"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.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Random Discoveries

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.


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Monday, June 24, 2013

If I only had a brain …

… I’d be unqualified for a management position with the IRS.

image 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:


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

The Generous Banker

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

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.

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

Dear Abba, Father

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

Cornelius Was Not an Elephant

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


image 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


image 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

Be Afraid … Be VERY Afraid

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.

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Lord, Save Us From Your Followers


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

"In the West Texas town of El Paso ..."

Banditos and off-duty cop 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!


Jim’s commentary:
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.

My Worship is to, “Git-er-Done!”

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:

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

Socialism That Works

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.