"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.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

MSNBC Gang Banging

MSNBC interviewed Franklin Graham, but revealed more of their own bias than his. I must be wrong, but I was under the impression that "journalists" have a mandate to report the news, not to try putting words into the mouths of interviewees. I understand reporters trying to get past any perceived B.S., but Graham clearly answered their questions, rather than allowing them to engage him in controversy.
      When the reporter asked Graham if he "judged" a candidate to be a Christian, Graham flatly refused to judge anyone, repeating that only the individual can make a statement of his own faith.
      I've never seen the news media's lust for controversy demonstrated more clearly than on this network "gang banging."

Friday, February 24, 2012

Evangelical Prattle

Oops, now I’ve stepped in it. Does this mean I’m headed for excommunication from the Evangelical church? Please, let me explain while I’m still wearing my head.
Traditional American history recounts how our forefathers, many of whom were were Christ-followers, established “One Nation Under God.” If we examine our history in a broader spectrum, however, we witness both religious and secular abuses from the get-go. Yes, until recently our culture has given generous lip service to its Christian roots, even honoring God’s word as authoritative, but that deference to God has never reached down to clean up its crime-ridden streets and extinguish its burning crosses.
We pew-sitters seem to think delegating our social and civil responsibility to government donkeys and elephants, while footing the bill with our debt, is the extent of our obligation. And every four years we nitpick political candidates about where or on what day they worship, and on which side of the aisle they sit. Where is the concern about ushering into office men and women of principle, who aren’t nestled securely in Big Money’s pockets? Despite political rhetoric, such corruption is truly a bipartisan scourge.
Generations of revivalists have harped about putting shoes on our gospel and taking Christ to those who need Him. Yes, "revivals" temporarily empty the bars and fill the churches, which, my dear brethren, is indeed a good thing, but where is the ongoing change of truly regenerated lives? Until we actually become who we say we are and do what Christ did, all our Evangelical verbiage about being a Christian nation is nothing more than window dressing.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Might Makes Right?

This “stealth merger” of two dwarf galaxies seems somehow wrong to human sensibilities. 450 light years away, a larger galaxy “ate” a smaller one. Might makes right? Survival of the fittest? Sounds Darwinian to me.
It also shows our futility when fist-shaking at God when things don’t go right or we experience disillusionment. Yes, I’ve been mad at God. I’ve even tried disbelieving in him, but when I do, the sheer scale and beauty of the cosmos forces me to reconsider my rebellion.
Obviously, a humongous telescopic camera shot this photo. Considering some of those specks in the blackness of space are galaxies of unimaginable size, it reveals our highly-evolved, scientific human perspective for what it is: Less-than puny.
While we’re at it, what if we try dropping our perceptive scale down to include the ever-smaller subatomic particles scientists keep discovering? Some of the more ambitious astrophysicists try putting numbers to it, but I suspect such comparative magnitude is inconceivable even to them.
Okay, now that we’ve put nature into a convenient jar, what about dark energy and matter? Can’t see it. Can’t touch it. Can’t even measure it. But those in the scientific know insist it has to exist to hold everything else in balance. They also say there is no God.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


Lie to Me is a great police procedural series, but at times it lies to me, and of course, the rest of the audience. In the episode titled “Unchained,” a gang leader named Treo claimed to be reformed. He even wrote a book about his enlightenment process, oddly enough called Unchained.
Treo was such a persistent bad guy that the authorities flat disbelieved him, but they had to do something with him because the other Latino gangbangers in the joint seemed to want him dead. That’s where Dr. Cal Lightman comes in with his team of face-readers.
After the drama clears away, Dr. Lightman gives Treo a clean bill-of-health for release—but not quite all the drama. It seems the widow of the guy Treo was sent up for killing held a mean grudge, so she walks up to his home and holds a .38 caliber revolver to his chest. What does Treo the murderer do, but bravely expresses his complete understanding as to why she wants to kill him, and with tears in his eyes he says he’s sorry. Of course she melts, with a half-dozen police pistols pointed at her, and lets him take her gun.
This is all very sensitive stuff. In fact, I even felt my tear ducts begin to tingle … until I realized something was missing: They made no mention of his having been born again through Messiah’s blood, willingly shed on the Roman cross in exchange for our sin-guilt. Seems Treo had read a book of poetry that had touched him so deeply that he saw the error of his ways, and presto-change-o, he was no longer a scumbag murderer.
Alright, I’ve oversimplified it just a smidge, but all during the show, “experts” reiterated how it was extremely rare for leopards such as Trio to change their spots. That’s TV though, why would I expect any mention of the Re-Creator? And that’s a single example of why Christ-following families must use caution in their TV viewing habits.
“Why, there’s nothing wrong with benign TV programming such as Lie to Me,” some will say, “you’re just being a right-wing fundamentalist bigot.”
While there was no objectionable sex or language, and little violence in that program, there is this thing called “World View,” that has a lot to do with who gets the credit for both good and evil. By the Gospel according to Television, Science is the Final Authority on truth, and mankind is accountable only to him/her self; good is solely due to human altruism, and evil is always blamed on improper child rearing or religion.
Think I’m full of it? When was the last time you saw a TV drama or sitcom portray a clergy-person as blameless, or even as just a godly man or woman?
Have you ever heard of the power of repetition? “Experts” report that repeating the same behavior twenty-one discrete times creates a habit. As I’ve heard that at least twenty-one times, it must be true.
Think about it. Would major corporations pay Madison Avenue ad agencies millions to create advertisements, and millions more to have them broadcast repeatedly on TV if repetition didn’t work? We, God’s church, are allowing ourselves to be sold a total bill of goods with our entertainments—not to mention the ads that come through our eye/ear-gates with them.
We can talk all we want about our liberty in Christ, and think our faith makes us immune to all the media c-double-asterisk-p that we take in, but are we absolutely positive it has no corrosive effect on our faith?
I’m not talking the “reasonable doubt” standard that criminal juries follow. Sure, Mr. or Mrs. mature Christian, you know all the red-flags for ideological and spiritual propaganda coming through the idiot-box and the Internet, but do your kids? Come to think of it, are you sure you’re all that mature yourself?
Oh, don’t worry, I’m just blowing smoke here, as in eternal fire-type smoke. You may not loose your salvation because of some stupid entertainments, but what about your spiritual fire? What are the odds that if TV had existed in Bible times, that Revelation’s church at Laodicea would have been avid watchers? Does the word spew ring a fire alarm?

Saturday, February 18, 2012

My Printer-Always Ready

My printer’s pretty cool. Here's a picture of it:
         Epson (my pet name for it) does lots of things, and does them well, but it works best when I follow the instructions packaged with it. You could say those instructions are my Printer's Bible.  
Epson has a gadget called WiFi, that can communicate with my computer—no wires needed. When I want to print something, I just glance over to Epson’s top, and if the little green light is on, I hit “Print.” Suddenly, the dormant, black box comes to life with blinking lights and a glowing display window. Then, with whirring sounds, a few clicks, and some more whirring sounds, a blank sheet of paper begins slipping into Epson’s works.
Moments later that formerly blank paper emerges covered with information, graphics and photos, custom-printed to my satisfaction. Any mistakes on the hard-copy point to me, the operator, as Epson does exactly what I tell it to do.
Unlike my printer, I’m not a machine, though I often wish I were. My mistakes, glitches, malfunctions and outright failures point to me alone, not to my Operator, who custom-built me to receive his instructions. He also, however, gave me the responsibility to interpret and execute those orders flexibly. He feeds me the raw data, and my processor interprets his intent and formats the output accordingly. The better I know him, the more accurate is my output. When—not if—I mess up, he doesn’t simply correct the mistake and hit “Print” again, but tells me to make it right.
Like me with Epson, my Operator always confirms that I’m powered up, connected, and equipped with all the "supplies" I need to execute his command. My power is his Holy Spirit, the invisible, inexhaustible “battery” that keeps my "little green light" glowing. My connection is the invisible link of my ongoing, dependent relationship with him, and regular input from his Instruction Book.
Power and system-readiness, however, are only two of the four things needed to do my Operator’s work. My "software" has to know how to access them. 
Inkjet printers use a software driver that tells their machinery where to find paper, ink, the starting point for printing, and where to squirt the ink droplets that will form the finished work. But God’s office machine—that's me—needs one more crucial step to do the job: I must decide to accept and execute his instructions. Were I to refuse his output, he would most certainly be put out.
Father, give me the self-control to obey you, and the words to glorify you today. Remind me, Abba, to remain in prayer, at least subconsciously, so I'll be always ready to obey you.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


    Today’s Our Daily Bread caused me to think—again. As I read it, I leaned back on my comfortable chair, complacent in the belief that I had it made in spades. After all, the subject was being content with our possessions and circumstances, and that’s me through-and-through. Not to mention my extreme humility.
    My bit of self-congratulation ended, however, when I realized my basic nature includes little need to compete, confront, achieve or acquire more stuff. My lack of materialism wasn’t the result of crucifying any part of my carnal nature. I never had to strive for less ambition, to struggle with my desire for ever-more possessions, to stay on bloody knees til God answered my earnest prayer—at least on that particular issue. In fact, if I had my ‘druthers, I’d would have been born with more of a competitive nature. But, I’m okay with it—of course!
    Maybe I’ll learn to quit judging others’ struggles by the standard of my own cheap victories.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

A Bun Dance

What’s in a word?

Charlie Chaplin's Little Tramp did a table dance unlike any other. Two buns impaled by two forks(one each) became a lovely ballerina's slippers, while Charlie's expressive face made the dance become real.
Funny, how changing a word's shape can bend its meaning to a totally different direction. “A bun dance” also spells abundance, but in three pieces, doesn't even suggest the idea of plenty.
Most folks wouldn’t recognize abundance if it danced up and kicked them in the nose. We think of it as “plenty of stuff.” We have no abundance until we have enough, plus a bit more, but the more we have, the more we want, making the pursuit of abundance a perpetual, frustrating quest.
We needn’t point the bony finger of condemnation for greed at Gates or Buffett. Anyone who has watched toddlers playing together with a few toys has seen human greed in action. Each wants what the other has, usually escalating the dispute until one baby gets bopped with a toy and breaks into a passionate squall. And the adult version of this turf-war differs only in scale and style.
Luke 12:13-23 ESV Someone in the crowd said to him, "Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me." (14) But he said to him, "Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?" (15) And he said to them, "Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions." (16) And he told them a parable, saying, "The land of a rich man produced plentifully, (17) and he thought to himself, 'What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?' (18) 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. (19) And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.' (20) But God said to him, 'Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?' (21) So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God." (22) 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. (23) For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing."
While Jesus’ words carry divine authority, most people dismiss them as impractical or archaic wisdom with no relevance to us. He was, after all, the Ultimate Idealist. We're used to sitting in church while the collection basket circulates for this need or that, thinking, “They don't have enough of my money already?” While the preacher harps on laying up treasure in heaven, we can’t think past, “A bit more treasure here on earth would be nice.”

This is a test ...

What about some cultural relevance here? Back in Bible times the church didn’t have to pay for elaborate campuses and over-paid preachers.
Now I must inquire as to your reaction to the above, stupid, ridiculous, absurd statement. You passed the test if your reaction was something like, “Say what?!”
Don’t like tests? Neither do I, but God does. Faith is by its very nature a test, as it is quite unnatural for us after we graduate from infancy. Maybe that’s what Jesus meant when he said, “Give the kids a break, and let them come to me, as heaven’s kingdom is filled with people of such child-like faith. Listen up people! Unless you welcome God’s kingdom with the wide-eyed innocence and faith of a little child you won’t enter it.” (my paraphrase)
While Scripture treats giving as a principle, and not a law, generosity is part of the new nature Jesus bought for us without balking at the cost to himself. And while giving liberally is a principle, gratitude is a mandate! As we pray for God to transform us into his Son’s image, dare we pick-and-choose what parts of his image we want in ourselves? Jesus gave his all to reconcile us to his Father. Can we do any less in gratitude for his sacrifice?
I’ve found a funny coincidence among church-goers: Those who want greater wealth are most often quite satisfied with their spiritual condition. And those who long for greater resemblance to Jesus are most often quite satisfied with their material possessions.
Everyone who hopes for eternity with Christ would do well to ask which of those two people they are. Anyone whose top priority is not Christ-likeness will not find God’s Son a very welcoming host. And any silver-tongued devil who thinks he can talk his way into heaven will end up with more than a casual acquaintance with the fiery-tongued devil who occupies the fiery lake.

That Glance

Maybe the next time we glance sideways at someone’s ostentatious lifestyle, we will remember to double-check our own attitude. Is it Christ-like? What do we do with our discretionary funds? Since we lack that degree of wealth, how do we know we’d spend our money more wisely if we had more of it?
Once upon a time I earned a good living. Did I give beyond the tithe, laying my treasure up in heaven? No, I bought stuff. Did I think critically of those who enjoyed their greater material wealth? To my shame, I did. Would I act differently if I now came into wealth? I’d like to think so, but in view of my spending habits back then, I doubt that will happen. Do I want more? I’d be lying if I said that never crosses my mind, but when it does I look to what Apostle Paul said, “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.” Am I there yet? Not by a long shot! I’m about as close as most other fallible Christ-followers who long to resemble him more.
At least I know that a-bun-dance has nothing to do with buns and forks. Rather, it is what we have in Christ Jesus, whether we know it or not.

Fighting Discouragement

Sometimes, remembering to practice my faith isn't easy, and certainly not automatic. When I read Fox News' report that the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office removed the non-religious reference to God from their logo after a group calling themselves the "Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers" complained, I had to wrestle my reaction back into line with my belief in God's promise that, "We win!"

The RCO changed its all-caps Latin logo to read, "DOING MIRACLES WITH OTHER PEOPLE'S MONEY," exchanging "MIRACLES" for the words, "GOD'S WORK." I emphasized its capitalization to show that the "G" word was not typographically emphasized relative to the rest of the logo, effectively removing any religious context. "Freethinkers," indeed! The Atheists' action is nothing more, or less, than ideological terrorism, and one more ploy in a long history of such extremism.

There! I've succeeded in reporting the facts without once labeling Atheists, "Fools" or "Hypocrites." I don't believe in name-calling, even when it's warranted.

Thursday, February 02, 2012