Monday, April 26, 2010

Love Is So Patient

I could never express the attributes of love as perfectly as Paul does in 1 Corinthians 13, so I refer you to him for the prose section of today's post. Love, even coming from a rather poor example such as myself, understands the value of humility.

Love is so patient; love is so kind;
Love flows from God's heart through those with His mind;
Pure, holy love is an act of the will,
A conscious decision in souls Christ does fill.

Love is so humble; love is so meek;
Love grows within those who God's way still seek;
Love is so gentle, so pure and so good,
The way of God's Spirit; it does as it should.

Love is so faithful; love is so true;
Love is a sign of a soul made as new
In faith that's nurtured by God's holy Power;
It looks toward His Coming through each earthly hour.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Imperfections and Annoyances

The proofs for my new book, Where Light Dawns, arrived yesterday. Perfectionist that I am, I must have reread the whole thing six times before submitting the file, determined to get rid of all typos and ambiguities.

You guessed it: I managed to leave a couple of seemingly obvious errors in there. How could I, of all people, do such a thing--I, who carefully took the trouble to mention in the text itself how foolish it is to consider oneself the only person on earth whom God hates for being capable of a mistake???

The habit of letting the most insignificant imperfections ruin our days carries over to the external. "Did you enjoy the birding tour?" "They said we'd see a hundred species and only ninety-nine showed up!"

I understand that in some Amish and Middle Eastern cultures, it's the custom for craftspeople to deliberately leave some small imperfection in their work, lest they be found guilty of trying to prove themselves as perfect as God. Perhaps we'd be better off not only adopting the habit ourselves, but seeing life's external annoyances as His way of reminding us that we can't force earth to be as perfect as Heaven.

It's not so much the tragedies,
Though they may shake the soul,
That often undermine our faith
That God is in control.
A tree may stand through mighty gales
With trunk that's firm and strong,
But, once the wood begins to rot,
Will fall before too long.

And likewise, those who fret and fume
At every tiny pain,
Demanding everything go "right"
And bring them only "gain,"
Will find their faith begins to rot,
And cracks at every breeze.
So fix in mind that God knows best;
And live as He does please!

P. S. on Where Light Dawns: Patterned after this blog and using many of the same poems, the book is intended as a ministry tool and fundraiser for those serving the chronically depressed. Copies should be available in several weeks; watch for announcements.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


More than one Christian author has noted that the sea of faith is sailed not on a luxury yacht but on a battleship. At least one has stated that from the way many believers react to high waves, an observer would think the battle was against God rather than the devil! The worst grumblers, and the most likely to defect completely when things get nasty, are those who have little personal experience with persecution or struggle; there's a reason why military forces insist their fighters show respect, work hard, and stay in top physical condition even when there's no immediate likelihood of being deployed to battle.

Most of us in the wealthier societies doubt that we'll ever be "deployed" in the sense of having to give up all we own or risk imprisonment or martyrdom. Most of us in the wealthier societies would rather not even seriously consider the possibility. Most of us in the wealthier societies don't list Matthew 24 or 2 Timothy 3:12-13 or the bloodier passages of Revelation among our ten favorite Scripture passages for pondering applications to our own lives.

Whether we realize it or not, though, even the most "privileged" believer is already deployed to intense battle on a different level--and how we react to the thought of "hard times" is one sign of how well armed we really are. The battle is our responsibility to "demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up [in our hearts] against the knowledge of God, and [to] take captive every thought [of ours] to make it obedient to Christ" (2 Cor. 10:5). Our opponents in this fight--the flesh and the devil--find their best ally in our belief that there are earthly things we can't live without and earthly situations we can't live with. If we had true faith in God and His promises, we could say with confidence, "Even if the world suffocates in its own heat, even if the economy collapses and takes civilization with it, even if going to church becomes a capital crime, I know that God will bring me safe into His Kingdom where all earthly sorrows will be forgotten; so I need not be afraid to persevere in His work, for nothing in this world can really hurt me."

Anything else is sitting in the bunker playing cards and hoping that the battle will go away if we ignore it. The battle that may have our side on the defensive due to a shortage of soldiers.

We each of us, as Christians,
Are soldiers of the Lord:
Our shield is faith in Jesus,
The Scriptures are our sword,
Our armor is the Gospel--
Salvation and good news,
And truth and righteous living,
Must be the path we choose.

The foes who stand against us
Are not of mortal flesh;
No human eye can see them,
Their schemes no mind unmesh.
Their weapons are temptation,
Discouragement, and fear;
And when we face disaster,
Their evil hand is near.

We cannot fight the battle
By human strength alone;
God's angels are our allies,
Our power flows from His Throne.
Nor are our marching orders
All focused on defense,
To keep our own souls guarded,
Held safe behind a fence.

No, we are God's offensive
To storm the devil's ground,
To free the souls held captive
Wherever they are found:
The Kingdom forges forward
With Jesus in the lead,
And we are called to conquer
And rush to every need.

The battle is relentless,
But bound for victory;
Though some may fall in fighting,
Their souls are ever free
And blessed with Heaven's honors;
And someday soon the war
Will end in praise and glory
And peace forevermore!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Worthy of Praise

"What a wondrous time is spring," as noted in the campfire song "Pass It On." Especially after a particularly cold winter, as we in Houston recently came out of, the renewal of life at this time of year has most of us falling in love with the outdoors all over again.

Part of the appeal of the birds, the wildflowers, and the fresh air is that, simple as many of them seem, they are beyond our power to produce. The incessant human drive for control notwithstanding, there's something comforting about the thought of a Higher Power taking care of things for us. No person is really comfortable with the thought that everything depends on him, which is why control freaks and workaholics are such an unhappy lot. Fine if all of life is going the way we like, but when it comes to planning and controlling life's million or so aspects, who really wants all that responsibility?

Of course, when life isn't going the way we like, we suddenly want control without responsibility--effectively, the right to order God to "fix" things. Since He tends to be infuriatingly impervious to our threats and demands, we quickly start looking for more pliable alternatives. It hasn't been that many years since "if we can put a man on the moon, why can't we [solve this or that annoying little problem]?" was a regular phrase in everyday talk. If God won't "correct" life's nuisances and tragedies for us, let's start demanding to know why the government and the scientific community, with all they've accomplished in the past, can't focus all their energies on eliminating whatever's bothering us.

That sort of thinking is a dangerous step toward the pride that says humans can do anything God can do. We'd be better off if we quit complaining, took a spring walk in the park, and spent that time considering that the God Whose physical accomplishments far excel ours might also know better how the world should be run.

Oh, the city's soaring skyline is an awe-inspiring sight,
The technology's amazing that can light a home at night,
And with all the new computers we can do great tasks with ease,
But there are other wonders that are greater far than these.

More grand than any skyline is a starlit country sky,
Far brighter than electric lights the fiery sun on high,
And the greatest of computers is the marvelous human mind,
Always seeking, always learning, always something new to find!

We bask in our own glory more than mortals ever should;
So proud of things we've done, forgetting those we never could.
The Creator, He Who rules us, holds Creation in His hand;
So let all of us be humble; He alone is truly grand!