"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, April 28, 2012

Heaven Is For Lovers

And Only For Lovers

Now, don’t get your shorts all in a bind. How would you like to arrive on Heaven’s track number nine, climb down to the station cloud, and find folks bickering and name-calling ‘cause their bags didn’t arrive as advertized?
Then you walk over to the baggage cart and look at the troublemaker who’s painting the air blue, and he stabs you with his red eyes and loudly challenges, “You got a problem?”
You step back quickly and dig into your ticket, check the destination, and it says clear as the eternal light, “HEAVEN.” You mumble, “Must be some mistake. This couldn’t be heaven.”
The conductor, whom you suddenly realize is standing at your elbow, says, “Well? What did you expect? Perfection?”
In a flash, the truth nearly decks you: “I’m facing an eternity filled with people just like me!”

From the Creator’s Mouth

If you claim to be a Christian, you already believe that Jesus is the only way to the Father; that’s a given. If you’re not a Christian, all bets are off, and you’re gambling on your own “wisdom” over God’s word. Good luck.
To Christ’s followers, God’s word says a lot about love, both about what His brand of love is, and how essential it is to practice it His way if we really want to spend eternity with Him in heaven. Considering the alternative, that seems like the best idea ever.

First, what is God’s love, and is it essential?

1 Corinthians 13(NLT) If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. 3 If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.
4 Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud 5 or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. 6 It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. 7 Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.
That’s the kind of love everybody wants, but few are willing to give. Problem is … well, God says it best through Jesus words, recorded by His Apostle John.

John 13:34(NLT) So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.

How much does Jesus love us? That’s not just us, but you, and me, one-on-one, personally.

John 15:13-14(NLT) There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.

Think about that for a minute.

Time’s up. Every Sunday school kid knows Jesus died for our sins. Roman’s Road and all that stuff. Done deal, right?
Well, sorta. But if we stop to consider what Jesus, God’s eternal Word who thought the universe into existence, gave up to spend thirty-three years as a man among corrupt men on this corrupted planet, “Done deal” takes on a bit more significance. That alone took more love than we puny earthlings can even imagine.
But, what about the dying part? When I read in the Bible what Jesus endured just to get to his death, and I take an objective look at my selfish motives, self-righteous works and self-centered attitudes, all I can do is hang my head and weep.
So, what’s next? Weeping is a great start when we get a glimpse of God’s depth of love, but if we fail to take corrective action, we’re looking at an eternity of weeping. “Corrective action” is just a fancy way of saying, repent! We must turn away from our selfish attitudes and sorry excuse for love, and toward the kind of selfless love Jesus demonstrated once for all through his passion, death, and resurrection that guarantees each obedient Christ-follower the eternal life he created us for.

Think You’re Good Enough Now?

Take a good look at Christ’s character. He’s good enough, so what about you? If, perchance, you’re not that good, repentance is still in order, and praise the loving, eternal God for his merciful grace in Christ Jesus.

Sunday, April 15, 2012


While watching a delightful episode of Bones, I got to see a tub full of lye and organic material representing a human body. What a treat!
The point is I was able to watch it because I knew it was nothing but special effects, or “FX,” as they say in the business. If it had been real, it would have upset me terribly.
We’re used to seeing depictions awful things in the movies and TV, so we’ve become desensitized to such scenes. Fights, murders, rapes, all flash before us with little effect because we know they’re unreal.

Moral Callouses

A common occurrence in high-crime cities is violence against men, women and children taking place in full view of neighbors and onlookers with no one getting involved, or even reporting it to the police. While fear plays a huge part in that callousness, desensitization by depictions of violence in the entertainment media also plays a significant role in it.
Both of those phenomena also effect our view of the Bible, where we read right over true accounts of horrendous or miraculous events without reaction. By immersing ourselves in the media’s mock violence and FX, God’s truth tends to lose its impact on us.
The entertainment, and even the news media, also take their toll on our worldview*. Christ-followers today are becoming more worldly, materialistic and relativistic, than those of past centuries. Back then, such gross carnality characterized only nominal Christians, who, arguably, weren’t authentic believers at all. Now, you often can’t distinguish church members from non-believers, whether by appearance or by behavior.

Exceptions, Please

After all that moralizing, I’d love to say I shield myself from worldly entertainments, but I can’t. Am I a hypocrite? I’ll leave that for God to judge. Does it have an influence on me? Yes, but mostly not a negative one. The thing is, after all these years of immersing myself in Bible teaching and critically observing the world around me, I’ve developed a fairly solid, Biblical worldview. When I see the world’s lies they stand out like a flagman waving a caution or stop sign, but the same can’t be said for the young or otherwise impressionable.

A Solution

Tragically, we can’t completely shield our children from worldly influences. We can, however, expose the world’s lies while helping them to develop critical thinking through a gradual, consistent, teaching process. At first, they won’t like it a bit, as you’ll spoil their fun by interrupting carefully selected programs with your teaching. And for the not-so carefully selected programs, you will exemplify your judgment by consistently shutting off the boob tube, switching channels, or ending the rotten games and movies. Example is, after all, the most effective teaching.
Bottom line? To develop new believers, and especially our children, into mature Christ-followers, we need to reinforce the real while exposing the unreal, so anyone on whom we have influence will learn the difference.

*Worldview, for the uninformed, is like wearing glasses that filter everything you see. Those with a Biblical worldview have a well developed lie detector achieved through extensive discipling by mature Christ-followers. Other religious worldviews may produce similar standards, but the Bible is God’s only true revelation. End of story.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

No Worries

My retail dealings with the public for a number of years gave me a virtual, “Window on Main Street,” for insight into many kinds of people and subcultures. One phrase that often surfaced, and seemed like music to my ears, was, “No Worries,” expressed when an issue might have been disputable, but the customer simply let it pass. In fact, I became so fond of the phrase that I adopted it as my own.
Its application to life, however, covers far more than the simple issues retailers and customers encounter. God’s word* repeatedly tells us that anxiety, care and concern for our circumstances are inappropriate for Christ-followers, as such worries demonstrate our failure to trust his sovereign love for us.
Doctor James Dobson once illustrated simple, childlike trust by recounting the time his small son Ryan tried to exit the rear of a parked moving-van and found himself dangling over what, to him, felt like an abyss. In panic, Ryan began calling, “Help the boy,” in the most plaintive voice imaginable. As the loving daddy, Dr. Dobson ran over to Ryan and found the boy’s toes swinging only an inch above the pavement. It took some coaxing, but finally the little guy let himself down to the pavement without injury, and learned an important lesson about trusting the One who loves you perfectly. (Luke 11:11-13)
Worry and anxiety are so naturally human that our heavenly Father provided the remedy for that and all other sins this fallen race commits. His Son Jesus, the eternal, self-existent Word incarnate, freely offered to take God’s just punishment for our sin-guilt upon his frail, human body, while leaving us sinners fully justified before himself. In view of that unfathomable love, how can we presume to worry about our paltry, temporary needs? (Romans 8:26-28) Practice saying, and believing, “No worries,” when life’s cares overtake you.

*For further study, click the following links:
Hebrews 11; Psalms 119:9-11; Romans 10:8-10; Ephesians 2:4-10; Acts 10:43; John 14; John 11:25-26; and many more.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Ya Gotta Love Language

According to Webster’s 1828 Dictionary, Conversation is defined as follows:

1. General course of manners; behavior; deportment; especially as it respects morals.

Let your conversation be as becometh the gospel. Phil 1.

Be ye holy in all manner of conversation. 1 Pet 1.

2. A keeping company; familiar intercourse; intimate fellowship or association; commerce in social life. Knowledge of men and manners is best acquired by conversation with the best company.

3. Intimate and familiar acquaintance; as a conversation with books, or other object.

4. Familiar discourse; general intercourse of sentiments; chat; unrestrained talk; opposed to a formal conference.

What I mentioned in conversation was not a new thought.

[This is now the most general use of the word.]

Apparently, where language is concerned, I’m a classicist, in that I am comfortable with many of the traditional English definitions. For example, conversation, defined by Webster’s 1828 Dictionary, receives four variant definitions. The first of which is obviously obsolete, while the second through the fourth remain as useful definitions.
The problem with a fluid language is during a word’s transition to a different use, we risk significant misunderstanding by using it without attaching disclaimers or caveats.
By Webster’s definitions, Conversation, as an activity, implied no superficiality, but conveyed honest, even probing communication intended to further one’s knowledge of another person’s character, preferences and values. Parties to such conversation must mutually understand the trust-factor required and either agree to it or set clear limits on it. Setting such limits, however, introduces the question of why they need to be in place, as friendship infers no such constraints.
How, then, does Webster’s 1828 Dictionary define friend? Glad you asked.

FRIEND, n. frend.

1. One who is attached to another by affection; one who entertains for another sentiments of esteem, respect and affection, which lead him to desire his company, and to seek to promote his happiness and prosperity; opposed to foe or enemy.

A friend loveth at all times. Prov 17.

2. One not hostile; opposed to an enemy in war.

3. One reconciled after enmity. Let us be friends again.

4. An attendant; a companion.

5. A favorer; one who is propitious; as a friend to commerce; a friend to poetry; a friend to charitable institution.

6. A favorite. Hushai was David's friend.

7. A term of salutation; a familiar compellation.

Friend, how camest thou in hither? Mat 22.

So Christ calls Judas his friend, though a traitor.

Mat 26.

8. Formerly, a paramour.

9. A friend at court, one who has sufficient interest to serve another.

FRIEND, v.t. frend. To favor; to countenance; to befriend; to support or aid. [But we now use befriend.]