"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, August 31, 2009

More Lovein' Teachings

1Co 13:1-10 ESV (1) If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. (2) 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. (3) If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. (4) Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant (5) or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; (6) it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. (7) Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (8) Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. (9) For we know in part and we prophesy in part, (10) but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.
The apostle Paul concludes his message of unity in diversity begun in chapter twelve by expounding on "a more excellent way" than that of simply performing charismatic(spiritually gifted) acts. First, he prioritizes two facets of Christian life: proclaiming, and loving.         Compare Paul's teaching in I Corinthians chapter thirteen with James' teaching in chapter one of his epistle: Jas 1:26 If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person's religion is worthless. So, comparing Paul's description of the useless noisiness of speech without love, we see that it distills out to simply worthless religion.         Let's further compare Paul's "speech without love" to James' "works without faith," encapsulated in his letter's second chapter, verse 26: For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.         These two passages exemplify how principles taught in the Bible support, shape and modify one another. As a graphic example, a basic, rectangular table has four legs, one attached to each corner of the flat top. Would we trust that basic table to support our weight? What if we were to dance a jig up there? Probably not a good idea, without cross-bracing the legs. Paul's and James' two concepts, viewed graphically, form such a crossed beam relationship; the action of speech without the quality of love, versus the action of works without the quality of faith. Viewing one concept without the other produces an incomplete understanding of the relationship between each action's efficacy and its motivating quality.         Further exploring Paul's take on the issue, we see a latticework of comparisons supporting the one principle. First, of course, verse one mentions speech without love. We all know folks who seem to enjoy hearing their own voices, whether or not they have anything to say. Meet the brash-sounding cymbal. Verse two portrays the powerful, high-profile minister who courts the image of an all-knowing, all-understanding prophet of endless faith. Without presuming to judge such a person, when we see a demanding attitude, rudeness in their behavior toward the less worthy, or even humor at others' expense, we can't think very highly of them, and we are likely right. And verse three speaks of the philanthropic or the zealous, who pursue their sacrificial religious disciplines for any number of reasons ... love not being one of them. If only their wrong motivations were more obvious to their admiring public.         Then Paul gives us a number of criteria for discerning the quality of our motivation. One of them strongly infers that these standards must be applied mainly to ones self: (Love) does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.         All told, Paul's injunctions here leave little open to dispute regarding the primacy of our works' motivations. Why, then, do we see so godly love in action?         Because hating is easier. Love requires faithfulness, which is a word that our contemporary world has just about forgotten. Verse eight says it in three words: Love never fails. Romances fail. Marriages fail. Leaders fail. Both the strong and the weak, the great and the small fail, but love never fails. If you want to pursue some end that includes a panic button, run from love. Both the rewards and the costs of godly love are unimaginable. In sports terms, godly love is the Big Leagues, the Penant race, the World Series, while what the world calls love isn't even Little League; it's T-Ball.         Everyone seems to spend their lives chasing after something, thinking they'll know what it is when they find it. Yet, outside of Christ, they wouldn't recognize it even if they did find it. While godly love is the biggest and best purpose for our lives, and despite its high cost, it makes life worth living. That's one of those apparent conflicts between spiritual truth and the worldly wisdom we're used to. But God created us in his image, and part of that image is love.         Fulfill your destiny. Let God love the world through you. It's what you were meant to do.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Good Day, Y'all

That's the final message the apostle Peter sends the scattered church in chapter three of the letter we call First Peter. Yet, it's not a blanket blessing his audience could redeem at will; there are conditions. Let's look at the whole passage:
Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. For, 'Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech. He must turn from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it. 1 Peter 3:8-11 NIV
What could be more innocuous than telling people to live in harmony? To be sympathetic? To live as brothers? Or to be compassionate and humble? Many of today's preachers voice directives such as these from their pulpits regularly, so we know today's church has heard them. Why, then, does so much of today's church ignore them?         The first conditions seem straight forward enough: Harmonious living simply requires our living in agreement with one another. Or if we can't agree, disagreeing civilly. Recently a brother and I found ourselves discussing a Bible teaching that has caused considerable division within the historical Christian church. While the discussion was lively, we ended it still friends, agreeing to disagree. Human pride demands we wrangle a concession from our opponents, regardless the relationship's closeness. We find it almost impossible to resolve arguments because our competitive minds tell us that we can't quit arguing until the opponent caves in and admits we're right. Nothing is quiet as satisfying to our carnality as a hard-earned, "I told ya so." While this behavior rankles our tempers, we learn to expect it from some of our friends and brethren; just one small fox allowed to spoil the vine(Song of Solomon 2:15)         Sympathy seems easy enough, maybe even accompanied by a gentle pat on the back. Tack on the next condition, however, and we find a call to action; loving as brothers means doing something to help alleviate our brother's misfortune(James 2:16). Yes, I'm afraid such love might cost us something, whether it be money, time or care. Yet, living the authentic Christian life requires such sacrifice.         Compassion and humility seem unrelated at first. Too bad the arrogant perspective defined as "Big I, little you" so often finds itself countered by the false compassion of "Poor you, blessed me." Compassion without humility begets prideful elitism, too often resulting in the giver lording it over the recipient. Such false-benevolence in Christ's name serves only to blaspheme our loving Lord.         Repaying evil for evil or insult for insult seems justified in this eye-for-an-eye world, but God's command to us through the apostle Peter is, "Don't!" If we've been called to follow Christ, a huge part of that calling is to bless in the face of curses and minister in the face of arrogance. To refuse that calling is to refuse Christ's perfect blood-sacrifice and to continue the living death of sin.         The church knows of these conditions, and many others found in Scripture that are directly related. Why, then, do we who are the church seem ignorant of them? At best, such preaching elicits confessions of our disobedience, maybe even a trip down the sawdust trail to the old fashioned alter of prayer. Though tears are shed and resolutions made, our lives continue essentially the same. Instead of turning the world upside down as our spiritual forbears began to do in the early church, we continue in a status quo that not only fails to glorify our God, but blasphemes his Holy Spirit by refusing to obey while we blame our Savior for our religion.         As politicians love to claim, it's time for change. But only one kind of change will bless our future, or our eternity: Obedience.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


When believers take strong exception to another's teaching or attention-getting ministry style, they at times point the bony finger of judgment, calling their adversary an angel of light, referring to two Scripture passages:
For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve. (2 Corinthians 11:13-15 NIV)
How hast thou fallen from the heavens, O shining one, son of the dawn! Thou hast been cut down to earth, O weakener of nations. (Isa 14:12 YLT) or How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!(Isa 14:12 KJV)
        Trouble is, we often find pointing fingers crossing, like swords in a duel. All the while, the world looks on in wonder at the "men of God" pasting labels, casting dispersions and declaring outright falsehoods against those with whom they disagree.         And we wonder why the church isn't "turning the world upside down" with its gospel of love, mercy and grace. If I didn't already love the Lord, there's no way anyone would entice me into some den of religion.         Mention the subject of alienation of the unchurched around most tabernacles of Christendom, and you will get vociferous agreement and bony, condemnatory fingers pointed at "Them." It's always "Their" fault. "If They'd only live according to Holy Scripture, we would have no problem with them."         It would appear someone is suffering from an acute case of beam-in-the-eye ... but not me! Doesn't the Bible say, "Love those that agree with you and are favorably disposed toward you?"         Heck no! God's word commands love in so many passages that we'd be well advised to read the whole Bible. And where it doesn't command love in so many words, it spells out what love means and how to do it within the church and in the world.         Christendom is full of "brethren" who refuse to fellowship with them, because we're right.         Sounds Biblical to me.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Uncommon Sense

To the casual passerby, the bloody mess hanging limply on one of three Golgotha crosses, hardly identifiable as a human being, would likely not suggest royalty, nobility or any sort of excellence. In fact, he would not even draw the uninterested observer's pity; executed with two criminals, he no doubt deserved whatever suffering he received. Only disgraced neerdowells, the scum of the earth, wound up on the accursed, Roman cross.         Looking forward to that time, Isaiah the prophet wrote:
As many were astonished at you--his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the children of mankind--so shall he sprinkle many nations; kings shall shut their mouths because of him; for that which has not been told them they see, and that which they have not heard they understand. Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. (Isa 52:14-15 & Isa 53:1-4 ESV)
        So Yeshua, unremarkable son of Yoseph the carpenter, conceived out of wedlock, ended his life a complete failure. Is there any wonder that so many people, even today, despise that unfortunate young man and ridicule the deluded few who fanatically follow his teachings? It's just a matter of common sense.         Picking up Isaiah's narrative at verse five:
But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned--every one--to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isa 53:5-6 ESV)
        Here, common sense flies out the window of credibility. First, how could one man's suffering and death remove the guilt of sin from the whole of mankind? And second, if he indeed had such influence with the eternal, self-existent God, why would he ever submit to such complete injustice?         The answers lie, hidden like a massive iceberg beneath its snow-capped tip, in another Scripture passage:
No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. (Joh 3:13-20 ESV)
        First, while Yeshua, known to us as Jesus, was just a man, he was the only man ever to have descended from God's presence to the very earth he created(John 1). Second, God lifted him up, out of his low-born mediocrity, to become the one object of faith that would save believers from the universal fate of mankind, unto eternal life.         The best-known of all Scripture verses explains, with beautiful economy, how this one man's death could achieve so much:
No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. (Joh 3:13-18 ESV)
        God's infinite love reached out to his fallen, hopeless creation with his only divine Son, that all who believe in who he is and what he did, should not suffer perdition with the rest of mankind but gain eternal life.         That touted common sense shrivels like a leaf in fire when we compare God's action with what his righteous wrath could have done to us. Rather than punishing his fickle people as we deserve, he spent his Son's human life to save us from the condemnation we deserve. While belief in his name--his true identity and his selfless work--prevents our just condemnation, refusing to believe guarantees it, because his name means he is "God with us."         If you can't believe in who Jesus is and what he did for sinful man, please, don't blame your precious common sense. While refusing Jesus is indeed common, only the blindness of rebellion prevents your coming to faith in him.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Mirror, Mirror, On The Wall

Have you ever seen people who seem fascinated by their image in a mirror? You can stand there conversing with them, and all the while their eyes are glued(figuratively) to their image in the mirror. It's as if they are afraid they might forget what they look like. Jesus' little brother must have known someone like that.
Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it--he will be blessed in what he does. James 1:23-25 NIV
God's word is indeed a mirror for those who actively seek self-knowledge from God's all-knowing perspective. And once they see their true selves in comparison to God's perfection, they have only two courses of action to take: Evasion and denial, or conviction and repentance.         Common sense tells us that if we tailor our lives according to our personal dreams, appetites and self-image, happiness will reward us. The apostle James' beautiful promise at the end of verse twenty-five, however, counters our fallen nature's wisdom: But doing it(looking intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continuing to do this)--he will be blessed in what he does.         I picture the little kid who, having climbed into a tree, tries to let himself down to the ground. He hangs on the lowest limb, toes desperately feeling for terra firma, unable to see the ground three inches directly below him. He clings to his personal perspective, which, in the view of a bystander who can see the true situation, seems completely silly. All that little fella needs to be happy is to know the truth, but incomplete information prevents it.         Everyone wants happiness. In fact, though our Declaration of Independence guarantees us the right to pursue happiness, no one but God can actually promise happiness. He bases those promises on our willingness to obey the rules and principles he has established based on his perfect knowledge.         We laugh at the poor sap who can't drag himself away from his natural image in a mirror, but think we're perfectly justified in basing our quest for happiness on our own faulty, jealously guarded self-image. What gorgeous irony.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Vital Principles for Victorious Christian Living

Seems like a particular passage of Scripture comes around occasionally, and every time, I read it as though it were a fresh thought.
Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such 'wisdom' does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. James 3:13-17 NIV
This particular situation calls for some sort of expletive, but I'm not sure which in the lexicon of cuss words would fail to offend my readers. Anyway, good grief, this passage is rich in powerful principles for victorious Christian living, and we will profit from reviewing it whenever it pops up.         Jesus' little brother James opens this passage with a question that many church folks might find a little too easy to answer: Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, ... I can see a classroom full of kid-size desks with adult Christians stuffed into them. Hands raised and eyes wide, they all long to be recognized as Wise and Understanding. After all, they person(a slight concession to political correctness) committees, serve as church officers, teach Sunday school, and/or sing louder than the others during worship. How easy it is to build up momentum through the easy portion of a scripture verse, then slide right over the conditions for obedience or the consequences for disobedience included at the end of the passage. Verse thirteen ends with the following condition: ,... by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. With that last clause comes crunch time; are we going to admit to such godly humility, thereby seeming proud of our spirituality, or are we going to demure, obviously faking humility? No one enjoys admitting to stinky attitudes, but I think it's safe to say we all have them, regardless how deeply we may hide them.         Speaking of stinky attitudes, verse fourteen takes the prize: But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, ... Such hateful attitudes, even at their subtle birth, amount to a heart-filling, carnality feast. And with such carnality filling ones heart there is no room for godly love. The last bit of this verse holds a critical truth: ..., do not boast about it or deny the truth. While few are likely to boast about such stinkin' thinkin', we all tend to deny it, first to ourselves, then to others, and finally to God. Trouble is, denying sin ... and this is sin in its purest form ... prevents conviction, confession and repentance. Bottom line for verse fourteen? Eternal Security notwithstanding, a fairly common behavior in the church will prevent many alleged saints from enjoying eternity with their Lord. What an unnecessary tragedy!         Verse fifteen almost goes without saying, it seems so obvious. And verse sixteen is a concise commentary on the sad state of today's church: For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.         How can anyone wonder why God's church seems to be losing ground in its feeble attempt to obey Christ's Great Commission? Church leaders lament losing an entire generation of young people to the Pop Culture of Antichrist, while refusing to confront the body's rampant sin. What a shame we fear offending influential-but-sinning parishioners more than offending our holy God.         Here's a Scripture passage that might seem off-topic, but I think it perfectly punctuates the above verses: Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Galatians 6:7,8

Friday, August 07, 2009

Conviction vs. Convenience

Two words that begin quite similarly, but whose implications are starkly opposed, are conviction and convenience. Yeshua Hamashia's disciples must pursue a growing awareness of their Master's teachings, and a growing application of those teachings to their daily lives. In short, they must adopt and live by his convictions ... whether or not it is convenient. For the Christian, Jesus is all there is.         I have to thank Focus on the Family for broadcasting an interview with Mike Yankoski about his book, Under the Overpass, which recounts his experiences traveling with his friend Sam Purvis as indigent, homeless men. Here's a link to Yankoski's book web site, and go here for his personal web site.         Their goal was to discover how God's church responds to and cares for homeless people. In a nutshell, they found the church offering just about a nutshell's worth of proactive love to these two homeless men who may have appeared ragged and dirty, but were obviously sane and sober. Two possible explanation exist for the church's apathetic response to their obvious need: First, members of Christ's earthly body may assume that homeless people are down on their luck through their own fault; they are lazy, drunk, or stoned, and any help Christians give them will go toward perpetuating their irresponsible lifestyle. While that may be a valid concern, Christ's followers seem quite willing to assign the worst of motives to those who are less fortunate, perhaps even using their suspicions as grounds for dismissing those in need with a trite blessing and an promise of prayer. Or second, God has removed his Holy Spirit's lamp stand from far more congregations than anyone has suspected. Our blasé attitudes toward others' needs might be more forgivable, however, if we actually remembered to pray as promised.         Luke chapter ten paints a vivid picture of attitude problems among religious folks with the parable of the good Samaritan. A hapless traveler fell victim to bandits, who left him to die, bleeding in the ditch alongside the road. The first two travelers passing by the injured man were priests, who couldn't risk touching his blood and becoming ceremonially unclean; an attitude akin to today's church people who welcome into their fold only those who are suitably sanitary and affluent. But the third person to approach the bloody traveler, a despised Samaritan, demonstrated his compassion by going out of his way to attend to his need.         Then, as now, religious people abdicated their god-given responsibility to care for those in need. We know of their fear of contamination, but perhaps they also feared the bandits would lay hold of them if they paused to help, though God's commands to care for the needy allowed no such exception. Or, maybe helping the poor guy was simply inconvenient.

Monday, August 03, 2009

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing


Thomas Nelson (July 14, 2009)


Robert Liparulo


Liparulo did it again, with four eminently readable youth novels already to his credit. But if he notched his computer for every adult to get hooked on The Dreamhouse Kings series he'd have to start writing longhand--or get another computer.
        TIMESCAPE takes a fresh approach to time travel; indeed, reading it is more of an escape from time, causing nonessential activities like eating and sleeping to take a back seat to consuming the artful narrative. Adjectives such as "gripping" just lack the needed descriptive punch when reviewing this novel. I'll just say, with one more installment of The Dreamhouse Kings scheduled for release come January, I'll have to get my eating and sleeping done in advance.


Robert Liparulo is a former journalist, with over a thousand articles and multiple writing awards to his name. His first novel, Comes a Horseman, released to critical acclaim. Each of his subsequent thrillers—Germ, Deadfall, and Deadlock—secured his place as one of today’s most popular and daring thriller writers.

He is known for investing deep research and chillingly accurate predictions of near-future scenarios into his stories. In fact, his thorough, journalistic approach to research has resulted in his becoming an expert on the various topics he explores in his fiction, and he has appeared on such media outlets as CNN and ABC Radio.

Liparulo’s visual style of writing has caught the eye of Hollywood producers. Currently, three of his novels for adults are in various stages of development for the big screen: the film rights to Comes A Horseman. were purchased by the producer of Tom Clancy’s movies; and Liparulo is penning the screenplays for GERM and Deadfall
for two top producers. He is also working with the director Andrew Davis (The Fugitive, Holes) on a political thriller. Novelist Michael Palmer calls Deadfall “a brilliantly crafted thriller.” March 31st marked the publication of Deadfall’s follow-up, Deadlock, which novelist Gayle Lynds calls, “best of high-octane suspense.”

Liparulo’s bestselling young adult series, Dreamhouse Kings, debuted last year with House of Dark Shadows and Watcher in the Woods. Book three, Gatekeepers, released in January, and number four, Timescape, in July. The series has garnered praise from readers, both young and old, as well as attracting famous fans who themselves know the genre inside and out. Of the series, Goosebumps creator R.L. Stine says, “I loved wandering around in these books. With a house of so many great, haunting stories, why would you ever want to go outside?”

With the next two Dreamhouse books “in the can,” he is currently working on his next thriller, which for the first time injects supernatural elements into his brand of gun-blazing storytelling. The story is so compelling, two Hollywood studios are already in talks to acquire it—despite its publication date being more than a year away. After that comes a trilogy of novels, based on his acclaimed short story, which appeared in James Patterson’s Thriller anthology. New York Times bestselling author Steve Berry calls Liparulo’s writing “Inventive, suspenseful, and highly entertaining . . . Robert Liparulo is a storyteller, pure and simple.” He lives with his family in Colorado.


David, Xander, Dad, and Keal have discovered a terrible secret. Now, finding Mom is only a small part of their mission. And time is running out. Using the portals to build an empire, Taksidian wants the house for himself, and there's nothing he won't do to get the family out. The consequences of his meddling reach far beyond the family--to the future of the world itself. The Kings know their survival depends on stopping the bloodthirsty assassin. If only they can find his weakness in time.

Most startling of all is their ability to change the path of history. But will their tinkering in time reunite the family and save the future . . . or set mankind on an irreversible course of destruction?

If you would like to read the first chapter of Timescape, go HERE

Enter the contest to win this book package by clicking on the image!!!