Friday, October 30, 2009

Saved

From Blog09


Fresh mesh
Of God and flesh--
Ancient plan
To save a man
From force
Of sin's foul course.
New you
(The old won't do).


So then, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; what is old has passed away – look, what is new has come!
--2 Corinthians 5:17 NET

Poem and photo ©2009 James L. Swindle.
You may print up to 100 copies so long as you
--Don't change the text
--Include the copyright notice
--Don't sell them

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Lord of the Flies

From Blog09

The Lord of the flies
      And of all man's lies
Despises the truth
      And the fresh of youth.
He comes just to kill,
      So to eat his fill
'Til Christ in a flash
      Will throw him in trash
Where flames will burn on
      'Til forever's gone.

But when the Pharisees heard {this,} they said, "This man casts out demons only by Beelzebul the ruler of the demons."
--Matthew 12:24

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have {it} abundantly.
--Jesus, in John 10:10

And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.
--Revelation 20:10

Poem and photo ©2009 James L. Swindle; may be used on my usual generous terms (see earlier posts).

Thursday, October 22, 2009

A Prayer of Repentance

From Blog09


Father,

Do I love my sin more than I hate it?  
Do I love my sin more than I love you?  
Have mercy!  
Grant me deeper, truer repentance.  
Grant me higher, more faithful love for you.  
I confess that my willpower is not enough.  
Change my heart.  
Enable me to fix my eyes and my whole heart  
      On heavenly things.  
May I obey you in the very small things,  
So that I'll obey you in the big things.  
By your grace and your promises and your Spirit,  
      I know it's possible.  
Don't let me settle for less,  
Because that would dishonor you.  
Glorify yourself by transforming me  
More completely,  
Whatever the cost to me--  
For you've already paid the ultimate price  
In Jesus.  
                              Amen.

He [Jesus] is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.
--Acts 5:31 NASB

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Searching for a Pastor

From Blog09


I'm blessed to be in a church which has had the same godly pastor for over a decade, but know of another church where the people suddenly find themselves without a pastor. What should they do? I've spent over fifty years in churches where the congregation or some sub-part of it chooses the pastor. Here's a distillation of what I've learned from seeing that process succeed and from seeing it fail. If you find it helpful, feel free to link to it or to reprint it.
_____________________________________________________________
Searching for a Pastor

For a church, having the right pastor is one of the Lord's most precious blessings. Having the wrong pastor can almost be worse than closing up. In a congregational form of church government, how should a church find a pastor?

By Depending on the Lord.

All of the best methods and search tools and consultants won't do as much good as simply trusting the Lord to send the right man. He's able to make the church willing to have the man and the man willing to have the church. He's able to bring them together. Depend on him. See Proverbs 16:3

By Repentance.

When we turn from our own sins and from our own stubbornness and our own selfness and pride and immorality, we become people whom the Lord can guide more easily. We also become the kind of people whom a faithful pastor would love to shepherd. See Hebrews 13:17

By Prayer.

The Lord is pleased to answer his people's prayers that he send workers into the harvest fields. He can move hearts. Prayer is more urgent than starting the search process. See Luke 10:2

By Knowing What a Real Pastor Looks Like.

A real pastor may or may not be young and handsome and charming with excellent manners and a compelling way of speaking. He may or may not have completed seminary training. He may or may not have a "successful" track record at other churches. Jonathan Edwards lived in the 1700's in Massachusetts. He is remembered as one of the most outstanding and faithful pastors that America ever produced, but the church where he was pastor the longest voted overwhelmingly to fire him. He continued faithful work at another church. To find out what a real pastor is like, read Paul's letters in the New Testament, especially those to Timothy and to Titus. See also Acts 6:2

By Welcoming the Man the Lord Sends.

He may not look very pastoral at all, and he may or may not arrive by expected means. He may just show up as a visitor at church some Sunday. Don't accept just anyone who arrives by such unexpected means, but don't reject God's man just because he arrived in an odd way. I was in a church one Sunday when the interim pastor asked a visiting Bible college student to give a testimony. That visitor spoke. He ended up being the pastor there for several years. In another church there was an urgent need for a music pastor. One of the members took on the task temporarily in addition to his regular full-time job. The church then hired a very polished fellow for the job. That man lasted about 6 weeks and left under a moral cloud. A few weeks later, the pastor announced that the man who'd done the job on a temporary basis was resigning his other job so he could be the full-time pastor of music and worship. The grateful congregation stood and applauded. The new music pastor is now in a different church but is still a faithful music pastor, nearly two decades later. See Hebrews 13:17; 1 Corinthians 16:10

By Seeking Godly, Wise Counsel.

Notice that the counsel should be both wise and godly. Some people (even some denominational leaders) have practical wisdom but lack godliness. Others are godly, but may not yet be very wise. That wise, godly counsel may come from inside or outside your own church; it may come from inside or outside your own denomination. See Proverbs 15:22; Psalm 1:1-3

By Listening to the Spirit.

If you're not at peace with the possibility of a certain person becoming the pastor, say so plainly before the decision is made. I once voted for a pastoral candidate even though I had mixed feelings and my wife thought he was the wrong man. He came. Eventually that pastor said, "If I'd known how much pain my coming here would cause, I never would have come." He was, indeed, the wrong man for that particular church. Once the decision is made, however, be careful not to cause divisions. See Jeremiah 7:23; Ephesians 4:15; Colossians 3:15

By Being Patient.

It's far better to wait for a year or two than to rush into accepting just anyone who comes along. See 1 Samuel 13:8-14

By Wanting the Lord's Glory, Not Yours.

The church will never again be "like it used to be" when pastor so-and-so was here. Each pastor's gifts are unique. A new man's style will sometimes grate on you. Still, you want a man whose passion is for the Lord's glory, not to build a huge congregation by being trendy. See Psalm 115:1

By Being Confident.

You can have full confidence that if you, as a church, sincerely seek God's man in God's way with faith, the Lord won't let you down. Decades from now, you or your children or people you don't yet know will be looking back, thankful for your faithfulness in seeking to find God's man for your church. See Isaiah 49:23

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Transcendence and Immanence

From Blog09


Fully holy, fully pure,
Greater far than we can see,
Owning all eternity,
He is Lord, forever Lord,
Matchless in his majesty.

Yet he deigns to come to us
Showing us our depth of sin
Matched by grace in human skin:
Jesus--Lord, our saving Lord,
Sacrificed--we're pure within!

From Isaiah 6--
In the year of King Uzziah's death I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple.

Isaiah saw his own uncleanness and was terrified. Then a seraph came with a coal from the altar.

He touched my mouth with it and said, "Behold, this has touched your lips; and your iniquity is taken away and your sin is forgiven."

Friday, October 09, 2009

In Fads We Trust?

I'm old enough to remember when people thought the most important thing about a Bible was reading God's word inside it. Today, the people who publish Bibles seem to have a different idea.

LifeWay advertises a Bible bound in brown and pink for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Zondervan puts out a Bible that's carbon-neutral. (Do we really think that we'll save the planet by buying greener Bibles?) Thomas Nelson has announced that it will no longer make Bibles with petroleum-based covers. Here are more Bible ideas that seem to say that the power is in the packaging and the marketing, not in the Lord:

The NIV True Images Bible for Teen Girls.
Publisher's Synopsis:
Page edges of Bibles: they can be plain, gilded, or stained. But printed? Yes, this edition of the bestselling True Images Bible has page edges that are actually printed with a youthful, contemporary paisley design in colors that coordinate with its trendy Italian Duo-Tone™ binding. It’s a look that’s sure to appeal to the young teen who wants a Bible that speaks to her in a unique design that fits her lifestyle.

The Bug Collection Bible - Dragonfly
Publisher's Synopsis:
Perfect for people on the go, these Bibles contain the full text of the bestselling New International Version in a compact size, complete with a cute bug design on the cover.

NIV Bible Across America
Publisher's Synopsis:
A one-of-a-kind handwritten NIV Bible displaying an enduring commitment to make God’s Word more accessible and more relevant to more people everywhere. The NIV Bible Across America is a complete Bible handwritten by over 31,000 people from all walks of life and from all over the USA.

Armor of God Bible
Publisher's Synopsis:
Based on the famous “Armor of God” passage from Ephesians 6:10-21, this NIV themed backpack Bible includes 12 full-color, illustrated tip-in pages that will help boys ages 6-9 understand what each piece of armor stands for when it comes to faith...

Wild About Horses Bible
Publisher's Synopsis:
What girl doesn’t love horses? Filled with beautiful features and photographs, horse lovers will be inspired by this NIV Bible.

Soul Surfer Bible
With Bethany Hamilton

Publisher's Synopsis:
Glitter Wave. Bethany Hamilton, a rising star in the surfing world, is an inspiring teenager with a heart for Jesus Christ. This Bible contains 12 full-color tip-ins that will help teens apply Bethany's mission to their own lives.

You can also get The Way for Cowboys or the
NIV Peacemakers New Testament (for law enforcement officers) or The American Patriot's Bible. You can get the Archeology Study Bible, a Devotional Bible for Couples. If none of those suit your fancy, try a Bible for fire-fighters, a New Testament for women with crisis pregnancies, a New Testament for baseball players....

You get the idea.

I'm wondering whether someone will put out a left-handed knitter's study Bible for my wife. (If so, she'd have the sense to be horrified.)

Where's the line between making a Bible that's appropriate for a culture, and trusting in the packaging instead of in the Lord and his word? I'm not sure, but I'm pretty sure that some of these publishers have crossed that line to the wrong side.

For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
--Hebrews 4:12 NASB

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Lies and Truth

From Blog09


Today, many people are making a god of ecology. They're more certain about global warming than about the Creator. They serve a god that demands the destruction of people in the name of nature. Their righteousness is the externals of what they wear instead of the internal matter of the heart.

Others make a god of right-wing values; of tight borders and low taxes and guns and militarism. They want to save the world by walling off anything that doesn't fit their breed of Americanism. Their righteousness is language and culture and money, not a heart devoted to the everlasting gospel of Jesus who saves people from every tribe and tongue and nation.

Do you serve your own god? Or do you serve Jesus who is the truth?

How sweet, how deadly are the lies
We fashion and believe.
We substitute them for the truth
We proudly won't receive.

And yet our lies will pass away
Like mist before the sun,
But God's great truth will yet stand firm
While endless ages run.

____________________________________

God’s anger is revealed from heaven against every ungodly and immoral thing people do as they try to suppress the truth by their immoral living. What can be known about God is clear to them because he has made it clear to them. From the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly observed in what he made. As a result, people have no excuse. They knew God but did not praise and thank him for being God. Instead, their thoughts were pointless, and their misguided minds were plunged into darkness. While claiming to be wise, they became fools. They exchanged the glory of the immortal God for statues that looked like mortal humans, birds, animals, and snakes.
--Romans 1:18-23, GOD'S WORD translation (emphasis added)

Friday, October 02, 2009

Why I Haven't Posted Much...

Our family's main computer will not boot into Windows. That's the computer where my photos are stored and where almost everything else is stored. I'm trying to back up files online and then will probably need to try to restore it to factory settings and re-load everything. All of that's a great pain, but...
I have food.
I have shelter.
I have clothing.
I have the Lord himself and his promises.
I have family and church family.

In short, I'm richly blessed.

--Jim

Sharp Truth

From Blog09


The truth is narrow, hard, sharp.
It slices through the nicest lies.
It hurts as it heals.
It flays as it frees.
The truth separates us
    From our sin,
    From our pride,
    From our friends and our families.

The truth's not comfortable.
It's a surgeon's scalpel.
It's sandpaper.
It's lye.
It calls us to change into
    Conformity with God's image.

If you want easy,
You don't want truth!
But truth--sharp truth--
    Frees
    And enlightens
    And leads to life forever in Jesus,
Who is the Truth.

So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, "If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."
--John 8:31-32

Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."
--John 14:6

..Truth is in Jesus.
--Ephesians 4:21
________________________________
Poem ©2009 James L. Swindle.
You may print up to 100 copies if you follow three rules:
*Include the copyright notice
*Don't sell them
*Don't alter the text