Tag Archives: John

I Was a Seed

Brian Ens is running the show at dVerse Poets Pub today and is asking us to write a poem in any form. The catch? We have to explain why we chose the form that we did.

I decided to write a Rondeau. I selected this form because it is a bit irregular in that each stanza has a different number of lines, it includes an element of repetition (which I like to do anyway in my poetry), and the iambic tetrameter requirement fit the first line I wanted to write. This poem was inspired by a Facebook post of a Mexican proverb that says, “They tried to bury us. They didn’t know we were seeds.” This proverb reminded me of John 12:24.

I Was a Seed

You tried to bury me in shame
Obliterate my holy name
You didn’t know I was a seed
You buried me and I was freed
In my dark grave the Savior came

So now in Him new life I claim
Bold and strong I grow, not the same
You thought I was only a weed
You tried to bury me

As if emerging from the flame
Wholly knowing I’m not to blame
Glad because of your dirty deed
Content that I’m a sprouted seed
Thankful your actions did not maim
When you tried to bury me

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Jeremiah Preached the Gospel

I’ve been reading through Jeremiah, alternating with Hebrews, as part of my Bible-in-a-year reading schedule. I’m up to chapter 23 of Jeremiah, but I kept thinking about chapter 17. So I went back and re-read chapter 17 the other night. As I read through it, I realized that this passage encompasses the Gospel and that is why I was drawn back to it.

I love when I find the essence of the Gospel of Christ in the Old Testament (it’s all over the place, you know), but I didn’t really expect to find it in Jeremiah. This is a book by a prophet that the Israelites did not like. His gloom and doom predictions for Israel resulted in the priests and “prophets” plotting against him, and he was arrested, whipped, and put in stocks. He spoke on behalf of the Lord to warn the Israelites of God’s anger because they had turned away from Him, and he predicted that many of the Israelites would die at the hand of the Babylonians or from famine, and that others would be exiled to Babylon, if they did not change their ways.

But in the middle of all of the warnings and predictions is this passage that I believe encompasses the Gospel in a nutshell:

Wisdom from the Lord

 5 This is what the Lord says:
“Cursed are those who put their trust in mere humans,
who rely on human strength
and turn their hearts away from the Lord.
6 They are like stunted shrubs in the desert,
with no hope for the future.
They will live in the barren wilderness,
in an uninhabited salty land.

 7 “But blessed are those who trust in the Lord
and have made the Lord their hope and confidence.
8 They are like trees planted along a riverbank,
with roots that reach deep into the water.
Such trees are not bothered by the heat
or worried by long months of drought.
Their leaves stay green,
and they never stop producing fruit.
Jeremiah 17:5-8 (NLT).

Verses 5-6 speak of those who trust in their own ability to be righteous and believe they can earn their own way to heaven. When their judgment day comes, they will be cursed because they have trusted in human strength. Even in this life, their spiritual lives are barren and they have no real hope or strength in the face of the trials of this life.

Verses 7-8 speak of those who trust in the Lord Jesus for their salvation and know that they have no hope of righteousness on their own. They are not bothered by the trials of this world because they have the power of the Holy Spirit to sustain their spiritual life. They have the hope of eternity with God.

I love the imagery of this passage of Jeremiah. When trouble comes, and it will come for all of us, the one who trusts in human strength is “like stunted shrubs in the desert.” But the one who trusts in the Lord “like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water.” The stunted shrub is the perfect picture of worry and hopelessness. How can such a shrub ever survive? But the tree by the riverbank is the perfect picture of peace and hope. Such a tree will survive the worst drought because it has tapped into the source of life.

In this passage, water is life for the plant. In the New Testament, Jesus promises living water to all who believe in Him.

Jesus Promises Living Water

On the last day, the climax of the festival, Jesus stood and shouted to the crowds, “Anyone who is thirsty may come to me! Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.’” (When he said “living water,” he was speaking of the Spirit, who would be given to everyone believing in him. But the Spirit had not yet been given, because Jesus had not yet entered into his glory.) John 7:37-39 (NLT).

The question that faces every human being is whether they will trust in human strength or will put all their trust in their Creator. How about you? Do you seek to earn your own salvation through the strength of your own righteousness? Or have you chosen to trust in Jesus as the atoning sacrifice for your sins, recognizing that your strength and righteousness are nothing compared to His? When the drought comes, will you die of thirst because you have no power to create living water? Or will you thrive because you trust in the One who offers an endless supply of living water for all who believe?

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My Simple Life

The Day 26 prompt at NaPoWriMo today (where incidentally my post of yesterday was featured) is to write a persona poem, which is a poem in the voice of someone else. I chose to write in the voice of John, the disciple whom Jesus loved, and who penned the Gospel of John, 3 epistles, and Revelation.

My Simple Life

Mine was a simple life
Catching fish with my dad and brother
Going to the synagogue on the Sabbath
Always honoring my dear sweet mother

Along comes this Nazarene
He wants James and me to be fishers of men
I don’t really understand quite what he means
Yet we drop everything to follow him then

Life is still simple, but not the same
We follow him as he teaches us about God
The Pharisees and Priests don’t like him at all
They try to trick him, call him a fraud

But the miracles he performs
Make me believe he’s Messiah
He fed 5,000, calmed a storm, healed the sick
He must be the one foretold by Jeremiah

All the prophets predicted
He would come to rescue us one day
I can’t hardly believe it’s happening in my time
After Israel for centuries from God did stray

When I saw him transform
On the mountain he became a magnificent light
Peter and James saw it too, we were frightened
We knew we had seen a glorious sight

I trust him with my life
He calls me the disciple whom he does love
Even when I vie for first place in his band
Of disciples who sometimes push and shove

Now he tells us he’s the lamb
Fulfilling the Passover his body is given
We don’t understand what he’s saying
That through him all our sins are forgiven

He prays in the garden
Where we often come to pray together
But this prayer is different, such anguish
Still we fall asleep, lulled by the weather

He’s arrested and we flee
By the Sanhedrin he’s unfairly and illegally tried
Handed over to the Romans for punishment
And Pilate decrees he be unjustly crucified

I stood at the cross
Bewildered by this unexpected turn of events
As he prays for the Father to forgive them
Not one among the Sanhedrin repents

They thought that it was over
They buried him in a borrowed garden tomb
But he promised he’d return and he did
He left the grave like a baby from the womb

After he appeared to us
He returned to his heavenly throne
Then he sent us the great Counselor
As he promised not to leave us alone

Many years later on Patmos
In exile I am given a vision of his grace
He will come again to rescue his people
All sin, pain, and tears he will erase

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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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