"So," they say, "nobody's perfect!"
But the Vinedresser won't buy that.
Given the opportunity, He will trim the unproductive suckers and shape the branches so each one will bask in Sonlight.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Long before Jesus, a man of God received a vision of Jehovah/Yahweh (this translates to the Eternal, Self-existent One) seated upon a throne. The earth shook with the voices of seraphim repeatedly declaring God's holiness. Isaiah the prophet responded to God's perfect holiness by lamenting his uncleanness and that of his people. His confession brought a seraph with a live coal to cleanse the prophet's lips, and thus cleansed, he heard the Lord say, “Whom shall I send, and who shall go for us?”

The prophet answered, “Here am I! send me.

In His commission of Isaiah, the Lord indicted His people Israel, “Go, and say to this people: 'Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive. Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and blind their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.'” (Isaiah 6:9,10 ESV)

That indictment characterized God's people throughout much of history, and remains true today for His people the church. Godly men teach and preach instruction in Christ-like living, yet we pew-sitters fail to put such wisdom into practice, content to remain thumb-sucking, milk-drinking, spiritual babies. And the toll of our deafness is compounded by our widespread spiritual blindness. Wondering why our congregations seem stale and impotent in our assault on hell's gates, we refuse to gaze into the mirror of God's word and behold the truth of our own carnality.

When John the baptizer heard of the Nazarene's marvelous works, he directed his disciples to go and inquire of Him. Jesus answered them, "Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me." (Matthew 11:4-6 ESV)

Jesus did such wonderful things not only as a sign to those watching for God's Messiah, but because of His love and compassion for those suffering from their sin's bitter fruit. Those who live by faith in God's divine Son, however, see a deeper significance in Jesus' miracles. Since Adam's fall, a far more profound blindness has cursed mankind, and by healing that blindness, Jesus leads us to nothing less than eternal redemption.

If we dig to the foundations of all sin, we find the infamous, sin of Adam. Some call that, Original Sin, and blame Adam and Eve for sending us down that road to perdition. Others deny sin’s existence, claiming religionists out to guilt-trip the masses invented it. Both theories, however, deny several obvious human traits:

    1. Humans worship, and we prefer worshiping something visible. When God seems silent or remote, we invent new objects of worship, such as “nature,” natural science, power, those in power, possessions, and self.

    2. Humans church. Though few will admit it, to church is a verb that encompasses the wide range of social and ritual behavior typically exhibited when religious folks get together. While nothing is wrong with churching per se, saturating our churching with other traits of human fallenness is wrong.

    3. Humans grasp. We are jealous of what we perceive as our possessions, even protecting them with our lives.

    4. Humans aspire. If someone else has it, we want it. If some else has more of it, we want more than they have. If we're not there yet, we nag our parents. If we're behind someone, we must be first.

    5. Humans rebel. Though we need a transcendent object of worship, we chafe under external authority. Watch most any tired two-year-old child, and this point is proven. Adults, however, have refined the crude rebelliousness of childhood into an art. We can, with little thought, subvert or usurp any authority structure where we are not the Head.

    6. Humans sulk. When we perceive a personal affront, we deeply resent it, carrying it even to the grave. The truly pathetic aspect of this trait is we persist in carrying a grudge even when it destroys our lives, though our grudges harm not a hair on their objects' heads.

    7. Humans grope—as in darkness. Even when we have a guide or a map, we prefer stumbling about, seeking our own way. And herein lies the blindness that Jesus came to eradicate from humanity.

Physical blindness is not fun. Yet, most sight impaired and blind people live productive, successful lives by learning to work around what could be a devastating disability. Spiritual blindness is a different story; a most tragic story. For the spiritually blindeveryone is born that waythere is no workaround. The only cure is death, and rebirth by God's Spirit. That includes nice folks, moral folks, church folks.

The biggest problem with spiritual blindness is those who have it, can't see it. Tell them about it, and they become huffy.

So, there's the problem. What's the solution? Jesus' apostle Paul said it best: Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. (Romans 7:24-25 ESV)

Monday, March 01, 2010


Expect the unexpected” may be trite advice, but it's a good idea.

But, who really practices such wariness? Our lives are ruled by inertia; once in motion, we tend to stay in motion―locked in one direction, one speed, one mode. Even those who desperately try to live unconventionally do so according to their own conventionality.

Our attitudes and expectations toward such ethereal qualities as love and peace largely depend on our experiences with them. Those fortunate enough to have been reared in safe, affirming, supportive homes with unconditional love, typically gravitate toward similar circumstances and relationships throughout their lives. Trouble is, few seem to enjoy such positive inertia. The rest of us had parents who were human beings; flawed people with baggage of their own, who despite their parental love, messed up regularly, perhaps flying into a rage for no good reason, punishing their kids unfairly, breaking promises they fully intended to keep.

Such parents, fully aware of their shortcomings, suffer wracking guilt pangs for warping their kids' temperaments and personalities for life. “Will Johnnie become a serial killer because I failed to make it to Science Fair Parents' Night as promised?” “I'm not the warmest of people. Will Mary become a cold and detached wife?" But they fail to realize their failures are imperfectly normal.

Those of us who care more about our kids than ourselves naturally have these passionate misgivings about our parenting abilities. We wonder how those people manage to raise such wonderful little geniuses, not realizing they entertain the same misgivings about their parenting. With all this failed parenting in the world, how can humanity hope to ever rise above its historical hatred, violence and indifference?

We humans have shown little potential for demonstrating the kind of love and enjoying the kind of peace that we long for. Only an incurable optimist would argue that such sterling qualities lie within our human reach. But that is not to say we humans weren't created specifically to enjoy perfect love and peace. And that is exactly why we are never satisfied with anything less.

From the outset, we human-type beings have bent every effort to obtain bits of divinity. We believed a usurper's lies and tried to take a shortcut to the exclusive qualities we thought God owned outright. Then, when we were busted, we lied about it to God's face, tried to cover it up, tried to blame each other, tried to insist, “Da devil made me do it!” While we call that whole fiasco “Original Sin,” there's nothing “original” about it. Whenever we decide to live our own way instead of God's way, we repeat Adam and Eve's little mistake, bearing our own eternal guilt.

Love and Peace

Two little words that infatuate us like none other. Our pea-brains confuse sex for love—or at least the prospect of getting some—and confuse lack of war, for true and lasting peace. We've built elaborate cultural institutions around those lofty misunderstandings, often involving various altered states of mind. When we can't find the authentic items, we're quite content to delude ourselves into feeling as though we have. Too often, however, the world's version of love quickly turns to exploitation and addiction, while the world's peace leaves us bickering among ourselves if not actually shooting at our neighbors.

God's love and peace, however, doesn't involve hangovers, smoking stuff, or unwanted pregnancies. It doesn't include smacking folks with placards while screaming, “Make Love, Not War!”

To those of us saturated by popular culture and indoctrinated by academia, God's way to authentic love and peace, quite frankly, seems rather weird. For one thing, God's way isn't a method or an institution. It's a person. When Jesus addressed his followers, preparing them for his departure to his Father, Doubting Thomas seemed confused. So, Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.(John 14:6 KJV)

How does God define Love? He defines it by identifying it with himself: So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.(1 John 4:16 ESV) In fact, the Lord's apostle John wrote more about love than any of the other anointed Bible writers. His gospel and his letters to the churches are filled with a unique depth of understanding for God's love. Yet, the majority of folks still don't get itcan't get it. 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. (1 Corinthians 2:14 ESV) Is there any wonder that the world consistently warps this vital teaching?

And how does God define peace? He shed some light on the subject when he addressed his followers for the last time: Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. (John 14:27 ESV)

But wouldn't it be nice if that was all he had to say about it? In another place he gave his followers some idea of his complexity: Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” (Matthew 10:34 ESV) Yet, he said: “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.”(Luke 19:42 ESV)

He may as well have said, “It's … complicated,” for truly it is. The one thing we know for sure about both love and peace is whatever popular culture is buying, God isn't selling. Will we buy the lie, just as Man and Woman did in Eden? Or will we hold out for God's truth—the Truth he left for us in his word, the Bible? Yes, it can be complicated, but why would we expect anything else?