“Jesus” – poem by Luke Hastings

•March 1, 2010 • 4 Comments

Here’s a poem my 17-yr-old wrote…yeah, I’m proud. Real proud of 15-yr-old, too…check out his blog (on the right). Its “while I wait I’ll live for Him”.

Aloft cathedral doors it hangs,

His head lolled to the side

The body thin and limp and weak,

Not bleeding as He died

On stained glass windows far and near

Too weak a picture does appear

Of one they call the Christ –

Dying beaten and alone; for me He gave His life.

Upon the cross-nailed beams He bled,

Pure mercy in His eyes

The body strong but torn and dead,

By wretches crucified

With strength that calms a raging sea

He bore it all so willingly

Yet sinners did not care –

Evil, mocking, hearts of stone contented just to stare.

At last the three days came and left,

After Jesus died

And to the tomb three women went,

Astonished just to find

Guards about the opening laid

Like dead they were, for so afraid

To see the angels nigh –

Smiling, shouting, with great joy, that Jesus is alive!

And one day not too long from now

He will come back again,

He’ll roll back clouds at trumpet’s blow

To let His people in.

And when one thousand years have gone

To vanquish death He’ll ride upon

A proud and noble steed –

Angels cheer and demons fear the doing of that deed.

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the compelling power of forgiveness

•February 25, 2010 • 2 Comments

Imagine with me that you have gone on a trip to Turkey to tour the seven churches of Revelation. And one day you make a spur of the moment decision. It’s about a 2 hour bus ride to the place you’re supposed to visit that day, and you decide you’re not going to take the bus. You decide that you want to get a car and drive yourself there. (First mistake).

You make the second mistake about an hour into the trip when you miss a very important turn. About 45 minutes after you miss the turn you realize the road is narrowing as you begin to drive through the downtown area of a very small town.  Cars and trucks are parked on either side of the street and there is barely enough room for two cars to pass each other.

You begin to realize you’re lost, and you begin to get nervous. You look down at your map for no more than two seconds when you feel the impact of something against the front of your car. You slam on the brakes and look up to see the shocked faces of people who are running toward the front of your car. One of your worst fears has come true: You’ve hit someone.

It’s an elderly man who the people say was homeless, and wandered out into the street for no apparent reason. The man dies right there in front of your eyes. You’re immediately taken by the police to the local police station, and questioned. After about 10 minutes of questions with the aid of an interpreter who can barely speak English, you’re escorted to one of 3 cells in the back of the station. You’re not allowed to speak to your family, and the lawyer whose appointed to defend you speaks no English at all. After 9 days in the jail cell, you’re taken in a police car to a larger city about an hour away for your trial. The judge pronounces you guilty of manslaughter and you’re given the maximum penalty of 30 years in prison. You entire future passes before your eyes as you’re taken to the prison where you’ll spend the next 30 years. You’ll never get to see your kids as kids again. You won’t even get to see your grandkids as kids.

But when you arrive at the prison, before you ever get to your cell, what you’ve been praying for suddenly happens: An American with a badge and some official looking documents intervenes and demands your release. You later learn that your family has contacted a U.S. Senator who has taken a special interest in your case. Your family later tells you the Senator didn’t sleep for the last two days he was working for your release.  He has pulled every string he knows to pull and called in every favor from everyone he knows in that part of the world, and he has secured you a pardon from your 30 year prison sentence.

Within an hour you’re boarding a U.S. military plane that’s flying you back home.

Now, let me ask you a question: When you get home, will you go back to business as usual like nothing ever happened?

No, you won’t.

Not if you understand the incredible significance of what has happened. This experience of guilt and judgment being wiped away by unmerited pardon will change you.

When you get back to the states, you’re going to make sure the Senator knows that you’re HIS for the next election. Whatever he needs you to do, you’re on it! And not just the next election, but the one after that, and the one after that…..and the homeless man –  if he has any children out there somewhere, you’re going to find them and you’re going to do what you can for them. This act of grace and mercy is going to compel you to live differently.

Now, this story falls far short of illustrating our need and God’s provision in at least a couple of ways. For one thing, there’s no unfairness whatsoever in God’s pronouncement of our guilt. The verdict that He has rendered is completely free from any hint of being tarnished or corrupted. A second thing is that Jesus took the punishment for our wrong upon Himself. He endured the very wrath of God. He didn’t, like the Senator, just use His influence to get us off the hook.

That said, imagine how you would feel after your pardon and release, multiply it by about a million times, and you begin to understand how the pardon that God has given us should affect us. It should be so life-changing that we don’t do anything without thinking about how different our life is and how radically different our future is because of what Christ has done for us.

There’s compelling power in the forgiveness of Christ.

a powerful 11 minute message

•February 22, 2010 • Leave a Comment

I’ve added a link to an edited version of a powerful message from one of my new favorite preachers, Paul Washer. It is highlights from a really long, but good, sermon he preached. If you have 11 minutes and want to be powerfully reminded of the sovereignty of Christ and our desperate need for a Savior, it will be well worth your time.

Enjoy, and be changed!

powerful parenting

•February 20, 2010 • 1 Comment

Since the gospel is the power of God, it super-charges our parenting.

We want to teach the whole Bible to our kids, but we need to keep coming back to the center of God’s story, which is the gospel of Christ. We even read “The Jesus Storybook Bible” to our preschooler because it relates everything in the Bible back to Christ.  His incarnation, His life, His death, His resurrection, His Spirit’s indwelling us, and the reward waiting for us in Heaven are the essentials of the gospel that I want to teach to my kids.

Here’s a quote from “Gospel Powered Parenting” about applying the gospel to parenting:

“Whenever your children fight, apply the gospel to their behavior….You might say something like this: “Jesus poured out His life for you. When you deserved nothing but judgment and condemnation, He was tortured to death in your place. Since Jesus did this for you, you should serve your brothers and sisters.”

Now, I don’t say it exactly that way, but I say essentially the same thing. We have a choice to parent with power or without it. Our choice says a lot about what we really believe.

the power to change – part 2

•February 18, 2010 • 1 Comment

The apostle Paul was a guy who experienced radical change in His life. He went from a legalistic persecutor of Christians to a loving, dedicated follower of Christ who reached out to much of the known world for the glory of God. He explained that it was the love of Christ that compelled him to reach out to others (2 Cor. 5:14) What does that mean?

To be compelled means that something is driving you – there’s a force that moves you to do things you wouldn’t ordinarily do.

-Paul is saying that force is The love of Christ as demonstrated for us on the cross. This is what Paul is talking about in Romans 1:16 when he’s talking about the power of God. He says the gospel is the power of God. And that gospel is the good news about the love of Christ as demonstrated for us on the cross.

Let’s think about this compelling force for just a minute: It’s the good news about the love that forgave all your sin. The love that took all my sin on Himself. The love that absorbed every bit of the wrath of God that should have been poured out on me. It’s the love that guarantees that when I stand in judgment before God, there is not going to be any of God’s wrath left to be directed at me. NONE. And that’s huge. We don’t have to wonder, “Well, we think Christ absorbed all the wrath of God, we’ll know for sure after we die.” No, the Bible teaches that because of the love of Christ, we are given the Holy Spirit as a down payment, a guarantee of forgiveness and eternal life.

What Christ has done for us is so profound, so unimaginable, so stunning, such a powerful act of pardon that it changes our lives. When a president pardons a criminal who is supposed to be in prison for the rest of their life – is that life-changing for them? Radically life-changing. And the love of Christ which compelled Him to go to the cross for us, so we could be pardoned, is infinitely more powerful and life-changing.

If we have experienced that love of Christ – if we understand just a fraction of the height and depth and length and width of His love, it will become a compelling force that changes us from the inside out.

the power to change – part 1

•February 13, 2010 • 1 Comment

The Holy Spirit is a powerful change agent in the life of a believer. If you have trusted Christ as your Lord and Savior, you have this agent of change living inside you.  “…If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him” (Rom. 8:9).  If you belong to Christ, the Holy Spirit is already in you. And His presence in you will make all the difference in the world. Your thinking will be different. Your desires will be different! Why? Because there’s a power in you that changes things. There’s a word in the original greek of the New Testament that describes the power of God’s Spirit in the life of a Christ-follower. It’s dunamis…we get our word dynamite from it…that’s the kind of power that we have in us.

One time my doctor told me that I needed to put something in my body that would change things. I was having some chronic pain, and he prescribed this drug, called amitryptelene. And he gave me the warnings about the side effects…he said it would cause “dry mouth”, and the worst side-effect would be  that the first few weeks it would make me very sleepy. He said, “I took it for a little while for back pain and my nurse was having to wake me up because I’d fall asleep trying to meet with a patient.” I thought wow, I don’t know if this is gonna be worth it or not.  But I started taking the medicine.

I was incredibly sleepy and cotton-mouthed the first week. But I just tried to adjust to it. Then, it was time to go with our teenagers to MissionFuge. I was one of the three van drivers. The symptoms really didn’t let up. Every lunch and dinner meal in the cafeteria, you could find me in line with the Jr. High kids at the all-you-could eat ice cream bar. The sugar high jolted my senses awake, and the cold creaminess felt so good to my parched mouth. I had an insatiable appetite for ice cream. But we made it back from the trip safely, and a couple of weeks later I went to get a refill of the prescription. I was getting used to the side effects and my pain was better, so I figured I would try it for another month. I’ll never forget the look on the pharmacist’s face when she came out to give me the refill. She looked kind of like she might be about to lose her job. She said, “Well, Mr. Hastings, there was a little mix-up with this prescription. Your doctor prescribed 10 milligrams a day, and we thought it said 100 milligrams a day…” Before she could say anything else, I clarified, “So what you’re saying is I’ve been taking 10 times the dose I was supposed to be taking.”

“Yes, sir.”

“I’m gonna own this pharmacy”, was my first thought. My second thought was, “So that’s why I couldn’t stop eating ice cream!”

Okay, people make mistakes. But the point is that this stuff that was inside me had a dramatic effect on my desires and my appetite. It’s the same with the Holy Spirit.

I remember a time when there was a “new believer” I was really concerned about.  He didn’t seem to have any desire to read his Bible. And this had been going on for quite a while. I was talking to another guy about it who said something pretty profound. He said, “You don’t have to force a sheep to eat. They want to eat.” Maybe the new believer wasn’t actually a believer yet.

God tells us that He will complete the work He has started in us. (Philippians 1:6). So, a really important question for anyone who considers himself a follower of Christ is, “Where’s the evidence of God’s work in my life?”

Because He works in us by the power of the Spirit…and the power of the gospel. But that’s for another post…

football and other substitutes for God

•February 9, 2010 • 2 Comments

We will focus our affections on something or someone. We’re wired to look to someone or something to thrill us and fill us.  For the last several months, up through Sunday night, grown men, and some women too, set their affections on a group of 22-40 year old men, and got extremely emotionally worked up about whether or not their group of guys could get the ball into the endzone more times than the other groups could. It’s a form of worship.

Of course we saw this happening with the Saints’ win. In the post-game interviews with people in New Orleans, we heard things like, “THIS IS THE GREATEST THING I’VE EVER EXPERIENCED.”  Now, I’m really glad the Saints won. I think it’s cool that they made it to the big dance for the first time in their history and they won. But I can’t help but think about what I know to be true…to New Orleans fans who have let football become idolatry, the Saints’ win has just fueled their idolatry for a little while longer. And I can’t get excited about that. Because for some it’s just “substitute worship”. And it makes me sad because I know a football team can never sustain their worship and affection the way only Christ can. He is what we are all thirsting for. He is the only all-sufficient, all-satisfying, all-sustaining object of our worship, and He will be for all eternity. And when I see people (including myself) looking to other things to satisfy them, I grieve about how we’re missing out.

It’s a case in point of how we have “…worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator” (Rom. 1:25)

I feel this the most when I’m at a Razorback football game. I didn’t make any games the last two seasons (didn’t miss much), but I did the year before. And I enjoy the games and get caught up in the excitement like everybody else. But every game I went to, I would notice something really strange…it would be Saturday…and in less than 24 hours I would be leading a worship service at Faith Journey, and I would feel a zillion miles away emotionally from real worship. I would feel really distant from God. And I wasn’t in some serious sin at the game or anything like that. And I couldn’t figure it out, until one game it hit me….there is worship happening in that place, but it’s not the worship of God. Many people their have set their affections on their particular team, and some have given thousands of dollars towards the worship of their team (in gas and hotel rooms and eating out and tickets and tailgating paraphernalia and worship attire, and stuff to decorate their house and car with, and cups and mugs to drink their drinks out of). What is happening is an act of worship.

I don’t have a problem with looking to a football team to thrill me and fill me. At least not this year. For me, it’s other things. Except when I do what I need to do. And that’s recognizing that anything other than Christ is just an empty, vain pursuit than will always leave me hollow and longing for God.