Who IS the Gardener?

“So they will be called oaks of righteousness, The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.” -Isaiah 61.3

In one of my daily devo books Paul F. Keller quotes Matthew 13.8 as well as commenting “One day, and very unexpectedly, we became the right kind of soil for God to plant a garden of new life, new hope and new joy.”

We must face reality that we indeed have capacity to grieve and/or quench the Holy Spirit, to ignore, blow past, discard, even wall off the grace of God coming to plant and nurture beautiful and good things in our hearts, minds, lives.

Bearing good and eternal fruit in our lives is dependent upon our being “God’s field” to use a phrase from Paul the apostle.

It was and is God’s desire and plan as per Isaiah’s words to move in and among the people of Israel not only in salvation but that they’d become fruitful -and this is precisely what Jesus talks about regarding both Jews and gentiles alike in John 15. “The nations” will one day reflect the glory of God and not merely human “glory”. If God did not “plant” -such an eternal harvest isn’t possible.

Jesus said “Every plant which My heavenly Father did not plant will be uprooted.” (Matthew 15.13)

I have often mentioned grace does not always feel like grace (unmerited favor) and when Saul was knocked off his horse and the Lord directly called and challenged Him, even told him in a basic sense what was going to happen in and through his life you can bet he was totally shocked and surprised. This was an unexpected encounter which turned his life and much of the world upside down right to this very day. (plz see Acts chapter 9)

Very, very few of us have such blatant “God moments” to the extent Paul did, yet he not only got a new name and new life but a new trajectory of mission which cost him everything and also gained countless numbers of people’s salvation, discipleship and indeed- new life, new hope and new joy.

Thankfully all of us don’t need such drastic encounters to enter saving faith in Jesus, drop our own personal and fruitless, mythical “mission” and grow up and on into HIS.

In my own life He did show up in ways I could not discard or pretend were merely psychological or drug-induced, or “natural phenomena”. God stacked the deck and I’m DEEPLY Grateful forever!

May you pay attention for ways He stands “at the doors” and knocks.

Your life depends on it.

As always, thanks for stopping by. -Glenn

Feet on The Ground

Interesting little English phrase, no?

It’s akin to “salt of the earth” in it’s meaning. It has to do with common sense or at least (another phrase) “meat and potatoes”, stable, I think of it meaning keeping things simple, direct, honest, and in somewhat newer yet now old street terms “straight up”, true, solid, no games being played, what you see is what you get.

As a musician I learned long ago about getting shocked. I mean physically SHOCKED from electricity via guitars, amps, p.a. systems and microphones not grounded. Working with power tools and sometimes standing on cement or near/on wet surfaces, all of this affects whether one is going to get zapped.

Playing countless shows in countries where the power is 220 to 240 volts rather than our North American 120 can be lethal if your gear isn’t grounded.

I expect many will be shocked in a future of facing God having not been “Rooted and grounded in love” which in context of Ephesians 3.17 is all about the Person of Jesus Christ Himself.

In greater context of that chapter, in vs. 19 Paul writing to the church in Ephesus states His love “surpasses understanding”. It’s more than intellectual ability alone can grasp. Genuine love is like that. It entails mind but also emotions, the will, indeed spirit.

The biblical Greek re. the term “rooted” means precisely that, as a plant sustained with roots deep in soil while “grounded” is defined “founded” and in the sense of “foundation”. We know any house without a solid foundation isn’t one we best make our home in!

This is but a super-small piece of the wisdom of God, Paul and having one’s life based on Jesus and His love.

All other ground? “Sinking sand” as the old hymn lyric goes…

What is your “house”, your life founded on? Watch the ground to avoid the shock.

As always, thanks for stopping by. -Glenn

Firearms Non-Political??

I was compelled in a discussion the other day to write the following. Oh yes, logic has it’s place!!

“I will also ask how we can say gun crimes are somehow not connected to our individual and shared political views when federal, state and local laws directly affect firearms ownership and use? In my view talking about de-politicizing the related issues is like saying Jews and Jesus have nothing in common. I don’t think we’re willing to take personal responsibility that our politics and pols directly affect law, order, incarceration and indeed the police, citizens and quality of life -this is where the concept of cultural, racial or nationalist views mixed with lethal weaponry is in my view, obvious, news outlets or none. It starts with me. I’ll say it again, I’m a long-time gun owner, hunter so this is far more than thoughtless or hard left/hard right verbiage in my own life. Grew up rural, lived many decades in inner city Chicago and continue to visit and love small towns and rural America, this is my vantage point.” -Glenn Kaiser

The Worst Nemesis

Among much Augustine writes I find this one of his most solid truths and so important to remember- the grace of God draws, nurtures and keeps us in the Gospel, indeed “Gospel Truth” vs. our own inner-writing of myths, fables and vain focus.

Good News doesn’t begin with any of us. Thank God for Jesus and the Gospel writers who suffered greatly for His and ultimately our sake!

As always, thanks for stopping by. -Glenn

For Those With Ears to Hear

Lots of meaning in those words. I mean -a lot-!

Growing up in rural hunting and fishing areas I learned to love and relate to putting food on the table. Fishing is rather quiet as is hunting with bow and arrow, but for years I shot everything from airguns to .22’s and later higher-power shotguns and rifles, pretty much anything that would harvest small up to larger game animals. Hang in there if all that disagrees with you, a point is coming quite soon here.

Between not using hearing protection such as earplugs and tight-fitting muffs and playing in bands from my 13th year to the present, recording some 37 full length records and scores of others, live concerts likely in the thousands by now and just everyday wear, tear, aging, you can imagine rightly that the high-end (treble) and even elements of mid and low-end audio frequencies in my ears “took a hike”.

I have taken precautions to save what hearing I have for a couple decades now but of course loss is what it is. At times I literally don’t have “ears to hear” what someone has said, or played or whatever.

Hearing aids, in-ear monitors and other practical adjustments (wax removal) and working with lower volume levels, etc., all help and this is why I can still have great recording times in studio, more good to great live shows and mostly everyday conversations with folks. SOMETIMES aids have to be adjusted.

All of this fully relates to spiritual plateaus, parking in spiritual wet cement as it were, and only listening/reading/studying others with whom we may disagree with nothing more than motive to win the argument against them, discredit or otherwise set the world straight as per OUR VERSION OF WHAT JESUS SAID, MEANT AND DID. But of course sometimes dear reader, our lack of humility, godly motive and not-so-open ears to hear keep us swirling round and round in self-congratulation rather than learning, growing and doing so in one of the most needed issues among Christians themselves these days: empathy.

EMPATHY: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/empathy -especially point #1. This does not mean full-on agreement but rather a heart toward a person, people, and requires at least a modicum of imagination as well as solid information as to where a person seems to be at, how they got there and your genuine sense of care and respect for them regardless. Please read that last sentence again!

When Jesus is speaking and demonstrating His love-in-action, He often uses that phrase about hearing”. Without a deep commentary here I’ll simply say no, none of us (myself included) ALWAYS AT ALL TIMES have “ears to hear”, neither Him nor others with whom we disagree.

The ramifications of this are several, but lack of humility and willingness to bend, even bow to another in seeking to understand the Lord and the person/s in question out of love for them is the point.

How many of us are spiritually if not yet physically practicing deafness as though it’s never by our own self-centered choice?! I’d say we all do it. How common in everyday decisions and certainly in aging that we are tempted to stick with (“live with”) our own frequency losses as normative and correct rather than doing what we can to help correct them.

I further think hearing God is core to hearing anybody else in the best sense.

God have mercy, help we professing Christ-followers to not only discern what to do/not do, but to do so with “HEAR O ISRAEL”, and “HEAR what the Spirit says to the churches” rather than mere self-talk.

As always, thanks for stopping by. -Glenn

The Insufficiency Of Philosophy and Logic

To be clear I have been digging through philosophy, theological and biblical Hebrew and Greek texts for quite some time. This post is –not– written to nor specifically about any of my friends who are wrestling (or not) with the following, rather as I’ve had convos with so very many who this will relate to on various levels I thought it might be good to share here.

No one knows or can know all there is to know but God.

It is at an intersection of arrogance and ignorance that those depending more on their own intellect than Him and His discard faith and relationship with the Lord, frustrated by words, concepts and indeed mysteries beyond their ability to find intellectual satisfaction with.

Believing in one’s ability to think more than His ability to has produced a sad many spiritual casualties through human history.

Hardcore Arminian or Calvinist, it’s extremely rare if one can find anywhere that a concept of individual salvation has everything (note that word please) to do with one’s ability to think and that of logic, full stop. For that matter, I find neither in the Bible nor via common sense an intellectual requirement, or put another way, a high i.q -in order to be saved, delivered, set free, truly have their names written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. “Get knowledge” and “wisdom” and “understanding” is all over the Book of Proverbs, and yet none of these are my Risen Savior.

That said, it is interesting how many professing followers of Jesus are more concerned with right thinking (usually meaning the way they sum things up) as THE. TRUTH. and refer to it as solid doctrine without considering salvation is first of all God’s idea, God’s doing and due completely to Jesus’ grace for all we sinners in terms of His cross and in His “taking captive” and Himself victorious over the world, flesh and devil.

Of course we can think our way out of Jesus, general Bible concepts of “the world”, flesh/old nature and the devil and demons just as easily as anything. I can hear some thinking (!) “Yes but we have the mind of Christ” and I’ll agree and add there are plenty of verses and context that speak to our lack of it, indeed humans not demonstrating and living it out in Christian practice and can first point that out in my own life!

Put simply, your salvation and mine isn’t DEPENDENT on our ability to think/philosophize correctly. If that were true plenty of those with little thinking ability would never come to believe and walk with Him in relationship ending in eternal life.

Then we must consider the term “cognizant”. Defined as: knowledgeable of something especially through personal experience; also : mindful.

A question: does our personal, even shared logic always trump, match or does it sometimes rightly bow to experience? Can our repeated experience “with God” genuinely always be defined in the ways of “logic”? I think not. Get it? I logically do not think all can nor all events and experience in life can be logically explained and that is where the word (and bugaboo) mystery comes in. It takes real humility to admit we don’t have all the answers.

My Calvinist/Reformed friends have long been excellent in use of mind, logic, study. The lion’s share of the earliest colleges and universities in the United States were founded by them.

I admit I line up more with Arminias and Wesley. Regardless, I’m not convinced anybody’s salvation is dependent on right thinking as per my statement above. The theological branch I link with does not do away with God’s sovereignty and yet free will is itself a gift of God, not of works (unto salvation) but grace.

If you’re still reading -and whether or not you agree with me in all this- I find the metaphysical, the “exotic” approach including imagination itself historical and indeed Bible-sourced ground to faith and I now mean ongoing faith in Jesus, in the words of the Bible and for a nurturing walk with the Lord.

If you’re fully “up in your head” and your key if not total focus on God and His Word is all wrapped in your mental abilities I’d say you have missed, and may miss a great many experiential points of spirituality that the Word and Jesus Himself speaks of right through the Book.

In fact I’d say self and defense of self is often the motive and goal of thinking you “know better”. No one can know more than the One Who knows all about all.

How can one believe in a God, angels, devil, demons THEY HAVE NEVER SEEN without a serious bit of imagination as well as elements of His fingerprints in one’s life? The Holy Spirit, Third Person of the Trinity has by Name a sense of -air- or -wind- which (Jesus said) blows “NOT WHERE WE -KNOW-“.

Human intellect has it’s flaws, logic (and there are many versions of such) therefore does also. Certainly experiences may too, got that!

I now quote Tozer quoting the early Lutherans who said “Faith is a perturbing thing”. We are both comforted and uncomfortable with Paul’s humbling statement “If any one thinks they know they know not yet as they ought to know.” “Knowledge puffs up, love builds up.” Can we not admit that we do not love and worship God as well as love others unless we do so with more than our minds?

When Jesus uses terms such as “heart, soul and might/strength” He is appealing to more than our head-knowledge, is He not?

Then we have otherwise brilliant theologians (whom I shall not name) doing their best to think away Christ’s Own miracles, performed and listed in all four Gospels and referred to by Jesus Himself as such. Plenty of logical constructs begin to lay what I’d call “spiritual flat earth” theories.

Look, if you cannot wrap your mind around supernatural, miraculous events (just check the New Testament Gospels and Book of Acts alone…) then worshiping Him “in spirit” and not merely “in truth” which Jesus tells us is the “must”… the desire of the Father that we worship Him with… well at that point I’d say you may have the mind of Christ but not the heart or soul of Him yet.

It’s ok, we’re all in school until we see Him face-to-face -but let us not pretend that our own ability to come to mental peace with the difficult and sometimes astonishing, even maddening stuff of the Bible as a fully orbed intellectual necessity when the ground of relationship between ourselves and God is a matter of faith and spirituality not exclusively our understanding.

Which reminds me of the end of Proverbs 3.5,6 “lean not to your OWN understanding.”

The balance is so needed and indeed many have run to the extreme of thought or to the other end of the spectrum, that being pentecostal/charismatic extremism where the tendency in the margins is to focus so much on experiential/experimental spiritualism (and yes, that also happens among theological brain-trust folks in liberal camps). Growth in loving God and neighbor in compassionate sacrifice is too often left in the dust.

You can of course sink roots in most Christian culture and run to an extreme, any of us can choose such a road, it isn’t just happening “over THERE with THOSE people” and never us.

Here are a few quotes to ponder:

“A mind all logic is like a knife all blade. It makes the hand bleed that uses it.” -Rabindranath Tagore

“It is always easy to be logical. It is almost impossible to be logical to the bitter end.” -Albert Camus

“What truly is logic? Who decides reason? […] It is only in the mysterious equations of love that any logic or reason can be found.” -John Nash

“LOGIC: The art of thinking and reasoning in strict accordance with the limitations and incapacities of the human misunderstanding. The basic of logic is the syllogism, consisting of a major and a minor premise and a conclusion.”

We all use logic and it makes sense (get it?) to do so. But note the words “limitations”, “incapacities” and “premise”. Theories unless deeply, repeatedly confirmed may be missing what is indeed both truth and fact.

Too often such humility and admission is left in the dust as we build walls rather than bridges regarding God and others.

“Major Premise: Sixty men can do a piece of work sixty times as quickly as one man. Minor Premise: One man can dig a post-hole in sixty seconds; Therefore- Conclusion: Sixty men can dig a post-hole in one second. This may be called syllogism arithmetical, in which, by combining logic and mathematics, we obtain a double certainty and are twice blessed.” -Ambrose Bierce, The Unabridged Devil’s Dictionary

“Though I do not believe in the order of things, still the sticky little leaves that come out in the spring are dear to me, the blue sky is dear to me, some people are dear to me, whom one loves sometimes, would you believe it, without even knowing why; some human deeds are dear to me, which one has perhaps long ceased believing in, but still honors with one’s heart, out of old habit.” from “Ivan Karamazov” -Fyodor Dostoyevsky

I would suggest a slow read through Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church, chapters one and two.

Wishing my readers what I wish for myself- unmerited grace from the Source of knowledge, wisdom, understanding and things beyond our ability to mentally grasp.

As always, thanks for stopping by. -Glenn

The Bark and Bite of Dogma

There are plenty of online sources that define dogma and break down the various forms, but note it is both within and outside of any Christian or other religious belief system (such as in philosophies and political systems) that dogma is also employed.

In reading a recent friend’s Facebook post mentioning the subject regarding dogma and relevance I found myself writing “When the love in our life shines brighter than our dogma, relevance happens.”

Quite a number of decades past I wrote and preached a sermon focusing on Being Real, Relational, Relevant. The basic idea was that only when we are real and deeply honest, truly relational rather than transactional – by the latter I mean interacting to personally gain something rather than really loving/caring about the individual or people group -only then are we truly relevant. I believe this to be true regardless of your spirituality but essential as professing followers of Jesus.

Jesus was positively all three continually and will never otherwise change. We, on the other hand, MUST grow in these for God’s and other’s sake!

I not only fully believe such growth possible by the power and will of God the Holy Spirit in the life of all believers but notice them laced within Jesus’ teaching and actions through the four gospel texts. It is not merely by our own will, power or effort and yet to claim it (as per Christian/spiritual maturity) is somehow automatic and not truly in part a matter of our engaging in the hard work and application is to me, a pipe-dream that I more associate with my former drug habit days than present reality!

A close and personal analogy is that I can either go through the motions in a surface way with my wife of nearly 50 years or I can actually BE real, relational and therefore we share in the love of God which is ALWAYS and shall Always be relevant, far past dogmas that will one day cease.

If interested re. “dogma”, you could do worse than read this to begin to understand the concepts: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dogma

As always, thanks for stopping by. -Glenn

History ESSENTIAL and NEEDED

And in particular, verifiable history, not merely what we believe and wish was true.

How many only listen to their own voices, those of people in their own sphere who share their near if not totally identical viewpoints on most things?

History will mould you or mold you, you’ll wish to reject or accept the findings -IF broadly written, studied and taken in depth, but so much of this comes down to our own personal whims, desires and of course “what we’ve been taught” some of which is solid as granite and some as concrete as thin air, thin ice and dung on a rubbish pile.

I read hard left and hard right “histories” all the time and regularly ask myself “Glenn, what’s your motive for liking or strongly disagreeing with this bit you’re now reading?!” I don’t know how many of us -and professing Christians I’m looking at you my sisters and brothers- are quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to wrath on this point. If you will check your deepest motives you’ll not always find Jesus at the core of each and all of them. Well “Let God be true and every human a liar” still holds sadly true. Hmmm, scripture, that.

Self-deceit as well as avoiding verifiable truth isn’t merely the ground of left, right or independent but all of us.

Too many white folks bury themselves in white-told “history” and are quite ignorant about black voices and views, Native American/First Nations, Asian and Pacific Islanders, Latino, Aboriginal and others’ histories as though they either hold little truth or lessons for our dominant caucasian culture and/or are simply “made up” as if no white authors of history ever had rotten motives nor ever created false histories nor edited sick, sad and sinful truths about colonialisation, racism and “to the moneyed and military mighty go the spoils” out of their published material. So much for morality, ethics, fake -historical- news…

I can think of a number of reasons history can seem boring or something to avoid for many folks, but in the end we cannot truly learn from our ancestor’s nor our own past mistakes if we are in truth merely re-writing it (because the “victors write the history books”) to suit ourselves, salve our own consciences and ultimately keep control -this last point one of most insidious of all motives for white-washing historical truths.

It takes real effort to deal with both actual history… and one’s motives even for that.

Jesus taught “Blessed are the merciful” and I’m convinced ignorance doesn’t produce either blessings or mercy. God have mercy- we need to learn!

As always, thanks for stopping by. -Glenn

“Mean” Jesus?

For good or ill and I suspect to a degree regarding self-defense I developed a philosophy early that continues to this day in my life. I don’t live in it every moment nor in terms of every decision but I confess it -is- how I approach living in this world.

Simply put, when confronted with something, what is the worst-case scenario? How truly bad could it get? This is my sort of Scout’s “be prepared” motto lived out. Then I submit my thinking and actions or in-actions to God in prayer and to His Word (Bible) best I understand it… and continue walking in what I think appropriate.

See, after considering the very worst thing that can happen and giving that over to my Lord and Savior everything less painful becomes possibility-by-less-painful possibility, easier to deal with mentally and emotionally. This may NOT be best practice for you, I’m only sharing how I often default in a situation regardless of circumstances.

At this point in writing I’m tempted to stack up a load of what I believe to be related scripture, but in the end it comes down to coping practices and then as I say -moving along the path in trust, faith, hopefully loving obedience to Jesus and lovingkindness and grace towards others.

Do I always get it right? Certainly not! Yet this has helped me along my personal path right through my life, fields of blooming flowers or thorn-bushes and briars. No doubt we all experience both as we live on planet earth.

Ok- as I’ve often stated here in my posts, the genuine grace of God doesn’t always feel like, sound like, seem like a warm hug and a kiss from God nor via His people. That’s pretty obvious.

So there’s some background to the point of this post: In the New Testament the crosses Jesus speaks of and the one He ends up dying on prior to resurrection morning hurt. They are often (and some always) excruciatingly painful and there can be no denying that.

YES His yoke is easy and His burdens light, and His people do indeed have freedoms from fear and the wages of sin beyond all other relationships or paths taken. I have found it true His commandments “are not burdensome” as per 1 John, but struggles, reformation, transformation involves unpleasantries and it’s no use pretending otherwise.

Does all this mean God is either non-existent or does it mean He is mean, always defaulting in wrath and self-interest full-stop?? I think not. Honestly, it would take a book and they have been written -to list the many reasons in the Bible and outside of it in human experience whereby we can recognize not only His existence but compassions “which fail not” even in light of the hard sayings of Jesus.

I have spent many years of my life studying Christ’s often incredibly tough sayings, recently again all through Matthew and Luke’s Gospels, prior to that this winter, in John. Mark seems slightly lighter in such quotes by Him while at the same time one may then wrestle with his focus on a thread of the devil, demons, deliverance and of course that’s a pill plenty of people wish to ignore or otherwise re-interpret to their own sense of comfort and logic.

It’s no mystery to me why many people including professing followers of Jesus either ignore or otherwise seek to neglect, fully nullify, do away with Jesus’ truly difficult statements. Biblical Greek in very few cases gives some relief (and also “not in the oldest and best manuscripts”) but for the most part one cannot wish such statements of His away unless cherry-picking only words of desert topping rather than turnip and spinach is your chosen dish.

Each and all of us will reckon with God -and it’s that we had better be thinking, praying and ordering our attitudes and steps by.

Then again, even God’s authentic love can seem quite brutal when we define love on our own terms and not His.

To be sure, we professing Christians in history (Bible and broad world) have often been horribly mean and there is no denying that as reality. At the same time, to judge God by those who call themselves His is as simplistic as it may well be ignorant.

Things to consider along the path…

As always, thanks for stopping by. -Glenn