Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Sin

Sin's like a weed--
Deep roots, strong seed.
It's wicked thorn
Is devil-borne.
I fight for right
With all my might.
When triumph nears,
Sin re-appears.
How can I win
This fight with sin
If life and breath
Are bound by death?

Thanks be to Christ
Who paid the price;
Who won the war!
Sin's king no more!

Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?
Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!

--from Romans 7:24, 25, NASB

Monday, May 28, 2007

Quotes on Preaching

Here are threee quotes on preaching from my pastor's sermon last night. His text was John 12:49-50.

He [Jesus] was the most faithful, accurate preacher who ever lived. He's the example for preachers today. When he spoke, he spoke with the authority of the Father.

What he said requires response on our part. God's word is never meant to be responded to in any other way than obedience. ... Apostolic preaching was never propositions to think about. It was commandments to obey. Acts 17:30 says, "...God...commands all people everywhere to repent."

Your eternal destiny hangs on his
[Jesus'] words.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

The Exchange

We were dead. He gave us life.
We were lost. He led the way.
We were blind. He gave us sight.
We were defiled. He washed us clean.
We were hopeless. He gave us a future.
We were wasted. He gave us a purpose.
We were poor. He made us rich.
We were broken. He made us whole.
We were a curse. He made us a blessing.

He, the all-glorious, became wretched as we were,
That we might become holy as he is.


For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost.

--Luke 19:10, HCSB

He made the One who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
--2 Corinthians 5:21, HCSB

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ: although He was rich, for your sake He became poor, so that by His poverty you might become rich.
--2 Corinthians 8:9, HCSB

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Enlarge Your Prayers

Let's face it: Our prayers and our prayer meetings and our prayer requests are often boring. There's often little sense of encountering the majestic, all-powerful Lord of the universe. I believe one of the causes for our weak praying is that we usually start by thinking about what we want, instead of about what the Lord wants. We pray about health (as we should) and about finances (as we should), but don't get around to the really big, faith-stretching, vision-expanding, imagination-stretching requests. Even worse, we don't get past our own glory to the Lord's glory.

Of all the things you could possibly ask of the Lord today, what would most glorify him? Maybe it's something like

  • The evangelization of North Korea
  • His blessing for your enemy
  • The radical containment of malaria
  • The conversion of a cult to the true Gospel
  • The conquering of a stubborn, sinful habit in your life
  • The crippling of the pornography industry

Use your imagination. Dare to ask the Lord what would most glorify him; then ask in faith.


Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
--Jesus, in John 14:12,13

Prayer:
Father in heaven, what will most glorify you? Do I dare ask you for that?

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Wistful

Softly now the days go by.
Hear them passing with a sigh.
Even softer, evenings fall:
See the night spread over all.

So teach us to number our days, that we may present to you a heart of wisdom.
--Psalm 90:12

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Praying for Whose Glory?

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
      on earth as it is in heaven.

--from Matthew 6:9-10, TNIV


I've been reading a book called Praying Backwards. The author encourages us to begin our prayers (literally or mentally) in Jesus' name, to remind ourselves that we should only pray what fits with the will and the glory of Jesus. Too often our prayers are shaped much, much more by what WE want than by what HE wants. If the basic texture of our prayers is asking for health and comfort and wealth for ourselves and for those whom we love, have we not skipped right over the Lord's glory and looked for our own? Today, let's begin our prayer by seeking the glory of God, the will of Jesus.

Prayer:
Father in heaven, we come today in Jesus' name, for your glory, not our own. May your name be honored. May your kingdom come. May your will be done. Teach us to pray. We do have real needs, and we thank you that you're willing to meet them...but help us to focus more on your glory and less on our own.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Heaven

A secular heaven's what many want--
Success,
Health,
Beauty,
Culture,
Wealth,
Entertainment.
All you could possibly want, except maybe
Holiness
Or truth
Or...
God.

Such a heaven attracts them
And proves that they don't belong in that other heaven...
The new heaven and new earth
Whose builder and maker
And chief delight is
God.

A secular heaven would be a hell to me--
Eternal unfulfillment,
Eternal longing for my Father
My life, my joy;
Eternal abandonment by my Savior;
Eternal lack of the Spirit of life.

For me, heaven is no longer a where
Nor even a what.
It's determined by Who is there:
The One so radiant,
So pure,
So strong,
So wise
That all of the good I've ever seen,
Combined with all of the good I can imagine,
Cannot compare.

To be with the Lord:
That is heaven for me.

Then I saw "a new heaven and a new earth," for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Look! God's dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.

...

Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children. But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.

--Revelation 21:1-3, 7-8 TNIV

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Postmodern Christianity

Although I'm not much of an artist, I've decided to post one of my cartoons from time to time. Here's the first.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Aroma

I walked along a forest edge
Where honeysuckle staked a claim,
But giant bushes formed a hedge:
The countless blossoms won their fame.

The scent was dizzingly sweet,
Pervading all the dewy air.
It nearly swept me from my feet
And rose up past me like a prayer.

I wonder--how will heaven smell?
A million scents from mild to strong
That beautifully ebb and swell
In chorus with each perfect song?

Whatever heaven's smell may be,
Its beauty will bring awe to me,
But more than beauty, more than wealth,
It will have the Lord himself!

For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.
--2 Corinthians 2:15, 16 ESV

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.
--Revelation 21:3

Inspirational Poetry vs. Christian Poetry

I avoid using the term "inspirational" for the poetry I write, even though some of it can be considered inspirational. I see inspirational poetry as focusing on how it makes the reader feel, whether or not that feeling is based on truth. Inspirational poetry may glory in who we are in the first birth (in Adam) instead of who we are in the second birth (in Christ). It may be full of unbiblical, sweet things like angels' wings and people becoming angels. It may make people feel good by telling those who are going to hell that all's well.

Christian poetry, on the other hand, must be anchored in the Bible. It must be anchored in who Jesus is, and in the Bible's promises to all of those who trust him. It focuses not just on how I feel, but on who God is. Yes, being poetry, it should involve my feelings, but only as I submit them to the Lord. Like the Psalms, it should sometimes deal with the hard, rough brokenness of this life, and offer hope through calling us to trust not in ourselves, nor in fate, but in the Lord.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Benediction for the Fretful

May the gracious God of peace
Give you joy and full release
From all worries, from all care,
As you trust the God who's there.

May he strengthen you for good
That you may do all you should,
So your works will bring him praise
As men see him in your ways.

In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
--Matthew 5:16, ESV

Thursday, May 10, 2007

The Secret of the Christian Life?

I left the following note on another blog; it seems worth reproducing here.

I've found that every year or two or three there's another Christian fad, and that there are lots of people who claim that they have found the missing secret of the successful/happy/productive/holy Christian life. I suddenly realized a few years ago that all of those different secrets are by definition wrong; that the only secret of the Christian life is Jesus. The other secret of the moment (whether prayer or fasting or witnessing or creative worship or solid masculinity/feminity or whatever) may be a useful corrective, but if we go after it full-tilt, we'll be disappointed and will need the next corrective. The lasting secret is Jesus himself - knowing him, trusting him, obeying him.

"This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent." --John 17:3, NASB

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Underneath Are the Everlasting Arms

His arms are underneath me.
I'm resting in his care.
No weapons can defeat me
Since his protection's there.

He's never weak or sleeping.
He's never far away.
I'm safe within his keeping
At midnight, as by day.

The eternal God is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms. And he thrust out the enemy before you and said, Destroy.
--Deuteronomy 33:27, ESV

Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.
The LORD will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life.

--Psalm 121:4-7, ESV

Note: The last couple of lines may have been stolen from some dimly-remembered poem. I'm not sure. The Lord wonderfully protects those who trust him through Jesus. He protects us physically until our time in this life is done, and then he protects us eternally.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Count Your Blessings

"Count your blessings, one by one."
I'm still counting. Never done.
Maybe count them three by three...?
Count them through eternity.

How precious are your thoughts concerning me, O God! How vast in number they are!
If I try to count them, there would be more of them than there are grains of sand.
When I wake up, I am still with you.

--Psalm 139:17, 18, GW

Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of men!
--Psalm 107:8, ESV


Note: There's an old Christian song that urges, "Count your many blessings, name them one by one." Thanking the Lord for his blessings is wonderful, both because he deserves it and because of the blessings that the gratitude adds to our own lives.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Brothers in Christ

There's a special connection,
    A holy reflection...
There's a bond like no other
    When brother meets brother.

This is nothing external.
    It is inward, eternal.
Each one's spark becomes flame
    As they blaze for the Name.

We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers.
--1 John 3:14, ESV

I believe there's a special connection between true believers in the Lord. It's not based on church denomination nor on culture nor on age. It's based on the Spirit of God within one person discerning the Spirit of God within the other person; it's one person with spiritual life recognizing that same life in another person.

Now, a note to my sisters in the Lord: I realize that the word "brothers" in this Bible verse applies to women as well as to men.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Simplicity

Sometimes my schedule gets crowded. When it does, my spirit seems to get crowded, too. Today, I'm reminding myself of the joys of simplicity.

The joy of simple blessings. If I'm too busy to enjoy a sunrise or a child's smile or strange leaf, I need to slow down. When my plans go wrong and the experience I longed for doesn't happen, I need to enjoy the blessings I have. Most of life's greatest blessings can't be purchased nor licensed nor found in a tour guide. "Godliness with contentment is great gain."

The joy of simple truth. I've heard that when a famous theologian was asked for the most profound thing he knew, he said, "Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so." If my theological system is so complicated that I no longer have room to be amazed by the simple truths about Jesus, it's too complicated. If it's so complicated that I think people must believe things that most groups of believers would never get from studying the Bible on their own, it's too complicated. Simplicity remembers Jesus saying, "I am the way, the truth and the life."

The joy of simple relationships. Having the same wife I had more than 30 years ago greatly simplifies my life. Keeping relationships simple means continually working at honesty, at forgiveness, at unselfishness. It means "speaking the truth in love." Those things make relationships simple and a joy.

The joy of simple service. Jesus said "the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many." I am most like him when I'm serving him and serving people. If I think I'm too important to pick up pieces of trash, too important to help broken people, too important to serve in ways that won't be noticed, then I've missed the joy of simple service.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Wrecking the Devil's Work

Lord, you came to wreck the devil's work,
    And would I dare to live his way?
You have given us your holy law,
    And would I strike it from my heart?
You have given all you children life,
    And would I walk in paths of death?
You are pure, without a single spot,
    And would I wallow in world-filth?

Lord, destroy the devil's work in me
    As I now purify myself.
Please produce your holy life in me
    So I will truly live your way.

Beloved, now we are children of God, and it is not yet revealed what we will be. But we know that, when he is revealed, we will be like him; for we will see him just as he is. Everyone who has this hope set on him purifies himself, even as he is pure. Everyone who sins also commits lawlessness. Sin is lawlessness. You know that he was revealed to take away our sins, and in him is no sin. Whoever remains in him doesn't sin. Whoever sins hasn't seen him, neither knows him. Little children, let no one lead you astray. He who does righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous. He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. To this end the Son of God was revealed, that he might destroy the works of the devil. Whoever is born of God doesn't commit sin, because his seed remains in him; and he can't sin, because he is born of God.
--1 John 3:2-9