Saturday, July 31, 2010

Unlocked



Deeply locked away  
With no light of day  
Was a secret part  
Down inside my heart  

Years of rust and grime  
Spoke of secret tears  
Deeply tarnished time  
Hidden, wasted years  

Jesus, holy, came  
Washed me through and through  
Gave me his own name  
Promised all things new  

Still that same part's sore  
Scared to see his light  
But he's downed the door  
And he sets things right  

For nothing is hidden except to be made manifest;
nor is anything secret except to come to light.
--Mark 4:22 ESV

With thanks to Magpie Tales for the photo-prompt. For other takes on the same prompt, follow the link.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

God of Deepest Cloud

From Blog10

God of deepest cloud
of fiery pillar
of split sea
and of daily manna,
We don't demand a miracle.
You've already given us
The miracle of Jesus.

Yet we do ask for your presence--
The cloud of your awesome protection,
The light of your fiery guidance,
The split sea of salvation,
Our daily spiritual food.
Only thus can we survive
And enter the land of your promises.

Blow a trumpet in Zion;
      sound an alarm on my holy mountain!
Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble,
      for the day of the LORD is coming; it is near,
a day of darkness and gloom,
      a day of clouds and thick darkness!
Like blackness there is spread upon the mountains
      a great and powerful people;
their like has never been before,
      nor will be again after them
      through the years of all generations.

(Joel 2:1; Joel 2:2 ESV)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Apostasy



The word "apostasy" isn't used much any more. It's narrow-minded and divisive. It says that some people (the apostates) are standing away from the truth that they once seemed to know. It's a useful word. I don't know a better word to describe some modern American "Christianity." I realize that some people may have clicked away after that last sentence. Even so, I must state truth.

I came across a clear example of apostasy this morning. It's a condensation of a sermon delivered this past Sunday at a "church" in Texas. The author begins as follows:
Let’s approach the question “Why am I here?”...Why is any one of us here? Why are we humans here, with this vexing consciousness and frustrating capacity for self-reflection? Are we the product of some larger plan beyond our understanding? Do humans have a purpose? Are we special?

The answer to that is easy: No. We are not special. We are an organism like all others, the product of an evolutionary process in a very big universe in which we are, as individuals, insignificant. But don’t fret about that; we are also insignificant as a species, and the collection of entities on Earth that we call “life” is insignificant, as is the planetary ecosystem in which we live and our solar system and our galaxy. We are, in the big picture, insignificant beings floating in insignificance in a universe that is vast beyond human comprehension.

If anyone is still wrestling with that one, still searching for some essential meaning to our existence, I have some simple advice: Get over it, and start pulling your weight in the meaning-making enterprise. If there’s meaning in any of this, we create it ourselves, and we need all hands on deck for that one.

Later, he says,
Christianity typically is associated with supernatural claims (understanding “God” as an actual force, entity, or being that controls the world, and accepting the resurrection of Jesus as a historical event), why do those of us who reject those claims continue to identify as Christian?

If a church is made up of people who deny that God exists, deny that life has any meaning except what you create yourself (echoing the original lie of the devil), and deny that Jesus rose from the dead, then in what sense is it a church? It may call itself Christian, but it's no more Christian than your local TEA party is Communist.

Such a "church" is from the devil. It's the enemy of the real church. It's anti-Christ. It's the enemy of the truth. It's the enemy of God.

But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction.
--2 Peter 2:1 ESV

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Write Your Law

From Blog10

Write your law
      On our hearts
With your holy pen:
Words of life
      Deeply etched
Onto souls of men.

Take away
      Bent to sin,
Curse of Adam's race:
Make us fresh,
      New within,
By your costly grace.

And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.
(2 Corinthians 3:3 ESV)

Friday, July 23, 2010

Character

From Blog10

Dovely innocence
Simple, pure,
Modest reticence
Sweet and sure...

Manly vigilance
Firm and strong,
With a steely glance
Watching long...

This is character
Deep and true,
From the Lord conferred
Onto you.


Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves,
so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.

--Matthew 10:16

Are you aware that there are wolves nearby, ready to tear you apart? Are you as innocent as this dove? Are you as wise as a serpent?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Mystery Morning (fiction) and a Poem, Not Alone




Now, how did I wake up here, when I don't even know where here is?
It's a beautiful place with fine morning light and maybe beautiful views, but where am I? I must have slept well: the bed shows that...covers and pillow messed just enough. It's a bed for two, but I slept alone (I hope). Hmm...must try to remember, before anyone finds out that I'm awake. I have the strangest feeling that I've never been here before, but that I'm home.

Did I come here drunk? No, that's not possible, because I don't drink.

Was I sick? But I don't feel sick.

Do I have amnesia? Well, maybe. If so, I don't want to admit it. I'll just clean up and get dressed (I see some of my clothes in the closet) and then open that door and see where it leads.
_________________________________________

When I wake, I'm not alone.
God is here inside of me.
He has made my heart his home
And his Spirit lives in me.

Closer than a telephone
Or the people that I'll see,
He is here. He's made a home,
By his grace, inside of me.

There's no merit of my own
That can claim this mystery.
It's his choice, his choice alone
That has placed him now in me.

With thanks to Magpie Tales for the photo-prompt. For other takes on the same prompt, follow the link.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Pillar of Cloud

From Blog10

Pillar of cloud by day,
Of fire by night--
This was God's gift to his fleeing people.

They must have looked in wonder
That first night,
That first day,
    And the next...
        And the next...
What could be better?
Until it became commonplace.

What could be better?
The Holy Spirit of God
    Cloud of holiness,
    Supra-electric fire
Resting on each of us,
Living in each of us.

Spirit of Jesus,
    Envelop us.
    Flash through us
Today
So people can no longer find us,
But will see
    The cloud of your hidden holiness
    And the fire of your pure power.

And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night.

--Exodus 13:21

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Thunderstorm

From Blog10

A hint of chill...
The air grew still.
The storm approached
With a rumble and a grumble and a roar.

The sky grew dark,
The birds rushed home.
The storm approached
With a rumble and a grumble and a roar.

The bass drums played.
The lions came.
The storm approached
With a rumble and a grumble and a roar.

The lightening flashed
The cymbals crashed.
The storm came near
With a rumble and a grumble and a roar.

The chorus danced...
The rain-sheets pranced.
The storm was here
With a rumble and a grumble and a roar.

The curtain rose--
Rain more composed.
The storm was past
With a rumble and a grumble and a roar.

As I'm typing this, the last rumbles of thunder are fading away.

The Lord thundered from heaven,
and the Most High uttered his voice.

--2 Samuel 22:14

I Lived a Lie

From Blog10


I lived a lean and legal lie;
A practiced hypocrite was I.
But underneath, if truth be told,
My heart was stony, proud and cold.
I'd sing the great Redeemer's praise
And then deny him by my ways.
My reputation? Sleek and clean,
The slickest you have ever seen.
So very good at rules and law,
But through my soul a fatal flaw--
My sin, that dreadful, ugly thing!
I was myself my God, my king,
And didn't do it very well.
No, I deserved a burning hell.
But then the Savior by his grace
Broke through, sent life, and wiped my face
Until the tears were dry at last
And my dark days as God were past.

You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye,
and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye.

--Matthew 7:5

Even though these statues are girls, not boys, the illustration fits the poem, so I'm using it.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Sunflowers and Culture

From Blog10

For me, the sunflower is the happiest flower. That's probably because I spent most of my childhood in central Kansas. The sunflower is the state flower there. Not a lot of showy flowers grow wild there, but the sunflowers do. I have an emotional connection with sunflowers that I just don't have with most other flowers.

Now, does that make sunflowers better than the flowers that other people see as happiest? Of course not. If I'm going to really love other people, I must realize that in many ways their tastes are just as valid as mine, only different.

That's one of the challenges that every church constantly faces. Some people prefer one style of doing things. Other people prefer something different. I'm not talking about moral issues here nor matters of truth. I'm talking about style. How long should a sermon last? How fast should a piece of music be sung? Should a church dinner feature fried chicken or enchiladas or stir-fried vegetables with rice? Issues like these can be excuses for serious divisions within a church, or they can be sources of enjoyment of the Lord's creativity. Which way do you see such differences?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Feminism

From Blog10


Here's a quote on feminism, from RomanĂ³s (whose blog is worth reading).
Just ask yourself this simple question: "What would my views be if I hated men and if I wanted to stir up this hatred in others?" And your answer to this question will almost certainly be consistent with what most feminists are actually saying.

Now, I have no desire to oppress women. I've worked for more than one excellent female boss. Still, there's something bitter at the root of much modern feminism. If you don't believe me,
●Try counting the ratio of "a-woman-with-a-wonderful-man" movies to "a-woman-with-a-really-scary-man" movies on Lifetime TV.
●Try counting the ratio of TV commercials with stupid women, to those with stupid men.
●Explain why feminist church leaders want to de-sex God.

So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.

(Genesis 1:27 ESV)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Clay Pots

From Blog10

The Holy Spirit came to live
In ordinary pots of clay.
The Spirit was poured out to give
God's holiness to us today.

It's not the richest who display
His presence fully hour by hour.
It's ordinary pots, away
From earth's perfections and earth's power.

The pots he lives in chip and crack
And end up broken in the ground,
But in eternity they're back
Alive and fresh and new and round.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay,
to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.

--2 Corinthians 4:7

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Patience

From Blog10

He who spoke the worlds in place,
He who feeds each tiny bird,
Surely looks on me with grace:
All my deepest prayers are heard.

Thank God--I'm not left to fate;
Not the pawn of something blind.
I can trust in God and wait,
Knowing he is wise and kind.

The Lord is near to all who call on him,
to all who call on him in truth.

--Psalm 145:18

Friday, July 09, 2010

Marks of Legalism

From Blog10

Here are two different lists of marks of legalism.

Legalism can show any of the following signs:
1. Judgmentalism. We're to stand our ground against that judgment.
2. Works-based salvation.
3. Man-centered sanctification, instead of Christ-centered sanctification.
4. Religion that's rules-centered instead of relationship-centered.
5. Religion that's proud, self-congratulatory, feeling superior.
6. Religion that substitutes personal standards for divine truth, and then judges others by those standards.
7. A monastic approach to the world, thinking that we can become holy if only we can withdraw from the world.


Here's a list of marks of legalism from Pastor Richard Caldwell, Jr.

A person or a church or a movement may be legalistic if it's...
1. Centered on man, not on God.
2. Based on rules, not relationships.
3. Substituting personal standards for divine truth, and then judging others by those standards.
4. Desiring monasticism (wanting to withdraw from the world instead of being a light to the world).
5. Wanting men's praise instead of God's praise.
6. Showing false humility.
7. Rebellious toward truth.
8. Exercising authority without humility.
9. Unable to distinguish between dead orthodoxy and living orthodoxy.

Legalism teaches either works-based salvation or man-centered sanctification, instead of Christ-centered sanctification.

The sermon from which I drew the second list is available for free download from the media ministry of FoundersBaptist.org, via Sermon Audio.

Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath.
(Colossians 2:16 ESV)

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Prayer When Stressed

From Blog10


Lord, I'm feeling
    uneasy,
        worn out,
            far from you.
Yet, in a sense, that matters very little.
What matters? Your promises,
    your faithfulness,
        your gracious power
    and my trust,
        my obedience.
I can do nothing without you.
My plans can sound great,
    but result in nothing of value
        to you or your people.
Forgive me for trusting in my plans,
For believing in my own cleverness,
For thinking fruitfulness and fulfillment
    were in a method
        instead of in a person: You.
Open my ears to hear your ways for me.
Steel my will to obey you.
Purify and renew my mind to serve you.
Yours, yours are the kingdom,
    the power,
        and the glory forever.
Amen.

"Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!"

--Psalm 46:10, ESV

Monday, July 05, 2010

Personal Note to Ms. Mia

My wife and I were delighted to meet a lady named Mia Saturday. We have a phone number for her, but it's wrong. Mia, if you see this, feel free to contact us by phone. Our number is listed. Do a Google search on me (using James, not Jim) in the town of Spring, TX. Use the format
Firstname Lastname City St

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Freedom and Martyrs

From Blog10

The photo shows my mother and her sisters. It's probably from the later 1930's.

My great-grandmother, Maria Dorothea Gruenwald, was a German-speaking native of Russia. She came to the USA in about 1914, before Russia's Communist revolution of 1917, and she died in the later 1930's. She said to one of her granddaughters, "The day will come in this country when they will say to you, 'Deny Jesus, or I'll shoot you.' I hope that you'll say, 'Then shoot me.'"

I'm thankful that in this country we've not yet reached the depth of persecution that she envisioned, but it appears that we're headed in that direction. My nation seems to be headed rapidly toward the criminalization of godliness.

What's a believer in Jesus to do? There isn't a political answer. The courts have proved repeatedly that they no longer even think about the words in the Constitution when deciding whether a law is "constitutional." Once the courts decide that the Constitution's words don't matter, but their own words do, there are no words (such as amendments) to fix the situation.

The only solution is for us to try to live godly lives, to pray, to be the Lord's witnesses, and to prepare for persecution. Unless the Lord grants revival, the future of the United States of America is ugly.

I love my nation's heritage of freedom and godliness, while recognizing its many sins over the centuries. I pray for revival. I prepare for persecution. My friends, the day may come in this country when they will say to you, "Deny Jesus, or I'll shoot you." I hope that you'll say, "Then shoot me."


When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne.
(Revelation 6:9 ESV)

Friday, July 02, 2010

Killing Sin

Today, a poem that I'd posted years ago on a now-defunct site.
From Blog10

Cutting back your sin
      Just won't do.
Prune it back an inch,
      And it grows two.
Keep it within bounds?
      It breaks out.
      Try to hush it up,
      And sin soon shouts.

Kill! Yes, kill your sin
      Day by day.
The Spirit gives you strength.
      Live his way.

For if you live according to the flesh,
you must die;
but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body,
you will live.

--Romans 8:13

Poem ©2005 James L. Swindle
You can print up to 100 copies of this poem so long as you
--don't use it commercially
--don't alter the text
--include the copyright notice