"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, December 28, 2010

A Rest For God's People

      Since God's church first hit the ground running—usually away from their persecutors—Gentile believers and Judaic believers have managed to find plenty of issues to dispute. At the head of that hot-list was, and is, God's appointed day for corporate worship.
      Jewish disciples believed in keeping the seventh-day Sabbath ordained for God's people since before the Mosaic law was instituted. For them, the Sabbath Day was, is, and shall always be the seventh-day of the week.
      Gentile believers, referred to as Hellenistic, celebrated Christ's resurrection, which was on the first day of the week as recorded in the gospels. These non-Jewish believers had never honored the Sabbath and saw no reason for starting the custom.
      So the dispute grew, along with the issues of circumcision, dietary restrictions, ceremonial cleansing, and keeping the rest of the Jewish holy days. Even after the New Testament was completed, the disputes continued, despite the many passages therein which were written specifically to put them to rest.
      This issue could fill books that would only add to the many tomes already published by theologians representing all sides of the argument. But we'll focus on the basic Scripture passages concerning the New Testament application of the Sabbath rest.
      In the following passage, Luke faithfully reported some of Stephen's last words as he addressed the Sanhedrin before being stoned to death.
Act 7:49  "Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house will you build for me, says the Lord, or what is the place of my rest?"
      In that statement, Stephen paraphrased Psalm 132:13 & 14.
Psa 132:13  For the LORD has chosen Zion; he has desired it for his dwelling place: 
Psa 132:14  "This is my resting place forever; here I will dwell, for I have desired it. 
      As if all that weren't enough, the author of the letter to the Hebrews continued the theme in Hebrews, chapter three, where he quoted Psalm 95:10 & 11.
Heb 3:10  Therefore I was provoked with that generation, and said, 'They always go astray in their heart; they have not known my ways.' 
Heb 3:11  As I swore in my wrath, 'They shall not enter my rest.'" 
Heb 3:12  Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. 
Heb 3:13  But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called "today," that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. 
Heb 3:14  For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. 
Heb 3:15  As it is said, "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion." 
Heb 3:16  For who were those who heard and yet rebelled? Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses? 
Heb 3:17  And with whom was he provoked for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? 
Heb 3:18  And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient? 
Heb 3:19  So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief. 

       Below, find the verses Stephen quoted. 
Psa 95:10  For forty years I loathed that generation and said, "They are a people who go astray in their heart, and they have not known my ways." 
Psa 95:11  Therefore I swore in my wrath, "They shall not enter my rest." 

      Whether we see this verse in the New Testament or here at its source in Psalm 95, it speaks of how God's people constantly failed Him, with the final insult of not only rejecting His only Son, but of murdering Him in the most disgraceful way possible. Remember, that was after God had shown Israel nothing but grace and forgiveness since He chose Abram out of all the ancients.
      Did God institute His Sabbath for His disobedient people Israel, or for all who obeyed Him by faith? As God's resting place was never in a temple built by men, the Sabbath rest He commanded for His people was never to be limited to the seventh day of the weekly calendar. God intended His literal, periodic Sabbath only for a shadow of the True Sabbath to come, in the Person of His Son, God incarnate. Only those who, by faith, enter the eternal life of Christ Jesus, may enter into God's Eternal Rest, because they are One and the same.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

ODB Comment

            Dave Branon's meditation, He Says, We Say, deals with our responses to God's prompts. He might have titled it, "Excuses, Excuses," as we humans specialize in such futile exercises ad nauseam. Since Adam's excuses from behind a hastily-grabbed fig leaf, we've always tried to weasel out of God's clear instructions or justify ourselves when caught in some disobedience. Please note, I said, tried.
            The Apostle John truly gave us words to live by, when he wrote, If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.(1 John 1:8-10 ESV)
            So much for our self-righteous claims of innocence. In fact, we can either try to justify ourselves, or we can trust Christ to justify us—not both.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Hail Mary

            It's not a Weather Lady who always predicts storms. And it's so much more than a prayer Catholics constantly repeat, hoping to do penance for their venial sins.
            The Bible doesn't say what occupied Mary, daughter of Eli, at the moment God's messenger Gabriel appeared to her, but Mary's reaction prompted the angel to say, "Fear not." Anyone who's dentist has told them, "This isn't going to hurt," can relate to Mary's response. And when Gabe called her, "Favored by God," she might have countered, "You scare the Gee Willie's out of me and I'm favored by God? Tell God not to do me any more favors." And I wouldn't have blamed her for it.
            But then God's special messenger told Mary, "The Lord is with you." Like Mary, that would've shut me up. And when he said, "You're going to bear a son and name him Jesus," she really began wondering.
            The rest of Gabe's announcement was just icing on the cake.
He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end."
(Luke 1:32-33 ESV)
            We know when someone speaks with authority, and so did Mary. We know that from her next action; she packed up and headed out on a three or four days' journey to visit her cousin Elizabeth. And why did Mary go to all the trouble of traveling along a bandit-infested road to visit her favorite cousin? Gabriel's announcement had included the news that Elizabeth had conceived a son and was in her sixth month of pregnancy. And Liz was not a spring chicken.
            If confirmation was what Mary had wanted from Elizabeth, confirmation is what she got. As soon as the baby—who was to become John the Baptizer—heard Mary's greeting he leaped in Elizabeth's womb.
            And they say an elbow in the ribs gets a mom's attention.
            What would it be like to hear the announcement, "The Lord is with you"? Not the well-wisher's, "God be with you," but the authoritative declaration that the Lord is with you, and will be in you.
            But we have that promise, spoken by the Lord Jesus Himself:
"If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. "I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him."
(John 14:15-21 ESV)
            As He prepared His disciples for His departure He gave them the basics of what they—and we—would need to know and do as His faithful followers. But don't be deceived by His words' apparent simplicity. Contained within them are God's eternal wisdom, a finite code revealing infinite truth.
            As the film script writer penned, "Your mission, should you choose to accept it ..." But while that fictional mission was reputedly impossible, Jesus' mission for us is quite possible, through the indwelling power of His Holy Spirit. If you and I want to become Jesus' true disciples, not simply church-goers, we are in for the ride of our lives.
            Are you in? Then get out, and live for Him as His followers throughout history have done. The world won't like you for it, but your reward will be infinitely worth it. But don't wait for old Gabe to say, "Hail Mary," or whatever your name is. Just do it.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010


            I think not. What are the odds for two unrelated Christian Internet ministries to produce topically related posts on the same day? Both Daily Manna from the Net and Our Daily Bread ran Scripture references about "Comfort."
            Our Daily Bread used 1 Corinthians 1:3-7, where the Apostle instructed the church to comfort others with the comfort Christ gave us. Anne Cetas' summation aptly stated, "God doesn’t comfort us to make us comfortable; He comforts us to make us comforters."
            Then, Daily Manna drove the theme home with Isaiah 40:1-3, where the Eternal One showed compassion to Israel by instructing the prophet to comfort them, rather than condemning them, which they always richly deserved.
            In the same way, the Father of all comforts demonstrated His love, mercy, and grace by His perfect sacrificial act referenced in John chapter three. This passage not only comforts those of us who have claimed His perfect sacrifice, but carries with it the context of 1 Corinthians 1:3-7.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ. But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; or if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which is effective in the patient enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer; and our hope for you is firmly grounded, knowing that as you are sharers of our sufferings, so also you are sharers of our comfort.
(2 Corinthians 1:3-7 NASB)
            What an unfathomable honor and privilege we have in sharing the benefit of Christ's sacrifice. And what an awesome responsibility we have to pass along its beauty and blessing as well. To paraphrase Anne Cetas' summary, "God doesn't save us to gain the privilege of our eternal presence; He saves us that we will pass on the joy of His gospel to others."
            God's word contains no coincidence, but only the perfectly consistent good news of His abiding love.
Badge of Courage

            Every cause spawns them. Whether it's a political party, an interest group, or a religious sect, a few adherents will inevitably feel called to militant defense of the group's beliefs and interests, or aggressive proselytization. And without exception, zealots feel vindicated by persecution.
            Christian religious types look to the Bible for their commission to suffer for the cause:
Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; in no way alarmed by your opponents--which is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you, and that too, from God. For to you it has been granted for Christ's sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.
(Philipians 1:27-29 NASB)
            Of course, every religion points to their own Holy Writ for similar instruction to suffer as part of the whole "zealot" thing. The problem is, not all suffering is created equally; some religious zealots aspire to suffer in hope of heavenly rewards, while others accept suffering as the natural consequence of refusing to participate in a world system they feel is irredeemably corrupt. The Bible hints at a way of discerning the difference:
For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.
(Hebrews 4:12-13 NASB)
            God gave us His word so those who wish to follow in His Way might discern their inner motives and stay on the path proscribed for them. Faithfulness is its own reward, and those who hope for a more tangible perks, such as a badge of courage or heavenly bliss will, in the fullness of time, be sorely disappointed.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Hand Me That Crutch!

            One of the more inane objections to accepting Christ's work on the cross and depending on God is, "I don't need no religion for a crutch!" Left unstated is, I'm an independent person. I can make it on my own, so I can live my own way. Nobody can tell me what to do!
            The world is full of rugged individualists like that. They are the ones who won't go to the doctor unless it's in a hospital emergency room, or take advice, even from someone who knows what they're talking about. It's easy to tell who they are; they're the ones who crash through life making stupid mistakes and never learning from them.
            Whether they admit it or not, they are their own gods, refusing to bow to any authority. Is that a death-wish we see? If they persist, that wish will surely be granted, and they will get eternally more than they bargained for.
            Judging by their track record, I'm probably wasting my time and energy writing about such knuckle-heads; they won't listen any more than usual, and the rest of us don't need to be told who they are. Bible passages about scoffers abound, with detailed descriptions of their stupidity and foolishness. Did they get the message from God's chosen spokesmen? Hardly!
            Today they like to call themselves "Free Thinkers," "Skeptics," or "Atheists." A few of them are quite ingenious with their "proofs" that God doesn't exist, though such are hardly original. The rest of them simply parrot their more studious mentors, spouting pop-anthropology and Darwinian rhetoric. Not even Saint Charles doubted God's existence, viewing his Theory of Natural Selection as simply part of God's creative process.
            I'm near-sighted, so I wear glasses. My weird feet need orthotics. And not long ago I needed a crutch to get around while recovering from foot surgery. Sensible people admit that nobody's perfect, and to function at a level above that dictated by our imperfections we need to compensate for them. That defines the generic crutch.
            Our human imperfections go way beyond what is visible, effecting our inner motives, our resulting behavior, our self-image, and even our appearance. Despite the problems they cause, we must thank God for our human glitches, as they result from His creating us with the ability to go our own imperfect way. And as if anyone needed proof of our fallen nature we go to great lengths to prove it with the trouble we get ourselves into.
            Without God's Crutch, we'd stumble through life hurting ourselves and others. And without God's Crutch our ultimate destiny is the eternally prolonged death that is the only alternative to eternal life. The Crutch God has furnished us is His Son the Lord Jesus Christ. Leaning on Him allows us to walk the way God designed for us, to the destination He created for our eternal blessing. And the Crutch of Christ fits us perfectly–no adjustment necessary.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Dead Man Walking

            There is a tradition on Death Row. When the condemned man begins the long walk from his cell to the gallows, the electric chair, or the gurney, other prisoners along the way express their empathy by uttering the phrase, "Dead man walking."
            Regardless one's opinion of capital punishment, such a scene provokes a sober reaction. But there is no guessing the thoughts and feelings of the one actually doing the death walk.
            Once a man traveled from Jerusalem toward Damascus, fully intending to imprison anyone in that city who followed the Way of the alleged Messiah called Yeheshua, or Jesus, as we know of him. Saul of Tarsus zealously pursued Jesus' followers, believing he did God's work, but Jesus had other plans for him.
Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?" And he said, "Who are you, Lord?" And he said, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do." The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank. Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, "Ananias." And he said, "Here I am, Lord." And the Lord said to him, "Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight." But Ananias answered, "Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name." But the Lord said to him, "Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name."
(Acts 9:3-16 ESV)
            The last verse shows that, beginning with his vision on the Damascus road, Saul consciously began his own "death walk," knowing how he would live the rest of his life and that he would die in the service of his newly-found Messiah. Did that disuade him? Hardly. Saul the Pharisee, who became Paul the Apostle, began spreading the good news of his Lord and Savior with the same uncompromising zeal that had fueled his campaign of persecution.
            How clearly did Paul "get it?" Death became one of his main themes while writing God's New Testament letters to the churches. In them, he proclaimed the eternal truth of humanity's broken fellowship with God, the fact that our sin has irrepairably estranged us from Him. He revealed the inevitable consequence of our willful disobedience, the unimaginable tragedy, the unparalled torment and agony of eternal perdition. Yet, while this apparent preoccupation with death might seem morbid, the divine promises of which he wrote are anything but morbid. He proclaimed Christ's sacrificial death as the only certain means of atoning for our sins. He wrote of trading our temporary, corrupted life for Christ's eternal, perfect life. And he promised the spiritual fruit we would necessarily bear, once Christ has restored our fellowship with God.
            If we belong to God through Jesus His Son, we are indeed "dead men–or women–walking;" dead to our old self, with its questionable motives and lying spirit, but alive to God through Christ Jesus our Master(Romans 6:11).
            So you're the rare bird whose motives are pristine and has never lied. Then obviously you are the exception to God's inerrant word. When God said, "None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God," He apparently forgot to except you from the rule, was mistaken, or lying. But more likely, you are like Egypt, split by de-Nial, and you are indeed a "Dead Man–or Woman–Walking," directly to your judgment.
            Is that dark fate inevitable? If you fear that, you didn't read the previous paragraphs very carefully.
            Your sin hardly took God by surprise. Before time's beginning, He finalized His plan for your salvation. When the Word(His Son Jesus) was made flesh, He, who was God incarnate, was a dead man walking. As a twelve-year-old boy teaching the teachers in the temple, He already knew He was God's perfect lamb, being prepared for sacrifice. As He trod the dusty Judean roads, healing and restoring the sick and maimed, He knew His destination was the cross. And as He knealt in the garden, sweating drops of blood, begging His Father to let the fatal cup pass from His lips, He committed Himself to His Father's will.
            All that is standing between you and a right relationship with God is your refusal to accept His good news. Polish off your pride! Dump your doubt! Slay the serpent and his lies. You'll still be a dead man walking, but you will walk with Jesus to eternal, blissful glory.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

            As I age I become more aware of the beauty around me. But while that is true, I've also become more aware of all the ugliness.
            Perhaps my definition of both words is what has changed. Since I've retired, television is my chief means of observing people, but my years in the retail trade provided an almost inexhaustible flow of interesting faces. Both sources of exposure to humanity reinforced the same conclusion: Often those who least try to affect attractiveness are the most attractive. Attempts at compensating for ones perceived shortcomings simply exaggerates their character glitches and faulty self image.
            A television example is the models displaying Victoria's Secret. Every model pranced along the runway trying to look like a sex machine, with perfect makeup on come hither expressions, and not enough flesh to conceal their skeletal structure's minute details. What Authority decreed their beauty standard?
            Yet, other TV characters rely on another beauty standard. While they may still be pretty, their true beauty lies in their intelligence, personality, and character.
            From my retail experience with the public I observed the occasional person--male or female, their sex is irrelevant to this discussion--who displayed a remarkable lack of self-consciousness. They may as well have said aloud, "I am who I am, and it is what it is." They didn't need to affect an image or appearance because they were already comfortable in their own skin--imperfect though it may have been. Though most of those unaffected individuals bore attractive features which reinforced their inner beauty, some of them would have appeared downright homely without it.
            Conversely, innumerable people, mostly women, bore physical features that should have portrayed breathtaking beauty, but their self-absorption and over compensation for who knows what perceived shortcomings negated it.
            I guess my rant's bottom line is this: God created humanity in His own image and likeness. Those who see God as beautiful and are satisfied with His beauty reflected in themselves are indeed truly beautiful, both superficially and throughout.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Gone T' Meddlin' 
             If you're not from West Virginia, or you've never sat under the preaching of a West Virginia pastor, this writing's title won't mean much. It's a colloquialism that means someone's preaching has trod too close to one's toes. Which, in fact, Dave McCasland was dangerously close to doing in his Our Daily Bread vignette titled Daily Diligence.
             I don't need to belabor his point, as he's done a fine job of doing it himself. But if you feel like facing a challenge to your status-quo Christian walk, please tune in to this Our Daily Bread.
             I dare ya.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010


            The mating call of the post-pubescent homo sapiens is a loud bellowing of the phrase, "Let's PARTY!" But, despite the activities at most colleges and universities, that's not the kind of partying we're born to do.
            It all began long, long ago in a kingdom far, far away. No, this has nothing to do with Star Wars, although, those characters did plenty of partying—and fighting, and loving, and ... well, they were just like us, even if they were fictional. The characters I'm talking about weren't born. God Himself fashioned them as the jewel of His creation. They were so special because He made them to resemble Himself in several key ways. One of those resemblances was their autonomy, or their ability to make their own decisions.
            If you tuned in because of this piece's title, fear not. I haven't abandoned the subject of parties. In fact, our first parents attended one hummm-dinger of a party, where their friendly neighborhood talking serpent offered them a sample of forbidden fruit. Based on that con-snake's sure fire promise, our gullible great-great-great ... grand parents bought the idea that God didn't really say, "Thou shalt not ..." And in buying the lie, they "bought the farm" so-to-speak.
            Well, a good time was had by both—until they heard their Papa God walking through the garden. Apparently the serpent's reasoning rang hollow as God drew closer, so the newlyweds tried to hide. Fat lot of good that did!
            Then the excuses started: "She said!" "It said!" "It's not my fault, God. You gave her to me." Of course, that cop-out blamed God for their sin, which didn't go over well with the Almighty.
            That wild party at Adam an' Eve's place began another kind of party—the kind of party that you join, the kind of part that you commit to. Trouble with the party they joined is it was the wrong one. They chose to follow the slick, slithery serpent, rather than their Father God.
            And we've been making wrong "joining" choices ever since. Whenever we choose to disobey God, we, like Adam and Eve, choose to join the Infernal Brotherhood of the Enemy of Our Souls(IBEOS). And we get the exclusive right to join Lucifer and his cronies for perdition. That is one party you don't want to join; you know what it's like when the boss hates you ... think, an eternity of that.
            The Bible's New Testament says a lot about factions within God's church, and in only one verse does it seem to favor the idea.
For there must also be factions among you, so that those who are approved may become evident among you.
            Does that mean factions(sects, partisanship) can be a good thing? Hardly! Who wants to show by their factitious behavior that they aren't approved?
And knowing their thoughts Jesus said to them, "Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and any city or house divided against itself will not stand.
(Matthew 12:25 NASB)
            I'm not harping on the differences of opinion inevitable in any group of people. For any group to agree unanimously is unnatural ... unless either God's Holy Spirit influences them, or some of them are intimidated by others, in which case the agreement isn't real.
            Jesus great desire was to unify His "sheep," even before they became His sheep.
"I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd.
(John 10:16 NASB)
The way that "party spirit" had taken over His creation must have grieved Him. Even as He walked this earth He knew humanity better than we know ourselves. Later, as He prayed for His church, He begged the Father to make us one.
"I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me. "The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me.
(John 17:20-23 NASB)
            Yet, from the very outset, the church divided itself into factions: The Circumcision Party, The Uncircumcision Party, The Jews, The Greeks. And then as now, whenever anyone had a difference of opinion they gathered followers around themselves. Of course, the instigator became the new sect's Grand High Muckity-muck; everyone wants to become a big spoke in some little wheel.
Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment. For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe's people, that there are quarrels among you. Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, "I am of Paul," and "I of Apollos," and "I of Cephas," and "I of Christ." Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one would say you were baptized in my name. Now I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized any other.
(1 Corinthians 1:10-16 NASB)
As such agreement is impossible in the flesh, they—and we—must rely on that same Jesus Christ's indwelling Spirit to pull it off.
            Christ's Apostle to the Gentiles exhorted the Corinthian church further:
And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men? For when one says, "I am of Paul," and another, "I am of Apollos," are you not mere men? What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one.
(1 Corinthians 3:1-5 NASB)
For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that divisions exist among you; and in part I believe it. For there must also be factions among you, so that those who are approved may become evident among you.
(1 Corinthians 11:18-19 NASB)
            Apparently the Corinthian church wasn't alone in their proclivity for forming fractionizing factions(say that ten times fast):
Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them. For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting.
(Romans 16:17-18 NASB)
            And when he wrote to the Galatian church the Apostle Paul "quit preachin' and started t' meddlin'."
Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
(Galatians 5:19-21 NASB)
Please note how disputes, dissensions, factions and envying—behaviors tolerated by much of today's church—ranked as high on the no-no list as the more obvious sexual and life style infractions.
            I personally find taking sides quite hard to avoid, and I know better. Is it any wonder that people who center their lives around always being right can't see their own disobedience? Those of us who God has convicted on the issue must love those whom He hasn't, just as Jesus loves them and gave His life for them. When someone expects us to join their "party," we must lovingly tell them "No thanks!" and why.

Monday, November 01, 2010

            Counterfeits fill our lives, from counterfeit value to counterfeit joy. Security in our perceived destiny counterfeits the real security of God's plan for our lives, which, outside of discernment through God's Holy Spirit, is as obscure as the next moment.
            "What will happen after I finish this ______ (fill in the blank)?" You already know which TV show you'll watch after this one is over. In fact, you hold the remote control in a death-grip ... if you haven't preprogrammed your state-of-the-art home entertainment system.
            Your doctors' appointments are in you Smart Phone, as are your financial manager's and hair-dresser's appointments. In fact, your whole life is squared away, barring the unforeseen chicken pox outbreak. But you have a contingency plan already in place even for that.
            What if you were to loose your job? That'd be bad, alright, but that's why you pursued double majors and earned degrees in both, along with solid internships in both. And your savings will tide you over until you get up to speed in the new job.
            Heart attack? Nonsense! You eat right, exercise the right amount, keep up to date with your checkups and stress tests. And your doctor always says you have the health and conditioning of a person fifteen years your junior. Besides, your family is covered by your generous life insurance policy.
            You're nothing, if not a planner.
            In fact, you're so together that Jesus even mentioned you.
And he told them a parable, saying, "The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, 'What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?' And he said, 'I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.' But God said to him, 'Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?' So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God." And he said to his disciples, "Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.
(Luke 12:16-31 ESV)
            You may not be a prosperous farmer, but like him, you have all contingencies covered ... with counterfeit security. Unless, that is, you've already secured your eternal destiny through the atoning blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.
            Did I hear you say that's covered as well? That you're a leader in your church? That you give generously? That you're influential in your community? That everyone says what a great person you are? You may be right, but Christianity can be counterfeited as well.

            Stay tuned.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

            Admirers tout Charles Bukowski as the world's greatest drunk poet. He had to stay drunk, because he hated everything, including himself. That's why he was such a powerful poet; his only love was words, though even that infatuation clung obscenely to a love-hate dichotomy.
            Bukowski did it all, so he knew it all with a hate-breeding intimacy. If only he had known anything but his ill-conceived excesses. If only he had know anything outside of his alcohol-fogged cynicism. If only—
            I will officially join Bukowski in his futility if my fingers continue spewing judgment onto my computer screen. Sitting in judgment is as easy as sitting in alcoholic stupor, and perhaps less useful. To give Bukowski the benefit of doubt, I must assume his miserable temperament was well-earned. Betrayal is an awful motivator--more like an exceptional demotivator, and the alcoholic poet earned more than his share.
            My alcoholic father gave me a running start down that slippery path. What kept me from washing my life in grain alcohol? I fell in with a group of young followers of a Jewish teacher who claimed to be God. His revolutionary teachings compelled me to dig deeper into his way of living, and I found no controdiction there. Joshua, though he lived centuries ago, gave me a deep desire to love without self interest. He is still teaching me to pursue that humanly impossible quality, and will, until I get it right.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

What's He Saying?

ANNOUNCER: Up next, the age-old game show sensation: WHAT'S HE SAYING? (Applause--Applause--Applause) Stay tuned ... we'll be back, right after a brief word from our sponsor: Latest Thing Bible Publishers.

COMMERCIAL: Are you one of the many Christians who has made a stab at understanding the Bible, but it was just too confusing? Did your friends say you were wasting your time, because the Bible isn't relevant, and it's full of contradictions? Well never fear! We have the HIP BIBLE! It's language is way cool, and we've surgically removed all the difficult and contradictory passages so it'll fit in your HIP POCKET ... and your hip friends will think you're okay. Order it now, at this limited-time, introductory special price ... Cuz you know we can't do this all day ... But wait! That's not all! Order in the next thirty seconds and you'll get a FREE bonus Book Of Mormon and a New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures! And not only that, but you'll receive this heavy duty, long lasting whiteout pen for no extra charge ... Yada-yada-yada ... Blah-blah-blah

ANNOUNCER: And now, the star of our show ... Cleave Abridger!


ABRIDGER: Welcome everyone, to WHAT'S HE SAYING? ... the game show that spells it out for you. But let's cut to the chase and introduce our first contestant.

ANNOUNCER: He's a professional editor and long time wordsmith for publications you'd instantly recognize. Give it up for Willie Cliché!


ABRIDGER: Willie, which category will you start with?

CLICHÉ: Cleve, I'll go with Too Long Bible verses—

ABRIDGER: Okay Willie, start with an easy one; Galatians 1:3 Grace be to you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ.

Willie, What's He Saying?

CLICHÉ: Wow, Cleve, that's a hard one; it's already short.

ABRIDGER: Never short enough, Willie. You have ten seconds starting ...



ABRIDGER: Time's up, Willie, What's He Saying?

CLICHÉ: Um ... May ... May God grace you with peace?

ABRIDGER: Our official mathematician gives you ... 2.5 on your version of Galatians 1:3. As you know we grade you on your average score, so without further ado, on to the next verse:

Esther 8:9 Then were the king's scribes called at that time in the third month, that is, the month Sivan, on the three and twentieth day thereof; and it was written according to all that Mordecai commanded unto the Jews, and to the lieutenants, and the deputies and rulers of the provinces which are from India unto Ethiopia, an hundred twenty and seven provinces, unto every province according to the writing thereof, and unto every people after their language, and to the Jews according to their writing, and according to their language.

CLICHÉ: Wow! You sure that's only one Bible verse?

ABRIDGER: Longest one in the Bible. Your ten seconds starts now!


ABRIDGER: Time's up, Willie, What's He Saying?

CLICHÉ: (thinks hard, then quickly recites) The King made his secretaries write what Mordecai said and shot it off to everybody on his mailing list! (deep sigh)

ABRIDGER: Okay, number crunchers, what's the score?

(tense delay)

We have ... five points, placing your two verse average at 3.75! Way ta' go, Willie.

And now a word from our announcer!

ANNOUNCER: Keep it up, Willie, 'cause as you know, the winning contestant will have his shortened, simplified verses included, for full royalties, in the new Bible paraphrase, The Hip Bible, available right here for only twenty-nine ninety-five.


ABRIDGER: Thanks, Bob. Our new Bible paraphrase, The Hip Bible has best seller written all over it. So get your advanced order in right now so you won't have to wait for God's word to the lazy church. In addition to all the extras Bob told you about, we'll throw in a month's supply of sleeping pills, just in case The Hip Bible doesn't put you right to sleep.

And now, let's play What's He Saying?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Call on the Lord from a Pure Heart
            Second Timothy chapter two, verse twenty-two, presents two of the keys that, used in correct order, can unlock ones life from the bondage of worldly, corrupt pursuits.

Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable—common, base, ignoble. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work. So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.
(2 Timothy 2:20-26 ESV)
            The Apostle specifically named "youthful lusts," which include trespasses ranging from a "detailed" fond eye for the ladies—or men—to envy, unbridled ambition, greed, bitterness … the Scriptural list of human moral failings continues, but you get the idea. Our natural(fleshly, carnal) tendency is to name in our minds ten or so of those people who do such things, pointing the condemnatory finger at the ruffians, drunks, whore mongers, rapists, thieves and murderers that blight our society. The Apostle, however, didn't spend much Scriptural time condemning those people. Rather, he, as did the Lord, concentrated on reaming religious folks who practiced the "sanctified" version of those sins.
            The keys mentioned above can be distilled to just a couple of principles: call on the Lord from a pure heart(motivation), and flee youthful passions. Though the passage doesn't list them in that order, the process begins with calling for the strength and motivation to execute the orderly(or disorderly) retreat from temptation meant by the word "flee."
            Unlocking ourselves from the bondage of sin requires both keys. Though we may hope for eternal salvation through the rebirth we experience in Jesus' blood, that rebirth cannot end our habituation to ungodly behaviors and attitudes.
            Think of a new-born infant. The nurse or midwife cuts the umbilical cord that kept the pre-born person alive during gestation. But if the infant were to grab the scissors from the nurse's hand, glare at her and say, "You're not going to separate me from my lifeline," the infant that had birthed normally(if you can call a talking new-born "normal") would soon become infected. One could say the new-born's "youthful lusts" might lead to its demise.
            Like that outspoken infant, human beings of all ages tend to cling to our natural misbehaviors that are familiar or comfortable, even if those things cause endless trouble for us. In our own strength, breaking those habits is practically impossible, even though a few steadfast, "nice folks," manage to pull off a reasonable imitation of godly behavior without completing the spiritual prerequisite of death to self and rebirth in God's Holy Spirit.
            We've witnessed or heard of folks who "walk the sawdust trail" in response to hell-fire preaching, or soldiers experiencing battlefield "conversions" when death seemed imminent. Then, when the fear is gone, they continue their lives unchanged. Were they ever truly converted? Only God can judge that. We can "call on the Lord" all day long, but if our motives aren't pure—regretful sorrow for having done wrong, rather than fear of facing judgment with our sins exposed—all that heart-felt prayer is for naught.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Goes Without Saying
            Or it should.
            What prompted Joe Stowell to write a devotional for Our Daily Bread titled "Getting Along," with the church as the target audience? One of the New Testament's major themes is godly love, and how it is the natural outgrowth of new life in Christ. Yes, it should go without saying.
            Considering the number of Scripture passages that affirm this principle, we must accept its truth, and its binding application to God's church. So we come back to the same question: Why do Joe Stowell, countless other passionate preachers, and God's New Testament need to harp on a quality that should be as natural to believers as breathing?
            Two rather ugly possible answers jump out at us: First, those church members who seem unable to love the brethren are, in fact, false brethren. Second, the church has become as lukewarm as the church at Laodecia, and deserves the same fate; Jesus will spew(vomit, regurgitate) them out of His mouth. Bad enough if only one of those possibilities were true, but perhaps both are.
            True, despite high profile preachers harping on this theme, the problem continues to spread. More and more, we the church give non-believing observers more reason to scoff at "Christian" church-goers. Despite planning ever more programs, curricula and seminars aimed at improving their congregations' "love one another" scores, pastors seem unable to reach the self-righteous "brethren" who cause discord. While we sit under passionate messages urging Christ's selfless love—consistently applying them to others—countless holy-sitters continue looking down our sanctified noses at those unworthy others who insist on marching in the Way out of step. Somehow, different is always wrong.
            When my son-in-law read this post he wisely suggested two other likely reasons for the church not getting along, and I agree with him. Those are ignorance and lack of vision.
            Those two issues are related. Ignorance comes from lack of positive role-modeling. We can study parenting methods, anger management, coping skills and positive assertiveness, but if those who act(purposely or inadvertently) as role models lead dysfunctional lives, so will their kids.
            But vision(or lack thereof) is also taught by example, from the top down. If the leadership has no sense of urgency in their vision, neither will the rank-and-file. Keeping the saints busy with God's work does eliminate most dissatisfaction--for those who are willing to buckle down.
            But then there are the self-appointed policemen and critics whose highest calling is to keep the rest of the church in line. We want to keep them around, though, as they are often the biggest tithers. We're talking about those who were movers and shakers during most of their lives, and now that they are comfortably retired they have nothing better to do than harangue the church leadership. Yes, that's a stereotype, but a very real one.
            In our little body here in Northwest Montana, no one is affluent, and few are even snugly well off. That tends to keep folks humble. Yet, even in our subsistence-level congregation we find formality comfortable, and change difficult. Yes, that "we" includes me. Even when the stakes aren't especially high, we fallible humans tenaciously guard conformity, or conformity to non-conformity. Just as our first parents envied the power structure and wanted to do things their own way(which was actually the serpent's way), we church-goers also tend toward willfulness. Praise God for His marvelous grace, in giving us the One Way into a right relationship with Him and the godliness His Holy Spirit produces.
            Will I ever be able to proclaim my testimony and faith without facing the non-believer's battlement erected upon Christendom's nasty reputation? Goes without saying; I hope so.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Scriptural Harmony
            I've read John 7:24 many times in the past, but this time it spoke to me differently.
"Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment."
            Instantly I thought of John 7:1-6, and how, superficially, the passages seem to contradict one another.
            On closer scrutiny, however, I discovered they not only match perfectly, but John 7:24 clarifies and reinforces Matthew 7.
1Do not judge lest you be judged. 2For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. 3And why do you look at the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4Or how can you say to your brother, "Let me take the speck out of your eye," and behold, the log is in your own eye? 5You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye. 6Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.
            Think about it: Matthew 7:1 does not flatly state, "Do not judge!" Rather, it tells us that if we judge another we ourselves will be judged by that same standard. That's why John 7 tells us not to judge according to appearance, as, according to Matthew 7, we will be judged in the same way. Then, back to John 7, Jesus goes on to say, "... but judge with righteous judgment," inferring that judging according to appearance is unrighteous judgment.
            Then Jesus compares such unrighteous judgment with judging another's eye-speck while protecting ones own eye-log. That's a vivid illustration of true blindness, the way we are blind to our own issues while performing eye surgery on another. Assuming such surgery will go well is completely foolish.
            Then comes Jesus' well-known prohibition against "casting our pearls before swine." Reaching deep into Hebrew law and custom, this apparently simple illustration outlines a fundamental Scriptural principle: We(the swine) must not usurp(trample) God's prerogatives. They are our pearls because we are God's children, but until we become sanctified(set apart for God's purposes), we can't just throw them about and play with them.
            Judgment is one of God's exclusive prerogatives. One day, if we are faithful to the end, we will judge the angels(1 Corinthians 6:3). In Matthew 7:5 Jesus brands unrighteous judges(anyone who presumes to usurp God's exclusive authority) as hypocrites. Before we lapse into judgment mode, perhaps we should review Jesus' pronunciations against hypocrites from Matthew chapter 23.
Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, saying, "The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things, and do not do them. "And they tie up heavy loads, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger. "But they do all their deeds to be noticed by men; for they broaden their phylacteries, and lengthen the tassels of their garments. "And they love the place of honor at banquets, and the chief seats in the synagogues, and respectful greetings in the market places, and being called by men, Rabbi. "But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers. "And do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. "And do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ. "But the greatest among you shall be your servant. "And whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted. "But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from men; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in. ["Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you devour widows' houses, even while for a pretense you make long prayers; therefore you shall receive greater condemnation.] "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel about on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves. "Woe to you, blind guides, who say, 'Whoever swears by the temple, that is nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the temple, he is obligated.' "You fools and blind men; which is more important, the gold, or the temple that sanctified the gold? "And, 'Whoever swears by the altar, that is nothing, but whoever swears by the offering upon it, he is obligated.' "You blind men, which is more important, the offering or the altar that sanctifies the offering? "Therefore he who swears by the altar, swears both by the altar and by everything on it. "And he who swears by the temple, swears both by the temple and by Him who dwells within it. "And he who swears by heaven, swears both by the throne of God and by Him who sits upon it. "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others. "You blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel! "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence. "You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also. "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness. "Even so you too outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, and say, 'If we had been living in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partners with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.' "Consequently you bear witness against yourselves, that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. "Fill up then the measure of the guilt of your fathers. "You serpents, you brood of vipers, how shall you escape the sentence of hell? "Therefore, behold, I am sending you prophets and wise men and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city, that upon you may fall the guilt of all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. "Truly I say to you, all these things shall come upon this generation. "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. "Behold, your house is being left to you desolate! "For I say to you, from now on you shall not see Me until you say, 'BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD!'"
            A judgmental attitude is only one of the Pharisees' sins, but it is enough to keep one from God's eternal kingdom. The problem with harboring just one sin is they spread throughout ones spirit like gangrene. Don't harbor sin—especially the sins of presumption and usurpation—and be cut off like a pussy leg.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

"Your OTHER right!"
Proverbs 16:25 KJV There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.
            That any Scripture verse should ever become cliché is a shame. That a Scripture verse containing such a dire warning should become cliché is a tragedy.
            Long, long ago in a city far, far away, an ambitious young fellow and his brother built a Heathkit color TV. When they finished the project and plugged it in, nothing happened. Absolutely nothing. So they switched into expert troubleshooting mode and checked the internal fuse. While it seemed okay, they even tried replacing it, exhausting their troubleshooting expertise.
            Thirty-odd bucks(a fortune in the '60s) and twenty-odd repaired and redirected connections later, we picked up our perfectly functioning Heathkit color television. Turns out, while Michael and I thought we were following the detailed instructions ... we hadn't. Our lesson? "The complexity of a project is inversely proportional to its likelihood of success."
            What could be more complex than a human being? To work correctly, all its uncountable parts must operate in perfect harmony. What's more, its body, mind and spirit must also function harmoniously. Together, all those variables make a color TV seem as complex as a wooden block. Yet, we come into this life with less direction than an ant crawling across the floor. Our earliest priorities? Stomach, bottom, and love, in that order.
            Typically, our priorities don't change much as we mature into childhood, adolescence and adulthood. We've all witnessed the behavior of childish and adolescent-behaving "adults," fixated on their stomachs(gluttony), their bottoms(toilet humor), and finding love(promiscuity). So, what went wrong with God's "very good" (Genesis 1:31) creation?
            Such misdirection is hardly our Creator's fault. He saw to our correct assembly—ten fingers, ten toes, etc. He even made us in His own image, with a body, a mind, and a spirit—each subject to the control of our unique, personal volition. And since we were able to make choices, He provided a guide to our complete personhood in His word, our Bible.
            So, if it's not God's fault, whose fault is it? Answering that question is like explaining why a meteorite flamed through our atmosphere and landed on a certain person's home.
            We find the short answer in one word: "Sin." The S word plagues all creation, even the innocents. Unfair? Yes. Wrong? No, because no one who is old enough to disobey is truly innocent.
            Experts* have long disputed the exact nature of our first parents; were they Adam and Eve, or an evolved species of bipedal primates? Did Eve, in fact, take a bite of the forbidden fruit, or was the first sin some more generic form of disobedience?
            Despite the controversy surrounding our origins, unbiased observers must admit to a fundamental glitch plaguing humanity's character. We don't know exactly how long Man walked his world before yielding to temptation, but God had given him just one prohibition, one rule, one "commandment," and presto-change-o, we became a race of liars, and worse.
            Anyone who remains unconvinced of mankind's fundamental sin-nature need only observe the small child, fist locked around a forbidden cookie, emphatically denying his disobedience. Is that so different from Eve biting into the forbidden fruit?
            Indeed, our human situation seems unfair, and would be, if the Eternal, Self-existent God had not given us a way to escape our just deserts. That divinely provided way is not a process, method, philosophy, or religion. It is, in fact, a person; John 3:16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 17 For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. (Another essential Bible passage that we have reduced to trivia)
            To rely on our innate sense of rightness for direction in life invites all kinds of corruption and abuse, as exemplified by the hurtful behavior of religious and political zealots. Our "other" right is God's way; the one standard that never changes, to please and glorify the one God that never changes. Therein lies our true fulfillment and our destiny.

* Alternatively: ex-spurt. Definition: A has-been drip under pressure.

Thursday, September 23, 2010


            God's word mentions two distinctly different swords, both of which are small but extremely heavy. So heavy are they, that no Christ-follower can carry both. In fact, all true disciples of Christ carry the same one, described in the following Scripture passage.
2Timothy 3:16-17(ESV) All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, (17)that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.
            That's right; we're talking about "The Sword of the Spirit(Ephesians 6:17). There is another sword, however, that all of us have at our disposal, whether or not we use it.
Proverbs 12:18(ESV) There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.
            So, what happens when you wield your sword of choice? Does it bring healing, or grievance? Does it build people up, or tear them down? In case you haven't noticed, "sword" and "words" are interchangeable. Do you use kind words for those you want to impress, and biting words for those who are unimportant or disagreeable to you?
            Another passage of Scripture compares the tongue(symbolic of the words we utter) to the bit in a horse's mouth, a boat's rudder, and a small flame.
James 3:3-10(ESV) If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. (4)Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. (5)So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! (6)And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. (7)For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, (8)but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. (9)With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. (10)From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.
            The imagery presents two functions for the tongue, or words: First, as a steering device. Second, as an instrument of destruction. But even something as positive as a steering device can, when mishandled, direct us to shipwreck on the rocks. And something as dangerous as a flame can be used to produce power or purify a substance.
            We often hear that we can be sure of our eternal destiny by "the witness of the Spirit." While the Bible indeed says that, interpreting the "witness" as the warm, comfortable feeling we get at church is exactly wrong. The hundred-percent accurate way of knowing where we are ultimately headed is simple, and far more objective than feelings; we must open our ears to the words we wield, and open our eyes to the effect we have on others.
            So please, watch what sword you wield. Your eternal life depends on it.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A dog's earnest prayer

            I watched a video, the link to which my sister sent in an e-mail, showing a dog that had been trained to assume a posture of prayer on command before snarfing its meal.
            While it was cute beyond measure, it suggest to me the sincerity, or lack thereof, displayed by the average pew-sitter (including myself at times). That begs the question: If prayer changes things--mostly human hearts--what sort of thoughts pass through people's minds when they pretend to pray, yet continue with their lives unchanged. I know that sounds cynical, even judgmental, but I've been walking with the Lord long enough to well know my own insincerity at times of rebellion, fatigue and depression; the moments when I most need to touch God's heart are when I find it hardest to reach out to Him.
            The ever living God is more polite than one would imagine for an omnipotent super-being. Oh, yes, He can pour out His wrath then those who claim to belong to Him behave unfaithfully or deny Him by their actions. Yet, He is more than willing to forgive such behavior when the transgressor sincerely repents. Praise the eternal, living God for His infinite grace.
            While the praying dog may not know why his master wants him to sit in such a strange position before eating, no one can deny his canine sincerity when performing for a meal. Yes, we can learn a lot from a praying dog.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Immanuel's Veins
Thomas Nelson (September 7, 2010)

Ted Dekker

On pain of acute disappointment, do not miss this story. Dekker is a good bet any time for an entertaining, exciting read. Just a short disclaimer: Start this book with plenty of time to finish it. I guarantee you won't want to lay it down.

Yes, this review is terribly general. It's intended to be. Anything close to a spoiler would be a grave affront to both reader and author, as allowing Immanuel's Veins to naturally build within the reader's mind and heart is just the way it works. But I can say, without spoiling the story in the least, this story, as is life, is all about sacrificial love. God's word says He is love. Not pleasure. Not sensuality. Certainly not lust. Godly love is, by nature, sacrificial

Beg, borrow, or ... well ... buy this book, but get it.


Ted Dekker is a New York Times best-selling author of more than twenty novels. He is best known for stories which could be broadly described as suspense thrillers with major twists and unforgettable characters, though he has also made a name for himself among fantasy fans.

Early in his career he wrote a number of spiritual thrillers and his novels were lumped in with ‘Christian Fiction’ a surprisingly large category. His later novels are a mix of mainstream novels such as Adam, Thr3e, Skin, Obsessed and BoneMan’s Daughters, and fantasy thrillers that metaphorically explore faith. Best known among these is his Circle Series: Green, Black, Red, White and The Paradise Books: Showdown, Saint, and Sinner.

Dekker was born to missionaries who lived among the headhunter tribes of Indonesia. Because his parents’ work often included extended periods of time away from their children, Dekker describes his early life in a culture to which he was a stranger as both fascinating and lonely. It is this unique upbringing that forced him to rely on his own imagination to create a world in which he belonged.

After leaving Indonesia, Dekker graduated from a multi-cultural high school and took up permanent residence in the United States to study philosophy and religion. Upon earning his Bachelor’s Degree, he entered the corporate world and proceeded to climb the proverbial ladder. But his personal drive left him restless and, after many successful years, he traded corporate life for wide range of entrepreneurial pursuits that included buying and selling businesses, healthcare services, and marketing.

In the early nineties while visiting a friend who had just written a book, Dekker decided to pursue a long held desire to be a novelist. Over the course of two years he wrote two full length novels before starting from scratch and rewriting both. Now fully enamored by the the process and the stories, he realized that storytelling was in his blood and a new obsession to explore truth through story gripped him anew.

He sold his business, moved his family to the mountains of Western Colorado and began writing full-time on his third novel. Two years and three novels later his first novel, Heaven’s Wager, was published.

Now, Dekker’s novels had sold over 3.4 million copies worldwide. Two of his novels, Thr3e and House, have been made into movies with more in production. Dekker resides in Austin, Texas with his wife Lee Ann and two of their daughters.


This story is for everyone--but not everyone is for this story.

It is a dangerous tale of times past. A torrid love story full of deep seduction. A story of terrible longing and bold sacrifice.

Then as now, evil begins its courtship cloaked in light. And the heart embraces what it should flee. Forgetting it once had a truer lover.

With a kiss, evil will ravage body, soul, and mind. Yet there remains hope, because the heart knows no bounds.

Love will prove greater than lust. Sacrifice will overcome seduction. And blood will flow.

Because the battle for the heart is always violently opposed. For those desperate to drink deep from this fountain of life, enter.

But remember, not everyone is for this story.

If you'd like to read the first chapter of Immanuel's Veins, go HERE.

Watch the book trailer:

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Here's a Real Eye-Opener
            My sister and brother-in-law sent me this link, which everyone outside the Muslim world should view.

            I must confess, I was partially deceived by the conciliatory rhetoric of American Muslims, thinking they were but a different faction of Islam, when the truth is any faithful Muslim speaking to non-Muslim infidels(ALL non-Muslims are infidels) is either lying or ignorant of al-Qur'an. Those Red, White, and Blue Muslim Americans we see on the Network News aren't necessarily Muslims embracing the American Dream. In fact, American converts to Islam are necessarily militant, as their conversion means they have studied al-Qur'an exhaustively.
            Don't believe me? Think I've caved in to the far right's propaganda? Watch the presentation if you haven't already.
            While Islam is by its very nature a unity, Christendom encourages factions, due to the pluralistic nature of God's word. Those who want Biblical grounds for their off-the-wall agenda simply have to search out a passage that seems to support it, and ignore the rest. The Bible is God's inerrant word ONLY when it is taken in its entirety, from the most reliable, original language manuscripts. Excerpts can support specific doctrines, but neither those excerpts, nor the doctrines they support, are inerrant when taken out of the entire Bible's context.
            That is not to say God cannot use modern Bible translations, paraphrases, and even translations by cultists. God can use the daily news as an instrument of personal redemption if He so chooses, but it is certainly not inerrant.
            One thing I've learned about God is He cannot be bound by human conceptions of Him, regardless how pervasive they are. That's why I don't pretend to be The Authority on all things godly. Many people, most of whom far brighter than I, have different takes on theology, and while I must necessarily stand by my own beliefs, I must also remain open to the correction of truth. 'Tis a delicate balance I, and anyone attempting to follow the way of Christ, is walking.
            Regardless, that way, walked as honestly as possible, is the only way to the Father. One of my life's Bible passages is Galatians 6:7,8
Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.
            God will not play our silly, religious games, be they Muslim, agnostic, or Christian. Praise God for His grace, through which He views our inner thoughts and motives, and without which we have no hope of redemption.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Convictions Of Convenience
              I listened to a very funny speaker named Jeanne Robertson recounting an ill advised trip down the Colorado River. She finished with the tale of a group of Baptist tea-totalers who, when the stress of the trip finally got to them, imbibed in some wine the guide offered.
              Seems like some stray thought always attacks my fun. When Jeanne said, "What happens on the river stays on the river," I thought, "Conviction of Convenience."
              Moral people stand on their standards until something bigger and more pressing overtakes them ... like a nice fat grudge or some wonderful person who understands them more than their insensitive spouse. Whenever I'm tempted to stand in judgment over someone whose behavior or lifestyle isn't up to my standard, I cling to a wise statement I once heard from a godly man, "But for the grace of God, there go I."
              I have no immunity to temptation, even though the Bible says I'm "dead to sin." Somewhere below the surface, I have a murderer, or an adulterer, or a homosexual, or a thief, or a liar, or a drunk ready to reach his decayed hand out of the grave and grasp my throat in a death grip. So I try to take nothing for granted.
              Now, don't get the wrong idea; I believe the Bible. But God's word isn't limited to a few "life-verses" or doctrinal proofs. God's inspired word cannot be abridged, and remain God's inspired word. That's what gives rise to "Christian" denominations and cults.
              The Bible indeed says we are dead to sin, but in the same chapter of Paul's letter to the Romans, he warns us to "let not sin reign in our mortal bodies." If the promise applied universally he would not have had to include the warning that follows the promise.
              Think about it. Adam had no "Original Sin" before he tried lying to God. He couldn't blame his sin on his "Adamic nature." So he blamed his wife, "whom You gave to be with me," who blamed the serpent. Bottom line? Man blamed God for the evil that came into his life. And a lot of good that did him.
              According to OneLook.com, one definition of conviction is, "an unshakable belief in something without need for proof or evidence." Unshakable is the operative term, which limits our true convictions to an exceedingly narrow range. Few even begin to suspect the power convictions can wield over human affairs. In fact, convictions are never convenient.

Friday, August 13, 2010

More On Oxymorons 

      "CAUTION; blonde thinking," shouted the bumper sticker. My mind, though not situated under a blonde head of hair, began thinking, "Hey, that's a classic oxymoron." Any comedian will tell you that much, and Lord knows comedians never lie.
      Of course that thought led me to other, spiritual, oxymorons. "Die to live," doesn't make much sense. Neither does "give to receive," "serve to be great," "God man," or "tri-unity." Here's a doozy: "Christian Humanist." That leads to a spiritual law whose violation can be stated as an oxymoron: "Human Spirituality," declared by the following Scripture passages:
1Co 2:12-16  Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.  (13)  And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.  (14)  The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.  (15)  The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one.  (16)  "For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?" But we have the mind of Christ. 
1Co 1:20-21  Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?  (21)  For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.
      A word(or a few) of explanation: Since Adam sold our birthright for a lie, we are no longer born as Sons of God, created in God's own image. All humans are born spiritually handicapped. Yes, similar to God, we can create, illuminate, enunciate, extricate, articulate, arbitrate, initiate, conciliate, illuminate, animate, liberate, incubate, appreciate, expiate, alleviate, and about a thousand other *ates, but unlike God, we also hate, berate, fornicate, prevaricate, fixate, annihilate, beatificate, flatulate, exfoliate, ingratiate, affiliate, circumstantiate, inoculate, hereticate, defecate, instigate, frustrate, deprecate, federate, urinate, and about a thousand different *ates.
      But the one thing we can't do in the least like God is cogitate(consider carefully and deeply; reflect upon; turn over in one's mind). That's because God's thought process considers all knowledge—from all time, past, present, and future—not just the smidgen of knowledge we have stored in our pea-brains. Yet, we bitterly complain about God's work in our lives and in the world.
      If we saw the least glimmer of His infinite wisdom we would fall on our faces in grateful, reverent adoration for His grace, love, patience and kindness to this ungrateful race, instead of complaining about circumstances or denying God even exists. God alone is worthy of praise, and only by living for His glory will we fulfill our purpose for existing and our eternal destiny. Any other outcome will be pure hell.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Tolerance is a virtue? 

If Islamic fundamentalism is dangerous, it is because The West is so imbued with relativism that it is unable to appreciate the raw, amoral power of religious fundamentalism. For example, ask the typical American, and he/she would tell you Evangelical Christianity is fundamentalist in the same sense as Islam. That's the power of the popular news and entertainment media; what they say must be true. And therein lies the extreme danger of Islam.

      Talk about fundamentalism, pop-culture is as fundamentalist as any religion. "If you're not cool, you're dangerous, and must be kept quiet." Madison Avenue controls the West, and its influence is spreading throughout the world. But Big Money and Hollywood jointly own Madison Avenue.

      Only one thing can be said for this system: It works, even if corrupt. Most of us plug along our daily paths gratefully receiving what the System deems necessary to keep us complacent, never challenging the status quo because rocking boats tend to capsize.

      Is that wrong? Yes. Can we change it? No, because the system has factored in the small minority of lemmings who object. Well-intended grass root organizations such as the Tea Party Movement make participants feel like they're doing something proactive to change the System, but if they were to make a real difference, they would soon quietly disappear.

      The World System has existed far too long for transient jitters to seriously challenge it. And it's managed to confine the only factor it can't control: Spiritual revival! 

      Christ-followers have allowed themselves to be reduced to irrelevant, safe, comfortable, religious folks through the infusion of worldly values and the resultant, public toleration. If members of Christendom were truly Christians(little Christs), the World System could not ignore us, and God's church would advance through persecution as in earlier centuries. But we aren't, and we won't, because we're too comfortable as we are.

      All that sounds pessimistic because we want to believe goodness will triumph. But it won't, because we sold the world to The Prince of the Power of the Air, and it's his to misuse as he chooses. Our only recourse is to exist apart from the World System, even as we are subjugated by it. And how can we do that?
1Jn 2:15-17  Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  (16)  For all that is in the world--the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions--is not from the Father but is from the world.  (17)  And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.
It's as simple, and as impossible as that. Impossible in the natural flesh, but in Christ, all things are possible.

      The World System controls religions, and indeed, religions are part of the World System. But the way of Christ is not a religion, even if Christ-followers live His way religiously. Confusing?
1Co 2:14-16  The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.  (15)  The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one.  (16)  "For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?" But we have the mind of Christ.
      Though Bible passages like that earn Bible-believers the rap of being intolerant, a major faux pas in our society, we must remain so. If we were to tolerate corruption in our food, we'd soon succumb to food poisoning. If we were to tolerate lawlessness in our streets, we'd soon cower before complete anarchy. If we were to tolerate personal laziness ... well ... we'd soon join the welfare rolls. 

      Despite our cultural indoctrination, tolerance is the social equivalent of the physical law of entropy. But it will never lead to the homogenized, worldwide culture liberals everywhere crave. Rather, it will produce the very Armageddon that they are trying to avoid. For, "If a man stands for nothing, he'll soon fall for anything."