"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.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Bottom Line

I've heard there are two things everybody has: First, is an opinion ... In fact, thinking people have opinions on nearly every conceivable subject. But many opinionated people lack a rationale for their opinions. Many, in fact, hold their unfounded opinions with the tenacity of conviction. Just try sharing your faith with a few people. Some will listen and then dismiss you with a weak statement to the effect that they have their own beliefs and don't need yours. Others will tell you to stuffit where the sun don't shine. Still others will suck you into philosophical debate. But a few will feel their beliefs threatened and become defensive, even offended. I guess that's why conventional wisdom tells us to avoid discussing politics and religion in social situations. Among such sensitive people we will find Christians who jealously grasp their sectarian beliefs with a kind of white-knuckled desperation. If someone challenges their beliefs, their defense is an emotion laden, raised voice rather than a carefully reasoned, systematic explanation. Since God knows His creation better than we know ourselves, He dealt with this issue through His apostle Peter. 1 Peter 3:13-17 teaches us to know why we hold our beliefs: Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God's will, than for doing evil. The last couple of sentences touch on the key to defending our faith: No matter what we say in defense of our faith in Christ, our attitude in saying it speaks louder than our words. A godly attitude characterized by meekness and love shows the fruit of our belief system which is, in fact, the fruit of God's Spirit. Jesus' apostle Paul sumarized the influence of godly love in 1 Corinthians 13: If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love Our critics may argue with our theology, but they can't argue with God's fruit in our lives. That is our faith's bottom line.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Hey Dad, What's This Father's Day Thing All About?

This might be yer day, dad, but don't ya ... ... work yer tail off fer the wife 'n kids more'n just once a year? ... fix stuff fer 'em more'n just once a year? ... Take out their garbage more'n just once a year? ... referee the kids more'n just once a year? ... discipline 'em more'n just once a year? ... patch 'em up when they're hure more'n just once a year? ... praise their efforts (and not only for the kids!) more'n just once a year? ... encourage 'em (mom too!) when they're down more'n just once a year? ... go ta bat fer 'em more'n just once a year? ... put 'em before yer personal gratification more'n just once a year? ... sacrifice yer toys fer their needs more'n just once a year? ... sacrifice yer ambitions b'cause ya love 'em more'n your own life every single day?
If ya don't, ya got no right callin' yerself FATHER! But if'n yer a father every day, EVERY DAY IS FATHER'S DAY. ENJOY IT!

Saturday, June 18, 2005

The Test

This is a test! It is only a test. For the next seventy-five years, give or take a couple of dozen, you will be gratified and irritated by every conceivable experience: some blessings and some trials. If you are in Christ Jesus you have already passed the final. The only way you can fail to graduate is by quitting. In school we feel like our teachers are trying to fail us with trick test questions. While some teachers may indeed be that sadistic, God is not. He desperately wants us to pass this test of life. He wants it so badly that he gave us all the answers ahead of time, and He doesn't even call it cheating. If we only study His Answer Book and apply its wisdom to our lives, no test will defeat us, and we'll pass this course with flying colors. And the graduation banquet will be out of this world!

Thursday, June 16, 2005

The American Dream

Bankers promise the American Dream if you borrow enough. Then, about the time collectors start snarling at your door, your bankers are enjoying their own American dream. My day job requires pitching the company credit card, promising "ten-percent off on approval." Then, the very first time you're late making a payment, the interest rate climbs and they slap you with a penalty. Their strategy is simple: Most people will space off a payment at some time. When they do, the card issuing bank recovers far more than any signup premium they allowed. You know that, and I know that. Why, then, do we have to keep playing our silly credit game? Because retailers are no longer satisfied with the legimate profit of merchandise markup. To compete, they must rip-off the gullible public with promises of "free lunch". But before we get all righteously indignant about the evils of capitalism, let's analyze where the foundational fault finally falls. Human nature demands the promise of a free lunch. We fallen beings are as discriminating as fish, always ready to grab the bait-covered hook. But rather than fighting the fishing line, we grouse and moan about the dirty trick while being reeled in to bankrputcy. How does that make the banks' stockholders any richer?