Sunday, December 30, 2007

To Do What's Right



To do what's right
With all my might;
To seek what's true,
What comes from You,
To do what's best
Before I rest,
To die to sin,
New life to win--

This is my goal,
Aim of my soul.
Yet self is weak.
You're what I seek.
My soul's own strength
Must fail at length,
But you are strong,
My hope, my song.

I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the {life} which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.
--Galatians 2:20, NASB

...he who sows righteousness will have a sure reward.
--Proverbs 11:18, NKJV

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Favorite Statues

These two are among my favorite statues anywhere.

     

Art is a very serious matter, isn't it!

A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.
--Proverbs 17:22, ESV

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Advantages of a Somewhat Traditional Bible Translation

For some Bible scholars, the more traditional translations are good mostly for complaining about. They can't stand such translations as the English Standard Version, the New American Standard Bible, or the New King James Version. These Bibles use "formal equivalence" instead of the "dynamic equivalence" found in many of the more modern translations. Formal equivalence means that the translators usually translated word-for-word. Dynamic equivalence means they usually translated thought-for-thought. Both kinds of translations are useful. Here are some of the advantages of a more traditional translation.

1. It's time-tested. The dangers are known. Even the dangers of particular wordings are generally known; scholars know how a particular wording may or may not be misinterpreted.

2. It reminds us that truth is unchanging. When we read a traditional translation, we may hear echoes of the earlier translations and even echoes of the wording patterns of the Greek and the Hebrew. These can remind us that we're reading the same truth that has guided God's people for many centuries.

3. It links us to older saints and to dead ones. One of the serious errors of today's American church is discarding all respect for the elderly, all reverence for those who have gone before. In many churches, it seems that there's something for everyone, except for those who are old.

4. It reminds us that what we're reading is holy. Yes, there's an advantage to having language that sounds just like a newspaper, but wordings that are just slightly odd can remind us that we're reading something special.

5. It preserves much beauty. The King James Bible is full of wonderful wording; much of it borrowed from Tyndale. "He leadeth me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake" is somehow more beautiful than the CEV's "You are true to your name, and you lead me along the right paths." (Psalm 23:3)

6. It is a gateway to many wonderful Christian resources developed over the past 300 years.

7. It is a gateway to the great literature and music that are based on the old King James Version.

8. It may be easier to memorize.

9. It avoids simplifications that change the meaning. In the verse quoted above, the CEV changed the sentence from third-person to second-person. That version's translators did this to all of the first verses of the psalm, presumably for consistency. In doing so, they destroyed the emotional jolt that the inconsistency of the original would produce.

I'm not saying that dynamic equivalence has no place in Bible translation. It does. Yet there's also a great place for the traditional. Thank God that we don't have to throw out either one.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

It's Christmas



It’s Christmas!

Do you feel the shepherds’ fear?
Do you hear the angels sing?

It’s Christmas!

Does your heart beat fast
As you run to Bethlehem?
Does it take your breath away
When you find the manger there?

It’s Christmas!

Can you see the new-born Lord,
Your salvation wrapped in cloths?
Can you ever be the same?

It’s Messiah! Praise his name!

© 2003 Jim Swindle
Non-profit reproduction of up to 100 copies (including this notice) is permitted.


When they saw the star, they were overjoyed beyond measure.
Entering the house, they saw the child with Mary His mother, and falling to their knees, they worshiped Him. Then they opened their treasures and presented Him with gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

--Matthew 2:10-11, HCSB

Monday, December 24, 2007

Would We Still Have Christmas?

Would we still have Christmas
    If Jesus had not come?
We could still have stockings
    Hanging by the fire.
We could still have Santa--
    Jolly reindeer-flyer.
We could still have presents
    Piled up ever higher,
But would we still have Christmas
    If Jesus had not come?

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

Friday, December 21, 2007

Christmas at the Mall



Aiming for the perfect gift,
Targeting the bullseye,
Heedless of the cost involved,
Serving mall-gods lavishly...

This is Christmas? Santa Claus,
Perfect trees and Ho-Ho-Ho?
Where's the manger? Where's the Babe?
Where'd we lose Him? Do you know?


"Where is he who has been born king of the Jews?"

--Matthew 2:2

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Glints of Glory



Lord, your beauty's all around.
Glints of glory speak of you
With the power to astound.
Praise to you for all you do!

Splendor and majesty are before Him,
Strength and beauty are in His sanctuary.

--Psalm 96:6 NASB

Prayer: Father, open our eyes to see and to hear the beauty all around us. Help us to be eager for the day when we'll see you in your beauty, of which all earthly beauty is only a reflection.

On Monday, my wife and I saw these ducks in Houston's Hermann Park.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Through Jesus

Through Jesus we have been made new.
Through him we're changed in all we do.
Through him our hearts have been made pure.
Through him God's promises are sure.

For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.
--2 Corinthians 1:20, ESV

Monday, December 17, 2007

Washed in God's Wine

When we're purely dressed,
Cleansed by wine God-pressed,
Washed by Jesus white--
Faith has opened sight--
Holy we can go.
Spirit then can flow.
We're alive anew.
God's in all we do.

I said to him, "Sir, you know." And he said to me, "These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
--Revelation 7:14, ESV

Sunday, December 16, 2007

If Words Were Heard

If words
Were heard
In fulness,
They
Might lead us
Toward eternal day.

If sight
Were right
And seeing,
You
Believing
Would be made anew.

If hearts
Would start
To soften,
We
Might often
Live eternally.

But souls
Are cold
And bitter.
They
May fritter
All of life away.

"He who has ears to hear, let him hear."--Matthew 11:15

Jesus said to them, "If you were blind, you would have no sin; but since you say, 'We see,' your sin remains."
--John 9:41

...just as it is written, "GOD GAVE THEM A SPIRIT OF STUPOR, EYES TO SEE NOT AND EARS TO HEAR NOT, DOWN TO THIS VERY DAY."
--Romans 11:8

Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.
--Ezek 36:26

Note: In writing this, I wasn't saying that I don't have eternal life, nor that any particular reader doesn't have eternal life. I was pondering on the fact that by nature, before knowing the Lord, people are dead to the truth. They can't hear it, can't see it apart from the Lord's special work in drawing them and in changing their hearts.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Manipulative Spiritual Leadership

Are you dealing with someone who uses manipulative spiritual leadership?
I wrote this 2-page document to help unmask it.

Signs of Manipulative Spiritual Leadership

Results of the Health and Wealth Gospel

Many of the biggest churches in the USA these days are promoting a "faith movement" version of the health-and-wealth gospel. They say God wants you healthy and God wants you prosperous. They teach that you should expect a miracle. They teach that your words of faith create your reality. They tell you to remember that God is on your side; to dream big; to think of something great and then launch out and do it for the Lord. I've known for a long time that their gospel gives a false view of God as someone we control, and that it gives a false view of God's will, since his greatest blessings are spiritual. Today I had a further insight: It promises health and prosperity, but it leads to sickness and poverty. Let me explain why I say that.

Recently I was communicating with a Christian man who's about 40 years old. He's been attending Lakewood Church for the past several years, hearing Joel Osteen's health-and-wealth message. This man told me of his financial troubles; though he has a steady job at present, his family's electricity had recently been shut off due to an overdue bill. Details of his story make me think he's been living large and expecting a miracle that didn't happen. Suddenly, I realized that the health-and-wealth gospel probably helped create his poverty. If we think we should depend on daily miracles from God, we'll tend to think that our financial future is all his responsibility. We'll place more emphasis on having faith for funds, and less emphasis on wisely earning andstewarding funds. That very expectation of constant miracles can lead us to ignore wisdom. Yet the Lord has created the universe in such a way that as a rule, wise actions lead to having enough and to having more than enough. Expecting a miracle generally leads to disappointment--not because the Lord can't do miracles (He can and he does), nor because we cannot ask for a miracle (We can and we sometimes should). Expecting a constant flow of miracles usually leads to disappointment because the universe is not designed that way. Miracles were never intenede to be the main source of provision for most people in most places at most times.

In a similar way, people who think the Lord is obligated to keep them healthy if they only ask, are not likely to do all of those things that tend to lead to good health: exercise, limiting fats, limiting salt, limiting empty calories, getting lots of fiber, getting enough rest, and so on. We can and we should pray for the sick, but that is no subsitute for encouraging people to have good health habits.

True Christianity calls us to live responsibly, loving God and loving our neighbors. It calls us to wisdom. False Christianity urges us to seek something less; to seek a God whom we can manipulate for our own benefit.

Proverbs 3:13-16, NKJV:
13 Happy is the man who finds wisdom, And the man who gains understanding;
14 For her proceeds are better than the profits of silver, And her gain than fine gold.
15 She is more precious than rubies, And all the things you may desire cannot compare with her.
16 Length of days is in her right hand, In her left hand riches and honor.


Prayer: Father, give us eyes to see and ears to hear wisdom. Increase our wisdom, for your glory. Enable us to live responsibly, in our finances, in our health habits, and in every other way.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

God in Hay

God in hay,
Born today,
Here to take
Sins away,

You will die
Bye and bye,
But for now,
Sweetly lie.

You will rise,
Gain the prize.
Conquer death,
Rule the skies,

But tonight,
Precious sight!
All is calm,
Infant light.

--© 2007, Jim Swindle

And she brought forth her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

--Luke 2:7


Non-profit reproduction of up to 100 copies of this poem IS permitted, so long as the copyright notice is included.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Finding Christmas

It's not whether you have a giant Christmas tree,
    or any tree at all.
It's whether you have the God Who made the trees.

It's not whether you have the light
    of hundreds of tiny bulbs.
It's whether you have the light of the Spirit day by day.

It's not whether you have a host of costly presents
    to give and to receive.
It's whether you've received the one Present,
    Jesus Himself.


Without the Lord, even the most lavish of Christmases
    can be as cold as a bank vault,
        as shallow as a mirror.
But with the Lord,
    every bush,
        every twig,
            every crumb of food
    becomes a reason to celebrate.


Joy to the world! The Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King!

And the angel said to them, "Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people."
--Luke 2:10

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Preventing Violence: A Plea to Men

The recent shooting in a mall in Omaha was yet another in a series of violent acts by alientated young (usually white) men. I believe there's something very simple that we men can do to help prevent such things.

Men, listen to me! Every time you see a young man, age about 11 to 21, who looks possibly alienated, acknowledge his presence. If you're driving past him, look squarely at him, and if he glances up, nod or wave. If you're walking past him, say hello. If you walk past him often, ask his name and learn it.

That's all.

What's the value of such a thing? I believe hundreds of thousands of teen males feel invisible. They feel like nobody sees them--especially, they feel that no man sees them. They feel disconnected from society. They may have been abandoned by their fathers years earlier. They may have fathers who spend 14 hours a day at work. They live in a world of women, and they want to become men, but don't know how.

A truly personal contact with a man who respects him can help a young man grow into a responsible man himself. Men, every time you acknowledge such a young man, you're planting one little seed toward a better world for him and for all of those whom he will touch. You may even help knock down some of the barriers keeping him from the gospel.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Night Comes



As evening comes, the sky is painted with colors of light.



Then night falls, and shadows turn to goblins ready to eat the unwary imagination.



As you walk along, it's bright under the street lights, but even there, colors are gone.



The mysterious shapes and shadows of things you've seen a hundred times in daylight chase you toward the peaceful safety of your bed.

He who made the Pleiades and Orion, and turns deep darkness into the morning and darkens the day into night, who calls for the waters of the sea and pours them out on the surface of the earth, the LORD is his name.
--Amos 5:8, ESV

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Getting More Out of Your Bible Study

The Blazing Center has an excellent post on 8 Ways to Get More Out of Your Bible.

I have only one quibble and one confession. My quibble: The title sounds "me-oriented," even though the post does not. My confession: Here I am posting this, and I haven't studied my Bible yet today. Oops. I'll do that immediately.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Gold in the Gutter



There's gold in the gutter for those who can see,
Plus rubies and emeralds right on the tree.
These jewels all flash out their great maker's praise
And add purest pleasure to simplest of days.

For all the gods of the peoples are idols,
      but the LORD made the heavens.
Splendor and majesty are before Him;
      strength and beauty are in His sanctuary.

            --Psalm 96:5,6, HCSB



PRAYER: Father, give us eyes to see what's all around us--both the beauty and the needs. We cannot imagine the beauty that's inherent in you, nor the beauty that lies ahead for your children.

NOTE: Autumn leaves come very late here in the Houston area. These photos were taken on 2 December, 2007.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Kansas Childhood, Summer

The days were long and must have been hot, but I hardly remember that.
I remember the coolness of the house,
    books to read,
        swimming,
            games of freeze-tag at dusk,
                a lighted fountain in the park
    and chasing fireflies to catch and release.

I remember hot tomatoes in the garden,
    sage growing in the back yard,
        the tire swing in the side yard,
and mile after mile after mile of wheat fields.

Other people lived in places with mountains or deserts or oceans,
    with factories or sky-scrapers or mighty waterfalls.
I lived in a flat, windy, beautiful world
    of hardy people and hardy sunflowers,
        of oil wells and airplanes
        where bison had roamed little more than a century before.
I could not imagine living or wanting to live anywhere else.
It was home.

Now I've been gone for years.
I've sung in France,
    swum in Florida
        and evangelized in Mexico.
My world's grown larger--or is it smaller?

I thought that world would last forever,
    but Kansas is no longer home.
Kansas is no longer home, and I'm no longer a child,
    but something in me thrills when I see a sunflower.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Christmas in the Church

How does your church celebrate Christmas? There's no requirement, of course, that it celebrate Christmas at all, but if it celebrates the holiday, how should it do it? My wife and I have been deeply blessed by our church's determination to put the Lord ahead of Christmas culture. The day is celebrated, but the church avoids most of the cultural trappings that have nothing to do with the savior's birth. Other churches see it differently. I've been looking at their ads.
  • "A Christmas Musical Celebration Like never Before...Merry Christmas with Love, A Broadway-Style Musical with live animals, singing, dancing, drama, fireworks & special effects" (Assemblies of God)

  • Music including Ave Maria on the saxophone. (Baptist) I wonder...do they say the Rosary? Do they pray to Mary on other occasions?

  • Christmas at (another Baptist church, this one with five campuses) is "a treat for the whole family." In addition to Christmas Eve Candlelight services, the first of which is at 9:30 AM on the 23rd, they offer the Kids Crazy Christmas Show with singing, dancing and puppets. They also offer the Williamsburg Candy House Christmas, "A village of candy houses made of peppermint sticks, chocolate & More!"

  • Christmas Eve Festival, beginning with the snow festival from 3-6 p.m. with "20,000 pounds of snow!" Remember, this is southern Texas, where the normal high temperature for December 24th is about 62 degrees Fahrenheit (13 degrees Celsius). They will have "Ice Skating Rink, Hayrides, Games, Free food, Christmas Manger Petting Zoo, Music, Drawings for prizes! And more!" Later in the evening they'll have two candlelight worship services. (Lutheran)

  • "Sunday, Dec. 9, our Advent Festival will begin with a Holiday Breakfast with Frosty the Snowman, Santa Saxophone and Mr. Christmas Tree at 8:45 a.m. in the fellowship hall." (A different Lutheran)

  • Houston Choral Showcase concert. "The Showcase will be singing their favorites from holidays past, such as 'Deck the Hall,' 'The Twelve Groovy Days of Christmas,' 'March of the Christmas Children,' and 'Swingin' at Santa's.'" (Evangelical Presbyterian)

I picked out only the worst examples, but all of this grieves me. If the church celebrates Christmas, shouldn't it be about the birth of Jesus our savior, and nothing else? Do we think any of these other things really have any eternal benefit? If not, why should the church waste its time on them? I'm not saying that believers cannot participate in the culture's celebrations. I'm saying our celebrations when we're gathered as the church should be different. I've never yet met someone who had a profound, life-changing encounter with God as a result of meeting Frosty the Snowman.
__________________________________________
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. -1 Peter 2:9, ESV

Friday, November 30, 2007

Trusting in God, or Trusting in Spiritual Disciplines?

I've found that my heart is so sneaky that I can begin trusting in my Bible study or in my scripture memory or in my worship or in almost any other good thing instead of trusting in the Lord himself. Then I fall down and embarrass myself and wound others. He can and will use these "ordinary means of grace" in our lives. We need to memorize, need to study, etc., but we must trust him, not the means.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him.
And he will direct your paths.

--Proverbs 3:5,6

Here are some signs that you're trusting in spiritual disciplines instead of trusting in the Lord:
***When you are unable to do your normal morning devotional or unable to attend church once because the Lord put some urgent ministry into your path, you feel guilty.
***It's really important to you that you have a perfect attendance record or that you read through the Bible in a year.
***You love your disciplines, but can't remember when you last just "hung out" with your heavenly Father.
***You think fasting or praying or evangelizing or some other discipline will be the key to your spiritual success.
***You use your spiritual disciplines as a way to escape from real human relationships.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

John Hagee's Apostasy, continued

A blog called Always Reforming to Scripture gives a detailed review of John Hagee's latest book. If you don't know who Hagee is, just thank God for protecting you. Here in Texas and presumably in other parts of the USA he's had a large following. An Amazon.com search for his name reveals 267 book, 12 music items, 4 DVDs, and some VHS items.

He's basically placed himself outside of Biblical Christianity. May the Lord open more people's eyes to the truth that some famous preachers are not really Christians.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Suffering

Your blows are strong
And sometimes long.
Our hopes you shred;
Leave pain instead.
You snatch our best
And leave a test,
And there we meet
Your love so sweet:
In deepest pain,
eternal gain.
All else is gone,
But faith lives on.
Our Rock is sure
And will endure.

"Naked I came from my mother's womb,
And naked shall I return there.
The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away;
Blessed be the name of the Lord."

--Job 1:21

NOTE: On Sunday our pastor preached about worship in the midst of suffering. A small part of what he told us about Job:
--He saw himself accurately. He knew that his physical wealth was not his eternally.
--He saw his future accurately. He knew that he would die.
--He saw the world accurately. He did not vow revenge.
--He saw the lord accurately. He knoew that the Lord is worthy to be blessed. It's easy to bless the name of God in our triumphs. It's harder in our tragedies.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Father, Use Your Word

Father,
Use your word to slash and burn
The weeds that would choke our souls.
Use it as milk to nourish the tender ones
And as a hammer to smash our hardened hearts.
Use it to breathe life into dead souls, that they may live.
Use it as a lamp, so we won't walk in the wrong path.
Use your promises as a mighty shield,
      giving peace and security to those who are oppressed.

Yes, use your word.

"For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven,
And do not return there without watering the earth
And making it bear and sprout,
And furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater;
11 So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth;
It will not return to Me empty,
Without accomplishing what I desire,
And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it..."

--Isaiah 55:10-11, NASB

Jesus vs. Christianity

This post is for those of you who want to stretch your thinking a bit. If you're looking for a poem, come back in a day or so. I plan to post one.

ElShaddai Edwards has an interesting post concerning a publication that wants to separate faith from religion. In a comment, he says,
Yet it increasingly seems to me that “religion” is the works-based part of our experience of salvation. Yes, we have faith in the complete grace of Christ and that is the cause of our salvation. But the flip side is the “working out of our salvation” in acts of mercy that reflect the humanity and sacrifice of Christ. Something that is called to be done through the corporate, social body of the church, that is, through religion, or what religion should be. We can’t have grace without works and still be satisfied in Christ, or Him in us.

All of this makes me think of three sorts of people that don't fit our usual mold:

1. Some people truly do come to Jesus Christ without coming to Christianity. They may know little of Christianity, or they may be in a cultural situation where what's known as Christianity has so little of the Spirit of Christ that they don't want it. Still, in some way, they come to be believers in Jesus and followers of him. They may see themselves, for instance, as "Muslims who follow Issa (=Jesus)." We can thank God for such people. If they are truly trusting in and following the Jesus of the Bible, they have salvation.

2. In our culture, more and more people seem to want to think of themselves as "not a particularly religious person," but spiritual. Matt Lauer of the Today show said something like that on Thanksgiving Day (Thursday). Such people usually reject both Christianity and Jesus. They invent their own spirituality and are headed toward eternal destruction. Spirituality without Jesus does not save.

3. Others may be very religious and may go to a church (either a Lakewood-style megachurch or a small, warm church) and may think of themselves as people of faith, but not necessarily people of Jesus. They filter out what the church says about Jesus, and they keep the idea of faith. This group, also, is headed to destruction.

We need to carefully distinguish between those who want Jesus without the cultural baggage of the Christianity they've seen, and those who want spirituality or faith or the church without the Jesus of the Bible.

"And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name [but Jesus] under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved."
--Acts 4:12, NAS

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Cleaning the Rain Gutters



Yesterday (Friday) my wife told me I should clean out the rain gutters, because they were predicting rain for Saturday and Sunday. For once, I listened to her good advice. Cleaning gutters requires some effort...getting out the ladder, placing it carefully, climbing up and down, getting out all of the leaves and muck. But it needed to be done. Today the rain came.



Our spiritual "gutters" need cleaning regularly, also. The dead leaves blow into them; then the black muck can start growing in our souls. If we've been truly saved, we haven't lost our salvation, but we still need the daily grime removed. The only remedy is to clean them out, confessing to the Lord our sin and our need for his cleaning. Then his Spirit can flow freely through us.

Jesus told Peter, "People who have washed are completely clean. They need to have only their feet washed.

--John 13:10, God's Word

Thursday, November 22, 2007

My Thanksgiving List

Today is Thanksgiving Day (a national holiday) in the USA. Most people seem to think the essence of the day is eating turkey, watching football games and getting ready for holiday shopping. Some also spend time thanking one another. A few remember that the original purpose of the day (in Abraham Lincoln's time) was to thank God.

I try to make an annual list of what I'm particularly thankful for that year. Here's the start of my list for this year.

I'm thankful for our new granddaughter, our first grandchild.
I'm thankful that our son has re-discovered the Lord.
I'm thankful that my wife and I are growing spiritually through the ministry of our pastor and our church.
I'm thankful that after over a decade of dreaming, my book is in print.
I'm thankful that a close friend has a "permanent" job after two or more years of working at temporary jobs.
I'm thankful that my wife and I survived two major auto incidents with no lasting bodily damage.
I'm thankful for the music composed by Stuart Townsend and Keith and Kristin Getty.

Thank you, Father!

Friends, what are some of the things on your Thanksgiving list?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Leaves Must Die



Leaves must die
    To show their greatest beauty.
So must I,
    To fill my holy duty.

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
--Galatians 2:20, ESV

Monday, November 19, 2007

Our Daily Direction

The devil daily tempts us,
Taunting us with fruit,
Teasing us with lies,
Trying us with traps,
Perils in disguise.

The Lord has clearly warned us,
Loving us with truth,
Opening our eyes,
Keeping us with love
Leading to the prize.


Keep your heart with all vigilance,
    for from it flow the springs of life.
Put away from you crooked speech,
    and put devious talk far from you.
Let your eyes look directly forward,
    and your gaze be straight before you.
Ponder the path of your feet;
    then all your ways will be sure.

Prayer:
May we guard our hearts and look straight ahead to the prize, not turning aside to dally in devilish delights.

--Proverbs 4:23-26, ESV

Saturday, November 17, 2007

My Book Is Ready!



My first book, If I Had a Purple Horse, has arrived from the printer and is ready for purchase. I hope to have it available soon on Amazon.com, but for now it's available only from my new web site, www.2giggles.com. Take a look...I think you'll like the book.

Meanwhile, I plan to continue posting Christian poems and thoughts here. I've been a bit distracted for the past few days, getting the other web site up.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Words from the Mega-Pastor's Advisor

Don't speak of truth, eternal right and wrong.
It scares the crowds. They'll leave you before long.
They only want what's positive and fun.
Correct them, and they're quickly on the run.

Oh, you can tell them to improve themselves,
But never tell them anything that delves
Beneath the surface goodness they've put on.
Don't show their sin, or they will soon be gone,
And you'll be down in middle-class once more,
Or even worse--be poor, with enemies galore.

Proclaim whatever tickles people's ears.
Encourage them. Build confidence. Calm fears.
They'll keep you powerful. They'll keep you strong
With cars and clothes and fame your whole life long,
And surely God himself will love and bless you, too,
Because of all the folks who flock to you.

How you hate honest judges! How you despise people who tell the truth!
--Amos 5:10, NLT

Note:
I realize that there are some pastors of mega-churches who are wonderful, sound Christians. There are also some who are not. Here in Texas, one mega-pastor recently taught the heresy that "Jesus never came to earth to BE the Messiah." This is despite the fact that the Bible says whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ (that is, the Messiah) is the antichrist. Another Texas mega-pastor gives people shallow answers; tells people that Jesus is the way for him, but sometimes has trouble telling people that Jesus is the only way. Yet another does not say there is one God who exists in three persons. He says there is one God who exists in three manifestations. That's the ancient heresy called sabellianism. Between them, these three pastors lead churches with a total of nearly 90,000 members or attenders.

One of the most distressing things I've ever seen is something my father brought back from World War II. It's a bright red banner with a Nazi swastika on it and the words (in German) "Evangelical Church of Such-and-such-town." I keep that banner (but don't keep it on display) as a reminder of what happens if the church refuses to stand for truth and against evil.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

My First Book

I've written a book of poems for children. It's been illustrated beautifully by Stephanie Paskie. I'll give more information about the book in coming posts. If all goes well, it will be available yet this month, at a quite reasonable price.

Flee

He was young and strong and handsome and blessed. She looked at him, and she wanted him. He was a slave, but she wanted him. She was married, but she wanted him. She was his master's wife, but she wanted him. She told him, "Lie with me." He refused her day after day, telling her it would be a sin. One day they were alone in the house. She took hold of his garment and said, "Lie with me." He ran away, leaving the garment in her hands. Joseph, the young man, would go to prison for this after she falsely accused him of sexual assault, but he had escaped from immorality.

When we become infatuated with someone, or when someone becomes infatuated with us, and yet we're not morally free to marry the person, what can we do? We can run away. We can flee.

    When she's another man's wife, but she acts like she wants you, flee.
    When he's the man of your dreams, but you're already married, flee.
    When your wife doesn't understand you, but she does, flee.
    When he squabbles with his wife but looks longingly at you, flee.

Circumstances may force you to see that person frequently in the neighborhood or at work or at family gatherings. Flee from any heart-to-heart communication with the person. Be kind and polite and nothing more. Don't talk about troubles. Don't talk about joys. Flee emotionally. If, as in Joseph's case, that isn't enough, run away, at all costs. Flee.

Flee from sexual immorality. --1 Corinthians 6:18

Prayer: Father, you know our weaknesses. Give us the wisdom to see that fleeing immorality is strength, not cowardice.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Monsters at Dawn



Drifting through the shades of dawn,
Garbage trucks are pressing on,
Seeking out the city's trash
Which, on finding, they will smash
In their all-consuming jaws
With a gleeful squeal, then pause,
Put their hands upon their hips,
Wipe the garbage from their lips,
Then go through the dawn once more
With a rumble and a roar.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Dead or Alive?

How do you see most people? As spiritually alive, but needing a little fixing? Or as spiritually dead?

The Bible sees them as dead--"dead in trespasses and sins." Jesus said to Nicodemus, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."

Too often we're like morticians, trying to make the corpses prettier. No matter how good we are at that, the people are still dead.

Dead people don't need just prettying. They need life. Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth and the life."

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Not a Chance

You're not a child of chance,
Mere random happenstance
Conceived by circumstance.

You're not an aberration
Produced by some vibration--
Harmonic syncopation.

Through eyes of faith you'll find
That you were in God's mind
Before he made mankind.

By faith, then, understand
That all your life was planned
And guided by his hand.

With faith, then, run the race
And trust the Lord by grace
And wait for his embrace.


Your eyes saw me when I was formless; all my days were written in Your book and planned before a single one of them began.
--Psalm 139:16 HCSB

...for He chose us in Him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless in His sight.
--Ephesians 1:4, HCSB

Monday, November 05, 2007

Miscellany

Nephew Update
My wife and are thanking God that her nephew Jeffery Harrison, who was severely burned, got out of the hospital yesterday (Sunday), three weeks to the day after getting burned. THANK YOU to those of you who prayed for him. He will be receiving outpatient physical therapy.

A Movie and a Book to Avoid

There's a major movie for children, "The Golden Compass," coming out in early December. It's based on the first book of the award-winning His Dark Materials series by Philip Pullman. Pullman is an ardent atheist who has children killing God in the third book. The opening two sentences of an article at MTV.com (not exactly a right-wing, Christian organization) says it well. "Thought Harry Potter was blasphemous? That was kids' stuff compared to the "His Dark Materials" trilogy, in which God is an impostor, angels are sexually ambiguous and the Church kidnaps, tortures and assassinates to achieve its goals, one of which is stealing children's souls." (No, I don't usually get my news there. The article popped up in a Google search.) The book is especially anti-Catholic. I'm not Roman Catholic, but to kill the Roman Catholics' God is to kill my God.

The series of books is available as a three-in-one volume in the main aisle of my local Wal-Mart, along with the Chronicles of Narnia and Harry Potter.

I don't think organized protests against anyone involved are likely to help, but I'd suggest the following:

  • We can pray that the church will wake up to the fact that
    the enemy really does want to kill our children spiritually.

  • We can tell some non-Christian parent the gospel.

  • We can politely, kindly tell someone at our local Wal-Mart
    that we’re disappointed to see the book there, and why.



 

Sunday, November 04, 2007

The Poet's Garden (Whimsy)

It was a foil-shiny dawn, promising a day with weather of blue china and white lace.

The poet was already out in his garden, tending his crop of metaphors. He'd planted two whole rows of them, curving past the fact trees and down toward the creek. That creek was fresh and bubbling. There were ideas living hidden just under the water's surface. Once he'd brought a whole string of them home. They made a good supper.

The poet glanced wistfully to the other side of the yard, where he'd tilled the soil and planted several square plots of similes, as thick as birdseed in a feeder. The similes had sprouted, grown just an inch or so, and then died of poetic blight. Now the critic birds were hopping among the dead similes, crowing as they ate them. The poet sighed. Maybe he'd have a better luck with similes next year.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

He Is

He is
          Lord of life and Lord of death,
          Ruler of our every breath.
          All his power yet will flow;
          All his honor yet will grow
          As our God has fully planned
          'Til his glory fills the land.

He is
          Maker of all things we see,
          Keeper of eternity
          If you're seeking something more,
          Thinking Jesus is a bore,
          Then you're seeking death and lies,
          Spirit-blindness for your eyes.

He is the image of the invisible God...For by him all things were created...and he is the head of the body, the church...that in everything he might be preeminent.
--Colossians 1:15-18, ESV

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Reformation Day 2007

490 years ago, Martin Luther posted his 95 theses on the door of the church in Wittenburg. If you're not Lutheran and no historian, you may know nothing about that, but you should! Luther was a monk who re-discovered and proclaimed the wonderful, life-giving truth that we can be saved not by penance, not by pilgrimages, not by the excess merits of the saints, not by papal dispensations, but by God's grace, through faith in Jesus Christ who died for sinners and who rose up again, the proof that he'd paid in full for the sins of his people.

A brilliant, perceptive young monk
Was in a perpetual funk
Because of his guilt and his sin.
It gnawed on his soul from within.
Then Romans, a letter from Paul,
Brought freedom from sin. He stood tall.
No longer by darkness enslaved,
By faith, now, this fine monk was saved.
No penance, no pilgrimage-place,
But pure, gift-of-God, simple grace
Through Jesus, whose blood washed away
Our sin and our guilt. Night to day!


...as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”
--Romans 1:17, ESV
____________________________________

With thanks to Tim Challies for reminding us that it's Reformation Day, and that the reformation still matters.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Locusts



What the cutting locust left, the swarming locust has eaten. What the swarming locust left, the hopping locust has eaten, and what the hopping locust left, the destroying locust has eaten.
--Joel 1:4, ESV

The earthly things we assume are our inheritance
Can vanish in a week or a day or an hour.
Locusts chew. Frost kills. Fires burn. Panics eliminate value.

The things we think we control can swarm out of control.
One locust? We can eat it or crush it.
One billion or one trillion locusts? We can do nothing.

Everything we own, we have by God's grace.
He chooses whether we have fruit for our labors or clouds of locusts.
Lord, grant us repentance, that our work may not be chewed up.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Purity

Our perfect saviour's purity
Is all of our security.
The goodness we do on our own
Cannot approach the Father's throne.
Our finest works are tinged with sin,
With pride and lust from deep within
Our Adam-nature, sinful heart
That still affects our ev'ry part.
But those in Jesus will be seen
To be completely, truly clean
With Christ's own goodness on display
Upon the awesome judgment day.

...{the} righteousness R126 of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe...--Romans 3:22, NASB

...who will also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. --1 Corinthians 1:8, NASB

Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God. --1 Corinthians 6:11, NASB

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Encouragement

A fellow-blogger wrote a post saying that her work's going well, but other things are not really going well at all.
http://razors-edge-of-insanity.blogspot.com/2007/10/dropping-off-planet.html
Pray for her.

I left the following comment, and am posting it here in case it's of encouragement to others.

I'm really sorry to read this post. May God guide you and deepen you and protect you.
I don't know what kind of troubles you're dealing with. Whether marriage or finances or health or family or church or your own sin (or something else), remember that the Lord is sufficient for all. He's your creator. He's opened your eyes to him, and he won't abandon you.

He calls to the broken; we come.
He binds up our wounds and he heals.
He sets us in paths that are right
And gives us his Spirit of truth.
He flows through his children with grace
And saves them through trials of fire.
When our strength is ended, he's strong
And only beginning to work.

Friend, keep on using the ordinary means of grace:
Such things as worship, prayer, reading or hearing his word, communion, fellowship with his people, using the gifts he's given you (as his providence allows).

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Gentleness

Active gentleness
Marks the man who walks with God.
Not from weakness,
But out of goodness,
He restrains himself.
He will not wound the weakened one,
But sets the broken bones
And heals the battered soul.

He speaks the truth
Not to gossip, nor to destroy.
He speaks the truth
To combat lies.

The Holy Spirit flows through him--
Gently, strongly,
For God and for others,
A river of glorious grace.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.
--Galatians 5:22-23

Brothers, even if a man is caught in some fault, you who are spiritual must restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; looking to yourself so that you also aren't tempted.
--Galatians 6:1, WEB

Now I, Paul, myself am pleading with you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ--who in presence am lowly among you, but being absent am bold toward you.
--2 Corinthians 10:1, WEB

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Church Advertising



This week's local newspaper included a large ad for a local church. Here's what it said:

Come be a part of the New Beginning!

NEW WORSHIP CENTER
GRAND OPENING - OCT. 28

Ministry for all ages
Contemporary Worship

FREE
Breakfast Tacos,
Donuts and Juice
9:00-10:30 a.m.

Worship Service 10:45 a.m.
Bible Study 9:30 a.m.

(It then listed the church name, the address, the telephone number and the web site.)

The ad includes two interior photos of the new worship center. It's striking for what it does not contain. There's not a single decoration or ornament of any kind--no cross, no windows, no visible beams, no decorative light fixtures, no plants. Just such utilitarian things as spotlights, a video screen, padded metal chairs, a plain carpet, plain walls, a drum set, doors, and an information booth (which is presumably in the lobby).

The whole advertisement brings to mind some disturbing questions:
--Why would anyone want to visit? Just for the free breakfast?
--Why is the breakfast at the same time as the Bible Study?
--What is their message?
--Do they care about God? About people? Or just about getting together in a new building?
--If the worship is all contemporary, what sort of ministry is there for old people?

Now, it's not essential for a church to have a fancy building. A church doesn't have to sing from hymnals. A cross isn't necessary. It's not wrong to eat at church. But it's wrong for a church to give the impression that the most important things about the Lord's church are the building and the free food. Shouldn't we expect people to come to church to encounter the living God, instead of just the tacos?

What do you think? What's most important about your church? Why should people visit your church?

PS - I do like breakfast tacos. They are one of the good things about living in Texas.

Friday, October 19, 2007

My Life's Shadow



Every life leaves a shadow.
What will mine be?
Will it a shadow of self,
    A shadow that shrinks year by year?
Or will it be a shadow of Jesus
    A shadow that lasts through eternity?

Every life leaves a shadow.
What will mine be?

The memory of the righteous is a blessing,
but the name of the wicked will rot.

--Proverbs 10:7, ESV

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Update on nephew Jeff Harrison

At this writing, Jeff isn't doing very well.

Jeff's sister Jen has created a blog that details how he is after his severe burns on October 14, 2007. The blog includes photos of him. (In one, he's hugging a woman in a wedding gown. That's his sister Jen.)

http://jefferyharrison.blogspot.com/

One more thing: The blog about Jeff includes an opportunity to leave a voice mail for him; voice mail that may be played to him as he's able. Per: doctor's orders, please don't leave him a voice mail if you don't know him, because he's not well enough to try to figure things out. If you DO know him, be sure to read the guidelines before leaving any message.

THANKS for your prayers for Jeff.

Which God?

Some gods are dead,
But my God's alive.
Trust all He's said.
Your spirit will thrive.

I'm not astute,
But here's what I find:
Idols are mute
And totally blind.

Worship the One
Who made all you see.
Come through His Son,
And you'll be set free.

The idols of the nations are but silver and gold,
The work of man's hands.

They have mouths, but they do not speak;
They have eyes, but they do not see;

They have ears, but they do not hear,
Nor is there any breath at all in their mouths.

Those who make them will be like them,
Yes, everyone who trusts in them.

--Psalm 135:15-18, NASB

Monday, October 15, 2007

The Lord on a White Horse

I saw the master in the sky
Appearing on a great white horse.
The nations cringed as he came by
With fullest unremitting force.

He wore bright crowns upon his head
And had a holy, secret name.
Angelic armies that he led
Were just one aspect of his fame.

His eyes were like a flame of fire
Consuming all hypocrisy.
His tongue, a sword, like razor wire
To slice the nations ruthlessly.

I saw the Savior treading blood,
The winepress of the wrath of God.
The wine was flowing in a flood
That spread across the sated sod.

I saw the Savior and I feared
The mighty power of his gaze,
The burning fire within that seared--
The King of Kings, from ancient days.


Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written:
KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.

--Revelation 19:11-16, NKJV

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Prayer Request

My wife's nephew, Jeffery Harrison, was in an accident at work this afternoon (October 14, 2007). He has second- and third-degree chemical burns on his back, arms, legs and face. He also probably has lung damage. He's in a medically-induced coma at a burn center in Phoenix, AZ. Our family would appreciate your prayers for him. Thank you.

Giving

We're given so we can then give.
We're living so others can live.
It's not about us getting more,
Amassing a great hoarded store.
We're given so we can then give.
We're living so others can live.

Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that is increasing to your account. But I have received everything in full, and I have an abundance. I am fully supplied, having received from Epaphroditus what you provided--a fragrant offering, a welcome sacrifice, pleasing to God. And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
--Philippians 4:17-19, HCSB

Friday, October 12, 2007

Little Sin

I saw a quite cute little sin
And foolishly welcomed it in.
It grew through my soul, part by part,
And slowly took over my heart.

But each person is tempted when he is drawn away and enticed by his own evil desires. Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is fully grown, it gives birth to death.
--James 1:14-15, HCSB

Note: In writing this, I'm thankful that in Jesus we can be freed from our slavery to sin. We can receive a new heart.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

The Cat Intellectual

A friend recently loaned me T. S. Eliot's excellent poem collection, Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats. It was the edition with wonderful illustrations by Edward Gorey. I wrote the following poem in imitation of Eliot's style.



The cat intellectual
Can be quite effectual.

He ponders verb tenses
While walking on fences.
He comes when you call,
If he wants to at all.

The cat intellectual
Can be quite effectual.

Though he is so smart
He's reading Descartes,
He talks about doors
Or snakes upon floors.

The cat intellectual
Can be quite effectual.

He ponders the weather
For hours together,
But strikes without pity
Each mouse in the city.

The cat intellectual
Can be quite effectual.

This poem © 2007, Jim Swindle

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Providence

He's numbered each hair of your head.
He knows when one sparrow falls dead.
He clothes each wild flower in bloom,
And He has fed you since the womb.

You'll never be out of his care.
Wherever you go, He'll be there.
He'll clothe you and feed you each day
And lead you each step of the way.

Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?
--Matthew 6:26

Friday, October 05, 2007

Devotional: What the Father's Given Us

"...giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the saints' inheritance in the light."
--Colossians 1:13, HCSB

This simple verse teaches us several things:
  1. We should live a lifestyle of gratitude to God the Father.
    Have I thanked the Father today?
  2. It's the Father who enabled us to be saints (holy ones). We didn't earn it ourselves.
    Am I trusting in the Father's gift through Jesus, or am I trusting in myself?
  3. We have an inheritance that is shared.
    Am I looking forward to what the Father's prepared for us? Am I eager to share it with all of the other saints, of whatever age or culture or ethnicity?
  4. Our inheritance is in the light.
    Am I living in the light now, or am I hiding my sin?

Prayer: Father, thank you for the inheritance you've prepared for those of us who trust your Son. Enable us to live in anticipation.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Turning the Street Signs



God meets us at the intersection of pain and pleasure, and he turns the street signs. What was pleasure becomes pain, and vice-versa. We die--die to the old life, die to ourselves, and find that for the first time in our lives, we begin to live.

This alchemy of the soul is his doing, not ours. It cost him dearly--his Son humbled, cursed, executed. Such sacrifice is terrifying, and the more so, since he calmly tells us that this was the necessary price for dealing with not just the world's sin, but ours. We cry out that we will serve him with every breath from now on. Maybe he laughs gently, knowing our weakness. Yet he not only meets us; he comes to live with us and in us.

Then he sends us back out into those same streets where he met us. We see others coming to the intersection. We call out to them:

The Almighty can meet you here, at this very intersection of pain and pleasure.

Most whiz on by, but a few stop...and God starts to turn the signs again.


But everything that was a gain to me, I have considered to be a loss because of Christ. More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Because of Him I have suffered the loss of all things and consider them filth, so that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own from the law, but one that is through faith in Christ--the righteousness from God based on faith.
--Philippians 3:7-9, HCSB

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Communion Service

The Lord's Supper (or Communion or Eucharist, depending on your church's terminology) is an amazing meeting of the physical and the spiritual, the common and the holy.

Christ's body broke
As prophets spoke,
The sacrifice
That paid our price.

Christ's blood was spilled--
His pain was filled;
Now we partake,
Saved for His sake.

We eat and drink
More than we'd think--
Not wine alone,
Not bread we've known,

But holy flow--
We're white as snow!--
And sacred bread--
Our souls are fed.

We plainly see
Such mystery
That we're in awe
At grace so raw.


Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, "Take, eat; this is my body." And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, "Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.
--Matthew 26:26-28, ESV

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Overcoming the Devil

Lord Christ, your blood
Became a flood
Of grace and peace
And full release
To vanquish all
The Devil's gall;
To neutralize
The Devil's lies.

We testify:
You came to die
And rise again
For sinful men.
You paid sin's price--
Our sacrifice.
We trust in you,
And we're made new.

So the great dragon was thrown out--the ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the one who deceives the whole world. ... the accuser of our brothers...the one who accuses them before our God day and night. They conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they did not love their lives in the face of death.
--Revelation 12:9-11, HCSB

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Fruit

Fruit for your pleasure
We not can measure:
In the vine growing--
Holy sap flowing--
Yield we're now able
Fruit for your table.

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
--John 15:5

Friday, September 28, 2007

Living Clean and Free

With our eyes
Toward the skies,
Pure within,
Freed from sin
By the word
We have heard,
Living right
In the light,
We're now saved,
Not enslaved.

Stubborn sin,
Long within,
Has been killed
(Blood was spilled).
We rejoice
At the voice
That has said
Our sin's dead.
We're alive!
Now we thrive.

...We know that Christ, having been raised from the dead, no longer dies. Death no longer rules over Him. For in that He died, He died to sin once for all; but in that He lives, He lives to God. So, you too consider yourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, so that you obey its desires.
--Romans 6:9-12, HCSB

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Their Deeds Follow Them

When this life's done
And death has come,
It's not the fun
That makes your sum.

If you die in
The Living Lord,
Your works in him
Will find reward,

And you will rest--
No labor-stress--
And will be blessed
With fruitfulness.

And I heard a voice from heaven saying, "Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on." "Blessed indeed," says the Spirit, "that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!"
--Revelation 14:13, ESV

Sunday, September 23, 2007

September Photos

We often forget to see the beauty and the interesting things around us, and if we do see them, we forget to thank God for them. Here are a few things I saw this month (in addition to family; I'm not posting those at this time).









Friday, September 21, 2007

Judgment

The final court of life and death--
Its wonder snatches up the breath.
In condemnation, millions wait
For any hope, but it's too late.

Yet other millions, saved through grace,
All bow before a welcome face.
Joy! All their sin is purged away;
And all Christ's virtue sent their way.

Friend, trust him now! Today's the day,
Before that judgment comes your way.


There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.
Romans 8:1

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Adam and Jesus

Adam lost his way.
Jesus said, "I am the way."
Adam was deceived.
Jesus said, "I am... the truth."
Adam brought death.
Jesus said, "I am... the life."

Jesus died--
Was crucified
And then arose--
The grave un-closed--
To thus reverse
The mighty curse;
To offer grace
To Adam's race.
Do you believe?
Will you receive
All He will give,
And so, then, live?

"Jesus said to him, 'I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father, except my me.' "
--John 14:6

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Devotional: The Whole Gospel

The Gospel, the good news, begins with the message of forgiveness of our sins through Jesus. However, it doesn't end there. It also includes such things as
  • The power of the Holy Spirit for enabling us to serve the Lord
  • The gifts of the Holy Spirit for building up the church
  • Works of mercy and compassion
  • Works of justice and of liberation
  • Answered prayer

All of these other things are wonderful and important parts of what we have in Christ. Yet, just as windows and walls and doors can't be used without a foundation, so these are not ours to claim and use unless we have the foundation of life in Jesus Christ.

According to God's grace that was given to me, as a skilled master builder I have laid a foundation, and another builds on it. But each one must be careful how he builds on it, because no one can lay any other foundation than what has been laid--that is, Jesus Christ.
--1 Corinthians 3:10-11, HCSB

Prayer: Lord, enable me to believe and to live the real gospel, the whole gospel...founded on Jesus.

Note: I originally posted this devotional, then un-posted it, fearing that some would think I was teaching that we are saved by grace plus works, though that's not what I wrote nor what I meant. After consideration, I'm re-posting this.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Devotional: What's Your Gospel?

What message do you have for people? Is a motivational message that can help them get through the day, or is it good news that can enable them to flourish through eternity? Are you satisfied if those you love are respectable, healthy and moderately happy? Or do you long for them to know God through Jesus? Do you believe people just need a little reforming, or do you believe they need a completely new life that only the Holy Spirit of God can give?

If your message and your passion for people are merely motivation and respectability and health and happiness and reform, you really don't have a Christian message. The apostle Paul said, "I delivered to you as of first importance that which I also received: That Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the scriptures, and that he appeared first to Cephas [Peter], then to the Twelve, then to more 500 of the brothers at one time..." (1 Corinthians 15).

If your message for people doesn't require the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, why not?

Prayer: Father, let me communicate the true Good News from you, not my own imitation.

Monday, September 10, 2007

I Drove By Death the Other Day

I drove by death the other day.
He'd stopped for someone in a van
Who didn't know that death would come
So quickly, with such sudden force.

I drove on by and never knew
Just who old death had snagged this time.
I saw the tarp and saw the cops,
Then shivered and went on my way.

"...Death spread to all men because all sinned..."
--Romans 5:12, ESV

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Pouring Out the Wine

Words of living wine flow
  Washing away spiritual debris
    Flooding parched soul-land
Announcing eternal news of hope


Father, use the holy flow
  Grow the planted seeds of life
    Rescue and fill the cup who hears
So more fresh wine will flow


"And the one on whom seed was sown on the good soil, this is the man who hears the word and understands it; who indeed bears fruit and brings forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty."

--Matthew 13:23, NASB

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Cold Heart

My heart is hard and cold and dry
As corn husks blown by November wind.
My heart is trapped as leaves are trapped,
Blown into chain-link fence.
I try to love, but quickly sink
To brassy lust again.
I try to worship, feel the hypocrite,
And look for pleasure--or for sin.
I know my heart's not dead yet.
It still delights when God's side wins.
But, Lord, this cold heart scares me.
Bring the fire once again.

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from Your presence
And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of Your salvation
And sustain me with a willing spirit.
Then I will teach transgressors Your ways,
And sinners will be converted to You.

--Psalm 51:10-13, NASB

Note: I wrote this poem a number of years ago. It would be nice to be able to say I'm now beyond needing such repentance, but that wouldn't be true. My heart can still be terribly hard at times. Yet one of the signs of truly being the Lord's people is that we DO persist, even when the Christian life is tough and we've failed badly. We come back to the Father, plead for his grace, and he answers. He takes our repentance and develops character in us. Sometimes it's a slow process, due to our stubbornness, but He does it.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

I Saw Jesus

I saw Jesus Christ today--
Saw him, though it's hard to say
Just exactly when or where,
But in humble Christians, he was there.
When I touched a simple one,
I was touching God's own Son.

Thank you, Lord, for such a grace--
That I might touch your hand or face.


And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.'
--Matthew 25:40, ESV

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Cat on Lap

I stroke your silky fur
And listen to you purr.
Obeying unknown laws,
You knead me with your claws.
You lift your little nose.
Your eyelids almost close.
Quite suddenly you're done.
You jump, and off you run.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Cross View


Looking toward the cross,
I see an innocent man crucified.

Looking at the cross,

I see God's Son dying for sinners--for me.

Looking from the cross,

I see myself crucified with Christ:
dead to sin, alive to God.

Looking beyond the cross,

I see a great redeemed multitude
from every tribe and tongue and nation,
praising God.

For I determined to know nothing among you
except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.
--1 Corinthians 2:2, NASB

Old Testament Wives and Husbands

Hosea's wife was immoral. Ezekiel's wife died, and he was not permitted to mourn her publicly. Job's wife urged him to curse God and die. Isaac's wife was conniving. She urged their son Jacob to trick him. Yet Hosea and Ezekiel and Job and Isaac had the blessing of marriage.

Sarah's husband was a liar, willing to sacrifice her purity for his safety. Abigail's first husband was a fool, endangering the whole household by his churlish greed. Bathsheba's second husband was the man who sent her first husband to his death. Yet Sarah and Abigail and Bathsheba had the blessing of marriage.

What makes a marriage is not fairy-tale, happily-ever-after circumstances, nor perfect people, nor following the customs of society. What makes a marriage is a determination, under God and by his grace, to commit yourself to your husband or to your wife. When the hard times come, marriage is a bulwark and a safety net and a refuge. The married person who sees things biblically can say, "Whatever other decisions must be made in life, this one has now been made."


"For I hate divorce," says the LORD, the God of Israel, "and him who covers his garment with wrong," says the LORD of hosts. "So take heed to your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously."


--Malachi 2:16, NASB

Committed Marriage

Not two, but one,
And sometimes fun,
But always one,
'Til this life's done.


Note: The New Living Translation has an interesting rendering of this verse. It says divorce is "as cruel as putting on a victim's bloodstained coat." I'm not sure that's what's meant by "covering his garment with violence," as other translations have it. What do you think the prophet meant?


Prayer: Lord, forgive us for taking divorce lightly. Make us agents of purity.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Don't Wait

Last night I watched a baptism on closed-circuit TV from the next room. I wondered why it took the person so long to appear in the baptistery. Once she appeared, I understood. Dorothy is 88 years old. During the past few months, she heard and understood the message of Jesus for the first time.

As Pastor Mark pointed out to us, maybe you think you're too old to change. Maybe you've given up on expecting God to do something new in your life. Or maybe you think you have lots of time to get things straightened out with God and with people. Either way, don't wait. The Bible says, "Behold, now is 'the acceptable time,' behold, today is 'the day of salvation.'" (2 Corinthians 6:2)

Now's the moment. Don't delay.
Trust your Lord and King today,
Washing all your sins away.

As you come and plead for grace,
Fall before him on your face,
You will find a welcome place.

Why should you delay and wait?
"In awhile" may be too late.
Trust him now. Don't hesitate.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Knowing Whether You’re Really Alive in Jesus

The Bible gives lots of ways to know whether you’re really alive in Jesus. Here’s a list. (There are probably others that I accidentally omitted.) If you have really been reborn spiritually, the Lord will be producing certain results in you.

Have you come to Jesus?
  - John 6:37

Do you believe in Jesus, the same Jesus of the Bible? Do you believe he’s the Son of God, come in the flesh, crucified for us, dead, buried, resurrected, ascended and coming again in glory?
  - John 4:15, 5:1, 5:13

Do you love God and love God’s people?
  - 1 John 4:7-12 and 5:1

Have you been baptized?
  - Romans 6:3

Have you turned from sin to God?
  - 1 John 5:4

Do you have the Holy Spirit of Jesus?
  - Romans 8:9

Is the pattern of your life obedience to God?
  - 1 John 2:3-6

Have you admitted to others that Jesus is Lord?
  - Romans 10:9

Does God discipline you?
  - Hebrews 12:6

Does God’s Spirit testify with your spirit that you’re God’s child?
  - Romans 8:16

Have you been born again?
  - John 3:3
________________________________________

Wow - that's quite a list, right? There are two ways of looking at it. You could look at that list as a checklist of things YOU need to accomplish, and be nervous about each one of them. Or you could look at that list as a set of things the Lord can and will do in you, and can take courage as you see them starting to occur increasingly in your life (unless you fail the test). I believe the more sound way is the second way. These are not a new set of laws. They are a list of what the Lord produces in those who are truly his children.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Song of the Meadow

Every flower, every bee,
Every drop of dew I see
Sings a wordless song to me:
God is loving. God is light;
Always perfect, always right.
Praise him now with all your might.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Devotional: Only One Way

Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father, except through me." (John 14:6)

Most people in our society aren't offended if you speak of being spiritual, or of believing in God. They become more nervous when you speak of trusting Jesus, but even then are not as upset as if you say he is the only way to God, the only way to eternal life. Yet that's what Jesus himself claimed. Are you willing to bear the shame that society heaps on those who are so narrow-minded as to believe what he said? Or will you be lukewarm, like those (in Revelation 3:16) whom Jesus spits out of his mouth?

Jesus does not offer one of many ways to God. He offers himself, the only way to God.

Prayer: Father, open our eyes to the uniqueness of Jesus.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

There's a Horror in My Head

There's a horror in my head,
An unexpected dread.
There's a shadow in my soul,
An unprotected hole.
It can shape the things I see;
Supplant the better "me."

Yet there's also joy inside--
A bubbling thing that I'd
Try to tell you all about,
But words can't flesh it out.
It's a wondrous, holy thing
That makes my tired heart sing.

Thank God for joy and peace!
Through him, may they increase.

Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

--1 Peter 1:8-9 ESV

Note: I wrote this in one of my depressed moments. Lately, the depression's gone again. It's wonderful to have the peace that comes from knowing that my ultimate well-being does not depend on my mood.

Since I don't want any potential employers to get the wrong idea years from now, I'll also mention that my depressive moments rarely interfere with my daily work. I suppose for the past decade I've missed an average of an hour or two of work a year due to depression.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Devotional: Broken and Spilled Out

Jesus was the wheat, crushed by the mill.
He was the grapes, crushed by the press.
He was the wineskin, pierced that the wine might pour out.

Now we eat the holy bread and drink the holy wine,
Cleansed and refreshed by what he did...
Because he was broken for us and spilled for us.

It seems so barbaric, so unfair,
Until we see ourselves there,
Deserving the sentence he bore.

Thank you, Lord, for this unfair exchange:
For becoming a curse for us,
That we might become a blessing.

...who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness--by whose stripes you were healed.
                  --1 Peter 2:24

For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it, and said, "Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me." In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me."
                  --1 Corinthians 11:23-25

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Economics and Religion

I heard the following one-liner on the CBS Evening [TV] News.
It was a story about the stock market going down. They were talking about whether the government should rescue mortgage companies that made bad loans.

Allen Meltzer, an economic adviser to presidents Kennedy and Reagan, says the Federal Reserve should not intervene to prop up companies that made bad loans.

"I like to say capitalism without pain is like religion without sin. It doesn't work," Meltzer told
[CBS News correspondent Anthony] Mason.

I believe Meltzer is right...especially about religion.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Devotional: Myths of Heaven

Heaven is real, not a myth, but people often believe myths about heaven and the future life. Here are some.

"We'll become angels." No, we won't become angels. We'll become something better than the angels. The Bible says the angels "have been sent to serve those who will inherit salvation" (Hebrews 1:14). That is, they serve us.

"I can go to the grave to speak to my dead loved one." You can go there, but you might as well stay home. Jesus said to the repentant thief on the cross, "This day you will be with me in paradise." Do you think paradise means being trapped in a dead body in a tomb? Certainly not!

"I'll be reincarnated in a new, different body." No, you won't. Those who truly trust Jesus are resurrected, re-united with their same bodies, and those bodies are transformed to be like the resurrected body of Jesus. See 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.

"Everybody goes to heaven." Jesus said, "Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it" (Matthew 7:13-14).


Prayer:
Lord, create in me true faith in your Son. Prepare me for the real heaven.

I'm no angel. I'm a man
Who's been rescued, by God's plan.
In God's image I was made,
For God's grace to be displayed.
I'm ashamed of things I've done,
But forgiven through God's Son.
Some day in eternal light
I'll rejoice with all my might.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Seeker

We seek the Lord and find
That we'd been in His mind;
That He the Seeker drew
The ones whom He fore-knew.

We seek the Lord and find
--And find! And find! And find!
When seeking not with part
But with our entire heart.

You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.
--Jeremiah 29:13, HCSB

For those He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers. And those He predestined, He also called; and those He called, He also justified; and those He justified, He also glorified.
--Romans 8:29-30, HCSB

THEOLOGICAL NOTE: How does God's foreknowledge work? How do we reconcile predestination with human responsibility? I don't know. I just know that the Bible teaches predestination, and that it teaches human responsibility, and that it teaches that God is just. We get hints of the answer with Pharaoh: Pharaoh hardened his heart, and the Lord hardened Pharaoh's heart. We get further hints with Judas Iscariot, the "son of perdition," who was still responsible for his actions.

If we are saved, we must credit the Lord. If we are lost, we must blame ourselves. Is that fair? Yes, because the Lord has not forced anyone to be evil.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Worldly Possessions



What's ours today
May melt away
Like frost in morning sun.
The things may rust
Or turn to dust
Before the day is done.


The goods we choose
We may well lose
Before another breath.
Our fragile health,
Our so-brief wealth,
Will not escape our death.

"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust corrupt, and where thieves break in and steal. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not corrupt, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
--Matthew 6:19-21

Note: On Tuesday evening, my wife and I were in the white car when it was damaged. That night, I wrote this poem. On Wednesday afternoon, we were in the green car when the cruise control broke, coming on and staying on. We're thankful to be alive. Life is fragile. Our hold on things is fragile. My grandmother had a couplet on her wall:
Only one life; 'twill soon be past.
Only what's done for Christ will last.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Peace

There is no peace without the Prince of Peace,
and yet this world chases peace but detests him.

It sends peace envoys who are in rebellion against his peace.

It holds peace talks where even the mention of his name is banned.

It builds fences at national borders while defending its right to blaspheme him.

It tries extreme makeovers while denying the fountain of life, the one who gives the oil of gladness in place of mourning.

It takes pills for anxiety, but laughs at the one who said, "Don't let your hearts be troubled, nor let them be afraid. I give you peace.

There is peace available--a peace that means total well-being.
It is found only in Jesus, the Prince of Peace.

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.
--Isaiah 9:6, NASB

To grant those who mourn in Zion, Giving them a garland instead of ashes, The oil of gladness instead of mourning, The mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting.
--Isaiah 61:3, NASB

Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.
--John 14:27, NASB

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Simple Things

Thank you, Lord, for simple things--
For ballpoint pens and bluebirds' wings,
For wiggly worms and wooden chairs,
For dogs and frogs and well-worn stairs.
I hear your voice in every sound.
Your glory's shining all around.

I will sing to the LORD as long as I live;
I will sing praise to my God while I have my being.

--Psalm 104:33, NASB

Saturday, August 04, 2007

War on the Darkness

The proud city wages all-out war on the darkness--
One nightlight,
    two headlights,
        a hundred street lights at a time.
Electric glows
    calm a frightened child,
        turn a leafless tree into a work of art,
            illumine a welcoming doorway
                and keep thieves at bay.
Yet they also flash from signs that sell a hundred sins
And dance on screens with lurid scenes.
"Inevitable," the city says,
And proudly lifts its head,
Proclaiming its own wonders.

The city wages war on the darkness,
Denying the gift of the night,
Forgetting the voice of the truth--
That the dangers of darkness
Aren't solved electrically.

For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son...
Colossians 1:13, NASB

For God, who said, "Light shall shine out of darkness," is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.
--2 Corinthians 4:6, NASB

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual {forces} of wickedness in the heavenly {places.}
--Ephesians 6:12, NASB

Friday, August 03, 2007

Spiritual Surgery

Great Father, You know my temptations,
My innermost rebel sensations.
Although I have worked to conceal them,
I'm asking You now to reveal them.
Slice open my soul and my spirit
And heal me within, though I fear it.
Please touch me each place where I'm broken
And grant me the pure life you've spoken.

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any double-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul and spirit, joints and marrow, as it judges the thoughts and purposes of the heart.
--Hebrews 4:12, ISV

So let us keep on coming with boldness to the throne of grace, so that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
--Hebrews 4:16, ISV

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Dragonflies


Three dragonflies
With compound eyes
And checkered wings
--Amazing things--
Were flitting in my path.

They'd pause to sit
For one quick bit
And then they'd fly
--Not very high--
On further down the path.


Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure.

--Proverbs 4:26, ESV

Sunday, July 29, 2007

No More Guilt

No more guilt, no more shame
For those trusting in the Name.
All is clean, all is fresh
By Christ's gift of his own flesh.

And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith...
--Colossians 1:21-23, ESV

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Stormy Morning



The day is growing darker now,
Though breakfast's not yet done.
The Lord may give us rain today
Instead of summer sun.

The clouds march past like infantry
Assembled on parade.
The countless ranks unblinking pass
In awesome strength arrayed.

A distant rumble of the drum,
A sharp note from the fife,
And now the clouds unleash their rain,
Artillery of life.

"If you follow My statutes and faithfully observe My commands, I will give you rain at the right time, and the land will yield its produce, and the trees of the field will bear their fruit."
--Leviticus 26:3-4, HCSB

Note: I wrote this some days ago. We have no rain yet today, which is fine, since we've had much more than normal.