Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Thank God for Food



I took this photo as we were preparing for a chuch supper. It brings me to a question: Do we really thank God for our food? Do those of us who have plenty really realize what an amazing thing it is to have enough? Do we realize that every bite of food is a provision from the Lord?

Monday, May 26, 2008

A Prayer - Christian Poem



Lord Jesus, make me more like you,
Full of faith through all I do.
Make sin and self both melt away.
Ready me for your great Day.


...And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, "Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me."

--John 11:41, 42, ESV

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Memorial Day - A Poem



May 26 is Memorial Day in the USA; a day to remember those who died for their country.

They hoped to live, but came to die,
And hardly even wondered why.
Their country told them they should go,
And so they went--and fought in snow
And heat and driving rain,
Not ever to go home again
But in a box.

Was it a waste? Or courage true?
Heroic deeds? A job to do?
Yes, all of these, and still more, too.

They hoped to live, but came to die--
Now you live free, and so do I.


I wrote this poem. It was in the 1990's, I think. It's public domain.
We need to guard against substituting patriotism for Christianity, but it's good to be thankful for those who have been faithful soldiers.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Fig Season



It's fig season, and my tree produced the largest fig it's ever had...plus many other not-so-huge figs. Unlike most figs, this kind turns lighter, not darker, as it ripens.

Ripe figs are very sweet. Thanks be to God who provides so many wonderful types of food.

Monday, May 19, 2008

On an Ordinary Day

On an ordinary day,
    When sin is lewd and loud,
    And evil men walk proud,
Jesus then will have his say--
    Appearing in the clouds,
    Destroying that whole crowd.

On an ordinary day,
    When normal sinners wed
    An feast and drink and bed--
Jesus then will have his way
    And judge just as he said
    And see and strike them dead.

On an ordinary day,
    When godless buy and sell
    And plan--say all is well--
Jesus then will come to lay
    On them what they won't tell,
    And banish them to hell.

Just as it was in the days of Noah, so will it be in the days of the Son of Man. They were eating and drinking and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot—they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, but on the day when Lot went out from Sodom, fire and sulfur rained from heaven and destroyed them all— so will it be on the day when the Son of Man is revealed.
--Luke 17:26-30, ESV

Note: Yesterday afternoon I preached on this passage. I made the following points concerning the Lord's judgment.

1. It's certain.
2. It's on what people think of as an ordinary day.
3. It totally interrupts people's plans.
4. It's not until after the Lord has removed his people to safety. (compare 2 Peter 2:9)
5. It's divine.
6. It's thorough.
7. It's a day of revelation...of Jesus.

Application questions:
1. Do you ever think of the Lord's judgment? If not, what does that say about your spiritual condition?
2. Do you believe Jesus will return?
3. Do you believe he will return at a time when most people aren't expecting?
4. If he comes today, will you be judged, or will you be rescued?
5. When he comes, will you be ready to leave all the life you've known, forever?

Prayer: Father, may we be your people, through Jesus. Make us eager for life with you and with your Son.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Cultural Adaptation vs. Trusting in Cultural Cleverness

For a couple of years I was the piano player for a small Hispanic church. The church grew, then reached a plateau. Every Sunday morning I'd worship in Spanish while my wife worshiped in English in another building nearby. I tried to do music in as Hispanic a style as I could, but no matter how hard I tried, I still sounded Anglo. Eventually, I concluded that I needed to start worshiping with my wife again. The Hispanic church, now stronger than when I came, was forced to develop its own musical style. It started growing again.

Almost all of us Christians like to worship in our own culture. That's why we have mostly-black churches and mostly-white churches, mostly-old churches and mostly-young churches. It's why we have churches made up of English-speaking Filipinos and churches of English-speaking Chinese. Islam teaches that the Quran cannot be translated into any language but Arabic. Christianity, by contrast, translates the Bible into as many languages and sub-languages as possible. That's part of the wonder of Christianity, and it's not some new add-on. On the Day of Pentecost, the day of the church's birth, Jews from a number of different countries heard the apostles praising God, and each person heard praise in his own language. The apostle Peter himself opened the door for the Gospel to go to Gentiles (to non-Jews).

Today, chuches in the USA and other similar countries face the twin dangers of ignoring the need for cultural flexibility or of trusting in their cultural flexibility instead of trusting in Jesus. Some churches won't bend on cultural issues, no matter what. They are sure that their kind of music, their kind of sermon, their kind of clothing, their kind of building, and their kind of church dinner are the only possible holy ways to serve God. They're sure that Peter, James and John must have been culturally just like their own church.

Other churches trust in their cleverness. They publicize their trendiness. They think that if they are "relevant" enough, flocks of people will come to them and will experience the true gospel. Often, flocks of people DO come, but it's often doubtful how much of the gospel they experience. Churches of this sort may be experts in strategy sessions, in facilities management, and in publicity. They may know much more about sociology and psychology than about the Lord. For them, the Bible may be only a jumping-off point to launch them into messages about whatever perceived needs their people have. They may talk more about success, about spirituality, about encouragement, and about marriage than they do about Jesus.

Either type of church is out of balance. Jesus must be the center--today, tomorrow, and 100 years from now. Yet we must also be flexible. Our culture isn't Jesus' culture. It's ours, and other people don't need to imitate it. They will have their own culture. Yet we and they must love each other in the Lord, recognizing one another as family in the Lord.

How can we avoid both errors? Here are some thoughts.
1. We can remind ourselves over and over that Jesus is the heart of the gospel.
2. We can ask the Lord to give us cultural sensitivity.
3. We can look humbly at our own culture, asking the Lord to reveal parts of it that don't please him.
4. We can notice where another culture is more obedient to the Lord than is our own culture. For example, I can respect and admire the family loyalty of the Hispanics, the organization of the Germans, the humor of the Irish, the self-discipline of the Koreans, and so on.
5. We can try to be sensitive to the cultural preferences of everyone in our own congregations, trying not to freeze out anyone culturally.
6. We can steadfastly refuse to act like the power of our message is in its acculturation. We can realize that cultural sensitivity is not the force behind our message, but that cultural insensitivity can hinder the Lord's ability to work through us.
7. We can enjoy our own cultures without looking down on the cultures of other people.
8. We can ask the Lord to send out missionaries who are sensitive to culture, but who are more sensitive to him.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Dottie Rambo, 1934 - 2008 (Poem)

Note: Noted gospel singer and composer Dottie Rambo was killed in a bus accident on Sunday, May 11. I don't recall what her singing sounded like, but was blessed by several of the songs she wrote, such as "We Shall Behold Him," "If That Isn't Love," and "Behold the Lamb." For more about her, see Wikipedia's entry about her. One thing that troubles me is all of the dreadful preachers with whom she worked (and one or two good ones). I realize, of course, that she probably worked with hundreds of less-known pastors. We can hope that on average they were better than the ones in Wikipedia's list.

The Lord gave her a song
And another, and a dozen
And a hundred, and yet more--
A never-ending store
Preparing her for heaven
Throughout her whole life long.

Her husband then betrayed her.
He swapped her for her secretary.
Her manager? A thief.
Her trusted help? Same grief.
Her preachers? Friend, be wary.
A greedy pack; both wolf and cur.

And yet she sang of truth.
She praised, with grace and skill
And ever-flowing melody
The unseen One whom she could see
Within her heart, when she was still,
Her precious Savior from her youth.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Some People Aren't Shy About Their Faith



Yes, this is a photo of a real, full-size semitrailer truck.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, "The righteous shall live by faith."
--Romans 1:16-17, ESV

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Disposable People



We eat with them
And play with them
And respect them,
And they look just the same as we do.
They are people.
We are people.
Handsome or plain,
Strong or weak,
With hopes and dreams and fears.
Yet there's a terrifying difference:
Their spirits are dead.
Their souls are holes.
They are moving to eternal death, not eternal life.

They don't care.
They don't know.
We know.
But do we care?

Just as it was in the days of Noah, so will it be in the days of the Son of Man. They were eating and drinking and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot--they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, but on the day when Lot went out from Sodom, fire and sulfur rained from heaven and destroyed them all--so will it be on the day when the Son of Man is revealed.
--Luke 17:26-30, ESV

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Suitable for Salvation



If you're broken, wounded,
    sinful, sick,
        blind and spiritually dead,
You're just the sort of man or woman
    the Lord can use for his glory.

If you think that in yourself you're whole, strong,
    clean, healthy,
        peceptive and spiritually alive,
You're dead and don't know it,
    a spiritual zombie heading toward judgment.

...Jesus...said to them, "Healthy people don't need a doctor; those who are sick do. I've come to call sinners, not people who think they have God's approval."
--Mark 2:17, God's Word

Note: The photo of a rusty dumpster somehow seemed appropriate for this post. Some people see that they deserve to be in the dumpster, but are saved by Jesus. Others are sure they deserve much better, but end up in the eternal dumpster.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Dreams - Christian Poem



The dreams were planted deep inside
Her tender childhood heart,
With princes...castles...loving deeds
In which she took a part.

The dreams were broken, one by one,
By cimcumstance and life,
Through headaches...heartaches...selfish deeds
And never-ending strife.

But Jesus gave her dreams once more
Within her grown-up heart,
With heaven...hope...eternal deeds
In which she owned a part.

She lives, they say, in poverty,
Outside the fast-paced roads,
But Jesus' dreams are now her own.
She lifts up people's loads.

"Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."
--Matthew 11:28-30 HCSB

Friday, May 02, 2008

Hanging On to Truth - Christian Poem



If you've heard the holy truth,
Why go looking for a lie?
Why abandon paths of life
Just so you can go and die?

Liars come in many forms,
With confusion in their wake.
Though their words may seem sincere,
Run away for your soul's sake.


They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served something created instead of the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.
--Romans 1:25, HCSB

But we did not yield in submission to these people for even an hour, so that the truth of the gospel would remain for you.
--Galatians 2:5, HCSB

You were running well. Who prevented you from obeying the truth?
--Galatians 5:7 HCSB

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Discernment



I have not been known for great discernment, but I thank God for growth in that area. This week's mail included a sample newsletter from a Christian university. It features an adaptation of a speech made at the school by a man who was once pastor of a large church. The topic is "How to be a REAL Success." Mr. Guest Expert starts off with a joke about God's work in creating the earth. In his speech he never again mentions God or Jesus or the gospel or the church or evangelism or missions or discipleship or worship or the Bible or prayer.

I was present when Mr. Expert gave several messages to a group of pastors many years ago. Back then, he mentioned spiritual things, but the root of his message was the same as now: using your attitude and your effort and your planning to achieve success. Back then, I didn't see him for the failure that he is. He's left the straight and narrow for the broad road that leads to wealth and fame and the world's respect.

Lord, if it may be, cause Mr. Expert to wake up to the truth; to see that it's not enough to motivate people to work toward their dreams. Show him that only in Jesus is there life.