"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.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Biblical Faux Pas?

        Some folks, whether they call themselves atheists, naturalists, humanists, rationalists, agnostics, or even "progressive" Christians, readily glom onto apparent contradictions within the Bible. Well, this morning I found a good one, ready made for the skeptics:
Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2 KJV) and For every man shall bear his own burden. (Galatians 6:5 KJV)
        Just three verses apart, yet they obviously contradict one another. Okay, Bible-thumper, explain that one!         As it turns out, the critics are dead wrong—as usual. The faux pas belongs to them alone. Here is the whole passage, not taken out of its Biblical context:
Galatians 6:1-5 KJV Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. (2)Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. (3)For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself. (4)But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. (5)For every man shall bear his own burden.
        The Greek words translated burdens and burden, respectively, are entirely different. The burdens of verse two (G922 βάρος baros; Thayer Definition: heaviness, weight, burden, trouble) refer to the guilty brother's deviations from God's way. Any true child of God doesn't sin easily, and that sin instantly becomes a burden of the heaviest variety. As an act of love, we are to help the fallen brother or sister bear, and recover from, their burden of sin. We can't do it for them, and we must certainly avoid sympathizing with their sin. For in doing so, our enemy drags us into it with them.         Now, to the burden of verse five: G5413 φορτίον for-tee'-on; Strong's Definition: an invoice (as part of freight), that is, (figuratively) a task or service. In the passage's context, this burden refers to the believer's own good works and achievements—in obedience to God's way—not compared to the works, or the failures, of others. Contrary to the customary "humility" we are expected to exhibit regarding God's work in our lives, this passage directs us to rejoice in it, but not in comparison with anyone else's victories or defeats. That sort of pride is what God condemns as vain pride.         So, instead of being a self-contradictory, Biblical faux pas, this portion of God's word spoon-feeds us the most valuable, and at times difficult, rule of godly living that Jesus gave us: A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. (John 13:34 )

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Paul--The Spoil Sport

What must it have been like for the church of God in Rome when—getting on just fine thank-you-very-much—a pounding erupts on their door and a loud voice intrudes on their tranquility with, "Letter from the Reverend Paul ... open the door please." Letters from the Lord's apostle Paul habitually rained on folks' parades. The following passage provides a prime example of such apostolic party-pooping.
Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. (9) For the commandments, "You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet," and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." (10) Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. (11) Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. (12) The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. (13) Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. (14) But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires. Romans 13:8-14 ESV
Of course, none of the church of God's sanctified-ones would engage in such despicable behavior; Paul obviously wrote such admonitions to the church "just in case." Verse 13 pretty well sums up the thou-shalt-nots of this discussion: ... not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. The apostle outlined three categories of worldly behavior in that passage: sins of excess, sexual sins, and sins of attitude. And please note: including only these three in no way excuses other categories of sinful behavior. Of those three, today's church manages to excuse two by rationalization. The first sanctified sin shows its ugly head at all-you-can-eat buffets and church potluck dinners. Somehow, stuffing oneself in such circumstances fails to qualify as gluttony. But that is only the public side of excess. Privately, uncounted brethren regularly snack and tipple in the secrecy of their own homes. Now, before the worms slither too far from their can, one must insert a minor disclaimer: Attitudes toward imbibing alcohol vary according to local customs and mores. Strictly speaking, God's Word does not condemn alcohol consumption per se, but forbids "drunkenness." (Ephesians 5:18; 1 Timothy 3:8; 5:23; Titus 2:3) And in Romans 14:21 he subjects all behavior, including food and drink consumption, to the rule of love: It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble. Now, to the second sanctified sin Paul deals with in Romans 13: Attitude, Attitude, Attitude! To witness "Quarreling and jealousy," simply become part of many churches' "body life," and observe the interpersonal dynamics. Sunday Service Civility not withstanding, some of the brethren simply detest one another; always with alleged, good reason. How does this behavior align with Christ's "New Commandment" recorded in John 13:34? A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. Of course, if Jesus' words don't hold enough authority, his apostle Paul had a thing-or-ten to say on the subject in his letters to the churches.
Romans 12:10 ESV Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Romans 12:16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Romans14:13 Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. Romans 15:2-7 Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. (3) For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, "The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me." (4) For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. (5) May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, (6) that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. (7) Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. Romans 15:14 I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another. 2Corinthians 13:11 Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. 2Corinthians 13:11 Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. Ephesians 4:32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. 1John 3:23 And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. 1John 4:7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.
Hmmm ... is a theme forming here? It would seem that believers in Jesus ... ALL believers in Jesus ... will treat one another well. Why? "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." And God's love is infinite; once it begins flowing, no one or nothing ... not even sin ... can stop its flooding his children's hearts. What can be better than that? The best thing, the secret that the evil ruler of this world has jealously kept, is that sin cannot withstand God's love. So, it turns out that Paul the apostle isn't such a spoil sport after all. God's Word is just plain wonderful, full of his good news of infinite, unqualified love. Just believe and obey, and all God's infinite love is yours.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Whirlwind by Robert Liparulo

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Thomas Nelson (December 29, 2009)
Robert Liparulo


For those who don't want to waste their time beginning books that don't deserve to be read, I have a message: Get Whirlwind! You'll save a ton of time and boredom. Okay, I'm a virtual-card-carrying Liparulo fan. Whirlwind begins with twelve-year-old David King facing a whirlwind of emotion from despair to fury as a time/place portal has separated him from his elder brother Xander … again … and it's getting quite old. How will he escape from his upright, coffin-size, damp, human bone-paved, stone prison? If you've read the four previous Dreamhouse Kings installments you have the December 29th publication date written in bold letters on your calendar, and can't wait.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: 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. Visit Robert Liparulo's Facebook Fan page: http://www.facebook.com/LiparuloFans ABOUT THE BOOK Which door do you go through to save the world? David, Xander, and Toria King never know where the mysterious portals in their house will take them: past, present, or future. They have battled gladiators and the German army, dodged soldiers on both sides of the Civil War, and jumped from the sinking Titanic. They've also seen the stark future that awaits if they can't do something to change it--a destroyed city filled with mutant creatures. And they've still got to find a way to bring Mom back and keep Taksidian from getting them out of the house. The dangers are hitting them like a whirlwind . . . but the answers are becoming apparent as well. If you would like to read the first chapter of Whirlwind, go HERE