BAD COFFEE

Wipe that smile off your face, soldier! One gulp of G.I. coffee aught to do the trick.

Don’t ask me why, but last week at church I decided to forgo my usual cup of Sumatra coffee for some “popular brand” that the coffee folks also brew up. I hated it, not because it was objectively bad coffee, but because I was used to better (People actually drink that stuff?). Probably, if I were used to the brand that’s supposedly, “The best part of waking up” (God forbid!), the Sumatra blend would have tasted odd. So bad did it taste that I poured it out so I could refill my cup with what I really wanted. Sorry, coffee folks; if you had a coffee kitty I would have dropped in something extra.

Funny thing about a bad cup of coffee; you can’t make it good by adding a few drops of good coffee. You have to empty it completely and cleanse it before refilling it with the delicious brew.

Christians, what fills your cup? Worldly goals and entertainments? Self-gratification? Work? Envy? Gossip? Power plays? The New Testament gives us lists of behaviors that erode and sour our spirituality to the point that onlookers would never guess that we are different from those of the world.

Face it, brothers and sisters, we—the church of Jesus Christ—need revival … not to fill a few more seats or to add a few drops of sanctity to change our image from rigor mortis to that of born-again Bible thumpers, but to completely empty our cups of worldliness and carnality so God can fill us up with the fruit of His Spirit, and holiness, without the seeking of which no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14).

That’s His holiness, not just more of our own churchianity.

Cogs, Big or Small

Bro. Big Cog

Which is better, a big cog in a small wheel, or a small cog in a big wheel? When I was a kid I was lucky enough to have a dad who brought surplus military hardware home from his Navy civil service job. One device was a precision instrument of some kind, and its large gears had the smallest cogs I’d ever seen. Each cog didn’t have to be all that strong because there were a lot of them, and they ran so smoothly that there was hardly any vibration or backlash.

Now imagine that same machine with big gear teeth; its movement would be anything but smooth and its precision would be laughable. Which type of “gears” would make a machine, church, or any organization, function better?

I currently fellowship with a large church that has a well-developed staff and volunteer force. The pastor wisely and efficiently delegates many responsibilities to Spirit-filled, capable people who carry them out with all diligence. It is a joy to behold.

Somehow my church manages to cull out most of those who would be big cogs, or the self-important members that seek power over others who are trying to serve God with their gifts and talents. Everyone is just another brother or sister, with no big I’s or little You’s. Yes, there is a Scriptural hierarchy based on years of selfless service and spiritual maturity, but they are seen as in no way superior to the most lowly members of the body. I present this positive example of a correctly functioning congregation in the hope that anyone who reads this will compare their fellowship with this ideal.

Do I agree with everything those in authority decide to do? Of course not. Anyone who expects their church to conform to their expectations is—excuse the expression—a fool, who would become a big cog, refusing to mesh with the body of believers. That is the sin of vain pride, which is the foundation for all presumption and abuses of authority, and is the sin that got Lucifer ejected from the heavenly assembly.

I sincerely hope that you do not see yourself as “better” than anyone, whether big, or small, cogs. God doesn’t expect us to be humble; He demands it (2 Samuel 22:28; 2 Chronicles 7:14; Philippians 2:3; Colossians 3:12James 4:10; 1 Peter 5:5).

THE LAST SHIP — A TV Review

Finally, a TV program that treats faith fairly, and it’s not even a religious show. In fact, The Last Ship is more spiritual than most of the religious programming on The Bible Network. One of the core characters is CMC Russell Jeter, played by Charles Parnell. CMC Jeter, is a professed Southern Baptist Christian. A rational, heroic, likeable black man, he lives his convictions in the context of his duties as a Master Chief of the Navy. And as a return to past years’ honest treatment of Christianity, even the non-religious characters respect CMC Jeter’s faith and spirituality.

In the tradition of JAG and NCIS, The Last Ship shows the US Navy as competent and effective, even noble, in its execution of possibly flawed government policy. Even though it conforms somewhat to Political Correctness, the show presents a balanced approach by allowing the men and women to actually be men and women, and the displayed PC doctrine conveys accurate US military policy. One significant omission in current Political Correctness, however, is the lack of overtly homosexual characters. Perhaps that only bows to the, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” doctrine of years past.

Obviously I was very favorably impressed by this TV series and highly recommend it for family entertainment, with the exception of small children because of graphic portrayals of bloody violence. It presents opportunities for Christian parents to use the pause button to ask their children the hard questions and offer commentary on issues of faith, nationalism, the military, and social issues.

C.S. Lewis on Being Called

“Please, what task, Sir?” said Jill.

“The task for which I called you and him here out of your own world.”

This puzzled Jill very much. “It’s mistaking me for someone else,” she thought. She didn’t dare to tell the Lion this, though she felt things would get into a dreadful muddle unless she did.

“Speak your thought, Human Child,” said the Lion.

“I was wondering—I mean—could there be some mistake? Because nobody called me and Scrubb, you know. It was we who asked to come here. Scrubb said we were to call to—to Somebody—it was a name I wouldn’t know—and perhaps the Somebody would let us in. And we did, and then we found the door open.”

“You would not have called to me unless I had been calling to you,” said the Lion.

“Then you are Somebody, Sir?” said Jill.

“I am.”

From The Silver Chair

When I read this story to my daughters a long time ago I failed to explain its significance to them. Uncle Jack had a knack (rhyme not intended) for presenting complex theological ideas in charming and simple ways. Though I disagree with Lewis on many points of doctrine, where I find agreement, their profundity amazes me, and this passage presents the work of God’s Holy Spirit spot on. And I love the way Uncle Jack slipped God’s divine Name (I AM) into the dialogue so naturally.

We fail to appreciate God’s work in and around us because we don’t possess spiritual eyes; all we have is faith in what we can’t see, but is more real than what we see with our fleshly eyes. This mustard seed faith summons God’s power to move human hearts and minds from carnal-orientation to spirit-orientation, a move that, by comparison, makes tossing a mountain into the ocean seem like kicking a stone along a path.

Just know, dear friend, that God’s answers to prayer are more often spiritual than material in nature, and when the spiritual answer just doesn’t cut it, you are not of His mind.

Uncle Jack on Life’s Troubles

Uncle Jack’s brother was worse than an alcoholic; he was an incorrigible, disorderly drunk. On the occasion of his commitment to a nursing home for detox, he proved so difficult that the nuns insisted that he be transferred to a “hospital,” but really it was an asylum, and the matter weighed heavily on him.

In a letter to his friend Arthur Greeves, dated July 2, 1949, Lewis wrote about vicarious suffering:

Don’t imagine I doubt for a moment that what God sends us must be sent in love and will all be for the best if we have grace to use it so. My mind doesn’t waver on this point; my feelings sometimes do. That’s why it does me good to hear what I believe repeated in your voice—it being the rule of the universe that others can do for us what we cannot do for ourselves and one can paddle every canoe except one’s own. That is why Christ’s suffering for us is not a mere theological dodge but the supreme case of the law that governs the whole world; and when they mocked him by saying, ‘He saved others, himself he cannot save,’ [Matthew 27:42; Mark 15:31]] they were really uttering, little as they knew it, the ultimate law of the spiritual world.

From The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume II

In Lewis’ typical, economical style, he captured the foundational truth of God’s good news to humanity. His loving nature caused Him to do for us what we could never do for ourselves: take our death penalty for sin upon Himself, in the person of His only Son after His own kind, our Lord Jesus Christ. All who accept that substitutionary death for themselves will feel eternally grateful—literally.

If you claim Christianity as your religion, yet your life fails to reflect that all-consuming gratitude, you need to carefully examine your profession of faith. Apostle James wrote:

Jas 2:14-26
(14) What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?
(15) If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food,
(16) and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?
(17) So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
(18) But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.
(19) You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!
(20) Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless?
(21) Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar?
(22) You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works;
(23) and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God.
(24) You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.
(25) And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way?
(26) For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.

Just as with ingratitude, gratitude will be known.

C.S. Lewis on the Impermanence of Feelings

If “falling in love” happens, so will “falling out of love.” As C.S. Lewis said, “The great thing is to continue to believe when the feeling is absent: and these periods do quite as much for one as those when the feeling is present.”

It’s all about trusting in God, and not in feelings. Christ-followers are just as apt to “fall in love” as flesh-followers. The difference is the foundation upon which said love is built.

We fallible, human-type beings are going to feel emotions, but we must remember that said emotions are just as fallible as anything else in our lives—probably more so. If we think of emotions as nothing more than a temporary effect that endorphins have on our brains, we may be able to assign a more appropriate priority to them.

Does that sound cold and heartless? Actually, it’s anything but. Think about the “good” feelings you experience after exercise; you feel pumped, ready to take on the world. But what about the next day? You go back to the gym and repeat the process.

The emotions associated with love and hope are similarly transient, even though they effect your life far more profoundly than the generic, “good” feeling from exercise.

What I’m saying is, we must take the sensations of love and hope, and of any other emotional responses to spiritual facts, with a grain of salt. They are the icing on the cake of Biblical spirituality.

We must expect, and guard against, the natural discouragement of failing to see in ourselves all that we want from God. I can think of two Bible passages that bear directly on that: “Hope that is seen is not hope, for who hopes for what he sees?” (Romans 8:24) and, “But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” (2 Peter 3:8).

Remember, dissatisfaction with your spiritual growth is great, but discouragement is from the flesh, and condemnation is Satan’s specialty.

C.S. Lewis on The Implications of The Eldila

We tend to think about non-human intelligences in two distinct categories which we label “scientific” and “supernatural” respectively. We think, in one mood, of Mr. Wells’ Martians (very unlike the real Malacandrians, by the bye), or his Selenites. In quite a different mood we let our minds loose on the possibility of angels, ghosts, fairies, and the like. But the very moment we are compelled to recognize a creature in either class as real the distinction begins to get blurred: and when it is a creature like an eldil the distinction vanishes altogether. These things were not animals—to that extent one had to classify them with the second group; but they had some kind of material vehicle whose presence could (in principle) be scientifically verified. To that extent they belonged to the first group. The distinction between natural and supernatural, in fact, broke down, and when it had done so, one realized how great a comfort it had been—how it had eased the burden of intolerable strangeness which this universe imposes on us by dividing it into two halves and encouraging the mind never to think of both in the same context. What price we may have paid for this comfort in the way of false security and accepted confusion of thought is another matter.

I happened upon an Amazon.com link to Perelandra, book two of Lewis’ The Space Trilogy, and began reading to refresh my memory of that long past reading where I first became acquainted with Ransom’s adventures on Venus, or Perelandra, as the Venusians call it. As I was a different person then, I anticipated reading it with new eyes, and so I did.

As with all of Lewis’ post atheistic writings, The Space Trilogy expressed his understanding of Biblical/theological themes, which, in his fictional works, he related through fanciful allegory. The above excerpt describes, at least to me, a relationship between the spirit and the flesh, or in Jesus’ case, the Spirit and his immaculately conceived body. As the rest of us aren’t entitled to his special circumstances—all the better for us since crucifixion would not be our most favored end—his Spirit indwells our corrupted bodies for our ultimate and eternal benefit, but only by his grace, through faith in his Person and Work (Ephesians 2:8-9).

That relationship between spirit and physical body isn’t, however, limited to Jesus and those he redeemed. The vast majority of mankind also possess both spirit and body in that indefinable relationship, though in their case, the spirit is imprisoned within, and subject to, the carnal. In some sense, the human spirit is the flesh’s dupe, providing mankind with an artificial sense of spirituality that leads to human religion in all its benevolent, and malevolent, forms.

Whichever form it takes, though, human religion is equally impotent in its attempts to reach God. Redemption is a God thing, both initiated and consummated by him through the Lord Jesus Christ. I’ve personally experienced both human religion and redemption, and here’s a comparison:

Religion Redemption
Mankind reaching for God God reaching for mankind
Esoteric teachings Universal truth
Dogma Scriptural teachings
Tradition Scriptural history
Ritualistic sacraments Scriptural ordinances
Ritualistic liturgy Spontaneous worship
Human-regulated membership God-regulated membership
Specialized jargon Everyday language
Selective Whosoever will …
Separation from other religions Separation from the world’s corrupt values
Path to riches Path to true riches
Ecclesiastical hierarchy Priesthood of believers
Infant baptism Believers’ baptism

Comments on LeVay’s Satamism

 I appreciate Lex Friedman’s take on Anton LaVey’s little folly, with one reservation: Spirituality and “real” life are inexorably linked, parallel aspects of being, giving whatever we do in this short time on Earth, eternal impact. It’s just that the spiritual aspect is harder to see with our natural perceptions. In fact, we are all born blinded to it. And Religion doesn’t help at all; in most cases it just muddies the spiritual waters with dogmatic predispositions and prejudices.


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?

Style at All Cost

A small nation’s space program needed an astronaut to pilot
their new, advanced space plane on its maiden flight to establish a
military base on the moon. General Whinsap had spent a year pouring
over the Air Command’s personnel records, and had finally narrowed
the field of applicants down to three crackerjack fighter aces whom
he’d ordered to fly in for the final interviews.

General Whinsap stood on the flight
control tower’s observation deck when a black spot appeared on the
horizon. Within seconds the black spot became visible as an airplane
streaking over the landscape, and the general barely had time to plug
his ears before a massive sonic boom shattered all the control
tower’s windows, showering the general and his aids with glass
shards.
Soon, Captain Smithers, the general’s orderly, stood back up next to him and the General
shouted at him, “Strike that pilot from the list! He’ll never fly
in my space plane!”
Captain
Smithers crisply answered, “Most certainly, General.”
A few
minutes later a second black spot appeared on the horizon, eventually
materializing the wings and tail of a fighter jet. General Whinsap
watched the lethal weapons platform veer toward the flight control
tower, and just before it would fly across in front of the officers
the pilot punched his afterburners, pulled the stick back and shot
straight up like a ballistic missile.
Searing
exhaust gasses enveloped the men, blowing off their hats and singing
all their hair. Again, when Captain Smithers regained his position
next to him, General Whinsap shouted, “Have that man brought
before a court-martial!”
Captain
Smithers’ shaky voice responded, “Indeed, sir.”
Shortly
afterward, a third black spot appeared on the horizon, approaching
for a perfect landing, spot on at the runway’s end. But Captain
Smithers panicked when the aircraft drew close. “General sir, wave
him off! He hasn’t lowered his landing gear!”
Seconds
later the fighter jet touched down in a shower of sparks and flame,
and the pilot shot out of the cockpit on a plume of white-hot gasses
from his ejection seat rocket engine. High over the wreckage a
parachute opened, the seat fell away, and the pilot floated gently to
the ground.
Captain
Smithers volunteered, “General Whinsap, sir, I’ll have that man
arrested the moment he walks in to …”
The
general glared at the captain with disdain, “You will do nothing of
the kind, Smithers! That man has passed my test with flying colors.”
Smithers
almost couldn’t respond for his stuttering, “But General, sir,
he’s just completely destroyed a cutting-edge war machine worth
millions.”
As
I said, Smithers, you’ll not lay a hand on that man.” General
Whinsap gazed down with pride at the charred and battered pilot
limping crisply away from his parachute. “That man has style!
Didn’t you see his smart salute as he shot skyward through the
flames?”

Out of the Ashes

We
flawed human beings put a lot of stock in style. Even in God’s
church, we admire those saints who soar off above the wreckage of
their sin-ravaged lives, firmly in control of their ejection seats.
Sin
takes an awful toll on families, friendships, and especially
leadership within God’s called-out ones. We behave almost as though
sin doesn’t really matter in the Grand Scheme of things sacred.
After all, sin is of the flesh, and we’re all about eternity, so
the occasional oops seems comparatively trivial … so long as we
don’t get caught.
And
so what if we
do get
caught with our hand in the cookie jar. As long as we don’t make a
practice of it, isn’t
that what
Grace is
for?
The
Master’s Apostle Paul had something relevant to say about that:
God
forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?

(Rom 6:2 KJV) As literally as the King James translators usually
rendered the original Greek in which Paul wrote, they didn’t have a
direct translation adequate to the Apostle’s forceful language. So
“May it not be,” became “God forbid,” the ultimate expression
that polite English would allow. We may safely infer that such an
answer to the question asked in Romans 6:1 effectively disallows cheap
grace.
Bible
scholars have made careers of duking out the thorny issues of
Wesleyan-Arminian holiness versus Calvinistic predestination. Overly
simplified, one side claims believers must
live
like believers to
be
believers, and—wait a minute! So does the other side, only they get
there by different theological gymnastics.
Personally?
Any action of mine that cheapens
anything
about God, or his Son the eternal Word, is reprehensible to me. In
the not-too distant past I felt that if I buried my sinful attitudes
and actions deeply enough and hid them well enough, Divine grace
would get me through to my eternal reward. I praise my Savior I
didn’t get myself
killed
while in that error. Not only was I guilty of the horrible sin of
presuming on Christ’s holy blood, but I was a
hypocrite
to boot.
Am
I saying that one itsybitsy sin gets my name rubbed out of the Lambs
Book of Life?
HARDLY!
(Is that enough emphasis to get the idea across?)
The
difference is between ignorant or inadvertent sin, and deliberate
presumption.
Point is, I
knew
better, and I preferred risking my Savior’s disgrace, to truly
repenting.
As
the TV pitch-men say, “But that’s not all …”
Even
if the eternal security-people are right and I couldn’t loose my
salvation because of my stiff-necked attitude, practicing that kind
of marginal Christianity effectively kept me spiritually
infantile!
So while everyone thought I was “running the race,” I was
actually just crawling along, trying to get to my colorful toys, and
content with it. Or maybe I should say,
complacent
with it. I just pray that God will bear with all my brethren who
still think they can get by with similar, less-than-best intentions
until they get wise and begin honoring our Savior
inside,
as well as out.
Don’t
count on rocketing clear of your spiritual wreckage. Religious style
may get us the approval of our brethren, but it won’t hack it with
our
Commander-In-Chief.