"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.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Real Life?

Who would characterize "the other six days" as real life, encapsulating Sunday and church as something other than real? One possibility would be those who devour celebrity gossip rags or pulp romance novels. But let's be balanced! Another possibility is those who live for spectator sports, or their "hunt'n trips" each fall. Neither of those are categories of anonymous faces. They are individuals who happen to be fans of their particular interest niches. But what about the people who constantly feed on popular music, spending mega-bucks on ear-piercing car stereos and mp3 players, and those who spend every waking moment trying to outwit computer games. All of these, and more, are individuals for whom church attendance might be a part of their lives--the religious part of their lives. Popular wisdom admonishes us to avoid extremism, especially with regard to things religious. When asked to explain what "religion" is, most would give some answer involving church, or some formal theistic belief system. Essentially, however, religion is a far more basic human need than these ritualistic exercises. To practice or observe something religiously is to give it far more than lip service. It is to accept that something as a major, if not the top, priority of life. It is to bend ones life in conformity to that something. And yes, it is to seek out kindred spirits with which to share that something. Any number of somethings meet those criteria, with "church" being only one example. Fraternal organizations, trade unions, political parties and academic societies are but a few other examples of somethings eliciting religious devotion. And their devotees never denigrate them as something other than "real life." Why, then, do so many churchgoers separate the religious part of their lives from the real part? What does that distinction reveal about their attitudes, their commitment? God knows, and will judge accordingly, no matter what profession of faith they utter. But are you willing to know, O vain man, that faith apart from works is dead? (James 2:20)

Friday, May 27, 2005

Jesus Knocking

Was Jesus' physical form really tall, dark and handsome? According to Isaiah 53:2b, He was remarkably unremarkable in appearance: "He has no form nor magnificence that we should see Him; nor form that we should desire Him."

By contrast, 2 Corinthians 11:14 says, "And did not Satan marvelously transform himself into an angel of light?" C. S. Lewis had it right: The most physically beautiful of Narnia's creatures was evil personified.

If I had the talent to paint such a picture, Jesus would appear as a ragamuffin, "for we walk by faith, not by sight." (2 Corinthians 5:7) Any graphic depiction of Jesus tends to limit our appreciation to what we see, rather than opening it to His full revelation. Perhaps the Old Testament law against making "graven images" was intended to circumvent just this human response.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005


A man I met the other day, who stopped for just a chat, Had nothing in his look or style to make me doff my hat.

But when he held me in his gaze, those eyes! oh yes those eyes Displayed a world of deepest love that took me by surprise.

And in them I saw agony, of scope I cannot fathom. Pain there was in cosmic scale from voluntary passion.

How could he have smiled such a smile of joy contagious, A smile of perfect openness that, from man, seemed outrageous.

I tried to ask him who he was, the words stuck in my throat. His whole face beamed with glory bright, and laughter without gloat.

He turned as if to go his way but I said, “Sir, please wait.” He turned his head to take me in, and said, “Can you set bait?”

He saw my puzzled face gaze back, and then he smiled again. “A fisherman are you my friend, come, and you’ll fish men.”

This man of love and pain and joy, whose smile intoxicated; Could it be this was for me the work I’d long awaited?

“Sir, I need more time, you see, my family’s still living.” His fading smile broke my heart, for mean excuses giving.

“You must want to turn away from human loyalties’ binding, For your future lies with me, and sinners we’ll be finding.”

What could I say to this man who would love me to the death? I said, “Yes, Lord, I’ll follow you, fishing men till my last breath.”

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

More Than a Dream

      There's no dentist's office on the north west side of Kalispell. That in itself should have tipped me off that I was dreaming. Dreams aren't often realistic in every objective detail, but at times they reflect a reality of a far different kind.
      My dream dentist's office was in a massive, four story, cubical building. On en­ter­ing I faced a large, open area, like an arboretum, with flowers, trees and fountains. The professional offices were arranged along balconies that ran around three sides of the building. The fourth, northern side, was glass.
      I climbed the stairs to my dentist's waiting area, found a very comfortable easy chair, and sat down to read while awaiting my turn. This was an unusual waiting room, not only because of the comfortable chair, but also because a glass partition split it into an enclosed inner area, in which I sat, and an open outer area.
      My boring magazine allowed my eyes to wander, and I noticed a young man who was seated on a bed in the outer part of the room. He was neatly dressed in a dark suit, reading a large, gold edged book that I took to be a Bible. (My dreaming mind never thought to wonder why a bed was part of the waiting room furniture.)
      I concluded he was a fellow Christian, so I heaved myself out of the easy chair to walk over and introduce myself. "Do you mind if I join you?"
      "Please, sit down," the young man welcomed me.
      As we exchanged pleasantries I noticed the title on the cover of his book. It told me volumes about his religious affiliation. "I see you're reading from the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures," I ventured, "are you a Jehovah's Witness?"
      "Why yes." He seemed mildly surprised. "Do you know about the Witnesses?"
      "I know a little about your Bible translation, and that God can use any translation of His Word to work his will our lives."
      My memory of the rest of our dialogue is vague. Knowing I was a Christian, the young man began trying to challenge my beliefs by asking a few of Brooklyn's copyrighted, tough questions. I responded by sharing what my Father had been doing in my life, and how my relationship with Him had changed me. I told him of God's love, how much it meant to me, and how it inspired me to love not only God, my family and friends, but others as well.
      At some point in the conversation I awoke. It would have been only an interesting dream, if not for its aftereffect on me. I was immediately grabbed by my vivid memory of the dream and my lingering feeling of the love for the young man. It was a love beyond friendship, or even kinship. It was a love I've never felt for anyone except my own children, but it wasn't simply a father's love. It was the kind of love or concern I might feel if I thought one of my own children was at risk.
      As I lay awake wondering about the significance of the dream, it struck me: God had allowed me to experience an infinitesimal part of the love he demonstrated by sending his Son to save me. Sure, I had long given intellectual assent to His love, but I couldn't understand how it could cause Him to subject His one and only Son to such a disgraceful death, just so I could live with Him forever. Then I realized that Jesus, being the divine Son of God, was the only one who could survive the judgment that would have caused me to be separated from Him for eternity. His love provided my only way to receive forgiveness of my sin.
      Because of that God-given dream, I now know the truth. He loves me, not because it's in His best interests, not because it's in His job description, and not even because He has to as part of his nature. God loves me simply because He WANTS to. He loves me, PERSONALLY! He is genuinely fond of me. He enjoys my company when I go to Him in prayer, and He loves to hear the praises pour out of my love for Him.
      That truth has transformed my life's attitude from grudging acceptance of circumstances to heartfelt thanks for everything that comes my way. I now know that my loving Father allows the trials in my life only because they will ultimately benefit me. Like a loving parent who allows his or her children to suffer the minor consequences of their stubborn, disobedient behavior, God allows me to suffer, but He hates my pain almost as much as He hates the sin that caused it.
      God's love, which now means so much more to me, is for anyone who is willing to accept it. My response to His loving sacrifice was to reach out to him, to accept the gift of His only Son Jesus. His gift is life more abundant here on Earth than I ever thought possible. But that is less than a snowflake on the tip of the iceberg of eternity. Jesus submitted to the horrible death on the cross to exchange His holiness for my/our sin, earning for me/us the perfect holiness required to spend eternity with our loving Father God in heaven.
      That sounds almost too simple, like a four year old's Sunday school lesson. But God purposely made it simple so we spiritual morons could respond to Him.
      It's as simple and profound as this: The Bible says you have only two choices once you realize you have no goodness of your own to offer our perfectly holy God. You can accept Jesus' gift of His own divine holiness, or you can continue in your own way and suffer the consequences now, and for eternity.

Either way, that too will be more than a dream.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Divine Singularity

Speculating about God's nature is as useful as wings on a buffalo--get it? Buffalo wings? Such theorizing may taste great and seem satisfying, but in the end it just causes spiritual heartburn. Anyway, He's got to get a belly-laugh of infinite scale at all our edjumicated guesses about His nature. Rather than using His word, the Bible, as our foundational rock, we intellectual worms turn it into a trampoline from which we bounce to ever higher reaches of idiocy. A few years ago, some smart guys took their SciFi technological projections seriously and began calling themselves Futurists. They looked at the accelerating rate at which technology was advancing, did some calculations, and concluded that it was heading upward at an exponential rate. Well, anyone who's tried graphing an exponential curve realizes that a very short x-axis(timeline) produces a humungous y-axis(technology advance). In fact, with an open timeline, which we all hope to see for a while at least, the technology-curve quickly reaches a near-vertical climb. The "exponential" part means that for each specified unit of time, the curve rises by whatever "power" the math dictates. That means the curve gets closer to vertical with each tick of the clock. It doesn't take an Einstein to realize if that were true, the technological "explosion" would end civilization as we know it. They call the moment at which artificial intelligence surpasses human intelligence(SEED AI), the genesis of Technological Singularity, where technical advance becomes infinite.. If we take a hard look at recorded history, we'll see a cyclical pattern of advancement and decline, both technological and social. For each peak there's a resulting valley, and each cycle gains in amplitude. By itself, that cyclical amplification would seem to support the idea of the Technological Singularity. But clever beings that we are, we readjust our perceptive baseline with each cycle so the remarkable becomes mundane. All this speculation is our attempt at accounting for what we see. The idea of The Singularity scares materialists because they can't wrap their minds around it. The infinite--the eternal--is outside our finite and temporal frame of reference. But if The Singularity might exist in the cosmic, "over there," why couldn't an infinite, eternal Intelligence exist in the pre-material, "back there?" The concept of Divine Singularity isn't original. In fact, it's been popular among mystics of various stripes since cavemen first began contemplating their navels. It's been popular because mankind has always resisted the personal being who revealed Himself as I AM THAT I AM. The Spirit-Person called God occupies the known universe and beyond. He always has and He always will. Time and matter comprise only an instantaneous speck for the eternal, infinite I AM. The most fundamental physical laws say for every effect there must be a cause, and for every beginning there must be an ending. And when the material universe ends, all science, all philosophizing, all excuses will end with it. Everyone but the occasional incompromising naturalist admits a sense of something existing outside the material. Most of us know, though we don't know how, that when our bodies cease to exist, something of us will be left behind. That something is the human spirit God breathed into us, and when our corruptible bodies leave us, where will our spirits reside? We can know the answer, and receive the supernatural peace that knowledge can give. Whether we call the I AM God, or the Divine Singularity, we will most certainly answer to Him.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

And Days of Auld Lang Syne

As an Evangelical Christian, I shudder at being identified with the Roman church. And I think that reaction would be common with most Evangelicals. Yet, don't we cling tenaciously to the verses of Romans' chapter seven? This passage, at first glance, seems to excuse our wandering ways as being "sin living in me." So whenever we fall--or jump--into sin, we join The Church of What's Happening Now so we can paraphrase Flip Wilson's Geraldine by saying, "The Sin Within made me do it." Well, aren't we the nostalgic ones! We lounge comfortably on the Rock of our salvation, gazing fondly at the sin we cherished in the days of auld lang syne. We were so happy then, in our ignorance and depravity. But now we're upstanding saints of God, gazing at the memories of, longing for the sensual gratification of, the carefree days of old long ago. How much wallowing in nostalgia for the old life does it take for us to resurrect the Old Man of sin? Most of us could easily answer that question from our own experience. Yet, which one of us consistently shuns the things of our sinful past in order to faithfully walk in our new way? We flirt with the movies, the music, the literature, the substances that were part of that life, assuming our strength in Christ accounts for it, presuming that our liberty in Christ allows for it. And so it may. We must, however, ask ourselves one question as we enjoy our liberty in Christ Jesus: Are we giving Him who gave His all for us, less than our best in return? Different schools of Christian theology argue whether or not careless living will cost us our eternal salvation. But, what does that issue have to do with how we live our Earthly lives? The answer is, ABSOLUTELY NOTHING! If we can't manage to live for Jesus in these few years we have left in the flesh, how can we expect to live for Him for eternity?

Friday, May 06, 2005

This Little Light of MINE

Julie Anne Fidler reminisced about her fandom and acquaintance with Amy Grant back in the last century in article worth reading. I too remember Amy, from her early days as an up-and-coming kid performer, to her Christian/secular crossover, and finally to the "Christian" media blackout days. Then, and now, I stand in awe, not at the rare, Christ-like grace of Popular Christianity, but at the evangelical church's phobia over maintaining an E.C.(Evangelically Correct) appearance. If we didn't pretend to be perfect, maybe the lost could see Jesus' light through us, rather than all the artificial light we feel obliged to radiate. Is it any wonder we're branded hypocrites when we fall face-first into sin? Christ haters don't have to slander us to discredit us. We do a perfectly creditable job of supplying them with more ammunition than they can ever use. I'm afraid Yeshua's way has become just another religion, rather than inspiring religious zeal for following Him and finishing the job of turning the world upside down.