Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Now Taking Applications

Mr. Smith goes to Washington

In case you haven't seen this classic, here is a synopsis:

Smith is an innocent, wide-eyed idealist who quotes Jefferson and Lincoln and idolizes Paine, who had known his crusading editor father. In Washington, after a humiliating introduction to the press corps, Smith threatens to resign, but Paine encourages him to stay and work on a bill for a national boy's camp. With the help of his cynical secretary Clarissa Sanders (Jean Arthur), Smith prepares to introduce his boy's camp bill to the Senate. But when he proposes to build the camp on the Willets Creek site, Taylor and Paine force him to drop the measure. Smith discovers Taylor and Paine want the Willets Creek site for graft and he attempts to expose them, but Paine deflects Smith's charges by accusing Smith of stealing money from the boy rangers. Defeated, Smith is ready to depart Washington, but Saunders, whose patriotic zeal has been renewed by Smith, exhorts him to stay and fight. Smith returns to the Senate chamber and, while Taylor musters the media forces in his state to destroy him, Smith engages in a climactic filibuster to speak his piece: "I've got a few things I want to say to this body. I tried to say them once before and I got stopped colder than a mackerel. Well, I'd like to get them said this time, sir. And as a matter of fact, I'm not gonna leave this body until I do get them said." ~ Paul Brenner, All Movie Guide

In both the movies, and in real life, Jimmy Stewart personified my idea of an American hero. In case you didn't know, he was the first movie star to enter the service for World War II, joining a year before Pearl Harbor was bombed. He was initially refused entry into the Air Force because he weighed 5 pounds less than the required 148 pounds, but he talked the recruitment officer into ignoring the test. He eventually became a Colonel, and earned the Air Medal, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Croix de Guerre and 7 battle stars. In 1959, he served in the Air Force Reserve, before retiring as a brigadier general.

His movie credits include my all-time favorite, "It's a Wonderful Life". I'm probably one of the very few people who could tell you the last name of Clarence-the angel sent to earn his wings by showing George the right path in life. The subject of this post is another of his movies, all of them classics, Mr. Smith goes to Washington.

In this movie, Smith is appointed to finish the term of the Senator Samuel Foley by Gov. Hubert "Happy" Hopper. He is chosen because of his reputation as an honorable man, but also Gov. Hopper wrongly interpreted his personality included a large dose of naivety. Smith did find Washington to be a bit overwhelming at first, and was amazed at the inner workings of the legislature. This movie opened in October of 1939 - imagine what a Mr. Washington would find today - almost 70 years later!

Somewhere along the way, we have lost our way with regard to our "citizen legislators". I suspect the major change came with the other intrusions that came with FDR. This was a time of major governmental expansion and encroachment upon the liberties enshrined in our founding documents. A time when Democrats would solidify their relationship with Big Government for decades to come. Looking back with the perspective of historical 20/20 vision, our response to the New Deal should have been "No Deal, Howie!!" (Deal or No Deal, Howie Mandel - they're never funny if you have to explain them!)

What has Congress done for (to) us within the past year?

  • Remember TARP? That was the bill rushed thru the legislature to rescue those that "were too big to fail.
  • Fannie and Freddie - To insure that everyone has a home mortgage (without any consideration of their ability to repay) legislation was passed that created the "sub-prime" fiasco. Just another example of the governments’ intrusion into the banking process.
  • Because of union pressure, Congress bowed to the automakers and rescued (twice) GM and Chrysler by injecting dollars (borrowed dollars) and becoming the largest shareholder. We've also created "special" rules to allow these two companies an accelerated path thru bankruptcy proceedings.
  • Stimulus package - Got to stimulate the economy now - remember that crisis? $284.9 billion has been spent as of 6/26/09 according to the official government tracking site, http://www.recovery.gov/. A couple of comments on this issue-
  1. While the amount spent is a LARGE amount of money, it’s nowhere near the trillions that were authorized. The dirty secret is that the majority of the spending is targeted for future years – no doubt to assist with political campaigns by promoting home-town pork where needed.
  2. Why would anyone in their right mind ever think that spending is what would is needed to revive an economy? Do that with your own personal depressed economy and let me know how it works out!
  • Cap and Trade legislation – not the first bill passed that wasn’t read, but now the poster child for Congressional dereliction of duty. This was a total abrogation of Constitutional responsibility – both in the betrayal to the country by not reading the bill and allowing the passage of this destructive legislation – over 2 reams of paper filled with more favors to lobbyists.
With all of the above, and framed by the latest unemployment numbers that are the 2nd highest ever recorded by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, did you realize that Congress voted themselves a pay raise at the end of last year? Between 1798 and 1901 the average number of terms served by House members was 2.18 compared to 4.86 terms for House members serving between 1901 and 2002, and since 1947 the average number of terms for a House member has increased to 5.84 terms. (from http://www.allacademic.com/meta/p_mla_apa_research_citation/0/6/7/8/4/p67846_index.html ). The Senate is not immune to this malady, as they too have their share of "tenured" legislators. Robert Byrd holds the distinction of having cast the largest number of votes, 18,517, being first elected in 1959 and serving continuously since. I don't think this is what the founders intended.

What did they intend?

The founding revolution of this Republic was in response to the oppressive oligarchy of England. They opposed elitism, and considered themselves common citizens of the colonies, bound together by duty of service - service to fellow man and to God.

This Independence Day, I have been thinking a lot about the courage shown by these men. I have wondered how our leaders and the common citizenry would respond to the same challenges these men faced. I have come to the conclusion that the absence of leadership suggests that we are not prepared today to face such trials. Washington now marches to a different drumbeat than Main Street USA. We need to clean house (and Senate!).

There will be 36 US Senate Seats contested in the 2010 election. 18 are currently held by Republicans, and 18 are held by Democrats. 5 Republicans are retiring and not seeking re-election, as is 1 Democrat. Regardless of the label worn by these incumbents, We the People have the opportunity in this election to make a difference. We're taking applications now, experienced need not apply!!

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Monday, June 29, 2009


Google the word "truth" - I dare you!

Today, you'll get 225,000,000 hits. Well, Google does say about 225,000,000. You'll find websites devoted to verifying the facts on that last outrageous e-mail you just received, the homepage of a hardware company, a website that "shines the light" on the conspiracies of today, and even a Wikipedia page on Truth. That really excites me, as Wikipedia is the online encyclopedia that ANYONE can modify! Do we really need to allow the world to have their input on what is conveyed by the word "truth"?

The Holy Land Experience Theme Park - The Ten ...Image by Rob Sheridan via Flickr

The underlying reason for all these pages is that the world has stubbornly refused to accept the tenet of absolute truth. We have reached a point in society in general, and even in our churches, where we who believe that absolute truth exists are in the minority. For a reference, see the latest report on http://barna.org/ covering the components of worldview thinking. It is staggering to ponder that only 46% of those who profess to be a born again Christian believe that absolute moral truth exists! No wonder we have so many powerless churches!!

The whole concept of relative truth has its origins in our rebellious nature. Oh, you say you're not rebellious, but instead you're a good person? Stop reading now and go read Romans 3:23!! Since each of us fail, we love to cast our failures in contrast to the failures of others. We rationalize our behavior by saying, " I know that xxxxxxx is bad, but at least it's not like I am xxxxxxxx" In making these comparisons, we wrongly justify our actions by employing this concept of "relative" truth. The abstract of "relative truth" is a concept birthed in our imaginations, and is, in fact, an oxymoron. A simple but effective definition of truth is that which agrees with reality. Understanding this, it's easy to see the fallacy of relative truth - how can we have a relative reality??

We come to our concept of truth via a belief system that is constantly evolving during our lifetime. Thoughts and ideas are spawned within our mind throughout the day as we encounter new situations and opportunities. If we ruminate long enough on any of these ideas, we will form opinions on those thoughts. Further internal deliberation of these new found opinions will result in a belief - an intangible, personal asset created solely from our own intellect.

Truth exists independent of our belief system. Reality is absolute whether you feel like being cogent or not. Philosophically, relativism is contradictory. Practically, relativism is anarchy. The world is filled with absolute truth. Two plus two will always be four, no matter how much you believe the answer to be five. Jump in a pool and you will get wet. You can state emphatically that there is no law of gravity as you walk the ridge line of your roof; make that last fateful step off the roof and your belief system will be seriously challenged! BTW, we are introduced to absolute truth in John 14:6 !!

I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts.” Abraham Lincoln

If Lincoln is right, where do we find the next town crier?

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Saturday, June 27, 2009

I am concerned

Surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown by (John T...Image via Wikipedia

'Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.' George Santayana

It would appear that a growing number of Americans never learned of the origins of the United States. Either they have never learned, or they have chosen to forget. The decision to declare our independence from the mother land and the the subsequent Revolutionary War was not an outgrowth of ego. Our founding fathers no doubt anguished over the decisions they were making as they understood fully the consequences of their actions. They understood that what they would do would not only impact them, but would also impact their families forever. With all this concern, what was it that drove these men to launch on their massive undertaking?

Some would readily point to the Boston Tea Party, as that reference has recently resurfaced as tea parties spring up everywhere in protest to our government's current expansion. The historical protest arose from the passage of the the Sugar Act by England in 1764, taxing the colonies on all basic commodities. Some would offer the Currency Act that England enacted in the same year that outlawed future printing of money in America, and made all existing American-printed money "null and void." Parliament was trying to seize control of America's economy, but the American people were not going to let it happen without a fight. While other historical references could be suggested, I would submit to you that all of the reasons coalesce around a fear of the growing tyranny of the mother country. England had assumed that the best way to rule a remote constituency was with a controlling iron fist. The word tyranny, defined by Webster's means "oppressive power exerted by government". It is a derivation of tyrant which is defined as "a usurper of sovereignty".

Because of the current oppression and the anticipated incremental misery that would be forthcoming absent any tangible resistance, our founding fathers answered the call and rose up in indignation. They realized, as was written into our Declaration of Independence, that all the rights of man originate with the Father, and that governments can only serve to either support or oppress those rights. Even after the writing of the Constitution, this was further clarified:

"Congress has not unlimited powers to provide for the general welfare, but only those specifically enumerated." --Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Albert Gallatin, 1817. Notice that Jefferson was affirming the limitation of powers relative to benevolent acts. Only a mind of limited faculties would argue that his thoughts on governmental control would not be stronger.

Today, tyranny is back. Where in the Constitution is POTUS granted the authority to appoint a Czar? Why has Congress subjugated themselves to the Federal Reserve System with regard to the management of our currency? Show me the section that says Government can interject itself into general commerce. Tell me how Ford Motor Co. has a chance to compete with a government owned entity that is not concerned with profitability. AIG, Merrill Lynch, Lehman Brothers - why does the government get to pick the winners and losers? Tell me that we don't have taxation without representation today -the Cap and Trade bill just passed the House of Representatives and, in all likelihood, NO ONE has read the bill!?! This is a total dereliction of duty and an abrogation of their constitutional responsibilities.

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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Controversy in the church

A picture of Pisgah Baptist Church in Four Oak...Image via Wikipedia

Over the past few days, I have tuned in to the live stream and followed closely on twitter to the proceedings of the Southern Baptist Convention. During this convention there were many moments of uplifting and inspirational music, some tremendous messages, and overall a good time of worship in a convention setting. If you were not following the tweets on twitter, you were mostly unaware of most of the controversies that developed there. From motions intended to ban certain authors from Lifeway to motions of censure of certain individuals the sins of man were on full display.

Oh, don't think ill of me for judging the actions of my brethren; rather, I wish to expose the errors we all make in pursuing our walk with the Lord. While I am fully aware of the Biblical precedent for church discipline, and the tenets associated therewith, I am also aware of the process prescribed for us to follow. This process involves approaching your brother or sister in love, with a spirit of reconciliation. Galatians 6:1 Only after attempts have been made at restoration, are we to publicly present the matter before the church. Even then, this event is one that is to be carried out in love, desiring only to maintain the spirituality of the church. At no time are we to "enjoy" or assume our actions arise out of vengeance.

How have we digressed to this point in our churches? I submit we have failed in our attempt to forge a relationship with Christ as the root cause. In many facets of our walk, we have stumbled and no longer trust in the "lamp unto my feet".

Primarily, we have failed in our prayer life. James tells us that the effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. Do we believe that? In my opinion, prayer, honest prayer, is the principal component necessary for us to have a meaningful relationship with God. How can we ever hope to have a relationship with someone we never speak to? Try that with your spouse and let me know how that works out.

We need to be sincere with our prayers. Jesus set a scene for us of two people praying - a Pharisee and a publican. The publican prayed very simply and earnestly, God, have mercy on me a sinner. The Pharisee prayed a prayer of thanksgiving and said, "God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican." I believe his name was Beauregard, and I think I remember him as a Deacon in one of the earlier churchs I attended. :) (that last line was in jest - if there does happen to be a Beauregard in my past, this reference is purely coincidental)

Do we really understand the power in prayer? Jesus said, Ye have not because ye ask not. Have you ever prayed for unity in your church? Why not? Do you believe Jesus could provide unity among the members? Then why not include that in our prayers. We should ask sincerely for God to bless our brothers and sisters. If we were as interested in their prosperity as we are our own (and we should be according to the Word) imagine the harmony that would be present at our next service.

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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Hezekiah Philosophy

Jewish King and soldiers in ancient Judah.Image via Wikipedia

The Hezekiah Philosophy
(What's wrong with America)

There's a story told in the Bible of a King of Judah by the name of Hezekiah. This King had a very interesting life and, while most people concede that he was one of the better kings of Judah, his story ends in a most puzzling manner.

Hezekiah was confronted by a gathering coalition against his nation, led by the Assyrian king Sennacherib. Upon hearing of this coming threat, Hezekiah sent for the prophet Isaiah so that he could intercede on behalf of the nation. Isaiah sent word back that all is well, God will provide the victory and sure enough that's exactly what happened. 2Kings chapter 19

The next chapter opens very dramatically:

2Ki 20:1 In those days was Hezekiah sick unto death. And the prophet Isaiah the son of Amoz came to him, and said unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Set thine house in order; for thou shalt die, and not live.
2Ki 20:2 Then he turned his face to the wall, and prayed unto the LORD, saying,
2Ki 20:3 I beseech thee, O LORD, remember now how I have walked before thee in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in thy sight. And Hezekiah wept sore.
2Ki 20:4 And it came to pass, before Isaiah was gone out into the middle court, that the word of the LORD came to him, saying,
2Ki 20:5 Turn again, and tell Hezekiah the captain of my people, Thus saith the LORD, the God of David thy father, I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will heal thee: on the third day thou shalt go up unto the house of the LORD.
2Ki 20:6 And I will add unto thy days fifteen years; and I will deliver thee and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria; and I will defend this city for mine own sake, and for my servant David's sake.

Wow! Another answered prayer! This king was surely blessed. God was protecting his country and had now delivered him from this sickness. No doubt he would certainly be eternally grateful for the continued blessings in his life - or would he? I mean surely after seeing the sun move backwards in the sky as confirmation of his healing he would have no choice but to be a model servant, right? Surely he would use the blessing of additional years to further establish the kingdom in the ways of God!

As the story unfolds, Hezekiah recieved messengers from the Prince of Babylon who came bearing a get well present. Who doesn't like to get gifts? Not only did he receive their gifts, he received the visitors and gave them the grand tour. Nothing was held back from their eyes, even the contents of the treasury was on display! While we aren't given direct evidence of the motivation of the King, I believe it was pride. He was proud of what he had. He should have been thankful.

Notice the words of the prophet Isaiah as he discovered the error of the King and chastised him with the words of the Lord -

2Ki 20:16 And Isaiah said unto Hezekiah, Hear the word of the LORD.
2Ki 20:17 Behold, the days come, that all that is in thine house, and that which thy fathers have laid up in store unto this day, shall be carried into Babylon: nothing shall be left, saith the LORD.
2Ki 20:18 And of thy sons that shall issue from thee, which thou shalt beget, shall they take away; and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.

Notice also the response of Hezekiah:

2Ki 20:19 Then said Hezekiah unto Isaiah, Good is the word of the LORD which thou hast spoken. And he said, Is it not good, if peace and truth be in my days?

Hezekiah was just notified that everything he had shown to these messengers from Babylon was to be carried away, nothing was to be spared. His response? Well, at least all will be well during my lifetime. "Is it not good, if peace and truth be in my days?"

Now, let's look at this from the perspective of our nation today. My, how this country has been blessed. Regardless of the claims to the contrary of others, this nation was founded not on religious freedom, not on the belief in a Supreme Being, not in a belief in a Diety, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ!

Patrick Henry:"Orator of the Revolution."

• This is all the inheritance I can give my dear family. The religion of Christ can give them one which will make them rich indeed.”—The Last Will and Testament of Patrick Henry

“It cannot be emphasized too clearly and too often that this nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religion, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ. For this very reason, peoples of other faiths have been afforded asylum, prosperity, and freedom of worship here.” [May 1765 Speech to the House of Burgesses]

“The Bible is worth all other books which have ever been printed.”

We have seen prosperity beyond the dreams of our founders, primarily because our predecessors knew that "every good and perfect gift is from above" and they expressed sincere thanks for the blessings that they had received. Our nation today, however, has reached a state where blessings are not thought of as a gift from a loving and benevolent Father, but rather they are entitlements of which everyone should partake. We also are not concerned with the welfare (both spiritually, financially, and physically) of our children and grandchildren. As long as things will be well with us within our lifetime (and many can't see beyond today) all is well.

I didn't tell you how the story of Hezekiah ends, but I hope you know - God carries out his plans revealed thru His prophets.

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Friday, June 19, 2009

1101 Hits

Weird title, huh?

Sitting in my office getting a little study time in and I pulled up the search box to find out just how many times the word "father" is in the Bible (KJV). Well, now you know where the title for this post comes from - 1101 times the word "father' appears in the Bible. With only 970 verses, there are some multiple occurrences.

As we approach this Father's Day, I have been thinking a lot about my Dad recently. I grew up in a very loving home - Mom and Dad were both dedicated to rearing us according to Biblical teaching: Pro 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. They both worked at very difficult jobs to provide for us the basic necessities of life. I don't begrudge for a moment my early station in life, rather, I am so thankful for the life lessons contained in my childhood.

I remember coming in from school and being trained to change into my play clothes. It didn't take me long to learn this lesson - I hated those Toughskin jeans. I swear I believe they could have stood in the corner by themselves they were so stiff and inflexible. There was no way to run in those clothes if I wanted to.

Some of my earliest memories that I can remember of my Dad's work was getting to go with him to his job at Cotton Producers Hatchery on Grove Street. (Yeah, I know, kind of ironic huh that I too ended up in the "chicken business") The building is still there, today it's Southern States Supply. The Hatchery was moved into a new building on Athens Highway just south of Gainesville. Just as if it were yesterday, I remember the Asian folks in there sexing the baby chicks; I remember opening the drawers to the incubators looking to find out where all that noise was coming from; I remember sitting on the steps in the doorway of that chick bus staring out the door windows watching the road go by as Daddy would drive to farms delivering chicks ( He would be a wanted felon for letting me sit there today); I remember playing race car driver on the dolly's in that building, and I remember that barrel (55 gal drum) that smelled so bad in the back (Offal waste). The most profound memory is one I can't believe I can actually remember, because I was only 3(barely). In March January of 1960, Gainesville experienced a very abnormal winter, with snow (11.5 inches) and ice to the point that the National Guard was employed to deliver feed to the chicken houses in this area. I remember my Daddy laying in the snow putting chains on an old panel wagon that was the service vehicle for the hatchery. I remember thinking how much my Daddy must love those little chickens to be going to all this trouble to go and check on them.

As I grew older, I remember Daddy would work nights at the funeral home. This was cool, 'cause at this time the funeral homes were also the ambulance services. I loved to go with him on Friday nights to the football games - just like Navin R Johnson ( think Steve Martin comedy) I was somebody! What I didn't like was the times I didn't get to go with him.

Now that Mom and Dad have been empty nesters for some time, they are finally getting to spend some quality time together and do things they could only dream of as a young couple. I am fortunate in so many ways. Dad lost his father 42 years ago - It's hard for me to imagine that I've had my father around for 20 years more than he did. Wow!

Back to the title: when I saw the results of the search I just sat and stared at that number for a while, as it seemed God was speaking to me even through a 4 digit number.

1 for the Father, 1 for the Son, 1 for the Holy Spirit. Oh yeah, that "0"? That's me. I fail to measure up to the men that have preceded me in my family line. Oh, I've not done anything too terribly wrong, but when you stack my life up against my father, grandfather, and the generations preceding him, well, it would be like trying to measure the width of an ant with a yardstick. The achievements they accomplished, without the abundance of resource with which I am blessed, are a landmark to remind me of a greater generation.

Glad I still have the chance to go to Cracker Barrel with Dad on Thursday's, I hope I get to make many more trips.

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Rebellion, or the down staircase

The Prophet Jonah, as depicted by Michelangelo...Image via Wikipedia

This previous Sunday I was privileged to be a guest worshipper at a small Baptist church near my home. The pastor delivered a sermon on Jonah, and I've been musing on some thoughts since his message. While I have heard the story of Jonah for many years, going back to "Granny Taylor's" beginner's Sunday School class, each time I am presented with something fresh - that is, each time I am open to the teaching and leadership of the Holy Spirit.

I have noticed how the 4 small chapters used to tell the story all tend to focus how life for Jonah seemed to be trapped on the down escalator. His life was spiralling downward from the moment that he rebelled against God. We are told that he went down to Joppa, went down in the ship, went down in the ocean, and went down inside the great fish. Down, down, down until he reached the bottom.

Only when Jonah could descend no further did he remember the provision offered by Solomon's dedicatory prayer of 2 Chronicles 6. There Solomon asked God to look favorably on His people in the future when they looked toward the temple and prayed. How did Jonah know which way to look? It's a God thing.

Our obedience should be complete, unwavering. James tells us that a double minded man is unstable in all his ways. We should exhibit the faith of the clerk in this news article:

Fort Bragg, North Carolina: A likely clerical error sent a supply clerk with the 82nd Airborne Division out the door of an airplane on his first parachute jump without any formal training. Army Specialist Jeff Lewis, 23, who landed unhurt, said he was just doing what a good soldier is supposed to do when he made the jump: Follow orders. "The Army said I was airborne-qualified," Lewis said. "I wasn't going to question it." Citation: Chicago Tribune (May 20, 2000)
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Saturday, June 13, 2009

Fruit salad

A grape: Palatina / Eine weiße Tafeltraubensor...Image via Wikipedia

Earlier today, Gideons across the world gathered for a special prayer service centered around fruit - already harvested and enjoyed plus fruit yet to be harvested. The scripture theme for this service came from the Gospel of John:

Joh 15:1 I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.
Joh 15:2 Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.
Joh 15:3 Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.
Joh 15:4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.
Joh 15:5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.
Joh 15:6 If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.
Joh 15:7 If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.
Joh 15:8 Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.
Joh 15:9 As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.
Joh 15:10 If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love.
Joh 15:11 These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.
Joh 15:12 This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.
Joh 15:13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
Joh 15:14 Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.
Joh 15:15 Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.
Joh 15:16 Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.
(King James Version)

I enjoy from time to time reading the paraphrase "the Message". I do this with full understanding that this is not God's Word, but more a restating commentary on his word - hence, a paraphrase.

Joh 15:5 "I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you're joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can't produce a thing. The Message

As always, it is important to understand who is being spoken to, and when, in context, are these workds being spoken.

Just after finishing with the Passover, singing a hymn, and a demonstration of servant leadership, Jesus led the disciples on a walk to the Garden of Gethsemene. On the way, passing a vine (grape vine?) he stopped to continue with his teaching of the disciples. Two main thoughts come to my mind from His words- both centered around the word abide. The Greek word used here is μένω, transliterated as menō, and pronounced as men'-o. This word is a primary verb; meaning to stay (in a given place, state, relation or expectancy).

My first thought is that it is impossible to abide except ye be joined. This is where I like the Message, as it brings forth the depths to which we should be connected with the desires of our Father. If you've ever seen a live grape vine, you will recall that it is impossible to determine the exact spot where the branch ends and the vine begins! This is how connected God expects us to be in our relationship with Him. The lines of separation between our life and His life in us are to be blurred. Remember the words of Paul to the church in Galatia, "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me". Gal 2:20

Once we are connected, we are to remain in place, stay put - or as your Mom said, "Don't you dare move!" This is probably the hardest part of our Christian walk, as the enemy confronts us with many tests in his attempts to separate us from our relationship with our Saviour. Once we reach the mountain top, we often spend too much time basking in the marvelous blessings that God has granted to us and we don't spend enough time in praise and thanksgiving for those blessings. Before you know it, it's back down the other side of the mountain and start the journey all over again.

I'm convinced that I've known a lot of Christians over the years who simply didn't like climbing mountains, and they have, as a result, been content to spend their life in the valleys. In so doing they become ineffective witnesses, lukewarm warriors unconcerned about both the enemy and the cause.
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