"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 12, 2012

Style at All Cost

A small nation’s space program needed an astronaut to pilot their new, advanced space plane on its maiden flight to establish a military base on the moon. General Whinsap had spent a year pouring over the Air Command’s personnel records, and had finally narrowed the field of applicants down to three crackerjack fighter aces whom he’d ordered to fly in for the final interviews.
General Whinsap stood on the flight control tower’s observation deck when a black spot appeared on the horizon. Within seconds the black spot became visible as an airplane streaking over the landscape, and the general barely had time to plug his ears before a massive sonic boom shattered all the control tower’s windows, showering the general and his aids with glass shards.
Soon, Captain Smithers, the general’s orderly, stood back up next to him and the General shouted at him, “Strike that pilot from the list! He’ll never fly in my space plane!”
Captain Smithers crisply answered, “Most certainly, General.”
A few minutes later a second black spot appeared on the horizon, eventually materializing the wings and tail of a fighter jet. General Whinsap watched the lethal weapons platform veer toward the flight control tower, and just before it would fly across in front of the officers the pilot punched his afterburners, pulled the stick back and shot straight up like a ballistic missile.
Searing exhaust gasses enveloped the men, blowing off their hats and singing all their hair. Again, when Captain Smithers regained his position next to him, General Whinsap shouted, “Have that man brought before a court-martial!”
Captain Smithers’ shaky voice responded, “Indeed, sir.”
Shortly afterward, a third black spot appeared on the horizon, approaching for a perfect landing, spot on at the runway’s end. But Captain Smithers panicked when the aircraft drew close. “General sir, wave him off! He hasn’t lowered his landing gear!”
Seconds later the fighter jet touched down in a shower of sparks and flame, and the pilot shot out of the cockpit on a plume of white-hot gasses from his ejection seat rocket engine. High over the wreckage a parachute opened, the seat fell away, and the pilot floated gently to the ground.
Captain Smithers volunteered, “General Whinsap, sir, I’ll have that man arrested the moment he walks in to ...”
The general glared at the captain with disdain, “You will do nothing of the kind, Smithers! That man has passed my test with flying colors.”
Smithers almost couldn’t respond for his stuttering, “But General, sir, he’s just completely destroyed a cutting-edge war machine worth millions.”
As I said, Smithers, you’ll not lay a hand on that man.” General Whinsap gazed down with pride at the charred and battered pilot limping crisply away from his parachute. “That man has style! Didn’t you see his smart salute as he shot skyward through the flames?”

Out of the Ashes

We flawed human beings put a lot of stock in style. Even in God’s church, we admire those saints who soar off above the wreckage of their sin-ravaged lives, firmly in control of their ejection seats.
Sin takes an awful toll on families, friendships, and especially leadership within God’s called-out ones. We behave almost as though sin doesn’t really matter in the Grand Scheme of things sacred. After all, sin is of the flesh, and we’re all about eternity, so the occasional oops seems comparatively trivial … so long as we don’t get caught.
And so what if we do get caught with our hand in the cookie jar. As long as we don’t make a practice of it, isn’t that what Grace is for?
The Master’s Apostle Paul had something relevant to say about that: God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? (Rom 6:2 KJV) As literally as the King James translators usually rendered the original Greek in which Paul wrote, they didn’t have a direct translation adequate to the Apostle’s forceful language. So “May it not be,” became “God forbid,” the ultimate expression that polite English would allow. We may safely infer that such an answer to the question asked in Romans 6:1 effectively disallows cheap grace.
Bible scholars have made careers of duking out the thorny issues of Wesleyan-Arminian holiness versus Calvinistic predestination. Overly simplified, one side claims believers must live like believers to be believers, and—wait a minute! So does the other side, only they get there by different theological gymnastics.
Personally? Any action of mine that cheapens anything about God, or his Son the eternal Word, is reprehensible to me. In the not-too distant past I felt that if I buried my sinful attitudes and actions deeply enough and hid them well enough, Divine grace would get me through to my eternal reward. I praise my Savior I didn’t get myself killed while in that error. Not only was I guilty of the horrible sin of presuming on Christ’s holy blood, but I was a hypocrite to boot.
Am I saying that one itsy-bitsy sin gets my name rubbed out of the Lambs Book of Life?
HARDLY! (Is that enough emphasis to get the idea across?)
The difference is between ignorant or inadvertent sin, and deliberate presumption. Point is, I knew better, and I preferred risking my Savior’s disgrace, to truly repenting.
As the TV pitch-men say, “But that’s not all …”
Even if the eternal security-people are right and I couldn’t loose my salvation because of my stiff-necked attitude, practicing that kind of marginal Christianity effectively kept me spiritually infantile! So while everyone thought I was “running the race,” I was actually just crawling along, trying to get to my colorful toys, and content with it. Or maybe I should say, complacent with it. I just pray that God will bear with all my brethren who still think they can get by with similar, less-than-best intentions until they get wise and begin honoring our Savior inside, as well as out.
Don’t count on rocketing clear of your spiritual wreckage. Religious style may get us the approval of our brethren, but it won’t hack it with our Commander-In-Chief.

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