Tag Archives: John

Why He Came – A Poem

He healed the sick,
the lame, the leper
But that’s not
why He came

He gave the blind sight
and drove out demons
But that’s not
why He came

He fed the 5,000
plus women and children
But that’s not
why He came

He taught the masses,
and His twelve disciples
But that’s not
why He came

He raised the dead,
one four days in the grave
But that’s not
why He came

He turned water to wine
He calmed a storm and walked on water
He drove out the money changers
He was baptized by His cousin
He performed many miracles
which John says weren’t recorded

But none of these things
are why He came

He was born
for one sole purpose
To die the death I deserve
To die for my sins and yours
To die so we could be forgiven
To die so every lost straying lamb
could be brought back into the fold

He came to die

 

I’ll be sharing this one over at dVerse Poets Pub Open Link Night today.

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Choosing to Trust

I’ve been thinking about trust lately. It has been said that trust must be earned, and that once lost it is hard to regain. But it occurs to me that trust is a choice, and that sometimes we must choose to trust even when it isn’t earned.

I decided to check The Quotable Lewis to see what C.S. Lewis had to say on the subject of trust and I found this little gem:

To love involves trusting the beloved beyond the evidence, even against much evidence. No man is our friend who believes in our good intentions only when they are proved. No man is our friend who will not be very slow to accept evidence against them. Such confidence, between one man and another, is in fact almost universally praised as a moral beauty, nor blamed as a logical error. And the suspicious man is blamed for a meanness of character, not admired for the excellence of his logic.
C.S. Lewis, The World’s Last Night, “On Obstinacy in Belief” (1955), p. 26.

It seems that Lewis agrees with my thought that trust is a choice. (I always love it when I discover that Lewis and I agree on something.)

We choose to trust God in spite of the lack of absolute proof that He exists and is on our side. In the face of tragedy and the existence of evil in this world, we choose to trust God to have our greater good as His chief aim. We choose to trust “that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28 (NIV). We trust God because we believe that He is inherently trustworthy.

But to live we must trust others as well. There would be no basis for a civilized society without some degree of trust. Such trust can be difficult because experience and scripture often tell us that humans are inherently untrustworthy. The prophet Jeremiah observed that, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” Jeremiah 17:9 (NIV).

In spite of evidence of untrustworthiness all around us, we must trust someone. So we also choose to trust our spouse, our family, and our close friends; we choose to trust those we love, because as Lewis says, “love involves trusting.” Sometimes we encounter evidence that suggests even our closest beloved family and friends are untrustworthy—not surprising, since they are human. It is then that we face the real choice: to continue to trust or to give up on love.

It occurs to me that this is the point at which we must really examine the situation with a critical eye—not critical of others, but critical of our own hearts. If we can honestly say that we have always been trustworthy ourselves, perhaps we can justifiably decide to give up on love and choose to no longer trust. But I suspect that none of us can honestly reach that conclusion. To do so in and of itself is evidence of our own untrustworthiness. As the apostle John wrote, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” 1 John 1:8 (NIV). If we think we are inherently more trustworthy than our loved ones, we deceive ourselves.

One thing we can be sure of, though, is that we do not deceive God for He alone fully knows our untrustworthiness. “People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7b (NIV).

This day you and I must choose. Will we trust God, who is unequaled in His trustworthiness? If we do, then we are free to choose to also trust our loved ones because we know that God is in control and will bless our choice with His grace and love.

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Let Us Love – A Poem

Dear children, let us not love
with words or tongue
but with actions and in truth
¹

Let us love with hands that heal
and feet that go
where we are needed most

Let us love with our gifts
of food and clothing
for those in poverty

Let us love with kind words
that offer compassion
and restore relationships

Let us love as Jesus loved
willing to give all
that others might know His love

 

¹1 John 3:18 (NIV)

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The Heart of Mankind

I read this quote by Nelson Mandela posted on Facebook the other day:

“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”

At first glance this quote seems right and a wonderful sentiment. And it is partly true — people can be taught to love and the objects of hatred are often taught. But I’m not sure I agree with the idea that no one is born hating. If no human being was ever born hating then who taught mankind to hate? It had to start somewhere.

In Genesis we see Cain expressing hatred for his brother Abel — hatred so strong it led him to commit the first murder. If Cain was not born with that propensity to hate, then who taught him to hate his brother? Surely it wasn’t his parents, Adam and Eve. What did they know of hatred? Only what they had learned from eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, but I doubt they would have taught that knowledge to Cain and suggest that it was the better course.

After several generations had passed after that first act of hatred by Cain, the Bible tells us, “The LORD saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.” Genesis 6:5 (NIV). Nothing has changed since that time.

I believe that envy, jealousy, selfishness, and pride, which lead to hatred, are all more natural to the human heart than love. I know that when I once looked into my own heart, this is what I saw. Even now there are times when those feelings can so easily rear their ugly head. I doubt that I am so different from other people in this regard, and yet so many fail to see the defects in their own hearts but want to believe that love comes more naturally to them.

Not only can we be taught to love, we must be taught to love. “We love because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:19 (NIV). Apart from God, and the knowledge of His great love and mercy, the inclinations of the human heart continue to be towards evil. Love flourishes in the human heart and overcomes hatred and selfishness only where love is taught.

Thankfully, “God is love,” 1 John 4:8 (NIV), and He is willing to change the human heart that trusts in Him.

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It Is Finished Even as It Begins

A new year begins today. It’s another year to live and work and play, and to make resolutions to be better than last year. It’s another year in which many will again strive to earn God’s grace and their own salvation by singing in the choir, volunteering for the altar guild, giving to the poor, attending church or mass each week, or any number of other good deeds.

But why do we work so hard to add to what Jesus has already done? Why do we try to earn what has been given as a gift from God? On Calvary Hill Jesus said, “It is finished.” John 19:30. Paul wrote that Jesus said to him, “My grace is sufficient for you.” 2 Corinthians 12:9. There is nothing more that we can or need to do for our salvation.

Even the act of believing in Jesus, the ability to have faith in His saving grace, is a gift from God: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9 (NIV).

So as you begin 2013, rest in the grace of Jesus assured of His mercy and your salvation.

Go forth and sing in the choir out of gratitude for what He has done, but do not fret if you miss a practice or are unable to sing for a Sunday service.

Help out with the altar guild to share the blessing of God’s grace with others, but do not allow yourself to grow weary with the work.

Give to the poor out of thankfulness for the bounty God has bestowed on you, but do not give out of mere obligation and with resentment.

Attend church or mass because you desire to fellowship with God and other believers, and to worship the Lord in community, but not because you think you will lose points with God if you do not.

Perform good deeds as the Spirit leads, in the power of Jesus, so that God might be glorified, but don’t be deceived into thinking such deeds are necessary for your salvation.

For centuries Satan has tried to strip the children of God of the peace of knowing His love and grace. The Accuser engenders fear and doubt in the minds of believers, trying to deceive us into believing that God hates us and requires us to pay for our own sins and earn our own salvation.

But God’s Word is clear on this point: It is finished. The atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ is the embodiment of God’s love and mercy; His grace is sufficient to cover every sin and grant us eternal life with Him. Nothing Satan says or does can change this truth.

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Hebrews 13:8.

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I’d Rather Be the Moon

Many people desire fame. They want to shine brightly like a star and they will do almost anything to chase the lure of fame. Just look at “reality TV” and you will see the ridiculous things some people will do for fame. Movie stars, sports figures, politicians, scientists, and novelists all seek fame and the fortune that sometimes accompanies it.

But it takes a lot of energy for a star to shine brightly and eventually every star will use up its available fuel and die out. For human “stars” the length they will shine varies. For some fame lasts a lifetime, but it is a lifetime of stress and misery being hounded by paparazzi and fans. For others it amounts to only the proverbial “15 minutes of fame” before they fade into oblivion.

Last weekend on our drive down the Columbia River Gorge to visit family for a belated Christmas celebration, the full moon shone brightly in front of us in the night sky. Occasionally it would go behind a dark cloud but would always emerge on the other side still shining brightly and beautifully. I realized as I gazed up at it that I’d rather be the moon than a star, even a star as bright as our sun. The moon doesn’t use energy to generate light, but rather reflects the light generated by the sun. This is most evident during a full moon, but even during a new moon when we cannot see it, the moon is reflecting the light of the sun on the opposite side.

Rather than have fame of my own, I’d rather reflect the glory and light of the Son of God. If my name be known, I want it to be known as one devoted to Christ, one who reflects His love and mercy into this dark world. His is a light source that will never die and I will be able to reflect that light for much longer than 15 minutes—I can reflect His light for an eternity.

The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.

God sent a man, John the Baptist,to tell about the light so that everyone might believe because of his testimony. John himself was not the light; he was simply a witness to tell about the light. The one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. John 1:4-9 (NLT).

This is my goal for 2013—to reflect the Light of the Son of God into the world, believing that the darkness can never extinguish it.

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Advent and the Second Coming

The season of Advent is about anticipating our celebration of the coming of Christ into the world. But it is also about anticipating His second coming into the world at the end of time. For that reason, our pastor gave a sermon yesterday titled “End Times – A Lutheran Perspective.”

It was a very interesting and informative sermon. He talked about the many attempts of mankind and the church to predict the exact time when the end will come, even though Jesus clearly said, “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” Matthew 24:36, Mark 13:32.

He also talked about the various perspectives on the end times and the thousand-year reign of Jesus written about in Revelation. There is the pre-millennial view that the thousand-year reign hasn’t yet started. There is the post-millennial view that the thousand-year reign has already passed. And there is the amillennial view that the thousand years is a figurative timeframe instead of a literal one.

But the most important thing our pastor said during the whole sermon took up only six little words: “This is not a salvation issue.

Whether you believe the rapture and tribulation are still to come, that the church is experiencing the tribulation now, or something else does not affect whether you have salvation in Christ. What matters is if you believe God came to this earth as Emmanuel and then died on a cross to pay for your sins.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16 (NIV)

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The Things People Will Believe

I am always amazed at the things people will believe and repost on Facebook. Here are just a few examples:

  • Once again the “fact” that the coming month has 5 Fridays, 5 Saturdays, and 5 Sundays, and that this won’t happen again for 823 years, has been going around. The shared post usually says that if you pass it on you will have good luck or come into some money. It’s fairly easy to debunk this claim by looking an online perpetual calendar, which will reveal that any 31 day month that starts on a Friday will have this 5 Friday, 5 Saturday, and 5 Sunday pattern. And yet people keep falling for this.
  • A well-meaning warning has been circulating again of a new “trick” of car-jackers. The story is that the car-jackers put a piece of paper on the back window of a car in a mall parking lot and then lay in wait for the owner. When the owner gets in and starts the car, they notice the piece of paper in their back window, and jump out with the car running to see what it is. The would-be car-jacker then jumps in the car and drives off. There are apparently no reported cases of this actually happening in all the years it has been circulating via email and now on Facebook.
  • During the recent election season a post about how members of Congress do not pay into Social Security and all draw salaries equal to their salaries in office for the rest of their lives regardless of how long they were in Congress. A simple search on www.snopes.com will reveal the truth about the retirement options of members of Congress. And yet people continue to repost this, calling for change.
  • Since it is the Christmas season, the post attributing a long monologue to Ben Stein has been going around. The first few paragraphs are part of a commentary Stein gave on TV several years ago. But then tacked on the end are some blurbs about Madeleine O’Hare, prayer in schools, and several other topics about how our government is anti-Christian, all of which have been circulating in some form or another for years, and are not in any way attributable to Stein. The mere fact that these things have circulated forever should be enough to make anyone be skeptical. And yet people keep reposting it.

It seems that just because something is posted in a nicely formatted box or comes with a picture of a celebrity people are willing to believe and repost without checking the source of the information. People can be so gullible about the stupidest things.

And yet these same people will often refuse to believe the miracles of God. Even though we have eye-witness accounts of many of these miracles—from the shepherds telling of the angels announcing the birth of Jesus to the post-crucifixion appearance of the resurrected Christ to over 500—people refuse to believe. It is unfathomable that the One who created the world and all that is in it would come to us as the child of a virgin, would live His relatively short life mostly in obscurity, then would die a horrible and brutal death, and be raised from the dead to walk again among the living. It is unfathomable—unless one is willing to believe in the miracle of love and grace.

The apostle John summed up the eye-witness accounts of the authors of the New Testament when he wrote: “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.”

Some argue that the eye-witness testimony of the New Testament is not reliable because we can’t really know if the Bible as we currently know it is an accurate representation of what was originally written. However, both the quantity and quality of available early manuscripts of the New Testament books, as well as the short time span between the available manuscripts and the events they cover, all point to the reliability of the New Testament. As compared to other accepted writings of ancient philosophers, the New Testament is unparalleled in its reliability. Here is part of a chart from I’m Glad You Asked by Ken Boa and Larry Moody, pg. 93, comparing the New Testament to other writings:

Author Date Written Earliest Copy Time Span Number of Copies Accuracy
Homer ca. 850 B.C. —— —— 643 95%
Plato ca. 380 B.C. ca. A.D. 900 1,300 years 7 Not enough copies to reconstruct original
Aristotle ca. 350 B.C. ca. A.D. 1100 1,400 years 5
Caesar ca. 60 B.C. ca. A.D. 900 950 years 10
Tacitus ca. A.D. 100 ca. A.D. 1100 1,000 years 20
New Testament ca. A.D. 60 ca. A.D. 130 100 years 14,000 99.5%

The Bible makes some incredible claims about Jesus and the means of salvation. But when you check the source of this information, the reliability of its eye-witness accounts, and the internal consistency of the promises of God contained in this wonderful book, it doesn’t require gullibility to believe. It only requires an open mind to believe in miracles.

If you are interested in exploring the reliability of this Good News further, I highly recommend Boa and Moody’s book.

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Can I Get a Witness?

My favorite of all the apostles is John. I love his enthusiasm and his love for Jesus and the fellow believers he encountered. Of the four Gospels, John is my favorite, but I also love his epistles.

Most of all, I love his witness. He begins his first epistle like this:

We proclaim to you the one who existed from the beginning, whom we have heard and seen. We saw him with our own eyes and touched him with our own hands. He is the Word of life. This one who is life itself was revealed to us, and we have seen him. And now we testify and proclaim to you that he is the one who is eternal life. He was with the Father, and then he was revealed to us. We proclaim to you what we ourselves have actually seen and heard so that you may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. 1 John 1:1-3 (NLT).

When I read this passage I can hear the excitement in his voice and the truth of what he shares is reinforced over and over by his reminder that he was an actual witness to the life and glory of Jesus Christ. He walked with Jesus, saw Him perform miracles and healings, stood nearby as He died on the cross, and then experienced firsthand the joy of the resurrected Christ. John isn’t retelling some story he has heard; he is telling us what he knows to be true.

John is a great example of what we are also called to do. It is true that I did not walk the earth with Jesus, I did not personally witness Him crucified, and I did not share grilled fish with Him after His resurrection. But I can still be a witness of my experience with Him.

Jesus is my Savior. He has given me His Holy Spirit to comfort me when I am hurting; to give me understanding of His Word; to help me be kind, gentle, loving, forgiving, and self-controlled; and to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am loved by God.

My relationship with Jesus is different than John’s was in many ways, but it is very real and I am just as excited about what I have heard and seen. I am a witness to His wonderful saving grace.

How about you? Have you experienced the blessing of Jesus in your life? Then share your joy and excitement as a witness of God’s love revealed in Christ.

But you are not like that, for the Holy One has given you his Spirit, and all of you know the truth. 1 John 2:20 (NLT).

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My Dear Friend – A Villanelle

I was pondering writing a poem about Jesus being my friend, and I decided that this subject might best be revealed using the villanelle form. Even though I know Jesus calls me His friend (John 15:15), sometimes I need reminding, and the repetitive nature of the villanelle form seems the perfect way to accomplish that.

My Dear Friend

Of grace from my Savior I’ve penned
His death on the cross He has shown
I know Jesus is my dear friend

His love and mercy have no end
His shed blood for my sin atoned
Of grace from my Savior I’ve penned

My broken heart His love did mend
Grace saved what I’d lost on my own
I know Jesus is my dear friend

He will be with me ’til the end
No greater friendship have I known
Of grace from my Savior I’ve penned

He promised the Spirit to send
By His wisdom my faith has grown
I know Jesus is my dear friend

Into Heaven He did ascend
By His Spirit I’m not alone
Of grace from my Savior I’ve penned
I know Jesus is my dear friend

I wrote this as my offering for Open Link Night at dVerse Poets Pub. You can find other poetry there starting at 12:00 PST. Actually, if you head over earlier than that you will find poetry, it just won’t be Open Link Night yet.

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