"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, June 30, 2012

To Sanctify a Love Song

I marveled at the following lyrics from
Love Will Find a Way, by Yes. At the end I'll tell you why.

You wanna get close to me
The feeling so clear
But I need some time to see
Vision through my tear
You wanna get next to me
I need your intrusion
I don't need to be
Blinded by confusion

Here is my heart
Waiting for you
Here is my soul
I eat at chez nous

Love will find a way
If you want it to
Love will find a way
Love will find a way for me and you

Love will find a way
Love will find a way
Love will find a way
Love will find a way

So you want to get over me
And that's how you feel
Everything you want to be
Seems so unreal
I want to be all of you
And that's the confusion
It's so hard for me
To draw a conclusion

Here is my heart
Waiting for you
Here is my soul
I eat at chez nous

Love will find a way
If you want it to
Love will find a way
Love will find a way

Love will find a way
If you want it to
Love will find a way
Love will find a way

Love will find a way
I believe that there's a way
If you want it to
Love find a way
Love will find a way
Love find a way
Love will find a way

     If you didn't already see the reason for my reaction, try thinking of most of the lyrics in terms of a loving relationship with Father God.
     Love did find a way, in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, the incarnate(flesh-bearing), eternal Word of God. His love carried the entire world's sin-guilt to the Roman cross, where He became our substitute, bearing the curse of sin—yours and mine—because He was the only one who could, without suffering eternal death.
     "Well then," one might say, "since Jesus couldn't die permanently, what's the big deal?"
     The big deal is, He voluntarily subjected himself to the worst torture Rome had to dish out, but that was the least of His ordeal, and certainly wasn't the reason that, "being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground." The real torture He dreaded was bearing the curse of the world's sin-guilt, as He was the only one, then or now, who didn't deserve it.
     Jesus already did the hard part, the suffering part, the humiliating part, the degrading part. To ignore that is to add one personal sin to the mix, the only sin He couldn't take to the cross: That sin is rejecting His love and grace.
     The song's only stanza that doesn't lend itself to my love song to my Savior is smack in the middle. But even it contains some truth:
Seems so unreal
I want to be all of you
And that's the confusion
     His love does seem so unreal, as it transcends all human ideas of what love can be. And I do want to be—or at least be like—all of Jesus. "And that's the confusion," because no matter how badly I want it, I can never be just like Him; I can only obey Him, and let Him take care of the rest.
     Jesus loves you so much. If you don't know that by experience, you're missing out on the most profound, most beautiful experience life has to offer. Open your heart to Him today.

Ignorance & Innocence

Here's one that deals with sin in greater depth than I typically find in Our Daily Bread.

Ignorance & Innocence

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Praise Is Busting Out All Over

My, but haven’t I been tearful of late? Seems I’m always awash with one of two emotions: Either conviction for falling short of God's glory, or gratitude for deliverance from those shortfalls. By rights, I should generalize “gratitude” to cover His zillions of blessings, blessings I can’t begin to count, or even be aware of. Each heartbeat and breath, for a start. Each coordinated body movement. Each coherent thought. Each physical sensation, whether pleasant or painful. Each cell’s birth, and death. Each rod or cone in my eyes, and my brain’s essential function of making sense of those billions of photon-stimulations.
Father, I thank You for all of these unimaginable blessings that make us who You intended us to be. I feel as if I could read through an anatomy textbook and flood each page with grateful tears. But gratitude for that knowledge hardly scratches the surface of things for which I must thank You, my Lord. Even greater is the eternal wisdom and infinite knowledge You hold out to me in Your Word.
And thanks to the group Third Day for the following worshipful words:
Your love, oh Lord, reaches to the heavens
Your faithfulness stretches to the skies
Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, yeah
Your justice flows like the ocean's tide
I will lift my voice to worship You, my King
I will find my strength in the shadow of Your wings
He is most worthy of praise!
One of my neighbors likes to expound on his idea of “openness” to the cosmos, or whatever, but he misses God’s point completely. When I find myself overwhelmed by the majesty of God’s creation, I must unreservedly look, with gratitude and praise, to my loving and gracious Creator God. When I open my arms to the heavens as an expression of that love and gratitude, His love washes over me in the form of the Lord Christ’s heart-cleansing, life’s blood … and the praise-cycle begins anew. When, as one with the redeemed throng, I bow before God’s eternal Word, whether in speechless adoration or raucous praise, heart-bursting gratitude will gush forth to His declaration of, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” (Matthew 25:34 ESV)

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

ODB: Cornered

This Our Daily Bread touched me powerfully.


Thursday, June 21, 2012

I Hate Being Needy

A Universal Prejudice

Everyone hates the thought of being needy in this society that idealizes self-sufficiency. But who are we fooling? Skeptics defiantly state they don’t need a crutch; they stand on their own two feet. Yet, they lean on “Science” to sort through all the confusing sensations assailing them in this almost infinitely varied world.

Though my pride would love to deny my need for anything outside of myself, I must admit needing a stabilizing factor. Dairy farmers know a two-legged milking stool is inherently unstable—though hand milking is an oddity today. Bicyclists know you have to keep moving to stay upright for very long—no rest for the biker. Architects know a simple planar triangle won’t stand; any structure needs support on another plane.

So, what do I lean on for stability? Near forty years ago I swallowed my pride and accepted Jesus as my Lord, Savior, and Solid Rock. In Him I don’t need riches, power, sex, alcohol, or any other god to keep me upright.

I Am needy

The same pride I swallowed back then, however, is still alive and loading me down(rather like too much meatloaf). It also tries to convince me that I don’t need any person outside of myself. Trouble is, I am needy; I need a woman, or should I say “the” woman, to balance my maleness with her feminineness. God created man and woman to complement one another. As He said, “It is not good that the man should be alone. I will make him a helper corresponding to him.” (Genesis 2:18-25)

We've all heard the overworked, romantic movie declaration, "You complete me." God created mankind—both sexes—for fellowship, both with Him, and with each other. He created woman because the male sex is incomplete without her(Now that's a complete understatement.), and by inference, the female sex is incomplete without the male, for whom she was made. So much for feminism.

God’s eternal Word incarnate, the anointed Lord Jesus, became the necessary sacrifice to reconcile mankind to the Father. Those of us who hear His good news, believe it, accept His Holy Spirit as surety of the new covenant, allow Him to turn us around and change our life’s destination, and walk in that new way until God calls us home, He corporately calls the bride of Christ.

Does our eternal Husband intend to meet every need that He placed in us for the opposite sex(celibacy)? For single Christ-followers, it be wonderful if that were the case. Are we to be content in our current state? Of course(Philippians 4:11-13; 1 Timothy 6:6-8; Hebrews 13:4-5).

God’s Provision

According to the New Testament, is marriage discouraged or recommended among Christ-followers? Let's examine the evidence: Jesus performed His first miracle at Cana, in Galilee, showing His approval of the marital covenant(John 2:1-11). Apostle Paul told the church that local leaders in the body must, among other criteria, be the husband of one wife(1 Timothy 3:1-13). The apostle instructed Timothy to restrict the list of widows(those who were allowed to serve in the church and take support from the church) to those who were older than sixty years-of-age(1 Timothy 5:9). But he instructed younger widows to get married, “to give the enemy no occasion for reproach”(1 Timothy 5:14). ("Younger widows" were less than sixty? Apparently, sixty years old wasn't all that aged for first century women.) Dealing with the moral issues evident in the Corinthian church, and defending his prerogatives as a minister of Christ, Paul claimed for himself the right to take along a believing wife(1 Corinthians 9:5). Finally, the author of Hebrews commanded that the marriage bed be held in honor, discouraging fornication and adultery(Hebrews 13:4).

Does God recommend marriage only as a last resort for relieving sexual tension? Though sex is one small part of the marriage covenant and relationship, God’s word assigns far more significance to marriage than just that; a godly marriage relationship gives stability to both the man and woman by meeting their multitude of unique needs, and fulfilling His purpose for mankind.

There is no need to hate being needy. Just allow God to fill that needy void in His way, and in His time.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

I'm a Nitpicker

     Yes, and unapologetically so—at least when it comes to works that claims to be “exact, word-for-word” translations of God’s word. Such claims are rash at least, and possibly unfounded. Fact is, “exact, word-for-word” translations of ancient Hebrew into English are impossible, as the two languages are completely unrelated. Such misrepresentation throws suspicion on the whole work’s integrity.

     Some will wonder what the big deal is.
Well, it's personal. 

Thing is, while I enjoy wearing wool for its warmth and other qualities, I don't enjoying having it pulled over my eyes, especially for important issues such as my health, both physically and spiritually.

     That applies both for Scripture translations and interpretations thereof. They say, "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me." I've been fooled in matters of faith, probably, too often to count. And while I have no objective assurance that I'm not currently being fooled, I've learned to be wary of what I hear. That's why I want to know what God is actually telling me, not what somebody says He's telling me. And that's why I try my best to listen to God's Holy Spirit when I study His word.

     After all, God's word isn't ink on paper or print on a computer monitor. It's what God installs in your heart upon diligently reading or hearing, then meditating on the Bible.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Why Us?

God's word says He speaks to us in a "still small voice." Today's ODB speaks to me loudly, with a familiar, but oft-forgotten message. He made me specially, personally, including my problematic temperament, to fulfill His perfect will. My job is to trust His wisdom and love by allowing Him to work through me, as I am, warts and all.

As God is the very embodiment of love, He created us to serve as recipients of that love, and He created the universe to fill us with awe at His infinite power and intelligence. We, however, are "the fly in the ointment" of God's love, infecting creation with our rejection of His Way.

Even though God declared his creation "very good," and said we were "skillfully woven," that perfection was simply mankind's starting condition. The Creator gave us stewardship over his perfect work, and that included responsibility for how we handled His divine gift of free will. When we violated that stewardship through willful disobedience, we sowed the seed of corruption, not only our own, but for His entire creation. Apostle Paul expresses those ramifications in the passage quoted below.

Vss. 22 & 23 clearly show our fallen condition. If creation were still resting in the perfect state in which God left it at the end of the Sixth Day, it, including humanity, would certainly not now be groaning in birth pains. Does that "birth pains" part sound far fetched? Just take a good look around. What you see is not what God made. The rest of the passage presents God's good news of redemption through Christ Jesus.

Most people think of God's plan of redemption as salvation for mankind only. But this passage shows His redemption will cover the corruption of all creation. Why else would He give us "a new heaven and a new earth," as clearly stated in the Revelation?

God purposed His first creation as a culling, or testing ground. The Old Testament records His laying the groundwork of the law and the prophets, foretelling His coming Messiah. The New Testament introduces us to Jesus, His eternal Word incarnate, and shows us the life-pattern of His church, the firstfruits of His new creation.

God isn't governed by His creation's whims. If we want to enjoy His new creation, we have only One Way. Carefully read Jesus' words in John 14:5-6 MKJV  Thomas said to Him, Lord, we do not know where You go, and how can we know the way?  (6)  Jesus said to him, I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life; no one comes to the Father but by Me.

Exclusive? Yes.

Politically correct? Hardly.

Essential? Absolutely!

Rom 8:16-31 MKJV  The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God.  (17)  And if we are children, then we are heirs; heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ; so that if we suffer with Him, we may also be glorified together.  (18)  For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the coming glory to be revealed in us.  (19)  For the earnest expectation of the creation waits for the manifestation of the sons of God.  (20)  For the creation was not willingly subjected to vanity, but because of Him who subjected it on hope  (21)  that the creation itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. (22)  And we know that the whole creation groans and travails in pain together until now.  (23)  And not only so, but ourselves also, who have the firstfruit of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, awaiting adoption, the redemption of our body.  (24)  For we are saved by hope. But hope that is seen is not hope; for what anyone sees, why does he also hope for it?  (25)  But if we hope for that which we do not see, then we wait for it with patience.  (26)  Likewise the Spirit also helps our infirmities. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.  (27)  And He searching the hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.  (28)  And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.  (29)  For whom He foreknew, He also predestinated to be conformed to the image of His Son, for Him to be the First-born among many brothers.  (30)  But whom He predestinated, these He also called; and whom He called, those He also justified. And whom He justified, these He also glorified.  (31)  What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Winning Smiles

President Obama's winning smile.

Chancellor Hitler's winning smile.

There's more to a man than his smile. (Matthew 7:11-21)

Saturday, June 09, 2012

An "Easy" Life

Here's an encouraging word from Our Daily Bread titled "The Way To An 'Easy' Life," having to do with the eventual consequences for young people whose parents try to cushion them from life's uncertainties and rough roads. 

Great point, but this devotional hits another point that is just as crucial to me: Expectations, not just for an easy life, but for life to be fair, both in the way others deal with us, and in trying to hold God accountable to us for answering our selfish prayers. What nerve!

Okay, I realize I'm preachin' to the choir again, but this issue of expectations is a constant battle for me, and I'm fairly sure I'm not that unique. Human nature can be nutshelled in a simple sentence, "I want it my way ... now!" For a Christ-follower, expectations get exponentially more complicated with a simple change in that sentence: "He wants it my way," producing "consecrated" expectations. That error is perhaps the most universal of all within the church.

At the risk of going on too long, I need to include one of this principle's foundational Scripture passages:
Isa 55:6-9 ESV  "Seek the LORD (the eternal, self-existent One) while he may be found; call upon him while he is near;  (7)  let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.  (8)  'For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,' declares the LORD.  (9)  'For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.'"

The great news is, as true Christ-followers already know, we have God's Spirit abiding within us, the promised Paraclete, to guide and strengthen us in the Way. If we abandon our preconceptions and selfish expectations, He can do His job, but ours is a constant battle with the flesh. I know from long experience how hard discerning His still, small voice can be. My flesh is the world's best God-impersonator. Isn’t it odd how we so often can’t hear the One who spoke the universe into being?

We want something, or someone, but the desire of our heart doesn’t align with God's word. So we pursue that desire anyway, half-heartedly asking God to close the unrighteous door, while our foot blocks it open like the stereotypical encyclopedia salesman. Can this be anything short of premeditated sin? Little wonder that God’s church has become so impotent.

Old-fashioned self-denial,
No longer in style.
Like the old dinosaur,
Not around anymore.

It never gets boring,
And sure beats imploring,
For cups of cold water
When no one will bother.

Do you want to find
The best peace of mind?
Live God’s way, and see
His gift for eternity.