Sunday, April 29, 2007

Temptation

My body yearns,
My eye sees,
My pride wants,
And all three call in unison.
Sometimes they whisper.
Sometimes they scream and shout.
They plead with me to indulge them
Just a little
    And just a little more,
But if I do that, they want
Still more
    And more.
The only way to escape them
Is to run to Jesus,
Leaving them to fend for themselves.
Through his weapons I can fight them.
I can kill them day by day,
And he will free me in the end,
Renewing my body in incorruptible holiness.
Thanks be to God, the Father, through Jesus.

Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am being tempted by God," for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.
--James 1:13-15, ESV

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
--James 4:7, ESV

Friday, April 27, 2007

Finding Hope in the Midst of Suffering


A Prayer of the Suffering Saint


Lord, you loved me back when I was rich and sleek,
And you love me now that I am poor and weak.
All your promises that blessed my happy way
Are the very ones that you will keep today.
All your holy purposes are firm and sure.
All your loving, holy plans will yet endure.

And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.
To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.

--1 Peter 5:10-11

Recently my pastor spoke about the HOPE which a believer can have, based on these two verses. He pointed out that we must be encouraged by the reliability of our God.

* The God you serve has a specific plan for you. Suffererings have a specific purpose and a specific time limit.
* He has grace for you. He's "the God of all grace." He's unlimited in the grace he can bestow on you.
* He has a future for you. He "has called you to his eternal glory in Christ."
* He will sustain you. "will himself restore, confirm, strengthen and establish you." He, personally, will do this, and he is sufficient.

My friends, when we begin to comprehend all of this, the only proper response is worship. "To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen."

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Thunder

Hear the wonder
Of the thunder
Banging, booming
Danger looming--
Slowly rolling,
Then controlling
All we hear.

Drawing near,
Shakes the door
With a roar.
Sounds of battle--
Windows rattle,
Then it's past.
Peace at last.

...His mighty thunder, who can understand?
--Job 26:14 NASB

Monday, April 23, 2007

Pride and Humility

My ugly, boasting pride
Would have me take a ride
Above the highest cloud
And sing my praise aloud.

The Lord opposes pride
And takes the humble's side.
He'll cast the proud ones down.
The humble get the crown.

Dear Lord, deflate my pride:
To slay it, Jesus died.
Then, with a humble pace,
May I just walk in grace.

Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you...
--from 1 Peter 5:5-6, ESV

Note: Our pastor gave two recent sermons (here and here) on pride and humility. I'm seeing my own pride a bit more clearly--both how extensive it is and how sinful it is.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Thirsty

Lord, I'm thirsty--
Not for water, but for you.
Not my mouth,
but my soul is dry.
I don't want just disciplines
Nor just rituals
Nor just good people.
I want you...
The eternal,
The present,
The distant,
The intimate,
The fierce,
The gentle,
The in-control
Uncontrollable
God.

I want to approach the fire,
To see the beauty,
To taste the purity,
Until I glow with You
And forget myself;
Until I'm lost (but found)
And dead (but fully alive).

You are answering.
Your river of grace is flowing through me.
It's washing away the crud and the debris.
You had never left,
But I had lost the awareness of you.

Glory to your name!


As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants after you, God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?

--Psalm 42:1-2, World English Bible

Thursday, April 19, 2007

My Badness, His Goodness

I've slowly concluded that

      It is hard to over-estimate how bad I am,
            apart from Jesus,
      and it is hard to over-estimate how good he is
            in and through me


--and in and through all who trust him and follow him.

Note: I doubt that this thought is original with me. I'm not sure of the source.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Two Plans

Lord, you have a plan for life.
The devil has a plan for death.

Your plan starts with the goodness of Jesus.
The devil's plan starts with his own evil.

Your plan calls us to follow Jesus in holy life.
The devil's plan calls us to follow the devil in sin, to death.

Today, this moment, two paths lie before each of us:

        The path of doing Jesus' works;
        The path of doing the devil's works.

Lord, which plan have I been following?

Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. --1 John 3:7-8, NASB

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Thoughts On the Virginia Tech Tragedy

Lord, we're hurting.

We don't understand why someone wanted to kill so many students and teachers.
We don't understand why evil seems to hide for awhile, then lifts its ugly head so defiantly.
We grieve with the families of those who died,
And we know that you grieve also.

Give us grace to hang onto you yet more tightly at this time.
Give us grace to encourage others to cling to you, also.
Comfort those who are mourning.
Even those words sound so simplistic, so weak...but we know that you are strong.

Enable us to focus once more on your unfailing goodness,
      On your unfathomable love,
            On your amazing sacrifice
                  And on your magnificent offer of pardon.

Thank you for your promises, which last forever.
Thank you for your coming kingdom, which will never end.
We realize once more that we have life today only by your mercy,
And that we'll survive tomorrow only if you preserve us.

Enable us to truly LIVE today, for your glory.
Enable us to build up one another, for your glory.
Forgive us for our many sins, for your glory.
Fulfill in us your promises, for your glory.

We pray in Jesus' name.
Amen.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

God's Word For Us in His Church

Words of truth, words of grace,
Words proclaimed in this place,
Words unveil, make us wise,
Take the scales from our eyes,
Words of God, from the throne,
Words of life guide us home.

For the word of God is living and active...
--Hebrews 4:12

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Wildflowers


Come, spend a few hours
With millions of flowers.
Look - Acres of blue ,
Bright yellow ones, too.

White patches and pink -
More hues than you'd think.

This beauty's designed.
It came from God's mind,
And he who arranged
These flowers he's made
Can take care of you.
He's faithful and true.

Release all your care
To him now in prayer,
Then feast on the sight
Of flowers so bright.

And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

--Matthew 6:28-33, ESV
Note: This is the season for wildflowers in Texas. These photos were taken on April 5, 2007, near the town of Brenham. All but the one with the fence post and the driveway were taken by my wife.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Early-morning Walk

I walked out into waning night
And greeted the watching cat.
The streets were nearly empty,
Except for parked cars, finishing their nightly slumber.
I passed a school-bus-ready teen,
Squatted at the base of a driveway.
As I returned the birds were singing
And trees were sweeping the last stars from the sky.


The One who made the Pleiades and Orion, who turns darkness into dawn and darkens day into night, who summons the waters of the sea and pours them out over the face of the earth--Yahweh is His name.
--Amos 5:8 HCSB

I rise before dawn and cry out for help; I put my hope in Your word.

--Psalm 119:147 HCSB

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Bad Habit       (Humor)

"I've got a bad habit,"
    Declared the nun,
And then changed her clothes,
    And then was done.


Note: If only it were this easy for each of us to get rid of a bad habit!

Monday, April 09, 2007

Why is the resurrection of Jesus important?

1. By the resurrection, God the Father declared with power that Jesus is his Son.

Ro 1:4 -who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord...
The resurrection is our guarantee that we are following someone who is divine. The Buddha is dead. Confucius is dead. Muhammad is dead. L. Ron Hubbard of Scientology is, apparently, dead. He disappeared a number of years ago. The Dalai Lama will be dead soon enough. Jesus is alive.
You see, it DOES make a difference what leader you follow. It's possible to be sincerely wrong, dead wrong. Follow the leader who lived a holy, perfect life, who died in your place, who rose from the dead, and who is coming back again.

Question: Do you really believe Jesus rose from death? If so, are you living by that?

Prayer: Thank you, Father, for raising your Son Jesus Christ. Thank you for assuring me that I'm following the right leader.

2. The resurrection is the guarantee that our sins (the sins of God's people) are fully paid for.
Ro 4.25 - {He} who was delivered over because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification.

Although the Bible says Jesus died for the sins of the whole world, it is only his own people who are fully justified through his death and resurrection. If you are trusting in him, you can be confident that ALL of your sins have been paid for; that you have been declared righteous before God.

Question: Are you trusting in Jesus for the forgiveness of sins, or in yourself, or are you pretending that you have never sinned?

Prayer: Lord, I do trust Jesus. Thank you for the forgiveness of sins; thank you that I can be declared not guilty because he bore our guilt.

3. The resurrection is the sign that we can live now in a new kind of life. Water baptism (especially by "immersion" or dipping, which is a method accepted by almost all churches) pictures dying with Jesus, being buried with him, and rising with him to new life.
Ro 6.4 - Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.

Question: If you trust in Jesus, have you been baptized with water, as a sign and a seal of your relationship with him?
Are you willing to believe that the God who was strong enough to raise him from the dead is strong enough to change you, to breathe new, holy life into you?
Prayer: Lord, enable me to walk in the new life you've provided through Jesus.

4. The resurrection means Jesus is alive to intercede for us.
Do you ever feel all alone, like there’s nobody on your side, nobody who will stand up for you when the going gets rough? Throughout Jesus’s earthly ministry, we see him helping those who needed it—providing wine to rescue a host from embarrassment, providing healing to all who asked, providing forgiveness to a woman caught in the very act of adultery, providing hope to the hopeless. His resurrection means he’s still alive, always alive, to do that for those of us who trust him.
Ro 8:34 - Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us.

Question: Can you think of any better friend, any better advocate, any better lawyer than Jesus?
When the enemy attacks you, telling you that you are forever worthless and forever hopeless, do you try to out-reason him, or do you merely look to Jesus and let him settle the argument for you?

Prayer: Lord, I trust you. Plead my case—not because I so much deserve it, but because you’re my only hope.

5. The resurrection of Jesus is the sign that we who trust him will also be raised from the dead, as he was.
1Co 6:14 - Now God has not only raised the Lord, but will also raise us up through His power.
1 Co 15:20 - But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep.

Religions teach various things about what ultimately happens to us after death. The Bible teaches resurrection. As a Christian,
I do not expect to “become one with the universe.”
        I expect to be raised.
I do not expect to “live forever in the minds and hearts of those who love me.”
        I expect to be raised.
I do not expect to “get a new body.”
        I expect to be raised.
I expect that this present body – imperfect as it is – will be raised from the dead and transformed, just as a seed is transformed into a plant; just as the body of Jesus was transformed when he was raised.

Question: Are you looking for the resurrection of the dead?
Are you living in the light of that hope?

Prayer: Lord, let us believe what your word says about the future. May the power that raised up Jesus also raise us up at the last.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Jesus Lives! (A poem for Easter, Resurrection Day)

Jesus lives! ...And I'll live, too,
For the Father's word is true.

Jesus lives! His death is done,
Proving He's the Father's Son.

Jesus lives! ...To pray for me,
Gaining me all victory.

Jesus lives! ...And will appear
In the clouds to raise me near.

Jesus lives! ...And I live, too,
Dead to sin, in Him made new.

Jesus lives! Yes, Jesus lives!
Hallelujah! Jesus lives!

Thank you for taking the time to read this poem. If the Lord wills, tomorrow's post will give some of the Biblical background as to why the resurrection of Jesus is so important to us. My prayer today is that you and I will know more and more of the resurrection-power of Jesus in our lives, and that we'll communicate that to others.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Good Friday: Crucifixion, eternal fellowship broken and won

When God could not look down at God,
Since God on earth was bearing sin,
When God and heav'n were missing God,
And God was beaten, pierced, stretched thin,

When God and God were ripped apart
Yet somehow still eternal One,
When evil broke God's holy heart,
That's when, my friend, our war was won.

You who are of purer eyes than to see evil
    and cannot look at wrong...

--Habakkuk 1:13, ESV

He made Him who knew no sin {to be} sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
--2 Corinthians 5:21, NASB

Notes: At this time of year, I usually think of a poem by Chad Walsh, which I believe I misquote as follows:
    And God looked down at God that day,
    And God looked up and cried.
    And God looked down at God that day,
    And God looked up and died.

It is impossible for me to fully comprehend the suffering of Jesus--not only the physical suffering, which apparently resulted in his heart literally bursting (thus explaining medically the blood and water that flowed out when the soldier pierced his side, John 19:34), but also the spiritual and emotional suffering of having his eternal fellowship with the Father broken; of hanging there beaten, despised, mangled, stripped, and dying forsaken by his God.

He suffered all of that for sinners such as you and such as me. We are rescued, not by trying to reproduce his sufferings, but by merely trusting and following Jesus Christ, who redeemed us from our old way of life.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Washing Feet - Two poems



Washing Feet

The Lord of glory, nearing ugly death,
Gathered his band of still-proud disciples
In a borrowed upper room.
The room had been cleansed
    Of all yeast,
    Of all defilement,
But the disciples themselves still needed cleansing.
They all had dirty feet.
    One had a dirty heart
    That was never to be cleansed.
They'd removed their sandals as they entered,
But their feet were grimy, smelly, unclean
    From the dirt of the streets
    Now crowded with thousands of pilgrims.
Who would wash the feet?
Each disciple wondered,
But thought such work beneath him:
Surely, I'm not the lowest.
Then Jesus, the Master,
Stooped to wash the feet;
Knelt to serve
Those who didn't deserve
Such love.



Washing Feet - A Disciple's Reaction

If I were more humble,
I would not grumble
At washing some feet.
No, I'd find it sweet.
I'd want to be serving
Those who're deserving
Such simple attention.
I'd serve without mention.
Lord, help me in killing
Pride that is filling
Life up with me
Instead of with Thee.

...Whoever would be first among you must be slave of all.
--Mark 10:44, ESV

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

I'm Not a Superhero



My security isn't in myself.
    I'm not a superhero
    Nor much of a hero at all.
My security is in the Lord.
    He's my shepherd.
    I'm his sheep.
        He leads. I follow.
        He protects. I trust.
        He provides. I feed.
        He gives power. I work.
    I'm weakest when I think I am strong.
    I'm strongest when I know I am weak.
In myself, I'm nothing much.
He's my great shepherd.
He's my hero, but more than that.
He's my all.

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
--Philippians 1:21

Testimony

I was raised in the church, the son of a pastor, but that certainly didn't make me a Christian. God doesn't have grandchildren. I grew up knowing that the Lord existed, that he is good, that Jesus died and rose again. When I was about 12 I officially joined the church and was baptized, but I was not willing to let the Lord control my life completely, even for awhile.

When I was 20, I was a university student living at home. My Dad had brought home a copy of Campus Crusade for Christ's "Spirit-filled Life" booklet. I picked it up and read it, and the Lord spoke to me through it. I asked him to take over, to fill me with his Spirit. As near as I can tell, that's when I was reborn. I suddenly was wanting others to have what I'd been given. I saw other people's spiritual need. I was eager to find out what was in the Bible.

In the years since, the Lord's shown me both his mercy and his power. I grieve that I'm not what I ought to be, but rejoice that I'm not what I was. The Lord has shown me that he is able to provide, able to heal, able to give spiritual gifts, able to answer prayers. He's also shown me that he's not like a water faucet that I can control at my will.

What I know is this: The Lord is real. He is good. He is strong. We have sinned. Our only hope, our sure hope, is trusting in Jesus. "For there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven, given among men, by which we must be saved." Acts 4:12

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Cursing the Fig Tree


The fig bore leaves abundantly,
But didn't give our Savior fruit.
He searched it,
    Cursed it,
        And then left it
To the fate of fruitless, showy things.

The tree then withered in a night
And bore its fruit by teaching us
To conceive,
    Believe,
        And then receive
The fruit of faithful, holy words.

The mountains will be moved for us
And plopped into the deepest sea
When we pray it,
    Say it,
        And then believe it
For the glory of our wholly-glorious Lord.

In the morning, as Jesus returned to the city, he became hungry. When he saw a fig tree by the road, he went up to the tree and found nothing on it but leaves. He said to the tree, "May fruit never grow on you again!" At once the fig tree dried up.

The disciples were surprised to see this. They asked, "How did the fig tree dry up so quickly?"

Jesus answered them, "I can guarantee this truth: If you have faith and do not doubt, you will be able to do what I did to the fig tree. You could also say to this mountain, 'Be uprooted and thrown into the sea,' and it will happen. Have faith that you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer."

--Matthew 21:19-22, GW

Note: My fig tree's not much good for shade, nor for lumber, nor for beauty. It's only good for fruit or for burning. May we be fruitful, with the sweet fruit for which the Master hungers, so that we receive his blessing, not his curse.