Friday, November 28, 2008

For Me

From Blog08


When you suffered on the tree,
Lord, you suffered there for me.
Holy flesh was pounded through
So that I could be made new.
Blood drops falling, one by one,
Paid for things that I have done.
All your bones were out of joint;
My redemption was the point.
You hung there in agony
So that you could set me free.
Oh, my guilt was not alone;
All the world was in each moan.
Still, in hanging on the tree,
Lord, you suffered there for me.

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.
--1 Peter 2:24, ESV

Poem and photo ©2008 James L. Swindle

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving Morning

From Blog08

Pumpkin pie baked to golden crust in well-used Pyrex
Turkey preparation
Autumn leaves of umber and gold and green and orange red
Prepare to slumber in the earth
Anticipation of family meal
A million things to thank God for...

And one hole in my heart
For the parting
  The slicing apart
  Of some of those whom I love.
Will we ever see them again?

And another hole in my heart
For the blindness
  The stubborn-mindedness
  Of others who have no use for my Lord.
Will they choose a hell instead of heaven?

Lord of all, have mercy.
I love your justice
And your provision
And I thank you for them,
But have mercy.


Poem ©2008 James L. Swindle

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Thanksgiving Day Prayer

From Blog08


Thank you, God, for food to eat,
For folks we love, for friends we meet.
Thank you for the autumn trees,
Chrysanthemums and goose-drawn vees.
Thank you for this happy place,
And thank you most of all for grace
Through him who died and rose again
And now forever lives to save. Amen.

Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; His faithful love endures forever.
--1 Chronicles 16:34 HCSB

Poem and photo ©2008 James L. Swindle
http://vineandfig.blogspot.com

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Culture and Church Music

I often hear people express the idea that if you think you need a certain style of worship, you're being selfish. They say that if you choose a church based on the style of worship, you're sinning. They tell you that church isn't about you; it's about the Lord...and then they proceed to assume that their own church offers a kind of worship that you should support.

Imagine for a moment that a whole bunch of new people move into your area. They are all Japanese. Over the years, your church gains a significant minority of Japanese people. You thank God. The worship services start to include some phrases in Japanese. You don't mind; you slowly learn some Japanese. Then imagine that you get to church one week and the entire service is in Japanese. The sermon is preached haltingly. A couple of days later, you ask the pastor what's going on. He explains that we need to encourage our Japanese people, so everything is going to be in Japanese for now. He tells you that worship isn't about you; it's about the Lord. Over the next few weeks, some of the others whose first language is English complain or leave or ask about putting some English back into the worship. They are told that things are going to stay as they are; that the church doesn't have anyone who can speak good enough English to lead part of the worship in English. When someone volunteers to help start an alternative worship service in his native English, he's told that the church doesn't have enough people to have two worship services. Now, what do you do? You can speak just enough Japanese to get by. You love your Japanese brothers and sisters, but find that you cannot whole-heartedly worship the Lord in Japanese, no matter how hard you try. Is it OK for you to look for another church?

Music is a language of the heart, just as words are. Over the years, I've learned more different cultures in music. I can worship the Lord in several of them, but not in all of them. I'm glad that my church uses some styles of music that I merely tolerate, since those styles speak to others, but I'd find it very difficult if we never used a style that hit my heart.

The Bible tells us to love our neighbors as ourselves. It tells us to make disciples of all nations. Paul said, "I have become all things to all men, that by all means I might save some." If we really love others as ourselves, in planning church music let's try to include styles that speak to those whom the Lord is sending our way. Let's also humbly admit that the styles we most love don't speak deeply to everyone, and that the styles we most dislike may be exactly what's needed to meet the heart-needs of others.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Fearless



Lord, God, if I walk in fear,
I'm not walking in your love.
Perfect love casts out all fear;
Readies me for life above.

If your Spirit's changing me,
Making me all clean and pure,
In the judgment I'll go free.
Of this I can be quite sure.

Judgment day now holds no dread
Since I have been justified.
After I am lying dead,
With Christ I'll be glorified.

There is no fear in love; instead, perfect love drives out fear, because fear involves punishment. So the one who fears has not reached perfection in love.
--1 John 4:18 HCSB

Poem and photo ©2008 James L. Swindle

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Clean On the Outside

From Blog08


Deliver me from the evil
Of religion for show;
Of pesky piety
And veneer of holiness.
Fire me through with living truth
That will burn up my own reputation
So your image will shine through.

You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people's bones and all uncleanness.

--Matthew 23:26-27


NOTE: I realized lately that one form of legalism is judging people's Christianity by what kind of good works they do, instead of by whether and why they do good works. For example, some Christians are strong on helping those who come across their path, but never help those who are far away. Some Christians are the opposite. Some Christians campaign against abortion, but are have no concern about the environment. Others are the reverse. Some Christians are zealous for world missions but not compassionate to a fellow-believer who's in emotional pain. Some are the opposite. May we each follow the Lord so thoroughly that by his grace we'll do good, and do more good, and not condemn one another for doing good in different ways.


Poem and photo ©2008 James L. Swindle

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Cat

From Blog08


Softest fur,
Deep-down purr,
Sense of connection,
Warmest affection,
Yet--sometimes seen--
Killing machine.

The wolf and the lamb shall graze together; the lion shall eat straw like the ox, and dust shall be the serpent's food. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain," says the LORD.
--Isaiah 65:25 ESV

We can easily forget how broken this world is and how great will be the final transformation.

Poem and photo ©2008 James L. Swindle

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Feet and Prayer

From Blog08


I've heard that we should
Put feet to our prayers.
That's good,
But I often find it easier
To work, to help, to speak,
Than to pray.

Lord, may I
Put prayers to my feet.

Pray constantly.
--1 Thessalonians 5:17

...be persistent in prayer.
--Romans 12:12

...pray at all times in the Spirit...
--Ephesians 6:18

Devote yourselves to prayer; stay alert in it...
--Colossians 4:2

...be clear-headed and disciplined for prayer.
--1 Peter 4:7

Scriptures from HCSB. Photo and poem ©2008 James L. Swindle

Sunday, November 09, 2008

The Best News Ever

Yesterday my wife and I visited a large shopping area full of small vendor booths. There were thousands of people there. The vendors offered some useful things--socks and belts and caps and shirts and food--but far too much of the place was given over to what's degraded and degrading. As we left, my wife said, "Well, you know you don't ever want to come here again." I replied, "No, I wouldn't want to come again except maybe to share the gospel. It could be a wonderful place to share the gospel."

I'm not much of an evangelist. I'm better at urging people to grow in the faith than at bringing them to the faith. But the gospel is still "the power of God for salvation to every one who believes" (Romans 1:16).

Maybe you're new to this blog, or just stopped by for the first time. Maybe you've been reading these posts for a long time. Either way, I'd hate for you to miss the transforming power of the Lord. In a quick summary, here's the good news:

1. The Lord God sent his unique Son Jesus to earth to show people the way and to die in the place of sinners. After dying, he rose from the dead, appeared to hundreds of people, then went up into heaven. (See 1 Corinthians 15:3-8)
2. You and I need someone to rescue us from God's judgment, because we've done wrong.
3. Jesus promised that whoever believes in him won't perish (that is, won't face condemnation and hell), but will have life forever. (See John 3:16)
4. God invites you and commands you to turn from your sins and to believe this good news.
5. Jesus promised that some day he will return to set up his kingdom; to reward his own and to punish all who do wrong.

Have you turned from your sin to Jesus? Do you trust him now? If not, don't wait another day. "Look, now is the accepted time. Look, today is the day of salvation" (2 Corinthians 6:2).

Duckling



Like a duckling with its mother
May I always follow you.
You will keep me safe and growing
As I paddle close to you.

I don't concern myself with things too lofty or too marvelous for me.
Instead, I have stilled and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with his mother.
Like a weaned child is my soul within me.

--Psalm 131:1b-2


Photo and poem ©2008 James L. Swindle

Thursday, November 06, 2008

There's a Wisdom of the Ox

From Blog08


There's a wisdom of the ox,
A knowing in the donkey,
Even though he's called an ass.
The ox, the donkey: both will know
Who's their owner,
Who's the giver of their grass.

There's forgetting in the Christians,
Amnesia in the church,
Even though we're called the Lord's.
We forget our source of food,
Who's our owner,
Giver of both life and words.


Oxen know their owners,
and donkeys know where their masters feed them.
But Israel doesn't know its owner.
My people don't understand who feeds them.

--Isaiah 1:3, GOD'S WORD translation

Note: The photo is a bull, not an ox. I rarely see oxen or donkeys, but this fellow and his relatives live not far from me. For the difference between bulls and oxen, see this link.


Photo and poem ©2008 James L. Swindle

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

The Most Important Election

From Blog08


The most potent election,
The most vital selection.
Was not held this November.
No, before you remember
The Lord set apart
His own for his heart.
Now give ear to his voice
And confirm his own choice.
Turn now from all sin.
Trust Jesus. Begin
To serve him alone...
This King who's enthroned
And coming to reign.
All praise to His Name!


...he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will...
--Ephesians 1:4-5

Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure...
--2 Peter 1:10

Photo and poem ©2008 James L. Swindle

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Seeds

From Blog08


Night and day I plant some seeds.
Some are thoughts, and some are deeds.
Some are words you may have heard.
Each of them will reproduce
After its own type and use.
Jesus, Savior, intercede
That I may plant godly seed.

Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.
--Proverbs 4:23 ESV

A good man produces good things from his storeroom of good, and an evil man produces evil things from his storeroom of evil.
--Matthew 12:35 HCSB

Photo and poem ©2008 James L. Swindle