Starve Out the Spirit of Death

Starve out the spirit of death.

Don’t give it any glory.

Focus not on tragedy

But on the gospel story.

Easier said than done sometimes,

But joy comes after mourning,

Although we know it takes a while

When grief strikes without warning.

Because so many questions: “Why?”

Wage war against belief,

And when folks offer platitudes

It magnifies the grief.

However, when Jesus was born,

Angels proclaimed His glory.

They starved the spirit of death

By dwelling on the gospel story.

“Joy to the world” they sang,

Prompting the shepherds to rejoice.

Then later in the temple,

There were just two who raised their voice.

Two prophets, Simeon and Anna,

Recognized and spoke of Him

Right under Herod’s nose

When Christ was in Jerusalem.

Then wise men came and brought their gifts,

But Herod was distressed.

His life was soaked in tragedy.

He wanted to be blessed.

No king would rule over him.

This babe was going down!

God warned Joseph, who fled with him,

Escaping his hometown.

But Bethlehem knew tragedy.

It was a sorry day:

Rachel weeping for her children,

Grief that wouldn’t go away.

And yes, there is a time to mourn,

As when Jesus died,

Our sins to nail upon a cross.

Behold His bleeding side!  

He died to set us free,

But He was also resurrected.

For joy He did endure the cross

Though nobody suspected

That he could really do that.

Yet it happened. Can you see?

Amid your tragedy, can you

Behold His victory?

Though you might have to sing through tears,

Just aching to survive,

By praising Him you give the

spirit of death No room to thrive.

Consider Him who reigns on high

And wields the two-edged sword,

Proclaiming “Starve the spirit of death

And magnify the Lord!”

The Gifts God Gives to us are Excellent

God’s gifts to us are excellent, absolutely excellent!

The gifts that we receive from Him are glorious to behold.

He spoke to what He made and called it good – yes, very good.

And when we trust in Him, we have good reason to be bold.

 

Those who believe in Christ will do the same works He has done,

Because His gifts are excellent, and giving them is fun.

Such gifts, which God dispenses, can result in signs and wonders,

Because, though man may fail you, our Lord Jesus makes no blunders.

 

He never doubted who He was but spoke with clarity.

The teachings that he fed the crowds rang with authority.

“For if you who are evil know to give your kids good stuff,

Your Father who’s in heaven will supply more than enough

 

Of what you need to live a joyful life upon the earth.

The love He lavishes is of immeasurable worth.”

In order to accept it, though, you need to know it’s real,

That using spiritual gifts does not depend on how you feel.

 

They are not based what you feel or think that you deserve.

The strength you need to offer them does not require raw nerve,

But a love for excellence you know can only come from God.

So, let that be the shoe with which your gospel feet are shod,

 

With praise poured through an earthen vessel resting on His Word,

And acts of faith well-grounded in the truths that you have heard.

For healing comes by being fortified in His great might,

So, take the time to edify yourself before you fight

 

By knowing that’s He’s excellent. His gifts to your are excellent.

The gifts that you receive from Him are glorious to behold.

He spoke to what He made and called it good – yes, very good.

And when you trust in Him, you have good reason to be bold.

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The Bushel Basket of Human Reason

I. The Bushel Basket of Human Reason

 

Has God poured out a revelation?

Yet you’re gripped with hesitation,

One foot in and one foot out,

Beset by darkness, gloom and doubt

 

Beneath a dome of intellect

That won’t permit you to detect

The light of God you hold inside.

It almost feels as if you’ve died.

 

The bushel basket “Human Reason”

Is like salt that cannot season,

Hidden from the light of day

And stranger to the childlike play

 

That shines so brightly on God’s Word

To make sense of the things you’ve heard.

But when it’s veiled by intellect,

It’s so much harder to detect.

 

II. The Bushel Basket of Intellect Hides Truth

 

For, how can anyone suspect

Your faith is real if you reject

Whatever you don’t understand,

As if it’s YOUR truth to command?

 

The word from which you seek to glean,

If it cannot be fully seen,

Is robbed of power to feed your soul.

So then, how can it make you whole?

 

For though the light is shining in,

You feel as if you’ll never win

Because this bushel shrouds your head

With arguments that reek of dread

 

And reasons that explain away

The truths you know are real today.

By asking, “Did God really say?”

Behold, these truths ARE child’s play.

 

Yet bushel baskets have suppressed

And made them feel like nothingness.

 

A friend of mine once connected the idea of placing a light under a bushel to modern worship practices which deliver the light of God’s presence in measured doses (e.g. two worship songs, announcements, more worship songs, then the pastor gives the word). The bushel stops the light before it penetrates too far, thus depriving the listeners of a complete worship experience.

Just as a bushel basket hides light, so does human reasoning limit the light of God’s truth. If we think we know exactly how God wants to work (within a service, for example), then we’ll only allow the Holy Spirit so much room to move. “This far and no farther.” But is that God’s will for His church?

 

“Neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel but on a candlestick, and it gives light to all that are in the house.” Matthew 5:15, KJV

 

 

 

 

 

What if They’d Thought to Praise Him?

I. What if the Boatmen Had Thought to Praise Him?

 

What if they’d thought to praise Him?

Might Christ’s followers in the boat

Perhaps have been commended

For keeping it afloat?

 

Instead, they woke the Master

With rebukes like “You don’t care!”

And “How can you sleep while we sink?

It simply isn’t fair!”

 

What if they’d thrown a praise party

When first they saw the storm

Begin to rage around them

Like a yellow jacket swarm?

 

Might they have scared the devils

That were stirring up the sea

And threatening to drown them

In that lake of Galilee?

 

And what if they’d praised God

When they saw Jesus walk on water

Instead of crying “Ghost!”

Like any fearful son or daughter

 

Whose trust in God lasts for a day

But in the night grows dim?

What if in every thought and deed

They’d sought to honor Him?

 

What if they had, like Peter,

Dared to step outside the boat,

Declaring with great boldness,

“Lord, you make my feet to float!”?

 

Imagine Jesus’ pleasure

As he watched their budding faith

Spring to life in awesome ways.

But no, they feared a wraith.

 

II. What if the Farmers Had Welcomed Him?

 

And what if those who saw the man

Who once was demonized

Clothed, sitting, and in  his  right mind –

What if they’d recognized

 

The wonders God had done for him?

What if great joy they’d voiced?

Instead of begging him to leave,

What if they had rejoiced?

 

The farmers in that last tale

Would have surely been commended

Had they not focused on the way

Their lives had been upended.

 

But when they lost their livelihood,

They forfeited their joy,

Rejecting Christ’s deliverance

For creatures that annoy.

 

Yet who expects a pig

To sing a happy worship song?

But when we offer praise to God,

It makes our frail faith strong.

 

Based on events recorded in  Matthew 8:23-34 and Matthew 14:23-32

 

 

Church Turned Upside-down

A man with a long beard and his friend, a short, bald-headed guy, shuffled slowly into the dimly lit hall. Like others in the jam-packed crowd, they were in awe.

Ah, the golden lights! The decorative windows! The spectacular multi-colored ceiling!

“I could stare at it all day,” said the bald-headed guy. Someone nudged him. He looked down. “Ow, I just got a crick in my neck!”

“Aw, stop complaining and get in the groove. The music is about to begin,” the bearded man whispered in his ear.

The two men pushed their way to the front of the crowd, eager for a front row seat. Loud joyful sounds filled the air. Everyone was clapping and stomping their feet to the music.

“I have no idea what the words are – in fact, I think there are no words – but I like it,” the bald man shouted to his friend above the noise.

“It’s not the words. It’s the beat that counts,” the bearded man declared.

“Well, anyhow, this is how church should be run,” replied his friend. “I mean, like, wow. You couldn’t ask for a cooler band. Look at all these famous singers. Having them here takes the worship to a whole new level.”

“Hey, I’m with you, man. Why should you have to believe in God to be in His band? All you need is a little talent and some rhythm. And the best part is, this is local. You don’t have to drive halfway across the country to hear them play.” As the worship came to a close, the bearded man whispered to his friend. “Oh wow, it’s the king of rock himself! I’m simply dying to get his autograph.”

The two men watched in awe at the amazing figure who strutted up to the stage, his dark locks bathed in a pool of firelight. The light came from a short sparkly stick he held in his hand. A seductive aroma filled the air. A hush fell on the crowd as the incense was offered.

“Do you know what I love about this guy?” the bald man said “He’s so down to earth, unlike the preachers at that crazy hellfire-and-brimstone church we used to attend. It always took two days to get there, and they’re so legalistic.”

The bearded man nodded. “Don’t I know it! Rules upon rules upon rules. Ugh! I know they criticize us for being too worldly, but we’re just being seeker-friendly. It’s called ‘real life evangelism.’ What don’t they get?”

“Who cares what they think? Those boring guys are just plain jealous,” his friend replied. “But our fearless leader knows how to rev things up and draw a crowd. We’ll prove that we can praise the LORD just as well as they can, if not better!”

The two high fived each other. “Oh, yeah!”

Suddenly a cry rang out. It was like an ambulance. People in the crowd began to murmur.

“What’s happening?” the bald man asked.

“I see a strange man up front,” said the bearded man. “He’s looking at our king and pointing to the altar. If only the people around me would be quiet so I could hear what he was saying.”

They both heard the king yell to his guards, “Stop that disruptive man!” But as the guards ran to stop him, the ground began to shake. Good vibrations it was not. The men watched in horror as the altar split and fell apart. The ashes that were on it spilled upon the ground.

“Oh no, there seems to be something wrong with the king’s hand,” moaned the bearded man. “Now I’ll never get his autograph! But wait, the man who interrupted the meeting is praying for him. I think the hand may be okay. I see the two talking together. I wonder what they’re saying?”

“You don’t suppose the earthquake was a sign, do you?” asked the bald guy. “After all, this church is sort of built around an idol, if you know what I mean.”

“Yeah, I know. Everybody wants to be an idol. But the golden calf is only there for decoration. We’re not really worshiping it. We’re worshiping the LORD. I mean, hey, after what we went through with that hellfire-and-brimstone guy, we could use some entertainment, don’t you think? According to King Jeroboam, a little eye candy never hurt anyone.”

(Inspired by events recorded in I Kings chapter 12 and 13)