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