Tuesday, July 29, 2008

When Megachurches Do the Right Thing

In the past few days I've read encouraging things about three different megachurches. I know little about these churches, so am not endorsing everything they do, but it's great to hear when churches do the right thing.

WORLD Magazine reports that Christ the King Community Church near Seattle, Washington, has been aggressively planting new churches. These are in the state of Washington, but also in such places as Minnesota and South Carolina and India and Israel. Reportedly, their movement planted nearly a thousand Bible study groups in Africa last year.

WORLD also reports that Cornerstone Church in Simi Valley, California, is planning to build a new worship center and decided to build an outdoor amphitheater instead of a full building. This will save them half the cost. Their church's goal is to give away half of the money they take in. I notice that on their church's website, the pastoral staff members are listed in alphabetical order. To me, this says volumes about the teaching pastor's humility.

Elevation, a church in Charlotte, North Carolina, began a capital fundraising campaign last October with a "Bless Back" Sunday. They took no offering that Sunday. Instead, they passed out envelopes that in total contained $40,000, which was about equal to their weekly offering. Different envelopes had different amounts of money in them. They instructed the people to take the money inside and use it to bless someone beyond their church. Members posted their stories of what they did with the money.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Response to Church Shootings

As you may have read elsewhere, a man with a gun shot seven people at a church in Knoxville, Tennessee, yesterday. So far, two of the seven have died. The church's web site asks for prayer. That's certainly appropriate.

Yet, how shall we pray? The church's belief system is not Christian. Its statement of belief never mentions God or Jesus or the Holy Spirit or the Bible. It says, among other things, "WE BELIEVE in the tolerance of religious ideas. All religions, in every age and culture, possess not only intrinsic merit, but also potential value for those who have learned the art of listening." Thus, they do not believe the words of Jesus, "I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except by me." Do they believe Baal-worship and Satanism have intrinsic merit and potential value?

Another part of their statement of belief says, "WE BELIEVE in the authority of reason and conscience. The ultimate arbiter in religion is not a church, nor a document, nor an official, but the personal choice and decision of the individual." In other words, they specifically do not believe that the Bible is authoritative.

My first thought when I read of the shootings was that the shootings were sad, but that the church's beliefs were sadder. When seven people are in imminent danger of losing their physical life, it's national news. When a whole church is on the brink of eternally losing their souls, hardly anyone is alarmed or takes pity on them.

My imperfect prayer for them:

Father in heaven,

Have mercy on the people of the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church. Let them know that you are a personal, just, merciful God who cares about them in this time of their need. Turn around this gunman's evil actions and use them for good. Grant some of the people of the church eyes to see the truth that is in Jesus.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Just Shall Live By Faith - Christian poem

I will stand at my guard post and station myself on the lookout tower. I will watch to see what He will say to me and what I should reply about my complaint.
The LORD answered me:
The righteous one will live by his faith.

--Habakkuk 2:1-2,4, HCSB

As your prophet, I can watch
For the answer you supply.
As your servant, I can wait
For the time of your reply.

Looking, waiting...scan around...
Listen sharply...open ear...
I can monitor each sound
'Til at last I know you're near.

Then, whatever word you give
Will be good...You're giving one:
Truly now the just shall live
By their faith through my own Son.

Note: Habakkuk's message that the just shall live by faith is quoted in the New Testament in Romans (1:17), in Galatians (3:11) and in Hebrews (10:38). It's the message that freed Martin Luther's spirit and started the Protestant reformation. Thank God for the freedom that comes when we realize that we can be justified by faith, not by our works.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Centered on Jesus - Christian Poem

With Jesus at the center,
    life is in focus and balanced.
With anything else at the center,
    vision is skewed and life's unbalanced,
    ending up in idolatry.

We may center on education,
    but pride corrupts,
    theories change,
    and minds forget.

We may center on family,
    but spouse and children may die
    or hate us
    or forsake us.

We may center on wealth,
    but investments fail
    and nobody can use wealth in the grave.

We may center on success and fame,
    but fame is fleeting
    and success doesn't satisfy.

We may center on the church,
    but the church is composed of imperfect people
    who may use us or abuse us
    or merely distract us from the Lord Jesus.

Whatever is at our center defines us
    and refines us into its own image
    --and all are broken images, except for the Lord Jesus.

With Jesus at the center,
    life is in focus and balanced.

Jesus, may we center on you,
    only you,
    still you,
    always you.

For me, living is Christ and dying is gain.
--Philippians 1:21, HCSB

---because no one can lay any other foundation than what has been laid--that is, Jesus Christ.
--1 Corinthians 3:11, HCSB

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Hurricane Dolly's Beauty

Living in Houston, I've learned that some of our most beautiful weather occurs as a hurricane is nearing. I don't wish the brunt of a major storm onto anyone, but at the same time, it's good to enjoy the beauty the Lord's created. This evening, Hurricane Dolly is approaching, though it's likely to be centered far down the coast when it hits land. Here are two un-retouched photos from today (July 22, 2008) showing the beautiful sky.

Thank you, Lord, for times of beauty in our lives
and for times of trouble in our lives that bring beauty to the lives of others.
Thank you that Jesus endured the ultimate trouble,
so that we might share in the ultimate joy.


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

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Your Kingdom Grows - Christian Poem

Lord, I know your kingdom grows
Whenever we obey.
You have given words to show
Your chosen flock the way,
And your word is not alone
In being our true guide.
Thank you for your Spirit's flow
To guide us from inside.
May we hear your word today
With open, eager ears.
May we simply then obey
With joy that drowns our fears.

But speaking the truth in love, let us grow in every way into Him who is the head--Christ.
--Ephesians 4:15

Reshape My Desire - Christian Poem

Reshape my desire.
O Lord, I aspire
To serve with a heart
That's been set apart
For you, Lord, to fill
'Til glory will spill
On those who come near.
May they see you here,
Not thinking of me.
Shine forth, Lord, through me.

"As all of us reflect the glory of the Lord with unveiled faces, we are being transformed into the same image with ever-increasing glory by the Lord's Spirit."
--2 Corinthians 3:18, ISV

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Don't Let Sin Dominate Me

Make my steps steady through Your promise;
don't let sin dominate me.

--Psalm 119:133 HCSB

Sin is a beautiful plant
    with noxious leaves and poisonous fruit.
It grows through a man's soul,
    taking root, daily growing deeper.
Its tendrils twine through the mind.
    They choke the heart and twist the muscles.

It deceives and dominates and damns.

Only the Lord can kill its root
    and rot its limbs through his promises.
Only his word can steady one's steps
    and set them straight on the path to glory.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Shepherd Travels - Christian Poem

As the shepherd travels,
    The flock is on his heart.
Yes, he needs the rest;
    He needs time set apart
Free from daily worries;
    To study and to roam
With his bride and joy,
    But still he thinks of home.
This is as it should be.
    He's been set apart
For their daily keeping.
    The flock is on his heart.

Not to mention other things, there is the daily pressure on me: my care for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to stumble, and I do not burn with indignation?
--2 Corinthians 11:28-29, HCSB

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Recent Photos

No deep lessons today; just some of my photos from this month.

A rose bud. I found it at a public place. It had dried in the sun after someone plucked it from a bush. It makes me think of hopes that never were fulfilled, but that are somehow still beautiful.

Gift bags for sale at Wal-Mart. There's often beauty all around us, if only we can see it.

Our neighborhood swimming pool at dawn. Early morning is my favorite time of day.

I don't know what this device is, but it has its own dignity.

All beauty is ultimately from the Lord.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Bridge - Christian Poem

Graceful concrete,
Sturdy cables,
Massive beams
And lots of bars
Support a useful bridge

The traffic rolls above the boats,
And all is just as planned.

A better and a holy bridge
Connects our souls to God.

Graceful words,
Sturdy works,
Two stout beams
And lots of blood
Became to us a bridge.

Our spirits soar to heaven itself
And all is just as planned.

For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. But how can they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe without hearing about Him? And how can they hear without a preacher? And how can they preach unless they are sent?
--Romans 10:13-15a, HCSB

Sunday, July 06, 2008

The Price of a Soul

Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?
--Mark 8:37, KJV

Men sell themselves cheaply,
Then can't buy themselves back.
They sell for a pleasure that dies in a day
    Or a week or a decade or three,
Then find pleasure's gone,
    Hope's dead,
    They are dead while they live,
And nothing they give can buy their souls back.

Yet Jesus is offering life for the dead.
He calls men to die yet again--
    This time, to themselves--
    As he gives them life,
    Spirit and soul as fresh as the dawn.
He calls, saying, "Take up your cross."
Few dare to do so, but those few who do,
Find Jesus has died in their place;
Has given his soul on the cross,
Redeeming their cheaply-sold souls
At the highest, the uttermost price.
All praise to his most-holy Name!

Friday, July 04, 2008

Advice to a Poet

1. If poetry's just a pleasant hobby, write as often or as seldom as you wish. If it's a passion, or if you find it's your special gift, write often.
2. Read poems. Read good poems or great ones. Ask yourself what makes them good or great.
3. Edit poems. Re-read poems you wrote days or months ago. Sometimes you'll see weak spots that can be improved. Try updating the words of a hymn. Try repairing amateur poems from the internet. You'll quickly find some that start well but go bad fast. Fix a stanza or two.
4. Don't plan to make a profit at poetry. If you want to try, aim at an existing market, such as individual poems that are framed or ready-to-frame, children's books, or greeting cards. However, to actually make even a small profit in any of these markets, your poetry must be very, very good, or else you must have more business sense and determination than I do.
5. If you dare, ask friends or family to read one of your poems and then tell you what they really think.
6. Make your own greeting cards.
7. Write down poem fragments that come to mind.
8. Don't make the common mistake of thinking that the only good poems you can write are depressing ones. A poem you write when you're depressed may or may not be good; don't believe it's good until you read it carefully when you're NOT depressed.
9. Try writing a poem about things that strike your emotions. Write about a Bible verse or a photo or a scene or a mood.
10. Learn your craft. You should be aware of such things as rhythm of sounds, rhythm of ideas, alliteration, rhyme, imagery.
11. Don't write heresy. Glorify God through your poetry. That doesn't mean every poem must be religious, but none should be false. Don't write about dead babies becoming angels, nor about patriotism bringing eternal salvation, nor about God healing everyone immediately in this life.
12. Depend on the Lord to guide you. If your poems aren't written through his power, they are of no eternal value.
13. Share your poems with others, but realize that most of your family and friends aren't interested.
14. If you want your poems to be of value to more than a very few people, make them clear enough. That doesn't mean you can't write poems that require some thinking, but if you write poems that only a few scholars can understand, realize that you're severely limiting your potential audience.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

My Native Land - A Poem

Note to my readers from outside the USA: Please don't skip this one. Imagine that the photo has your own flag on it.

I love my native land--
Its beauty and its health,
Its freshness and its wealth
All given by God's hand.

And yet my heart will long
For something yet ahead:
For rising from the dead
Where God is all the song.

My land's been good to me.
We've prospered and we've grown
Past all we'd hoped or known,
But yet...Eternity!

To be forever free--
All clean without, within,
Near God, with no more sin,
That's where I long to be.

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
--Philippians 1:21, ESV

We, however, are citizens of heaven. We look forward to the Lord Jesus Christ coming from heaven as our Savior.
Through his power to bring everything under his authority, he will change our humble bodies and make them like his glorified body.

--Philippians 3:20-21, God's Word