"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.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Above All

      Folks object to the Bible because it's just a book of rules that aren't relevant to the twenty-first century. Okay, it does include a few rules--and some good stuff, too.
      Rules can be a good thing. If you see a sign above a water fountain that says, "Don't drink the water!" you have two choices: Assume the sign-maker was on a power trip, or was a sadist who wanted to keep thirsty people from getting satisfied. Or assume the sign-maker discovered that the water was poisonous and wanted to keep people from dying an awful, ugly death.
      If you're golfing and the clubhouse horn blows you have two choices: Assume the lounge is behind on sales and the manager just wants some golfers to belly up to the bar and order drinks. Or look to the sky for storm clouds and listen for distant thunder.
      Both of the above situations include directives that might seem to spoil your fun or cramp your style, but they are not just outmoded rules. They are entirely relevant because of the dangers that prompt them.
      Relevancy isn't gauged by the hip language and the contemporary issues presented. Thousands of today's authors write relevant, self-help articles and books, but precious few of them succeed in changing the readers' lives over the long haul. Yet, the Bible's "irrelevant" content has been changing lives profoundly for centuries, and shows no sign of becoming obsolete.
      When a book with that track record includes the phrase, "above all," I tend to listen up--especially when that phrase appears only a few times. It appears just three times in the New Testament's letters to the churches, and once in the Proverbs. Each of these occurrences deals with instructions for life--rules--to prevent injury.
      Proverbs is a book of rules within a book of rules. When Proverbs 4:23 tells us, Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life, you can choose to ignore it as one of those style-cramping rules. Or you can take heed and live.
      James 5:12 says, Above all, my brothers, do not swear—not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. Let your "Yes" be yes, and your "No," no, or you will be condemned. Who would have thought that such a common thing as swearing would hold such a severe consequence? Does that show how jaded our culture has become?
      1 Peter 4:8 says, Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Love commands are among the most common themes in the New Testament, and this verse places it as one of the "Above All" requirements. Reviewing all the commands and descriptions of love, one idea pops out above all, prefer others to yourself, meaning show deference to all others, friends, brethren, family, and even enemies.
      The last above all command is 2 Peter 1:20, which says, Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation. At the present time it seems everybody is an arm-chair prophesy expert. The Left Behind series of novels helped popularize end-times prophecy, and now millions of the brethren are consumed with watching the signs of the times for any indication of prophecy's fulfillment, and especially of the Lord's return. Yes, it is an interesting study. Yes, Jesus told us to watch for His return. And yes, many of us are neglecting other aspects of Christian living in favor of watching current events and interpreting them in the light of end-times prophecy. To be ready for His return, the last thing we need to do is figure out when it will happen. Jesus said no one but Father God knows, or can know when He will return to earth. The first and only thing we need to do is prepare ourselves, our relationships and our affairs for that Day.
      Since we don't know when that Day will come, it could be today. Are we ready to face Jesus? Or are we still harboring unconfessed, unrepented sin? No religion, no teaching, no program can rid our lives of sin and prepare us to face Jesus in judgment. Jesus is the Way, but each of us has to walk in it--in Him, holy, as He is holy.

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