieving

Yes—at first one is sort of concussed and ‘life has no taste and no direction’. One soon discovers, however, that grief is not a state but a process—like a walk in a winding valley with a new prospect at every bend.

Lewis couldn't have put it any better, as usual. I would, however, add that it's not only grief that is not a state, but a process. Life itself is a process, and the "winding valley" produces surprises at every bend. We see some of them as prospects, and some as setbacks, but each surprise is either God-ordained, or God-allowed. He will now allow His children to be tried beyond our ability to not only survive, but learn and profit from it.

I've not finished my grieving process, and may never fully complete it, but I must move on. As Lewis implied; the adventure lies in finding out what lies around every bend.

Isaiah 12:2
"See, God has come to save me.
I will trust in him and not be afraid.
The Lord God is my strength and my song;
he has given me victory.”


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An Old Man

I saw and old man limping along,
     Shoulders stooped,
     Back bent.

Will that be me in five years,

Father, keep me erect in stature.

Even if you choose to allow pain,
     Give me the courage,
To walk in a way that praises You,
     All my life’s days.

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Thursday, September 12, 2013

Comments on LeVay's Satamism

 I appreciate Lex Friedman's take on Anton LaVey's little folly, with one reservation: Spirituality and "real" life are inexorably linked, parallel aspects of being, giving whatever we do in this short time on Earth, eternal impact. It's just that the spiritual aspect is harder to see with our natural perceptions. In fact, we are all born blinded to it. And Religion doesn't help at all; in most cases it just muddies the spiritual waters with dogmatic predispositions and prejudices.

Would that I could claim my rebirth in Jesus eradicated those faults in me, but at least because of his spiritual insights that I've gained through his Word, I constantly fight those tendencies when I recognize them in myself. Were it not for knowing him, I'd have to be an atheist.

Human Religion would lack all merit, if not for its moral mandates. And even at that, many non-religious people are better human beings than most who call themselves "Christian." Yes, that comes close to being a generalization, which I avowedly hate, but after sixty-seven years of watching life on this planet I can't escape its truth.

The counteracting truth that keeps me loving and following Christ, however, is that I can see the changes he's made within me. So I do my best to ignore others' faults, knowing my Savior does the same for me in the name of Love. And isn't that what life is about?