Sunday, March 30, 2008
Nourishing my soul--
Simplest bread and wine,
Now to me become
Jesus' body, blood;
Fullest cleansing mine.
Signs of sins all paid--
I am fully clean
And am heaven-bound,
Fresh and unafraid.
I am one with all
Who have turned from sin;
Saints who trust in him,
Heeding Jesus' call.
And as they were eating, he took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.”--Mark 14:22-24, ESV
NOTE: Christians disagree as to whether the bread and the wine are symbols of the body and blood of Jesus, or are literally the body and blood of Jesus, or are simultaneously both (that is, the bread becomes bread/body and the wine becomes wine/blood). I don't believe the bread and the wine cease to be bread and wine; I also don't believe in the continuing sacrifice of the mass. Jesus died once for all. Yet is the bread simultaneously also body, and the wine simultaneously also blood? Lutherans say yes; Baptists say no. I'm a Baptist, but suspect that the Lutherans are right on this one. However, I don't have to be sure of that. It is enough to be sure that in the simple act of eating the blessed bread and drinking from the blessed cup, with other believers, I meet Jesus in a way he has ordained. As I partake of the bread and of the wine, I partake of him and of his sacrifice.
Friday, March 28, 2008
I notice several ways in which the incident in Acts 3 differs from many modern claims of healing.
• Peter and John didn’t advertise a healing service.
• They had no money.
• The healing came without anything to set the mood—No repetitive songs, other than his begging. No faith-building sermons. No testimonies.
• There was no hint that everyone who was not healed of something lacked faith.
• The people recognized the man as the one who used to beg, who’d been lame from birth.
• The Lord, not Peter nor John, received the glory.
• Peter's sermon to the amazed crowd was not about how to get their own physical healing. It was the gospel. He told the people that they were sinners who could be saved if they repented and trusted in Jesus.
Miracles don’t happen on our schedule. They don’t happen according to our plans. They don’t come to enrich the miracle-workers. They are interruptions to ordinary days. They come at the intersection of faith and need—but not just faith in faith. Faith in Jesus! They come not with the power of faith, but with the power of Jesus.
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
It's iris season. We don't have any in our yard, but I really enjoy seeing them. When I was a teenager, we lived in a house formerly owned by a man who bred iris as a hobby. We had lots of interesting colors.
Some plant varieties and some animal varieties are clearly the product of selective breeding by humans. Does that mean we're as great as God, or interfering with God's work? No. It just means we're developing and tending what he has given us. Even Jacob in the Bible did that...though just how is something I don't understand.
Today, enjoy what God's put all around you, and take good care of what he's put into your hands.
Satan's evil starts to win.
Sin will ask me out to dance,
Begging for another chance.
Sin will wear its finest silk,
Claiming to be pure as milk,
But it hides a deadly sting
Ready to wreck everything.
If I am to go God's way,
I must kill sin day by day.
As I do, the truth will grow
And I'll live...
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
And blessed them
And broke them
And fed 5000 men.
His disciples were in a boat,
In the middle of the night
In the middle of the lake,
Buffeted and rowing hard
Against the wind,
And Jesus came to them,
Walking on the water.
He spoke to their fears
And got into the boat
And the wind stopped.
Today, my resources may be limited
And the winds and the waves may be against me,
But that same Jesus is my Lord,
And his resources are unlimited.
They were completely astounded,
because they did not understand about the loaves.
Instead, their hearts were hardened.
--From Mark 6:51-52, HCSB
Prayer: Father, give us us hearts that are tender to you, and give us deep confidence in your holy Son.
Monday, March 24, 2008
When I worry, I’m imagining a future apart from the grace of God.
I suspect that chronic, debilitating worry can have a chemical component, but surely even a chronic worrier would be helped by this insight.
Are you worried right now? If so, take your greatest worry and plop God's grace right down in the middle of that imagined situation. Then think of Psalm 56:9-11.
...This I know: God is for me.
In God, whose word I praise, in the LORD, whose word I praise,
in God I trust; I will not fear. What can man do to me?
Saturday, March 22, 2008
Surprisingly, some seem appropriate for both contemporary-worship churches and traditional churches.
If you're blessed by the music in your own church this Easter, don't forget to thank the Lord and to pray for the musicians.
Friday, March 21, 2008
When our Savior bled and died,
That was worst of all the days
In a hundred horrid ways.
Evil mocked and spat and nailed
Until Jesus' strength all failed;
Until truth was killed by lies
And the darkness filled men's eyes.
We all proved our awful guilt
When our Lord's pure blood was spilt.
Yet it was the best of days:
Jesus, Lamb of God, who pays
Everything we'll ever owe--
We are washed as white as snow.
Death is killed by him who dies;
Truth thus triumphs over lies.
Holy contradiction here:
Death brings life; an end to fear.
Jesus passes our great test;
From our worst, he brings the best.
When they arrived at the place called The Skull, they crucified Him there, along with the criminals, one on the right and one on the left.
--Luke 23:33, HCSB
Thursday, March 20, 2008
In the northern part of the Houston area, we're just finishing the pine pollen season. You can't overlook it. The pine trees produce so much pollen that there's a fine greenish-yellow dust on the cars, on the sidewalks, on leaves of plants, on your shoes, and just about everywhere. People complain about their sinuses. The photo above, not retouched, is of pine pollen in the gutter after I hosed down our driveway.
On Tuesday night we had a different phenomenon. A rain-storm covered my car with tan spots of mud. I washed it (not very well), thinking that the dirt was from the construction zones near my work and near my home, but I've learned a different story. Our newspaper reports that it rained mud here. The mud was dirt and ash that blew from central Mexico; weather-watchers had seen it on satellite photos, beginning not far from Mexico City. This photo is of someone else's car window.
Are there any spiritual lessons here? I'm not sure, except that the dirty rain makes me think of the futility of man-made religion. We can wash ourselves every-which-way, but if our very methods of cleaning are dirty, we'll never get clean. I could have stood out in that rain and scrubbed my car, thinking I was cleaning it, but it would have done little or no good. It probably would have ended up dirtier than before.
The pine pollen reminds me of the pervasive effects of true believers. Not all of the trees here are pines, and not all of the land is forested, but there's no escaping the pines' influence. In the same way, a true Christian is salt and light, impacting the world around.
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
"You're beyond hope."
"You're a failure."
"Even God can't free you from THAT sin...at least, not in this life."
How many times have we heard those same lies from the devil in our heads?
Yet the Lord tells us something different.
Therefore if the Son sets you free, you really will be free.
Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
--2 Cor 3:17
Christ has liberated us into freedom. Therefore stand firm and don’t submit again to a yoke of slavery.
For we too were once foolish, disobedient, deceived, captives of various passions and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, detesting one another. But when the goodness and love for man appeared from God our Savior, He saved us—not by works of righteousness that we had done, but according to His mercy, through the washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit.
Therefore if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come.
--2 Cor 5:17
He breaks the chains that bind the soul,
Restores our lives and makes us whole.
He opens wide the long-shut gate,
Proclaiming that we'll no more wait.
Today's the day of liberty.
The Lord himself brings jubilee.
...he and his children are to be released at the Year of Jubilee.
Sunday, March 16, 2008
Feet of challenge and of grace,
Feet that reach the farthest place...
Feet bring news of life in Christ;
Feet bring hope without a price.
Feet are beautiful when used
For the work the Lord would choose...
Feet of love for men in sin
Finding them to bring them in.
How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of the herald, who proclaims peace, who brings news of good things, who proclaims salvation, who says to Zion, "Your God reigns!"
Note: The sunlight in this picture is not a Photoshop trick. I did, however, turn the photo 90 degrees to make the foot appear to be walking.
Saturday, March 15, 2008
How did Peter preach on the Day of Pentecost? That question has several answers. We could look at his method of formal preparation for the message (none), or at his informal preparation (three years of the best there could be), or at his source of power (the Holy Spirit). However, today I want to take a quick look at what his sermon did and didn't contain. Here are some things I notice about his sermon recorded in Acts 2.
His message combined
- Signs and wonders
- An appeal to reason from the scriptures
- Personal testimony (2:32)
- Proclamation of the hearers' guilt (2:36) and of salvation in Jesus (2:38)
- Strong urging (2:40)
This post is far too short even to begin to address the topic of whether signs and wonders are possible today. I'll just pretend that you agree with me that if the Lord chooses to send them, we should not try to force him not to do so, and that if the Lord chooses not to send them, we are not second-class; we can be filled with the Spirit and walk in his power.
Surely our sermons today would be better if almost all of them included reasoning from the scriptures, a small bit of personal testimony, the clear statement of people's guilt apart from Jesus, the offer of salvation through him, and strong urging to obey the Lord.
Notice also some of the things that his message did not include:
- An opening joke
- Folksy stories
- A three-point alliterated outline
There was no reference to such things as
- "The power of faith"
- "Let Jesus come into your heart"
- "Becoming a better you"
- Church membership
- Wealth and health through strong faith
- Scrolls or holy water for sale
He took his task seriously; too seriously to deliver everything in a pretty, neat package based on the laws of Greek rhetoric. He took the truth too seriously to teach such false doctrines as faith in faith, or self-centered salvation, or phony promises. He didn't use the occasion to get a large amount of money for himself.
Lord, give us preachers like Peter--with your Holy Spirit's power and truth.
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
The goods of our lives go by with a rumble:
Coal and corn oil, potatoes and petrochemicals
From who-knows-where to wherever,
In an orderly line, a massive mechanical snake
Slithering through the communities.
All goes as planned,
But the earth’s shoulders shiver
In fear of all the activity.
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
On Sharper Iron, note Wayne Grudem's essay on When, Why and Where to Draw Boundaries. Too many modern Christians don't want to draw any boundaries at all; they'd be happy for the devil to call himself a Christian and come to church without changing his ways or his beliefs.
On Cost of Discipleship there's a essay on the Christian Solder with a link to a fascinating short booklet. I'm not sure yet whether or how much I agree, but it's stimulating my thinking.
He Is Sufficient takes a view of Bible prophecy that's different from mine, but I was helped by the post concerning The Vineyard and the Cornerstone.
Finally, I want to mention my pastor's sermons. I'm privileged to have such a pastor. He's a remarkable teacher of the Bible and has a burning passion for glorifying the Lord.
Monday, March 10, 2008
Will leave us filled with darkest gloom.
The power's not within the wood.
The power's in the one who died
And rose again to purge our sins,
Who's at the Father's own right hand
To intercede on our behalf;
The one who's coming back again
To judge the world and set things right.
And yet, without his bloody death,
We would not have this glorious life.
The cross, then, is a sign for us
Of death and life and life to come--
This not because of strength in wood.
No. It's because our sins died there.
But as for me, I will never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
--Galatians 6:14, HCSB
He erased the certificate of debt, with its obligations, that was against us and opposed to us, and has taken it out of the way by nailing it to the cross.
--Colossians 2:14, HCSB
Sunday, March 09, 2008
Evil lurks within,
Closely linked with sin.
We may say we're good,
Doing all we should,
Or at least we try--
But that claim's a lie.
We have all gone wrong,
Sung the devil's song.
We have all been blind,
Wicked, dead, unkind.
Will not change our norm.
We must be made new,
Changed in all we do.
Only Christ can give
What we need to live...
Spirit sees its morn
Once we've been reborn.
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience--among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
Saturday, March 08, 2008
The back cover is an ad for a six-location Baptist megachurch. Most of the page is a rectangle with the words, "Easter at [name of church]" and in smaller letters, "Even the Bunny Knows..." Then in still smaller letters, "Join the [name of church] Family for Easter."
Inside, one megachurch advertises "18 powerful services! 6 Easter egg hunts!" They assure us that everyone is invited. Everyone is welcome. "We invite you to start living with no regrets this Easter!" Fine print mentions that the pastor and his wife are the authors of a New York Times best-selling book about living without regrets.
A Lutheran church advertises its Easter Fest 08, with worship at 9 and 10:30 AM and "25,000 eggs! Find the golden egg. Hunts for ages 0 - 12 years. FREE food! Games, Easter bunny! And More!"
Another church will have an Easter egg hunt, games, moonwalks and activities on Saturday morning, then on Easter will have worship services and a pancake breakfast.
Other churches advertise their music; whether a brass quintet or a gospel recording artist or a band. Episcopalians (Anglicans, for those of you outside the US) will have a liturgical extravaganza for the entire family.
One group of Methodists will have a candlelight labyrinth on Saturday night. Another will have a petting zoo on Saturday morning.
What's wrong with all of these ads? At worst, they are forgetting the message of new life in Jesus. At best, they are thinking that fleshly means will work for getting people into God's kingdom. They are thinking they can change lives by being more popular than the world. The apostle Paul said, "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ, for it is the power of God for salvation, first to the Jew and also to the Greek." (Romans 1:16) Paul's message was that we are sinners, without hope unless we obey God's command to repent and to believe in Jesus, but that if we trust Jesus, we'll be new creatures in him.
How about your church? Do you believe in the power of God through the gospel? Or do you think you have a better idea? What do you offer a dying world? New life in Jesus? Or Easter eggs, self-help and excellent music?
Thursday, March 06, 2008
I'm always fascinated by the growth of the fig tree in our yard. In order to get the best quality figs, I prune it severely. Then it produces the little buds that turn into figs and also the leaves that sprout into new limbs. If all goes well, by the end of the season it will have produced about seven feet (over 2 meters) of new growth and about 200 figs.
The Lord has to prune us severely, too. When he's done pruning, what he did may look too severe, but the end result is fruit for him.
And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? "My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives."
--Hebrews 12:5-6, ESV
Tuesday, March 04, 2008
Lord of everything I see,
Lord earth and Lord of me,
You are perfect, holy, free.
All will someday do your will
And your glory then will fill
All the lands with your great fame.
All will glorify your name.
Lord of clouds and Lord of sky,
Lord here and Lord up high,
Loose my tongue to sing your praise--
Now and into endless days.
For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.
--Habakkuk 2:14, ESV
Saturday, March 01, 2008
I stand at the intersection of two worlds--
Heavenly and earthly,
Godly and demonic.
A fish can't imagine living on dry land.
It's foreign to him--
This world's residents can't imagine
Living in the heavenly,
The godly world.
A fish pulled out of the water will die,
But a worldling pulled out of this world will live
Thus it was for me.
Thus it was for all of us.
Someone fished for men,
And the Father directed us into the net,
And we were rescued.
Use me as a fisherman
To catch dead men
That they may live.
And he said to them, "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men."
--Matthew 4:19, ESV