Friday, June 28, 2013
Monday, June 24, 2013
“Now before him there was no king like him, who turned to the LORD with all his heart, with all his soul, and with all his might, according to the Law of Moses; nor after him did any arise like him.”
II Kings 23:25
My Debbie is asleep; I push her stroller gently through the wooded path and slow down my pace. She always falls asleep when I push her, her little head drooping to the side, her body relaxed near the end of a warm, sticky day. We walk near the woodland brook where my sisters and I used to come when we were little girls. And I stop and sit next to her on a rock near the water. Here I can hear the sound of the sweet birds singing their late-afternoon song in the trees and watch the rustling branches sway in the warm June wind.
Commotion. Three young boys step out of the woods swinging sticks, swinging wildly, talking loudly. The birds are quiet.
“Let’s kill the frogs. Let’s kill them.” They say it over and over, like it is a noble thing to kill without a reason, to stop a heart that God made, for fun. They lumber over to the stream splashing the water with their big sticks, with the instruments they’ve chosen for destruction; they think that branches from a tree make them powerful and important. They don’t realize that true power comes from the Man who once hung upon a tree, so that we could be free from the power of sin, of destruction, over our hearts, from the act of waving big sticks to invoke terror, to cause pain.
They are young; they are foolish. They won’t be capable of causing any harm; they are too loud; the frogs will outsmart them for now. Funny how it goes.
And they will go back home to their video games, to their television programs, to an atmosphere where their moldable hearts will not be trained in a different way than what comes naturally to them.
But when they are older, when their craftiness ripens thick, when their arms and pride-swollen hearts are full to the brim, they will be capable of causing harm, to the least and to the greatest, unless they are taught, unless they are trained differently.
They say “boys will be boys.” How I secretly loathe that saying, how I loathe the way that it is given as an excuse for all churlish, coarse, natural behavior in young “innocent” male children.
Nels Olsen had the right idea in the Little House on the Prairie television series. He responds to that common saying (“boys will be boys”) with “Yes; and monsters will be monsters!” Many times this is the quotation that settles in my head involving some of these little “monsters.”
How will our sons learn to treat their wives with gentleness and respect if they haven’t learned this behavior towards all of God’s creation? How will they learn to submit to God’s authority in their lives if they never learn humility and selflessness, gentleness and compassionate love towards the Lord’s creation and the people and creatures in it?
What kind of a man do I want to protect, to cherish my own little daughter when she grows up? A man who secretly enjoys destruction and suffering in whatever form it takes? A man whose mind has been scarred and jaded by the harsh shells of violent video games and the obscene, charring, soul-callousing-media, or one who protects, who heals, whose mind is pure and free from desiring harm, who is gentle like Jesus, the Shepherd over the sheep?
A mind can be redeemed; a heart can be purified. A man who realizes that the habits of his heart have not been towards holiness, may, through the power of the Holy Spirit, make an about turn. But the upward climb will be difficult, and he will be constantly swimming against the tide of his own terrible habits. It will be more difficult for him than if the foundation had been laid with the smooth stones of sincererity and righteousness, from his mother’s breast to his passage into manhood.
How can we raise our sons, from when they give their first cry, to when their hands will stretch widely over ours? By the grace of God, if He grants me a son, I pray that his hand may not be covered in blood but bathed in kindness and gentleness and peace, for the glory of the Father. I pray that he may be a protector of what is good and right and true, a “healer of the breach,” and a lover of mercy and righteousness.
How can we train our sons?
We may teach them to protect rather than to destroy.
I have a great respect for the armed forces, for men who sacrificially lay down their lives for the lives of others. Many of these boys enter the forces for the excitement and the thrill that this kind of service “promises.” They then leave as men who have seen and tasted the salt of the bitterness and brutality of warfare and death. Their souls are affected by nearness to suffering. The armed forces serve as an example of a man becoming a protector. He protects his country, his children, his wife, through the service he offers. We may train our sons to love to protect—to protect their families (to protect their hearts from lust, their souls from the distractions of the evil one, their bodies from the pollution and scathing imprints of sin)-to protect the “least of these” (the unborn, the handicapped, the mentally retarded, the forgotten elderly)-to protect the Lord’s creation (birds and beasts and all things living-to treat them, for the Lord’s sake, with gentleness and dignity, to think carefully before taking the life of any one of His creatures, as a necessity and not for the pleasure of it, for food, if need be, but not for mere sport). So our sons should be taught to protect rather than to destroy. How may we do this? By taking them into nursing homes and hospitals to help minister to those who are hurting. By encouraging them to befriend the kids who have no friends. By modeling to them a compassionate attitude in the way that we treat animals and living things. Our example will speak volumes to our sons.
We may teach them not to take pleasure in suffering.
For some reason, it seems to come naturally to boys to be cruel towards animals. It’s as if their God-given desire to lead and conquer is misdirected towards crushing and destroying. They are like Vikings rather than the literary representation of “knights in shining armor.” I knew a boy when I was young who used to enjoy cutting worms into pieces. To be honest, he enjoyed watching them suffer. They are only worms, we think, and we justify certain actions by belittling the creature’s supposed ability to feel or be affected by pain. My question is, what “level” of creation will he stop taking that attitude towards? If he enjoys watching a worm suffer, why not a dog, or a horse, or a person made in the image of God? A sparrow is the “lowest” form of bird life and yet the Lord takes pity upon the sparrow and knows every time one falls to the ground. Are we not to model the same compassion that the Lord has towards His creation? I have no problem with humanely and responsibly killing an animal, whether for food, or for neccesity, to end an animal’s suffering, or if there is an infestation of some kind. The problem is not in taking the life of a bird or a beast, of a butterfly or a bug. It is when the animal is being killed, is subjected to suffering for pleasure or for sport, that a line has been crossed. Boys must be taught not to take pleasure in suffering.
We may lead them away from the degradation of sarcasm and the stinging cynicism of this age.
This is a subject that should be elaborated on, but I’ll just touch upon it briefly here. We live in a world that has become jaded to beauty and true sensitivity. Our society lauds and applauds caustic cynicism, sewer-stained humor, and making light of moral issues and absolutes. We delight in things that are ugly and gruesome and make sport of things that were once thought lovely, true and noble. It is utterly accurate that in the last day “men will be scoffers.” (II Peter 3:3)
Our cartoons (intended for very small children) alone are chock-full of angry birds and sarcastic bunnies, not to mention the other forms of media and entertainment that infiltrate our homes. We’ve come a long way from the innocent, sweet simplicity of movies like Bambi and the television series of Lassie, the noble boy’s best friend and protector. Are we too “smart,” too sophisticated for movies like that, now? Do we need sarcasm to sate our appetite for amusement?
We must, as believers, protect our children from the raging influences of media and society, which will sear their impressionable hearts and dull their consciences. May we not offer them something better than this? Something that brings light to the eyes and joy to the heart? We must search high and low to offer them something better, something deeper and richer and truer. Something that will encourage our boys to become true men, disciples of the living Jesus.
So many times, to my shame, I have silently in my heart thought, “Well, boys will be boys.” My prayer is that our boys will become true men, true sons, sons of the Living God, gentle, His radiant light reflecting from their eyes that have grasped the fullness of truth and gentleness and grace. All of our sons, together, for the glory of the Father.
Friday, June 21, 2013
strain and toil
busy, tired soul
and prayer forgotten
absence of praise
these wretched days
My withered, stricken mind--
The serpent seeks to wind
his twisted body,
squeezing round the heart
and draining life and joy.
The bubble of this earth
my weary soul.
The hole of haste
emptying peace and rest
Rain pours down--
the dripping drone
I cry to Him,
cry out to Him.
The Spirit soars,
strengthens my bones,
and living water
of this poor soul.
my heart flooding
with His love.
Monday, June 17, 2013
- “Do not despise the day of small things . . .” (Zechariah 4:10) It is easy to lose heart when the day is over, when the sun has gone away over the thin hills, and when there is no vision, no majesty left to soak the eyes in. Oswald Chambers says, it is after the vision has faded, when we descend into the abyss of the demon-possessed valley, that we begin to lose heart. And this is the place where our strength must actually begin, as we take His sure hand in the darkness and are led forward by faith. When there seems to be no way, when the vision is blurry, He is our Surety and makes our footsteps secure. (Psalm 37:23)
- “God’s work done God’s way will never lack God’s supplies.” (Hudson Taylor) If the Lord has truly called us to a work, then we may trust in Him for the means to do it. He will not leave us destitute. We may trust Him utterly in this. There is nothing more sure than God’s provision to do His will. We do not need to beg, to plead, to trust in anyone but Him. We may let our petitions be made known to Him, and He will direct our path. (Proverbs 3:5-6) He is enough and He will raise up means and channels through which His supplies will come, in the perfect way, at the perfect time, even when all seems hopeless. The Lord will fill the ditches with water if we will obediently dig the trenches of faith and prayer. (II Kings 3:16-17)
- “Be strong, and do it . . .” (I Chronicles 28:10) If and when the Lord has placed something upon your heart, don’t hesitate to do it, by faith, in His strength, in keeping with His timing and being sensitive to His voice. Being crippled by fear and by distrust will only jade us to His ways. Caleb and Joshua are excellent examples of this principle. By faith in God’s promise, they confidently believed that the Lord would give them the land that He had promised, for the glory of His name. There is no presumption when we are acting upon a promise and when our consciences are clear in His sight. Faith does not weigh pros and cons after the Lord’s leading is made clear. Faith trusts in an infinite God and if God is for us, then who can be against us? (Romans 8:31)
- Don’t be surprised by opposition. Charles Spurgeon says, “When tribulation drives us to the Lord, it is an unspeakable blessing, and makes affliction prove to us one of our greatest mercies. It is a good wave that washes the mariner on the rock; it is a blessed trouble which blows the Christian nearer to his God. If you are led to set loose of the world through your losses and your crosses, be thankful for them; for, if you have lost silver, you have gained that which is better than gold. If, like the dove to the cleft of the rock, your soul flies to God, driven homeward by stress of weather, then be thankful for the tempest for it is safer and better for you than the calm.” Instead, be surprised if there is no opposition, if everyone is smiling placidly around you and there is no wind, no rain, no friction. A sail moves by the force of the wind, and often opposition is the gust that the Lord uses to spur on onward in the great ocean of His will.
- I should not do this if a “safe,” comfortable life is what I desire. This holds true for missionaries, ministers, evangelists and any ordinary person like me who wants to walk in obedience to the Lord’s calling. This is evident in daily discipleship or in taking steps of faith into the unknown, whether it is actively sharing the Gospel or consciously crucifying sin in our own flesh moment by moment. It is easy to be a “good” person. It is difficult to live a holy, consecrated, Christ-saturated life. And there will be many obstacles, many difficulties, many “dangers, toils and snares.” Satan will not leave us alone if we are seeking to further the Lord’s kingdom and bring glory to Him. And God will not leave us without His protection through prayer and continual dependence upon Him daily though our trials.
These are just some of the lessons that the Lord is continually reinforcing in my heart, and that I continually need to “re-learn.” I pray that these things may be an encouragement to others as well as we seek to bring honor to the name of Jesus, and live wholly for Him and Him alone. I am learning more day by day that it is not easy way to walk by faith . . . but it is the blessed way. May we ever “rather have Jesus,” and want to do His will more than we desire all of the passing treasures of this world and all that it grandly boasts.
Friday, June 14, 2013
The Robins sing
And listen, ear-tuned to the earth
New life, rebirth
In egg-blue sky and
Budding tree and branch
On every leaf
A dew drop glists-the joy of spring
And winter’s law of death and doom
Split open, like a grave-
The trees burst into leaf
The earth to flower
While a shower
Of refreshing rain alights
The brightness rings
And death’s sting lost
Rebirth-and resurrection joy
The hush of wonder aches with hope and grace.