We live in a culture of busy Christians. I read stories of the stresses of pastoral ministry driving pastors away from the church and into sinful lifestyles. I hear the struggles of my fellow seminarians as they attempt to juggle the demands of school and ministry and work, often walking the edge of burnout as they long for rest. I understand the weight of many responsibilities, often feeling both burdened by the load yet unable to slow down. We whose lives are marked by busyness would do well to remind ourselves of Jesus’s words on the subject of obedience.
The proem to the poem of humanity
Was set against the backdrop of captivity,
Was cast with souls encumbered by profanity,
Was opened not with pomp but with nativity.
The word, the light, the lion-lamb, the majesty
Of heaven, holiness in his humility,
Appeared in righteousness to end the amnesty
And fix final salvation from futility.
The method of his advent seemed absurdity
To those who thought they knew the king’s priority,
Yet as the virgin held mortal eternity,
The world beheld the hope of our infirmity.
And all the damned ones shuddered as the surety
Of justice came in love to face depravity,
To bear the curse of sin and give security
That God will satisfy creation’s cavity.
So hope. His coming heralds a community
Where sin will not be suffered – there immunity
From falling from his presence. Perfect unity
Of love will lead to worship of triunity.
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Someone recently asked me to consider the topic of truth. Is truth subjective, different for every individual? Is truth objective, unaffected by our agreement or disagreement with it? Does truth lie somewhere between the two points, possessing both subjective and objective qualities? As I considered my friend’s question, one thought took precedence in my mind: I think we often confuse opinion with truth.
Lettered by blood; word conceived, breathed,
Unread, Unknown (momentary
Matters appear more pressing). Sheathed
Stays the saving sword, soul’s defense
Lowered, life left unguarded. Lost
Direction. Subscribed to false sense
Of security, of the cost
Of trading truth and life and way
For pirate’s treasure: cursed, unclean,
Corrosive to these hearts of clay
So fragile. Unperceived, unseen
Light under a basket, hidden
City on a hill: no help, no
Sanctity, no sin forbidden.
Soon food for the father below.
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The fall was not the final word.
Isaiah has foretold,
A silent lamb shall take our place,
A saving act of wrath and grace
That sinners young and old
Might know the power of the Word:
He laid aside his majesty
To be for us the light
And tasted death in place of men
That man might know freedom from sin.
He overcame the night
And shines for all eternity.
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The dissonance resounds
As all attempt to sing
A song of their own making.
Disorder now abounds
For all forget the king
(A fatal undertaking).
We sing our dirge till death
Yet sing with all our might,
Our very voices breaking.
With ev’ry selfish breath,
We shrink away from light
To try to stop the aching.
But light shines in the dark,
And dark cannot resist.
The kingdom is advancing.
There is a holy ark.
With joy, we may subsist.
Salvation comes with dancing.
Amidst the rebel choir,
A melody is heard
That rings throughout creation.
The true composer’s ire
Fell full upon the word:
The ransomed sing his song
Now knowing it involves
The rescue of the dying.
Though so much now seems wrong,
The song at last resolves:
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When I read that “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9), I often focus on the “desperately sick” aspect, recognizing the darkness of the human heart. But I don’t always consider the rest of the verse. Jeremiah also writes that the heart is deceitful above all things, asking, “Who can understand it?” The heart defies understanding by men. We do not know ourselves like we think we do. Thankfully, as Jeremiah shows, God searches the hearts and tests the minds of men, knowing us better than we know ourselves (Jeremiah 17:10).
Your word: my great undoing, my delight.
I fear to look within, yet fear to stray,
For fear of you (sweet wisdom) shines a light
Upon my path and forces me to say
That I know not my heart or mind so well
As I assumed. This flesh doth e’er deceive.
No strength of will nor want could ever quell
Its tenor regnant. I cannot relieve
My soul from waywardness, for I am bound.
In ev’ry song I sing, I hear its sound.
Discern, speak truth, correct! Let me be found!
You see more clearly than I ever could
And cut more deeply than I wish you would.
I know that all of this is for my good.
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The Lord’s unfailing faithfulness to men,
Steadfast in spite of their consistent sin,
Goes far beyond the guilt and shame within.
Grace reaches past the point of no return.
Hope speaks from lips we thought were taciturn.
We hear the Word, and souls begin to burn.
We know what we deserve; we feel our death.
We sense our separation from his life.
Yet though we fail with ev’ry fallen breath,
In Christ, we find salvation from the strife.
Take heart: this world of fear and death will fade.
Rest in the cross’ sanctifying shade.
Photo by Olya /Voloshka on Unsplash
God, guide your Word like a sword for my reckoning,
Wrecking all hopes in my heart for this waste.
Cut to the quick for the purpose of quickening
Works of your Spirit to sever the sickening
Sludge that I sought in my haste.
Clauses like claws are accustomed to scratch away
Any remainder of wretchedness here.
Tear away sin and, in so doing, tear a way
Through the commotion that coaxes my heart astray
Till I have learned how to fear.
Let ev’ry phrase of your holy book break my heart
For ev’ry way I dishonor your name.
Never relent; pierce my soul from the very start
Till I reflect your resplendence with ev’ry part,
Living as proof of your claim.