I decided to upgrade my wardrobe. Clothes aren’t a priority for me, but the weather was getting hot and my old shirts were faded.

I went shopping with enough money for one new shirt. I was quite pleased with my selection: a size XX with a shirt-tail-out design. The shirt had a dark blue background with an overlaying print of cream-colored palm tress.

I wore my new shirt to church. Inside the main door I bumped into a group of guys who started shaving in the early 1960s.

“Nice palm trees,” one fellow remarked.

“Where’d you get the weed shirt, man?” the other two inquired.

After church, I lunched at a local restaurant. The various staff commented on my shirt: “Nice palm trees” or “Cool dope shirt, man”.

Turns out the pattern on my shirt–viewed one way–looks like a beach scene from South Pacific. Viewed another, like a popular, illicit botanical covertly grown, sold and consumed hereabouts.

I’m really enjoying my new shirt. The cream-colored figures have a delightfully disclosing effect on folks. I walk into a room and within seconds my shirt identifies every past or present dope smoker.

I used to pastor a small church in Arkansas. In my teaching I tried to present a Biblical picture of reality. I encouraged my folks to base their lives on that truth.

On Mondays, I’d usually get a few phone calls with sermon feedback.


“Doug, you were right-on yesterday.  You really got me thinking.  I now know what to do about fill in the blank issue.  I love you & appreciate you being my pastor.”


“I can’t believe how judgmental you were yesterday.  Why are you always so critical?  I’m not coming back to your church.  I’m moving my membership to fill in the blank church where the pastor—unlike you—is sensitive and caring.”

Palm trees and marijuana.

Same sermon.  Same day.  Same listeners.  Yet, two completely different perceptions of what I had said and two radically different outcomes.

Jesus was much like a tail-out, XX summer shirt from Walmart. His design was such that every time he walked into a room the crowd split in two. Some saw beautiful PALM TREES and others saw ILLEGAL WEED.

Totally different, irreconcilable perceptions of Jesus.

One time Jesus taught the crowds at an annual Feast.

Their perceptions? On hearing [Jesus'] words, some of the people said, “Surely this man is the Prophet.” Others said, “He is the Christ [Messiah].”Still others asked, “How can the Christ come from Galilee?”

Thus the people were divided because of Jesus. (John 7:41-42, 43 NIV)

Same Jesus. Same teaching.  Same day.  Same listeners.   Yet, the listeners arrived at three radically different conclusions about Jesus.

This week try asking a dozen people, “Who was Jesus?”

A few will tell you he is the Son of God.  Others will dismiss him as an irrelevant figure from ancient history. Others will reject him as a cursed religious exclusivist in our Age of Toleration.

The same Jesus falls on hearts that are open–hearts that are confused–hearts that are hostile. When Jesus shows up, he reveals the condition of everyone’s heart.

In America, it’s politically correct to give lip-service to a nebulous, benign culture-God; it’s quite another thing to promote Jesus as the One-of-a-Kind Son of God who is The Way, The Truth and The Life.

Jesus was unique in his claims.

Unique in his demands.

Unique in his promises.

When the Light of the World shines into your heart, what is revealed? What does the Light say about the condition of your heart? Are you happy with the condition of your heart?

Perhaps some renewal is in order?  If so, you’ve come to the right Person. Jesus delights in turning felonious dope patches into beautiful palm lined beaches.

If that’s what you really want….


Doug Van Devender

Visit me on facebook at Doug Van Devender

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  1. jpamplin says:

    I truly enjoyed this and will definitely be keeping up with your July activities. A very enjoyable short, look forward to then next

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