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,
Might lead us
Toward eternal day.

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

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

But souls
Are cold
And bitter.
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

--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,
            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 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