Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Not Ashamed

Jesus was cursed,
Despised and rejected,
Accused of using the devil's power.
He was executed as a criminal.

Some people still curse him,
Despise and reject him,
And make him their devil.
They'd kill him again if they could.

But I'm not ashamed of him.
I know him,
And he knows me,
And I trust him.
I trust him with my very life--
Body, soul and spirit--
Confident that he who defeated death
Can and will keep me
Both now and forever.

Ashamed of him?
No, he is my glory.
He is my only hope,
My sure hope.
He rescued me from my guilt and my shame.
How could I be ashamed of him?

          --Jim Swindle, 2006.   Public domain.


Yet I am not ashamed, for I know him whom I have believed, and I am persuaded that he is able to guard that which I have committed to him until that Day.
--2 Timothy 1:12

Monday, December 25, 2006

Prayer for Renewal

Renew my zeal,
My love for you.
Stir up my heart
To beat for you.

Possess my thoughts.
Consume my days.
Fill up my life.
Direct my ways.

--© 2007, Jim Swindle
Non-profit reproduction of up to 100 copies along with this notice IS permitted.


Therefore the LORD waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the LORD is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him.
          --Isaiah 30:18, ESV

Seeing the Savior

Come to the manger.
Worship and pray.
Jesus, your Savior,
Is given today.

Come to the temple.
Stand now in awe.
Jesus, the youth, now
Is living the Law.

Come to Golgotha.
Fall on your face.
Jesus, your Savior,
Now dies in your place.

Come to the grave-site.
Break forth in praise.
Jesus, the Victor,
Today has been raised.

Wait for his coming.
Look up and pray.
Jesus, your Savior,
Will come back someday.

Live in his presence,
Seated in heaven.
Jesus has saved you.
Your sin is forgiven.

--© 2006, Jim Swindle
Non-profit reproduction of up to 100 copies along with this notice IS permitted.


"Looking to Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith..."
--Hebrews 12:2

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come.
--2 Corinthians 5:17, HCSB

Note: I believe much of the first stanza of this poem came from someone else's poem. So far as I know, the other stanzas are original.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Jesus, Risen Lamb

Jesus, risen lamb, once slain,
Now alive to cleanse each stain,
Flood and wash our sinful hearts,
Not to praise by fits and starts,
But to worship faithfully
And to serve you cheerfully.
Free our tongues to sing your praise.
Guide our feet in kingdom ways.
Use our hearts, our minds, our hands
In your holy kingdom plans.
Then receive us at the last
When this present life is past.

--© 2006, Jim Swindle
Non-profit reproduction of up to 100 copies along with this notice IS permitted.


...he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit... --Titus 3:5, ESV

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Living in Truth

Your message, Lord, begins with you--
With holiness revealed.
It reaches us and takes away
The sin we'd long concealed.

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.
--1 John 1:5-7, ESV

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Christmas Thoughts 2006

See the sparkling Christmas lights
Softly glowing dim and bright,
Pointing to the brighter Light
Who was born for us that night.

Hear the ringing Christmas bells
Chiming out, “There’s news to tell!
You’ll find Jesus, Lord of all,
Newborn in a cattle-stall.”

Rush to see his tiny face.
Bow before him. Seek his grace.
Then return with hearts made new,
Praising God who’s come to you.

--© 2006, Jim Swindle
Non-profit reproduction of up to 100 copies along with this notice IS permitted.


For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
--Luke 2:11

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Abandoned by Evangelicals

For more than 30 years I've thought of myself as an Evangelical. I identified with these people. They believed the Bible, trusted Jesus, held on fast to the basics of the faith, and were flexible about the things over which Christians have disagreed for centuries.

Now, I'm ashamed to be known as an evangelical. Many of the American evangelical churches have sold out to consumerism. Worship services are replaced with sensual entertainment. Study of the Bible is replaced with study of books about how to deal with life problems. Sin is replaced with mistakes. Salvation is replaced with success.

In all of this, I don't think it's that I have moved so far from where I was 30 years ago. No, the evangelical movement has abandoned me...and has in many ways abandoned sound faith in Jesus Christ.

Why did that happen? I'm not sure of all of the reasons. Is it that we were too afraid to separate ourselves from false believers? Is it that we were too hungry for acceptance, popularity and power? Is it that we were too proud of our scholarship and of our broad-mindedness?

Whatever the reason, I thank God that he's beginning to open my eyes to the tragedy of current American evangelicalism.

Lord, enable me to see things more and more as you see them, and to trust you at all costs.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Totalitarianism's Legacy of Deception

Cristian Barbosu, a pastor from Romania, was interviewed by Trinity Magazine (of Trinity International University) in the fall of 2004. He said, "...to survive under a totalitarian system you chose to beat the system using any kind of means, including duplicity, to achieve the end. Now, with freedom, people still use the same means. So it takes time to work in the hearts of people to change mentalities, behaviors, and beliefs--to overcome these legacies."

A person who grows up in such a system may get into the habit of lying to get out of unpleasant situations. He or she may value loyalty above truth--even when the purpose of the loyalty is no longer protecting the person's life from a totalitarian government, but is simply protecting the person's pride. Even a Christian with such a background can think that if you're not willing to lie to back up his deceptions, you're lacking in love or loyalty.

The old habits die hard.

Lord, may your truth and mercy prevail. Teach your people to walk in truth.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Following the crowd


Seeing these goldfish following each other makes me think about when we should follow the crowd, and when we shouldn't. If nobody followed the crowd, society would not work. The idea that we should rebel against everything that's popular is not Christian. It's anti-social. On the other hand, if we follow the crowd--even the Christian crowd--without question, we're sure to end up doing something evil.

Lord, enable me to be happy to follow the crowd, but only when there's nothing wrong with the direction the crowd is going.

You must not follow a crowd in wrongdoing.
--Exodus 23:2, HCSB

Self-Made Man?

I didn't make myself.
I didn't give myself new life.
    The Lord made me
    And redeemed me
    And gave me life.

I don't sustain myself.
I won't revive myself.
    The Lord upholds me
    And renews me
    And will raise me.

I'm not saved by formulas.
I'm not saved by programs.
    The Lord began it.
    The Lord continues it.
    The Lord will see it through.


--© 2006, Jim Swindle
Non-profit reproduction of up to 100 copies along with this notice IS permitted.


For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
--Ephesians 2:8-9, ESV

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving may be my favorite holiday. I loved the Thanksgiving eve worship services at Emmanuel Church in Burbank, California, in the early 1990's. We'd have prayer and scripture and hymns and maybe a few choruses, of course, but for me the highlight was when people were given a chance to come to the front and tell what they were thankful for that year. I remember the year one man told that a year earlier, he had been on the waiting list for a heart transplant, and that now he had improved so that he no longer needed to be on the list.

I don't have anything that dramatic to be thankful for this year, but each year I try to make out my Thanksgiving list. It's not at all like a Christmas wish list. Instead, it's a list of the things I'm particularly thankful for that year. What's on your list this year?

I believe the poet George Herbert said something more or less like this: Lord, Thou hast given us so much! Give us one thing more--a grateful heart. Amen.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Thoughts on Cultures

Most people aren't really fully aware of culture. They see their own kind of people as normal and see everyone else as odd or evil. They are unaware that there are differences between other cultures. They may mix up Chinese, Indians, and Venezuelans.

On the other hand, an awareness of cultural differences is very important for anyone who wants to communicate with people of other cultures. Certain Christians (missionaries) are specially called and equipped for communicating cross-culturally. This is extremely important, because except in people who are convinced segregationists, culture is a far greater barrier between people than is genetics. For example, a black man who thinks like a white man may find to his surprise that his white co-workers tend to think of him as white. A white man who thinks like hispanics may find that his hispanic friends think of him as hispanic. If we're to communicate the message of Jesus Christ to people of every culture, it helps if we are aware of cultural differences and sensitive to them.

As Christians, our mission is not to convert others to our own culture. It is to make disciples of Christ in or from every culture. Every culture has its good and bad points. This does not mean all cultures are equally valid. Yet even the best culture will be blind to its faults, and even the worst will usually see and value some bits of truth. If your culture is different from mine, probably we could each learn some valuable lessons from each other.

As people become disciples of Christ and grow in him, they begin to transform the culture around them. It becomes, literally, a better culture. If enough people of a certain ethnicity become true Christians, their grandchildren will tend to think of being Christian as an intrinsic part of that ethnic group's culture. For example, there was a major revival among Scandinavian immigrants in America in the late 1800's. This revival did not have as much impact in Scandinavia. By the middle of the 20th century, Americans of Swedish descent tended to think of evangelical Christianity as an essential part of Swedish culture.

This cultural identification with Christianity can be wonderful, but it contains a danger: People may think they are Christians just because they are a part of that culture.

To summarize, cultural differences are real, and people of different cultures can learn from each other. Yet, as Christians, our primary mission is to make disciples of Jesus, not to improve cultures nor to make more people of our culture. If the Lord enables us to make disciples of Jesus, those disciples will have an impact on their cultures. They will be salt and light to those around them.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

What Kind of Christian Am I?

I’m sometimes discouraged by all of the labels we put onto the various kinds of Christians. Those labels can be useful, but they usually don’t tell the whole story. I find it hard to categorize myself.

I’m orthodox. I believe in the doctrine of the Trinity. I believe in salvation through Jesus. I believe in the Bible. I believe in the (so-called) Apostles’ Creed.

I’m evangelical. I believe God has spoken to us through Jesus and has offered us eternal life through trusting in Jesus and in his death and resurrection. I believe we need to proclaim that message throughout the world.

I’m charismatic. I believe spiritual gifts such as healings and prophecies and speaking in tongues didn’t all cease in the 100’s AD. (I also believe that much of the modern charismatic/Pentecostal movement is off-base, chasing after experiences and measuring all things by experiences.)

I’m catholic. I believe I’m a part of the Lord’s universal church, not just a part of my local church. (I’m not a Roman Catholic.)

I’m reformed. I believe the true gospel is a message of God’s grace, of Jesus Christ, and of faith in him. I believe in the depravity of people, in the Lord’s gracious choice of people to be saved, in the Lord’s death for his own (but also, in some way, for all), in the Lord’s power to draw us to himself, and that those who are really the Lord’s children will ultimately follow and know him.

I’m dispensational. I believe in interpreting the Bible literally. I believe the Lord has not abandoned the nation of Israel. I believe the Lord has dealt with people in different ways in different ages, but that people in all ages have been saved only through trusting in what he graciously provides.

I’m Lutheran, sort of. I believe that in the Lord’s Supper, the Lord is truly and mysteriously present with us, even while the bread and wine are also still bread and wine.

I’m Baptist also. I believe the best method of baptism is dipping (immersion). I see little point in baptizing those who do not yet believe.

I’m independent in that I believe that while I’m to submit to my pastors and elders, I’m even more responsible to the Lord. Thus, I sometimes come to conclusions that don’t fit most people’s theological grids. (I struggle with how to reconcile submission to my pastors and submission to what I believe is truth they are missing. I realize that my own understanding is not immune from error.)

I’m liberal. I believe there are true Christians in a wide variety of churches, and I believe the Lord is pleased by worship in many different cultures, so long as it’s worship in Spirit and in truth.

I’m conservative. I believe the scriptures, as originally written, were without error. I believe that the Lord has preserved them sufficiently and remarkably, so that in them we find a trustworthy revelation of him and of the way to life.

I’m fundamental. I believe in the virgin birth, the resurrection, the miracles of Jesus, the power of the Holy Spirit, and the return of Jesus Christ. I believe there are such things as heresy and apostasy. I believe it is not good to place ourselves under the authority of people who are heretics or apostates. Such people should be judged by the church; they will be judged by the Lord.

I’m high-church. I love worshiping with an organ and grand old hymns. I enjoy poetry and liturgy.

I’m low-church. I love informal worship with fresh choruses and spontaneity and uplifted hands.

So, what kind of Christian am I? I guess I’ll let others decide. The most important thing isn’t which category I fit in, nor whether it’s logically consistent to believe everything I believe, nor whether all of what I believe is correct. The important thing is whether I’m really a Christian by faith, and whether I’m obeying the Lord and growing in him and loving him and serving him and serving others in his name.

I hope you'll agree, though I realize that you may not. If you disagree, pray for me and then tell me why you disagree. I'm also praying for you, whoever you are, as I write this.

Now, a final note: I don't believe I need to convince you to agree with me in all of what I've written here. Eternal life and salvation are available to you through Jesus; the Lord's wrath is on all who reject him. You don't need to come to me. Come to him.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Re-clothed

Lord, you found me filthy,
Singed and seared with sin.
Then you stripped me naked,
Washed me out and in.
You put clean clothes on me,
Vestments of your grace,
With the right to access
Your own holy place.

..."Remove the filthy garments from him." And to him he said, "Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments."
--Zechariah 3:4


--© 2006, Jim Swindle
Non-profit reproduction of up to 100 copies along with this notice IS permitted.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Three Poems

STABILITY

The Life in the LORD
Is a stable life;
A life based on trust
In the LORD, our rock.

The storms may blow hard
Until hope's near gone;
The waves may all crash,
And the earth may roll,

But hope will not die,
For it's promise-based
And steady as Zion,
The mountain of God.

Those who trust in the LORD are as Mount Zion,
which can't be moved, but remains forever.
--Psalm 125:1




SLIPPERY PREACHER


"Come," says the preacher,"through this world-broad gate
That leads to more success, to pleasure here and now."
The preacher smiles and tells great stories of success
That he has won.
The crowds all come
And eat the shallow food
And mostly miss the narrow path that leads to life.
They never know they've found the wolf
While God's great Shepherd has a very narrow gate.

"Enter through the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the road is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who go through it. How narrow is the gate and difficult the road that leads to life, and few find it."
--Jesus, in Matthew 7:13, 14




ENTERING THE ASSEMBLY OF CHRIST'S PEOPLE


By your mercy, by your grace
I am in this holy place.
All my evil, all my sin
Died with You, who rose again.


...who himself bore our sins in his body on the tree...
1 Peter 2:24


--© 2006, Jim Swindle
Non-profit reproduction of up to 100 copies along with this notice IS permitted.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Lakewood

I recently was visiting with a leader of Lakewood Church. It's the largest church in the USA. The man seems to be a sincere Christian, delighted with what the Lord has done in and through his church. He was reading a book by John MacArthur, Jr. I disturbed the man by saying that if the gospel in John MacArthur's book is true, the gospel of his pastor is false.

I'm not saying that the man with whom I was speaking is not a Christian. I think he's probably a real Christian. Lakewood's statement of belief is basically sound, and it's excellent that at the end of every sermon, the pastor invites people to trust Jesus. Still, the rest of what's taught doesn't always match the Bible. I'm very troubled by some of what I see in the teachings from Lakewood. (Scroll down, if needed, to see a table.)























Lakewood EmphasesBiblical Emphases
Material blessingsSpiritual blessings
This lifeThe life to come
Overcoming your past negativityOvercoming Satan and sin
Contentment as a means to more physical blessingsContentment as a means to not interrupting fellowship with God
The power of positive thoughtThe power of the Holy Spirit
Changing myselfGod changing me
My effortGod's grace
My gloryGod's glory
Pursuing earthly richesNot laying up treasures on earth


I pray for their pastor. I wish him well. Yet I'm troubled.

Friday, November 03, 2006

When Pastors Fail

Yet another well-known pastor has stepped down because of an accusation of scandalous, sinful behavior. We don't yet know how much of what was said about him is true.

When a pastor fails, those who had trusted him are tempted to think that God has failed; that all the blessings they thought they received from that pastor were a sham. Instead, I'd encourage those disappointed people to think of all of the people who were blessed by Judas Iscariot. Judas went out with the other apostles, healing the sick, casting out demons, and preaching the good news of the kingdom. Judas himself was a fraud, but the blessings he gave were real.

The Lord can pour out genuine blessings even through faulty or phony vessels.

Prayer: Lord, have mercy on the many people who have been wounded by the failures of their pastors. Comfort the families of those pastors. Deal with the failed pastors with your firm truth and shocking grace. Help us to set our faith on you and on your son Jesus Christ, not on any other man or organization. As your word says, "Let the Lord be true, though every man be found a liar."

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Reformation Day

Today, October 31, is Reformation Day. It's also Halloween, but I'll ignore that in this post.

Reformation Day is when we remember the Protestant reformation of the 1500's, when Martin Luther and others discovered and taught that we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.

Recently I went to a Roman Catholic church for the funeral of a friend. As we entered, the organist was playing standard Protestant hymns, such as "Amazing Grace." Then, when it was time to begin, the choir director stood up and told us that "Catholic worship is by its nature participatory." Every song was sung either by the congregation as a whole or responsively between choir and congregation or between soloist and congregation. In the music, the words (all in English) were obviously more important than the beat. Many of the words were paraphrases of scripture. The dead man's children read passages of scripture aloud (one was from one of the books that's accepted by Catholics but not by Protestants). The service was still Catholic in theology, but in the entire service, the virgin Mary was mentioned only once. The presumption seemed to be that our departed friend was in heaven through the merits of Jesus, though the service did include prayers for the man who'd died.

In so many ways, that was a "reformed" worship service: common-language, participatory, emphasis on the merits of Jesus, scripture read, filled with hope. The reformation has, in the end, had a good effect on that Roman Catholic church. May the reformation in those churches continue and flourish until they see fully the grace that is available through faith in Jesus.

By contrast, I believe the Protestant churches in the USA could use another reformation. Some of them (especially many mega-churches) seem to be based not on "only grace, only faith, only Christ," but on "only self, only money, only worshiptainment."

Then there are other churches that have taken the reformation much too far, ending up not only rejecting the Pope's authority, but rejecting Biblical truth.

A third, smaller group of churches are so dedicated to the reformation that they've fossilized in the 16th century. They are more dedicated to Calvinism (or maybe to Lutheranism) than to the Lord.

Still, Reformation Day is worth marking. If we are saved, it is indeed by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. (Ephesians 2:8, 9)

Prayer: Lord, thank you for those who have called your church back to truth. May I live in the light of your scripture, through faith in Jesus Christ. Deliver me from faith in myself, from faith in my works, from faith in faith itself. Be my heart's focus.

Vine and Fig

Monday, October 23, 2006

Prayer for Holiness

Pierce me, Father, with your word.
Cut away my sin.
Shine your light in each dark place
Hidden deep within.

Wash me, Father, by your grace.
Make me fresh and clean
By the blood of Jesus Christ--
Mercy shown and seen.

Discipline me in your love,
Straightening what's wrong.
Set my broken spirit's bones
'Til it's firm and strong.

Grow me, Father, by your grace
Through the means you give.
Magnify your holy name
As through you I live.

--© 2006, Jim Swindle
Non-profit reproduction of up to 100 copies along with this notice IS permitted.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Too Popular

This morning our pastor spoke about John 9:13-34, the healing of the man born blind, and analyzed the man as an example of a faithful witness. One line of his sermon hit home with me. He said it's sad for people who claim to know Christ to be willing and wanting to be loved by people who hate Jesus.


All too often, I've wanted everyone to love me. Our pastor further pointed out that if we've really experienced a change through Jesus, we'll be reluctant to deny it.


This idea of being liked by everyone is one of the plagues of the American evangelical church today. The church is afraid to tell people the truths that they don't want to hear. They don't want to hear that God is not a Republican nor a Democrat. They don't want to hear that God doesn't want everyone rich, at least not today. They don't want to hear that God has standards for morality and for sexuality and for responding to the poor and the aliens. They don't want to hear that the Lord has promised no other salvation than through Jesus.



Lord, remind me of what you've done for me...and give me courage to let people know that anything good they see in me is only through Jesus.

Vine and Fig

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Vine and Fig - Intro

This blog will have comments on Christianity, the Bible, and society, as well as including poems from time to time.

My plan is to post something every couple of weeks, if not more frequently.