Thursday, September 26, 2013
Wednesday, September 25, 2013
Wednesday, September 18, 2013
I’m certainly not worthy of my namesake, Jesus’ brother James, as his reputation in Jerusalem was that of a wise and holy man. In fact, they referred to him as “Yakub the Sadiq.” While speaking with an unrelated woman in public was disgraceful in those days, Yakub did it routinely, and no eyebrows were raised because he was trusted.
For years I’ve prayed for that kind beyond reproach reputation, and for years I’ve fallen short. But I’m gaining on it. My vision is to have my inner thoughts and motives as pure as my outward actions.
Am I a hypocrite, because what goes on inside is different from what I do? I suppose that depends on your definition of hypocrisy. I like to think of it as exercising a modicum of self-control, and such small victories in my thought-life represent huge leaps of spiritual growth, at least for me.
My Mission Impossible is to be like Jesus. For years I suffered frustration, even anger, for falling short of that ambition. I allowed the enemy to snare me with self-condemnation, and I occasionally succumb to that temptation even now, but understand that it is not of God. Instead, it is from the enemy of my soul(Romans 8:1).
Even though, as everyone, I haven’t reach the standard of holiness Jesus raised, I now don’t mind hearing myself addressed as James. It’s a reminder of who I want to be, and by God’s grace, will become.
Tuesday, September 17, 2013
TO MRS. RAY GARRETT: On the real program of the spiritual life—living in the present moment.
12 September 1960
The whole lesson of my life has been that no ‘methods of stimulation’ are of any lasting use. They are indeed like drugs—a stronger dose is needed each time and soon no possible dose is effective. We must not bother about thrills at all. Do the present duty—bear the present pain—enjoy the present pleasure—and leave emotions and ‘experiences’ to look after themselves.
That’s the programme, isn’t it?
Could Lewis succinctly express profound truths, or what?
“Tolerance,” is a double-edged sword. While we must practice tolerance of others’ faults, or become guilty of judging, we must not develop tolerance(become desensitized) for “methods of stimulation,” such as emotional pleasure or pain. This moment is all we have to give our Eternal Lover, and to experience life in the moment, we must not anticipate the pleasure, dread the pain, or regret the inevitable mistakes.
Of course, to experience our fullest life we must do our best to be our best, and we can achieve that best only in the power of God’s Holy Spirit. Our Savior created us as we are—warts and all—so he might empower us to become the man or woman of his vision.
Monday, September 16, 2013
I’ve been thinking a lot about relationships lately, probably because I so miss being in one. At my age, most unmarried women have been hurt by a man at some time, so I completely understand the “once burned, twice shy” fear. But all men are not control freaks; we just tend to be. So mature women tend to prefer friendships with other women, as they can communicate at a more intimate level without fear of encouraging attempts at domination.
Relationships between women take place at a whole different level than a woman with a man. Women are more intuitive about feelings, while men think more concretely—as in, dense. Women tend to be more patient in their pursuits, while men have a harder time appreciating the long-view, and “want it now,” whatever “it” might be. Both men and women expect the opposite sex to understand their unique perspectives, which they usually don’t, any more than an apple can expect to taste like a grape. Fact is, expectations are poison to relationships.
That’s where Christ’s love comes into the relational picture, both within the church, and between men and women. Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. (1 Peter 4:8) The NASB New Testament has 108 instances of “one another” statements, all of them detailing relational aspects within the church. Trouble is, many couples fail to understand that every standard for “brethren” relationships also applies to them. Of course, total compliance to those standards is lemon-cream-pie-in-the-sky in this largely carnal, church social climate, but where such standards are taken seriously and obeyed in interpersonal relationships, there is no “once burnt” to be “twice shy” of.
To establish and maintain godly relationships, we must first cultivate loving intimacy, individually, with our Father, through Christ Jesus. That’s, first, as in before even thinking of pursuing intimacy with another. Of course, already established couples have to try much harder.
Second, we must crucify our expectations. Otherwise, we’ve torpedoed the relationship before it even leaves the pier. Wow! That’s a hard one, as our human nature manufactures expectations by the submarine-load.
Third, we must love one another as Christ loves his bride, the church. Period. That’s First Corinthians Thirteen-love. All else will develop on God’s timetable.
And forth, we must pray hard—together! Because only God’s Holy Spirit can keep those bonds pure and strong.
Sunday, September 15, 2013
“When you open your mind to the impossible, sometimes you find the truth.”
Dr. Walter Bishop
Okay, I’ll admit; Dr. Bishop is a character on the TV series, Fringe. Nevertheless, he’s an atheist in the series, and wastes no opportunity to malign belief in God. Which is odd, considering one would think the writers would spot inconsistencies in their scripts. I mean, I do, and they’re at least as smart as I am.
So, back to the impossibility at hand: Theoretical physicists deal with the “impossible” every day; that’s why they qualify their title with the word, “theoretical.” They can’t prove their postulates, but they must come up with something, regardless how impossible-sounding, as an alternative to God’s existence. Even if God’s existence is more plausible than their unsubstantiated, “scientific” theories, it is entirely unacceptable, as to them such thinking is “closed-minded” and “irrational,” while their attempts at debunking theistic belief is obviously “open-minded” and “rational.” Obvious to them, anyway.
Perhaps I’m not the first to admit that many who call themselves Christian are, in fact, closed-minded and irrational, but I’m not too far from the head of the line. The problem with Popular Christianity is its, dare I say it, superstitious and mythological historic and social ties. Where Christian teaching aligns with God’s Word, that’s not the case, but most, if not all, of the denominations and movements within Christendom carry with them remnants of Romanism, which was the first, and greatest, apostasy of Christ’s church.
Honestly, I’m not even sure how much of what I believe is God’s Truth, as I’ve picked it up along my way from generations of similarly indoctrinated teachers. That’s why I question everything but the fact that God is, eternal, self-existent, and personal. And Jesus the Christ fulfills at least dozens, and possibly hundreds of Hebrew prophesies, which leaves me no choice but to believe Jesus is exactly who he said he is.
That’s why I’m a Christ-follower, and not a “Christian,” even though the two terms are supposed to be synonymous. I love, especially him, because he first loved me, sinner that I was, from the moment he spoke the universe into existence. I don’t understand much of God’s revealed Word, but as Sam Clements once said, “It ain't those parts of the Bible that I can't understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand.” And by “bother,” I mean convict. My life’s quest is to learn as much as possible about God in this life, so I won’t be all that surprised by what I find out in the next. That, and I want to share God’s love and goodness with as many as I can, so they can experience the unspeakable and glorious joy I have now, and is just the beginning of my eternal joy.
That atheists are determined to escape God’s eternal glory grieves me, but I can only influence those who are willing to be influenced. What grieves me far more, however, is all the “good” folks who believe in, “the Man upstairs,” and refuse to know him personally, through the Son he gave just for that purpose.
Friday, September 13, 2013
Yes—at first one is sort of concussed and ‘life has no taste and no direction’. One soon discovers, however, that grief is not a state but a process—like a walk in a winding valley with a new prospect at every bend.
Lewis couldn't have put it any better, as usual. I would, however, add that it's not only grief that is not a state, but a process. Life itself is a process, and the "winding valley" produces surprises at every bend. We see some of them as prospects, and some as setbacks, but each surprise is either God-ordained, or God-allowed. He will now allow His children to be tried beyond our ability to not only survive, but learn and profit from it.
I've not finished my grieving process, and may never fully complete it, but I must move on. As Lewis implied; the adventure lies in finding out what lies around every bend.
"See, God has come to save me.
I will trust in him and not be afraid.
The Lord God is my strength and my song;
he has given me victory.”
I saw and old man limping along,
Will that be me in five years,
Father, keep me erect in stature.
Even if you choose to allow pain,
Give me the courage,
To walk in a way that praises You,
All my life’s days.
Thursday, September 12, 2013
Would that I could claim my rebirth in Jesus eradicated those faults in me, but at least because of his spiritual insights that I've gained through his Word, I constantly fight those tendencies when I recognize them in myself. Were it not for knowing him, I'd have to be an atheist.
Human Religion would lack all merit, if not for its moral mandates. And even at that, many non-religious people are better human beings than most who call themselves "Christian." Yes, that comes close to being a generalization, which I avowedly hate, but after sixty-seven years of watching life on this planet I can't escape its truth.
The counteracting truth that keeps me loving and following Christ, however, is that I can see the changes he's made within me. So I do my best to ignore others' faults, knowing my Savior does the same for me in the name of Love. And isn't that what life is about?
Monday, September 09, 2013
C. S. Lewis distinguished between bereavement and estrangement, saying the bitterness of the latter is worse than the grief of the former. Both can exhibit elements of the other, but when a person looses a loved one by natural death there is no rejection.
We can, however, turn it all to bitterness through blame, by holding God, another, or ones self, responsible for a loss. “God could have prevented his death,” or, “I could have done more to prevent her death.” Both trains of thought contradict God’s Word by denying his essential love and assuming he doesn’t have our best interests at heart.
Bitterness proceeds from blame, and hatred from bitterness. Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:43-44) And he also said, “forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
Even if someone is responsible for our loss, Christ holds us responsible to love them anyway. Of course, that may be the hardest thing we’ve ever done, as it goes against every natural instinct in our being. The key that Jesus gave us to unlock the love he commanded is pray for those who persecute you. And the operative term there is for, rather than against. Pray for their salvation! Pray for their happiness! Pray for their prosperity! Pray for his love for them. And mean it! Such a change of mind is simply a matter of will, and it could be said, will versus won’t.
Motivational speakers like the phrase, “Just do it!” If you have a problem with someone, praying for their wellbeing won’t come naturally. You won’t mean it at first, but as you persistently obey Christ, he will change your mind, and before you realize what’s happened you will mean it. He will give you his love for that person, be it God, some other person, or even yourself.
Grudges are a thorny beast,
steal your rest,
steal your peace.
Deal with them as saints of old,
pray your straw-works
Wednesday, September 04, 2013
“Thus says the LORD,
‘Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind
And makes flesh his strength,
And whose heart turns away from the LORD.
For he will be like a bush in the desert
And will not see when prosperity comes,
But will live in stony wastes in the wilderness,
A land of salt without inhabitant.
Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD
And whose trust is the LORD.
For he will be like a tree planted by the water,
That extends its roots by a stream
And will not fear when the heat comes;
But its leaves will be green,
And it will not be anxious in a year of drought
Nor cease to yield fruit.’ ” (Jeremiah 17:5-8)
I constantly hear reports from friends who have new, more alarming news from their email, facebook, and conservative news feeds. Apparently the handcart on which the world is going to hell is getting ever bigger and more all-inclusive. The more up-to-date alarmists cite the inroads Islam is making in our government and mandates to enforce Shariah Law here. Others are still ragging on the commie pinkohs, or both.
While Red China may indeed be manufacturing handcarts and marketing them through Iran for the purpose of hauling the West into hell, the above Scripture passage from Jeremiah, as well as several from the New Testament, tell us quite clearly not to allow fear and anxiety to steal our peace in God. Of course, those outside of Christ can claim none of God’s promises, save one: Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved. (Acts 16:31)
Monday, August 26, 2013
After reading over half-way through the Book of Job—I want to pronounce it Jäb, as in Bob—I’ve found three surprises: First, much of Job’s friends’ prattling is true, even if wrongly applied to the poor guy. Second, at times, even the godly revert to self-pity when the going gets really, extremely, bone-crushingly rough. And related to #2, God is gracious even to those who accuse him wrongly. Third, the whole book is the perfect text on how not to “minister” to one who is in dire straits.
The whole story clearly reveals the fact that profound truths, when tossed about carelessly, quickly become truisms, destined to be just as carelessly tossed aside. History reveals a few Bible preachers who, by God’s Holy Spirit, led great revivals, and yes, they were technically Bible-thumpers. Experience, however, reveals far more Bible-thumping preachers who wield God’s Word not as the two-edged sword that it is, but as a spirit-bashing bludgeon.
Friday, August 09, 2013
A woman walked past my volunteer post at the hospital holding papers up in a way that hid her face. Without a second thought, I wondered why she was hiding her identity, and my mind began producing possible scenarios that would explain the suspicious behavior. As she turned to exit, though, I noticed a small mobile phone held to her ear. An action that appeared intended to conceal nefarious purposes was, in fact, an effort to multitask with her left hand.
That trivial example of misjudging appearances illustrates my tendency to jump to conclusions. But if I were the only one who made such leaps of assumption this world would be a far better place. I think the limb upon which I stand is strong enough for me to state one generalization: All of us make judgments based on partial or wrong information. And my justification for climbing out on that limb? Only God knows a person's inner thoughts and motivations. Those of us who presume upon such insight are, perhaps without realizing it, trying to usurp God's unique authority.
I think I've established beyond reasonable doubt that much of what we think we know about others and their actions is partially or wholly untrue. So, where do we get that bogus info? Much of it stems from appearances that suggest stereotypes we've accepted as true throughout much of our lives.
Maybe a stocky, blond kid bullied you in school, so now you don't like stocky, blond people. Put a stocky, blond person next to you at work and everything the guy does rubs you the wrong way. Or you've moved, and you're visiting churches to see if you can find a good fit. To your dismay, you discover that the stocky, blond person over there smiling and shaking hands with people is the pastor. Your reaction? "Oh man! And I thought these folks were so nice ... must be a cult."
While most folks harbor unintentional or rationalized prejudices, there are Those among us for Whom personal error is inconceivable. Anyone who disagrees with Them, or in any way fails to live up to Their God-given standard of perfection can't be tolerated.
Don't you just hate people like that? If you agree, stand up and hang your head in shame; you've just judged those who seem self-righteous. And whose job is it to judge? That's right.
Friday, June 28, 2013
I learned a new word today, which isn't really new, but familiar and misunderstood. Bible publishers use the word prodigal to describe the wandering son in Jesus' parable of Luke 15:11-32, so the word has come to mean, wanderer or wandering son. In fact, prodigal means "extravagant or wasteful spending," which is exactly what the prodigal son did while away from the farm.
Of course, my lovely and gifted daughters will no doubt already know that misunderstood word's proper definition, but for the rest of us, such a distinction will be a forgettable curiosity. Well, now you know.
BTW: I should create a category called “Random Discoveries.” At least it would interest me.
Monday, June 24, 2013
… I’d be unqualified for a management position with the IRS.
A friend sent an e-mail titled, “IRS Sent $46 Million in Tax Refunds to 23,994 ‘Unauthorized’ Aliens — All at the SAME Address in Atlanta.” As the headline seemed too sensational to be true, I looked up the cited Audit Report by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration(TIGTA). While the report didn’t verify the e-mail’s reported numbers it did verify the problem:
WHAT TIGTA FOUND
TIGTA substantiated many of the allegations set forth in the IRS employees’ complaints. The complaints alleged that IRS management is not concerned with addressing questionable applications and is interested only in the volume of applications that can be processed, regardless of whether they are fraudulent. The audit found that the ITIN application review and verification process is so deficient that there is no assurance that ITINs are not being assigned to individuals submitting questionable applications. Because of lax documentation requirements to obtain an ITIN, tax fraud can go undetected. Management also eliminated successful processes used to identify questionable ITIN application fraud patterns and schemes. The IRS also allows Certifying Acceptance Agents to review and verify the identity of Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) individuals applying for an ITIN. This designation enabled some individuals to commit ITIN application fraud because these individuals do not have to send documentation supporting the application to the IRS.
Finding a spiritual application in this report is quite easy: The fundamental problem in this world system is Management.
“Wait a second,” Christians will say, “The fundamental problem is Sin!”
And right they are. One of my axioms is, “I is the center of sin.” And its corollary, “I is also the center of pride.” Management does one thing better than any other job category: Managers are immensely talented at making themselves look good in the short-term, regardless the long-term cost; by the time it catches up with them, they’ll have been promoted, and able to blame whoever is now in their former position.
Solutions, anyone? My simple answer is, “Solutions to prehistoric problems don’t exist.” There is, however a solution to sin: belief in and surrender to the Christ of God. While few will find that narrow way, it is what keeps humanity from terminal stupidity … just barely.
Sunday, June 23, 2013
I received the following in an e-mail. As usual, I can’t leave well enough alone, so stay tuned after the game for my own spin.
Imagine that you had won the following prize in a contest:
Each morning your bank will deposit $86,400.00 in your private account for your use. However, this prize comes with rules.
The first set of rules would be:
1. The money that you do not spend during each day would be taken away from you.
2. You may not simply transfer money into some other account.
3. You may only spend it. Each morning upon awakening, the bank opens your account with another $86,400.00 for that day.
And the second set of rules:
1. The bank can end the game without warning. At any time it can say, "It's over, the game is over!"
2. It can close the account and you will not receive a new one.
ACTUALLY, THIS GAME IS LIFE!
Each of us has such a bank. We just can't seem to see it. Each morning we receive 86,400 seconds as a gift of life, and when we go to sleep at night, any remaining time is NOT credited to us.
What time we’ve wasted that day is forever lost. Each morning we expect the account to be refilled, but the bank can dissolve our account at any time...WITHOUT WARNING.
So, what are we going to do with today’s 86,400 seconds?
Aren't they worth so much more than the same amount in dollars?
Enjoy every second of your life, because time races by, much more quickly than you think. So take care of yourself, and enjoy life with your loved ones & friends as well!
Good analogy, except it's missing the spiritual component; we can invest as many of those 86,400 seconds as we want in our eternal account. But first we have to open said account by experiencing spiritual rebirth. Millions of folks try to invest in eternity through good works. Some call it karma, but without Jesus' righteousness it's all for naught. God's prophet Isaiah said:
We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. (Isaiah 64:6 ESV)
Of course, nothing's wrong with good works, as long as we don't expect them to pay our way into eternal Good Company.
Friday, June 21, 2013
I am distressed by my own worldly affections and appetites, and also those of my brethren. Surely, following the world’s popular culture and fashions can only serve to dilute my love for your ways and your Word, distracting me from the holy life, perfectly reconciled to you, that Jesus died to give us.
Is an act sinful only if we recognize its sinfulness and do it anyway? Isn’t plugging our ears and blinding our eyes to your Word’s exhortation also sinful? Father, we dutifully read our daily Scripture and devotionals, but do we first open our minds and hearts to receive the truths that you want to inculcate into each of us, personally, as part of our inner motivation?
Father, am I guilty of aiming my life’s works low enough to please myself, while hoping I’m aiming high enough to please you? Do I take your graceful, lovingkindness toward me for granted while I pursue the pleasures of this life?
Father, Abba, restore unto me the joy of my salvation that you bought with Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. Break my stiff-necked spirit and my hardened heart, so I will once again become supple clay in your hands.
In Jesus’ Name I make this prayer.
Sunday, June 16, 2013
He was a Roman centurion(an officer who commanded up to 1000 men), and he was a great guy, loved by his men and by the local Jews because he was so kind to them. Why was he kind, instead of cruel like most Roman centurions? Because he and his household devoutly worshiped God and helped the Jewish people.
In Acts 10:44 and following, while Apostle Peter presented a short summery of the gospel to Cornelius and his household, they believed, and the Holy Spirit fell on those listening. Verse 45 recounts how the Jewish believers reacted with amazement when the new, Gentile believers received the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in unlearned languages(46). Then Peter ordered the Gentile believers to be baptized in water, in Jesus' name(47 & 48).
While this passage gives us a beautiful story of faith in the midst of a society drenched in paganism, it should also answer those who preach baptismal regeneration*, as the faithful Gentiles received the Holy Spirit before they were baptized. Luke gave the evidence of their faithfulness in Acts 10:2. Though we know we are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9), we also know that faith without works is dead(James 2:14-26).
In this case, the new believers' works immediately followed their initial faith in Christ and his gospel, but such immediacy is not always the case. In this age of prolonged adolescence, believers' works of faith often follow their initial faith much later, through an often painful process of maturing in their faith, but if they have genuine, saving faith, its works will eventually follow.
*Baptismal Regeneration is the teaching that believers are not reborn until they are baptized in water. The “proof” verses such teachers use are 1 Peter 3:21 and Titus 3:5, both of which they take out of the Scriptural context.
Saturday, June 15, 2013
Simultaneously showing humanity's beauty and its ugliness, Powder is one of the most powerful movies I've seen. As Jeremy—played by Sean Patrick Flanery—shared others' thoughts, I realized my own longing to share thoughts without fear, or the impediment of words, to know their loves and their fears, not as God knows them, but just enough to deeply empathize with and affirm them. I long to look past the image they feel comfortable with, to see them as they see themselves, but through the eyes of God's love, and to convey His love in a way they can understand.
Yes, that's an unrealistic wish for a guy who has always suffered soul-deafness, dumbness, and blindness, and after sixty-seven years I'll probably not change. Nevertheless, I thank my Father for breaking through my denseness to reveal both His incredible love for me, and my own unworthiness. Through Jesus' blood I am worthy of everything He has for me, blessings beyond my wildest imaginings, and an eternity to thank and praise Him for it.
Thursday, June 13, 2013
No, I’m not talking about the NBC hit, Fear Factor, where contestants face their fears, be they take on spiders(ssshuddder), snakes, heights, clowns, or any other phobia that plagues them, hoping to claim the prize and bragging rights. So, what Fear Factor am I talking about? Generally, anything that takes a Christ-follower’s eyes away from Jesus, to concentrate on alarming world, national, or local situations. That might include politics, attacks on our constitutional rights, thought-police, or anything else that strikes fear into our hearts.
When Jesus’ disciples asked him how they could know where he was going, he said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through me.” Then the author of the letter to the Hebrews said, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2 ESV)
And the Bible is clear about allowing fear to control us, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:18-19 ESV)
So, why do I not spread the alarm about the scary happenings in our nation and the world? It is certainly not because I think there is no reason for concern, or I just want to sit back and watch it happen. No, it’s because if such news is a “fear factor” that distracts me from depending on my sovereign Lord’s love, it might do the same to others. If God calls me to spread the alarm, I’ll yell it from the housetops—or at least from my blog—but for now, he has called me to trust the God whom I love because he first loved me.
Wednesday, June 12, 2013
There’s this little guy, and he walks into this tough bar on the wrong side of the track. See? And looks around till he finds the biggest, baddest dude in the place. See?
So this shrimp walks up to this bad dude and throws a double-shot of whisky in his face, then commences to use the guy’s gut as a punching bag. See?
Well, about the time shrimpy there starts breaking out in a sweat, the bad dude’s eyes are about finished stinging. So the big, bad dude has about enough of shrimpy beating on him, and reaches out one fist over shrimpy’s thick skull, and lowers the boom. Now shrimpy is like a bag of bones on the floor.
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight. (Proverbs 9:10 ESV)
Why should we fear the eternal One, when there is forgiveness in Him?
As the only One who can grant forgiveness, He is also the only one who can refuse forgiveness. Even those who walk in His way must do so cautiously, so as not to take His forgiveness for granted and step out of His protection in disobedience.
Human despots rule through fear, even though they are usurpers. If their power to judge and destroy the body earns their subjects' fear, how much more must we fear God's judgments, which might doom our rebellious souls to perdition?
If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared. (Psalms 130:3-4 ESV)
A servant who deals wisely will rule over a son who acts shamefully and will share the inheritance as one of the brothers. (Proverbs 17:2 ESV)
The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and the LORD tests hearts. (Proverbs 17:3 ESV)
But, what about the shrimpy bag of bones? He would have done well to make friends with the big guy, but some folks are too stupid to grasp the obvious.
I don’t really know what I expected of this film, but I wound up weeping from conviction for my own lukewarm Christianity. Dan Merchant approached this production with a journalist’s perspective that reasonable folks on both sides of the great religious divide will find refreshing and revealing. (Notice the subtle qualification above.)
If religious and non-religious alike would respond to people personally, instead of pigeonholing them because of some warped stereotype, the holy wars would die out from an epidemic of honesty. And all stereotypes are warped, because we mortals cannot, and Christians are in fact forbidden from, judging others’ inner motives.
One of my favorite bits from this film was the “Frankenchrist” segment, illustrating a shattered church in which each shard believes it has a lock on God’s truth, and competes with the others, often with deadly consequences.
DISCLAIMER: Do not watch this film if spiritual rigor mortis has already set in.
Sunday, June 09, 2013
Three armed felons crossed the US border and attempted to rob an off-duty El Paso police officer dressed in civilian clothes while he stood in front of a bank. The plan was for two of them to grab his backpack and toss it to an accomplice on a stolen motorcycle. However, the well prepared police officer shot all of them, killing two immediately. The third was shot in both arms and bled to death before the ambulance arrived.
This is how much the US Taxpayer would have had to pay to prosecute these thugs:
· Arrest and detention for 1 night = $6,000
· Transportation for deportation back to Mexico the next day = $1000
· Air time for Obama to apologize in 30 minute speech = $25,007,000
What it actually cost:
· Four .40 rounds = $1.00
· Taxpayer savings = $25,006,999.00
. Off duty cop with a pistol...........priceless
Apparently They Picked The Wrong Man to Rob This Time.
And There Won't Be A Next Time!
THE AVERAGE RESPONSE TIME FOR A 911 CALL IS 4 MINUTES.
THE AVERAGE RESPONSE TIME FOR A .40 S&W ROUND IS ABOUT 1200 FEET PER SECOND.
I LOVE TO READ STORIES WITH SUCH HAPPY ENDINGS.
Loss of life is never a happy ending, but at least only the perpetrators were killed. I realize that during a “heat of the moment” response, carefully aiming to avoid killing attackers is expecting a lot, but three kills for three targets shows intent to kill, rather than to just disable the bad guys.
My first reaction to the above story was to agree with the punch line. On long second-thought, however, I remembered that human life is sacred, and taking lives into one’s own hands usurps God’s authority as Judge, despite the poetic justice we see here. I hope this story’s author meant the relative cost analysis as tongue-in-cheek, because human life, even that of murderous thugs, should be priceless.
In a perfect world, capital punishment should be the exception to the “sanctity of life” principle, as God delegated that authority to properly established governing bodies. But this is not a perfect world, as humanity is so fundamentally flawed that even our Justice System is all too subject to miscarriage of justice, considering the political and financial conflicts of interest involved in judicial decisions at all levels.
Should Government try to fix it? That is the same as asking if the fox should guard the henhouse, or if gasoline is a good fire extinguisher. Our nation’s founding fathers were, by and large, principled men. Because they passionately believed in the Biblical world view, the constitutional, representative republic they established depends on government subscribing to that world view to function properly. In today’s reality, it doesn’t, and baring major Christian revival, our precious US of A is doomed.
At first blush, that seems like a terribly fatalistic conclusion, but none of this is taking God by surprise; he’s not anxiously looking over some cloud’s edge, wringing his hands with indecision. In view of God’s sovereign influence over human affairs I must, by faith, remain positive about the outcome, and praise him for it.
When I’ve spent time with the Lord, I become tender to what others share about life in Him. Today was no different, as I read Dave Branon’s ODB message about obedience being the best form of worship.
As I read this ODB, Matt Redman’s popular worship song “Heart of Worship” came to mind, part of which says;
I'll bring you more than a song
For a song in itself
Is not what you have required
You search much deeper within
Through the way things appear
You're looking into my heart
More lyrics: http://www.lyricsmode.com/lyrics/h/hillsong_united/
Even more convicting are Apostle Paul’s words to the Roman church;
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. (Romans 12:1 ESV)
And the Lord Himself said;
So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. (Matthew 5:23-24 ESV)
As I celebrate the Lord Jesus’ redemptive work in my life, I must meditate upon His reason for choosing me; not only does He love me uniquely and personally, but He also gave me a work for which I am uniquely qualified and gifted. My spiritual worship is to obey Him and, as Larry The Cable Guy says, “Git-er-done!”
Saturday, June 08, 2013
After listening to today’s ODB, I considered the fact that they thought the message was needed, a complete shame on God’s church. The author quoted Acts 17:26; [God] has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth.
The message, titled “Where Did I Come From?” affirmed the truth of all mankind’s equality as God’s crowning creation. What shamed me, personally, though, is the fact that my first thought on reading it was, “This is a politically correct message.”
Whether or not racial equality is PC doesn’t matter a wit; it is Biblical, and that’s all that matters. Those who claim the name of Christ and deny such obvious Biblical truths are either well-intentioned ignoramuses, or impostors.
Friday, June 07, 2013
Acts 4:32-37; 32 Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. 33 And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. 34 There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold 35 and laid it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. 36 Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, 37 sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles' feet.
History has amply demonstrated that any human endeavor that rejects God’s structure and involvement has failed from the outset. That applies equally to governments, religious institutions, businesses, schools, and families. But where both the governors and the governed love God through Christ Jesus with all their heart, soul, mind and strength, and obey His non-burdensome commandments, all will have their deepest needs met, and disputes will be resolved equitably.
That sort of Utopian society seems like pie-in-the-sky, and up till now has proven to be exactly that. But such a community is possible, where every person involved carefully maintains their unique, loving, personal relationship with their Savior, loving His Word unto full obedience.
How I would love to see the twenty-first-century church function as did the first-century church, joyfully obeying Christ’s commands, with no striving for position or self-promotion. Risky? Abuse of power is the only potentially devastating danger, and with systematic, mutual accountability, no human power structure would be allowed to mature.
Socialism? NO, in the strongest terms, but community in Christ Jesus, fully committed to God’s unchangeable love.
Friday, May 31, 2013
If you think you’re safe from the cancer of pornography, think again! You may not be attracted to this spiritual, mental and emotional contagion, but someone close to you may be secretly struggling with it, or completely consumed by it.
For Christians, it is the “Secret Cancer” because of the shame carried with it. As physical cancer often shows no symptoms at first, porn addiction quietly takes over lives—mostly those of men and boys—changing them from the inside, and grieving the Holy Spirit of God(Ephesians 4:30), which extinguishes any spiritual fire they may have once possessed.
Wives and mothers often discover their men’s and boy’s porn addiction by accident, when they happen upon a concealed stash, or pictures stored on their computer. Usually, upon such a horrid discovery, she connects the dots between behavior changes and the secret images. When found out, guys often get defensive, or consumed with shame, vowing to quit pursuing porn, but addicts lie, whether it is a chemical addiction, porn addiction, or any other compulsive, dependent behavior.
Please realize the fact that no amount of moralizing or chastisement will change addictive behavior. While the above linked article, and lots of related content, will help understand and deal with those addicted to porn, you will find no easy solutions; only God’s conviction and transforming power will heal the cancer of porn.
Sunday, May 26, 2013
If you’re reading this hoping for some fiery condemnation or defense, you may as well skip to the next item. God alone is the Judge, and Jesus is our only defense.
Westboro Baptists are far from the only ones who try to take upon themselves God’s sole responsibility for judging the world’s sin. They simply shout what many others whisper among themselves. If such pseudo-judges claim to be Christians, they must blatantly ignore Jesus’ prohibition on judging others. And if they claim to be Biblical literalists, and try to condemn others to perdition, they are liars and hypocrites of the first order. Please note that I am not accusing anyone of actually deserving those commonly thrown-around epithets. Again, that’s God’s business, not mine.
Are right-wing, religious fundamentalists the only people guilty of judgmental behavior? Hardly! Anyone who tries to criminalize or condemn for “hate crimes,” those who disagree with them are just as wrong.
Even though I consider such judgmental behavior reprehensible—especially when done in Christ’s name—unlike God, I have no insight on their true motivation. I only pray such people would first remove the lumber from their own eyes before trying to do surgery on others’ eyes.
Saturday, May 25, 2013
Psalms 18:16-20 NASB He sent from on high, He took me; He drew me out of many waters. (17) He delivered me from my strong enemy, And from those who hated me, for they were too mighty for me. (18) They confronted me in the day of my calamity, But the LORD was my stay. (19) He brought me forth also into a broad place; He rescued me, because He delighted in me. (20) The LORD has rewarded me according to my righteousness; According to the cleanness of my hands He has recompensed me.
When I first read this, the author, King David, seemed to be bragging about his righteousness and clean hands. I thought, “Doesn’t this guy have a high opinion of himself.” Then I reread verses sixteen through nineteen, and it set my thinking on a different course.
The man after God’s own heart wrote from his own experiences and relationship with his Shepherd, but he also wrote for me, and everyone else who longs for the Holy Spirit’s refreshing water and green pastures.
Verse sixteen speaks of Jesus, sent from on high, who drew me out of sinful humanity for His own purposes.
Verse seventeen tells of my sin, and its author Satan, whom I couldn’t have resisted if I’d wanted to.
Verse eighteen mentions one of my particularly weak days. Maybe I hadn’t read and meditated on my Bible passage, or I skipped my time in prayer, so a temptation that usually wouldn’t have bothered me really got to me. But I glanced to my computer monitor’s bottom edge, saw my stick-on label with Ephesians 4:30, and decided I really didn’t want to sadden my Best Forever Friend.
Verse nineteen assures me that my Shepherd will deliver me to a “broad place,” where the deceiver will not corner me because my Shepherd will protect me, and I will have a way out. Why would my Shepherd favor me so? Because for some reason I can’t imagine, He delights in me.
That brings me to the troublesome, verse twenty. What at first seemed like bragging is in fact a testimony of God’s righteousness, imputed to King David through faith in Messiah’s perfectly righteous blood. Of course, the long-dead king didn’t know the details of Jesus’ passion and death, but as a prophet, he wrote what God told him. King David wasn’t stupid, or short of memory. He well knew of his own sin, that in his own power he had nothing to offer the perfectly righteous and holy God. Yet, by faith, he accepted Messiah’s deposit of righteousness to his own eternal account.
What a precious promise this gives to me, personally. I can trust my Messiah, because He delights in me.
Friday, May 24, 2013
For a while now, I’ve watched the controversy between brethren who support maintaining 505(c)-3 status for churches and church support organizations, and those brethren who don’t. As usual, I can see both sides of the issue.
In favor of church non-profit tax status is the legal accountability it creates—enough red tape to dissuade most ministers from doing something completely stupid or immoral. Another “Pro” argument is those little slips they get to send out at tax time, proclaiming to the IRS, and the itemizing taxpayer, how well they did their religious duty of tithing. And third … uh … I can’t think of another supporting argument.
Those against non-profit tax status for churches stress the local church’s uncompromising autonomy; the church answers only to God, and it’s no one else’s business what the body gives to support the church, or how much the church receives in support. That argument actually has some Scriptural support. The context for Matthew 6:1-4 does not apply to tithing, but I believe the same principle applies.
The second, and I believe the most revealing, reason for the church not to maintain 501(c)- status is the effect it has on the givers’ motivation. Would they tithe if they didn’t receive that all-important tax deduction? Church pastors and administrators are scared silly that they wouldn’t. Is that fear based on their lack of confidence in their petitioners, or their lack of faith in God? I happen to believe God will prosper those who remain faithful to Christ’s commandments.
And third, preachers who have the non-profit fear factor fixed in the backs of their minds can’t preach what God’s Holy Spirit speaks to them, without dancing carefully around politically incorrect issues. In this age of the government’s exponential escalation of interference with anyone who disagrees with their ideologies, the pulpit’s freedom is more important than at any time since the American Revolution.
Will the church stand for its freedom to proclaim what we believe? For God’s truth? Or will we allow the State’s bureaucrats to tell us what we can and can’t proclaim? At this pivotal time in history, we can’t afford to abdicate our responsibility to stand for the truth, as we’ve done so often before.