October 25, 2013

The Essence of the Editor

I've finished reading three books in the last month or so--one by a fledgling Christian author not yet 30 years old, another by a long-time bestselling author, now dead, who didn't begin writing till he was 40. [The third, by an acclaimed novelist I had never read--but that story will keep for another time.]

Each of these books--the first: a memoir, the second: fiction--has shown me something valuable about who I am and who I want to be.

The In-Between, by young blogger, now author-in-print, Jeff Goins, reminded me that the thing we press ahead to attain may not be all that we intend if we manage to make it happen prematurely or without the necessary teamwork. An accomplishment reached before its time is like a rosebud forced open and spoiled. Maturing and reaching the ideals we most admire takes time. The 'in-between' interim is not a waste of time, but crucial to our growth and integral to the becoming we await…

This is the main point of Jeff's book, but ironically, it is also the truth I see underlined by the poor quality of this, his second paperback in as many years. I have appreciated Jeff's good words at his blog for writers. He does an excellent job at it. But his goal was to get published, and so he has. The product is rough and awkward, not the well-honed product one expects from a major publishing house. Granted, The In-Between is readable and of inherent value as Jeff's candid personal memoir, but it is not excellent. It lacks the eye of an experienced editor willing to come alongside and help him sort and polish his words to greater clarity. Could it be that rushing to the goal of 'getting published' has short-circuited the crucial 'in-between' time of preparation?

Or maybe the world of publishing is just changing and audiences are more tolerant of 'mistakes' as long as the author has something to say and shares a piece of himself in the process. Jeff has done this.

Perhaps the reason I find myself criticizing the quality of his finished work is that concurrently with reading his book I have been reading The Novel by seasoned writer, James Michener. Written back in 1991 toward the tired end of his successful career as a novelist, it lacks the 'umphh' and excellence of his popular earlier works. [Contrary to cover descriptions it is neither riveting nor suspenseful, at least not until the last 35 of the 435 pages, which unveil and hurriedly solve an unexpected murder mystery!] It is not his best novel but what did fascinate me about this slow-moving fiction was its thorough depiction of the inner workings of the publishing world. The role of the editor enthralled me. Was I born for this?!

The book is divided into four segments, each written from a different point of view: The Writer, The Editor, The Critic, and The Reader. I had imagined the part of the writer fairly well but had little idea how influential the editor's role is in determining the final product. Here is the person without whose expertise the writer will never achieve his best work. Here is the person who must not only spot the author's faults and quirks but must be able to cheer him on to remedy them.  She must inspire him to improve, to revise his story line if need be, to re-cast his characters more credibly, to rewrite and revise until his story truly represents his best effort. Her role is indispensable. 

Ironically, the editor is tasked with inspiring and facilitating a task which she herself is unable to do. She is not a novelist. She is an editor. But her skill or lack thereof will be clearly evident in the finished product. The author is deeply indebted to a competent editor, but the book will not bear her name. She is just the editor. But the book will not fulfill its potential without her best efforts.

How like the Body of Christ this is. We are not intended to be 'solo' saints, heroes doing exploits single-handedly, pedestal people clambering over one another to be the best--'conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.' (Gal.5:26) We are each only parts of the great published work that will chronicle our Lord's glory. Only together with each member doing the part for which she/he was designed will we showcase the manifold wisdom of God to all the powers that be, in both heaven and hell! (Eph.3:10)

It's a team effort. One may be chosen to write. Another will have suggestions to add to that work, and corrections. Another will work to make the formatting and cover design attractive. While yet others will be busy with the technical features of printing and binding, and still others the ‘people’ aspects of marketing and sales…All contribute their best so that the reader can know the thoughts of the writer. Without any one of these experts the end-product will not achieve its fullest potential.

A book with a professionally designed cover and immaculate formatting will be a failure if the editor has neglected its content.

And even the most insightful writing, edited to near perfection will miss its greatest audience if it is wrapped in a glum unattractive cover and left on a shelf to be discovered.

But back to Michener's novel... the third point-of-view was that of the Critic—the one who assesses the worth of the finished product, but has no vested interest in its success. Depending on his expert opinion, sales of the book may rise or fall, unless common good-sense and relish for the book override his intellectual opinion. The critic's reviews may be scathing and heartless; encouraging the author is not his task. Promoting excellence in literature is. But if he is not watchful, his elitism may blind him to what is truly good and praiseworthy. The Critic in this story was my least favorite character, but I also recognize my own propensity to fill this role. Pronouncing judgments without regard to the person behind the work is an odious fault.

But the critic in this story had an epiphany. He was intent on writing his own novel, one that would tower above the common lot. But try as he would, he could not. Being also a university professor who taught writing, he had a sense of excellence that he himself could not produce. But he could train others. At last he had to concede:

"…I had an obligation to become honest about who I was and was not. I was not a novelist. I did not have the insights and poetry required by the creative writer. What I did have was a powerful understanding of what good writing was. I had a nose that unfailingly identified rubbish. And I could teach others to do what I couldn't." (Michener, The Novel, p.291)

Isn't this too what it is like to be a part of the Body of Christ? Some of us are noses, others livers. Some are hands and feet, others eyes. There is no point in envying or longing to duplicate another's excellence (though I still do at times). But we can honor others' abilities even as we contribute our own to their success. Only then will we all "attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ…" Only together, "when each part is working properly," will "the body grow so that it builds itself up in love." (Eph.4:13,16)

Fulfilling our callings is not an individual pursuit, anymore than a writer can create a masterpiece alone. But with each one doing his part the final copy will be amazing. And whose name will the cover bear? not ours, but Christ's who dreamed up the story of redemption before the beginning of time and has given us the privilege of taking part in its being published!


Meanwhile, behind the scenes at the Skelton house, I am studying the trade of Copy-editing. This is what I want to be when I grow up! I am seeing now that it is not all negative—finding fault and circling it in red. That part comes naturally to me! The true goal is to see beyond the errors to what a manuscript might become if the author will persevere with the editor at his side cheering him on. And I think that's a pretty awesome role to aspire to in this next season of my life…


"…speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.” Eph.4:15   " He must increase, but I must decrease." Jn. 3:30

Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. Gal.6:2

"Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them…” Rom 12:6

October 18, 2013

“I have this against you…”

What does Scripture have to say to the Bible zealot--that one who lives to know and defend Scripture?  [I’m not talking about the  “Pharisee!” accusation; it is so overused and misapplied that it deserves a post all its own.]  What will keep the eager Bible student from being either slack or heartless in his application of truth?  What can go wrong in using Scripture as a litmus test of every fad and teaching that comes along?

I concluded last week's blog with these thoughts:

Could the ardent Bible scholar use some prompting to make sure his/her head knowledge translates into real live discipleship? Absolutely. Are there cautions for him/her in the Word of God as well? Certainly. More on that next time (hopefully).”

Toward that end I've been reading Paul's letters to Timothy, his young protégé and 'child in the faith'. And I've been thinking about the Church at Ephesus, which is where Timothy served.…

In his letters Paul exhorts Timothy to hold onto solid teaching, to be a careful student of the Word and to preach it unapologetically. He spurs Timothy on to train himself in godliness and to be on guard for things that precipitate falling away from faith. He repeatedly warns Timothy about false teachers and how to recognize them.

Interestingly, in Paul's last face-to-face meeting with the elders of the church at Ephesus he had warned them of similar things:

"I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears." (Acts 20:29-31 ESV)

So the church at Ephesus was well warned and well-armed, with the likes of Timothy and these solid elders. And we know they excelled at this business of detecting false teaching because years down the road they are addressed in John's Revelation and commended for their unwearied zeal in refusing to tolerate evil and in rooting out false apostles! (Rev. 2:1-3) But something had been lost along the way…

They had lost sight of the motive behind their vigilance. Oh, they were great watchdogs. They hated the works God hates (He commended them for this--Rev.2:6) but they had forgotten love: "I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first." (Rev. 2:4ESV) Love no longer motivated and controlled their zeal.

It hadn't always been this way. Paul had instructed Timothy to keep love front and central in his teaching: "The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith." I Tim.1:5 He had made sure Timothy understood that his role as the Lord's servant was not merely to contend for truth but to do so in a way that was kind, patient, and gentle so that those in error could be rescued from 'the snare of the devil' and actually turn to embrace truth. (II Tim.2:24-26). The point of holding forth truth is after all not to damn the hearer but to save him! (I Tim. 4:16) 

The Ephesian church had in fact been known at one time not only for their faith but for their love. Paul's letter to the Ephesians mentions this even as he goes on to pray that they will comprehend the extent of Christ's love for them so they 'may be filled with all the fullness of God.' (Eph.1:15; 3:17-19)

Considering the Ephesians' need to contend with false teaching, I suppose it is no coincidence that the book of Ephesians is saturated with teaching on love:

  • In love God predestined us for adoption 1:4,5
  • I have heard of your faith and love 1:15
  • Because of God's great love He made us alive with Christ 2:5
  • You are rooted and grounded in love 3:17
  • May you know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge 3:19
  • Bear with one another in love 4:2
  • Speak the truth in love 4:15
  • The Body builds itself up in love under Christ's headship 4:16
  • Walk in love as Christ loved us sacrificially 5:2
  • Husbands, love your wives as yourself 5:25,28,33
  • Peace be to you and love with faith 6:23
  • Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible. 6:24

If they were to be a church known for their discernment of truth and error it was imperative that they hang onto the motive of love. Without love, truth can be odious.  No amount of knowledge or spiritual gifting can make up for its absence. "If I have all knowledge,…but have not love, I am nothing." (I Cor.13:2)

Herein lies the caution for the Bible student zealous for truth and bent on confronting error wherever he finds it. Be sure your zeal is driven and delivered with love. Or in God's own words to the Church at Ephesus:

I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name's sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. (Rev 2:3-5 ESV)

Let me stop here a moment and clarify how I am coming to understand this passage. It has long puzzled me how it can be understood as a call to 'fall in love' again--to somehow return to the immature first blush of passionate love we had as pre-marrieds. Even if we could by wishing return to this stage, how would this be helpful, given that being 'in love' is more about hormone-driven lust than genuine love? Did we not then mostly love the way we made each other feel? That early 'love' had not been tested over the long-haul of babies, jobs, moves and intermittent crises. It knew little of dying to self or 'bearing all things'—both the ho-hum and high-test. Certainly it isn't to this state of 'love' that we are being called to return in this passage?! If not, then what is being commanded?

As I understand it, what had been abandoned was not merely a passionate emotion. They had lost the sense of being constrained to obedience by the love of Christ. (Cf.II Cor.5:14,15) Their works had once been driven by faith working through love (Cf. Gal.5:6). Now their service had become a robotic duty, fulfilled to the letter but with none of the constraints of love. They were doing, but not loving.

This is a significant temptation for the lover of truth, the one with a gift for discerning truth from error, the eager Bible student… Pride can wiggle in and Love is lost as the motive and means of serving the Body. When we confront error do we do it from a heart that longs for truth to prevail-- not for the sake of saying 'I told you so', but for the sake of the one(s) being misled, for the sake of the Body, for Christ's sake? Do we genuinely desire the ultimate success and blessing of those we disagree with? Or are we ready to gloat when they fail?

It is all too easy when exercising our gifts in the Body to lose sight of the purpose for which they were given--for 'building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ' . This too was addressed to the Ephesians (4:12,13). This is love—seeking another's good with what I have to offer, and this is the purpose for my gifts and yours.

When we lose sight of love, exercising our gifts and pursuing our individual callings can fill us with self-satisfied conceit. Instead of building others up we may find we are only provoking and engendering envy (Gal.5:26).

I confess I am preaching to myself today, as I hope you have guessed by now! As a truth-talker who sometimes blasts others without a view to building them up, I needed this message. It's one thing to know the truth, but quite another to "not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth"…2Ti 2:24-25 NASB

I have found it helps to remember that we are on the same team--members of the same body. We are placed in that body and given gifts for its completion, not our own distinction. We are in this thing together for the glory of God, not our own glory, and for the building up of His church, not our own following. Bringing His bride to perfection is ultimately God's job; the part He calls us to play will have to be done in love if it is to be effective. That's the way He made the Body to grow! (Eph.4:15,16). Without love our best efforts are worthless (I Cor.13).

On a practical note, one sure way I've found to check and purify my motives is prayer. I may perceive errors, bad doctrine, questionable teaching. It may or may not be my job to set a person straight, but I can always pray. I can always ask God to reveal truth to all parties involved, including myself! And when I pray my heart is softened, any hostile intent exposed, and hopefully I come closer to understanding God's heart toward the issue or person at hand. I become more concerned about His purposes prevailing than about being 'right'.  And that’s the best starting point for any disciple!

Thanks for listening in on my lesson this week.  What are you learning about your part in the Body?  I’d love to hear.  Do send along a comment or an email.


Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling." I Jn2:10

Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leas, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness." Rom.12:6-8

May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. Rom.15:5-7

The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Rom.16:20

October 12, 2013

Skeptic, Critic, and/or Lover of Truth?

P1020199 “I’m skeptical…”

I’m sure I’ve said this of myself more than once. I am cautious to jump on ‘band wagons’, hesitant to go along with a crowd, wary of ‘new’ teaching and suspicious of the visiting preacher that brings it.  Does this make me a skeptic? Maybe so.  And likely in some areas it’s true.  We all hang on pretty dearly to our most cherished values and it becomes hard to see beyond our blind spots without a third-party view.  It’s good to get an outside opinion and to pay close attention when things/people offend our sensibilities…

But I am also a believer.  I believe in things that have proven true.  I prize the Word of God as the ultimate test of truth.  I love turning its pages, comparing Scripture with Scripture, digging for context and meaning, making notes and reading, reading, reading-- knowing I can rely on the Spirit to teach me from its pages.

[I may as well put in a plug for my favorite Bible study tool while I’m at it:  BLUELETTERBIBLE.org.  Never has Bible study been so easy.  In an easy to intuit format that comes with a tutorial if you like, multiple versions, concordances, cross-references and commentaries wait at your fingertips.  Audio and print messages are easily accessible for any given verse or passage. God’s gifts to the Church:  preachers and teachers, modern and long-gone-to-glory, still speak. Read Luther for yourself, or Spurgeon, or R.A.Torrey.  Or sample audio messages from more contemporary preachers. Once you get started you won’t want to quit. It’s wonderful!]

But I was saying…I don’t like being thought of as a skeptic. I would prefer to be known as a lover of truth, a discerning believer, a student of the Word.  But each of these labels has also come into disrepute to some degree by those who protest: We don’t need more theology! We need action! (Or: ‘obedience’, ‘disciples’, ‘doers’).  I hear these objections increasingly and I see  circles being drawn which suggest that genuine discipleship can exist quite distinctly from diligent study of the Word of God.  “Theologians” are scoffed at as irrelevant.  Bible students as overstuffed notebooks without practical usefulness. And discerning spokesmen for truth are scorned as ‘nay-sayers’.   What is happening? Is the pursuit of Biblical truth really so at odds with fervent discipleship? 

As believers, we long to see God at work in His Church and in our world.  Many sincere godly believers are praying for revival and watching for ‘breakthroughs’, for change, for new life! And it can be tempting to think we just need an action plan. But is this true?  Do we just need to get out and DO something, anything!  (As though our activity will force God’s hand to act.)  Is the malady of the institutionalized church of our day that we’re just not obeying?!  The analysis goes that instead of acting on the Word, believers are preoccupied with hearing, analyzing, affirming, memorizing and categorizing  God’s Word.  

An amusing illustration is made of the parent who instructs his child to clean up his room because company’s coming.  The child wanders off to contemplate those words, to memorize them, to translate them into Greek and to mull them over thoroughly, but fails to DO them.  This is said to be the problem of the modern church particularly with respect to the Great Commission.  We’re just not DOING it. The illustration can be made much of.  It can be told with great humor.  But I am not ultimately amused because I think that the premise is false and a hazard to the church.

Fun is obviously being poked at serious students of the Word but I don’t believe this zeal for Bible study characterizes the average believer in the pew. I  have not seen a  problematic epidemic of the reading and study of the Word of God in the modern church! Therefore, I don’t think this casting of blame is accurate. 

Now, one could argue that we have possessed the Bible in the West for many years and its influence has faded to a low ebb, failing to produce ardent followers in our times, while droves leave the institutional church in search of something more.  It is true that nominal religiosity has diluted much of western Christianity. But is this because we have been ardent students of the Word and just failed to put it into practice?  Is this your problem?  Is it mine?  I shudder at this mocking of Bible study as though it were a grave problem in the church.  Without knowing the Word of God how will we discern what pleases God?  What will be our yardstick of a ministry?  It looks good?  It sounds good?  It seems right… (Consider Pr.14:12) 

I would suggest there is a bigger picture we are missing.  As believers living in a non-Christian culture with an increasingly anti-Christian bent we may well gaze about with a rising sense of alarm.  When was the last new convert you saw? Where is the vital sense of community that characterized the New Testament church?  Are we missing something?  It does seem that the love of many is growing cold and that the church is failing to propagate itself to the rising generation…What are we to do?! Is this even up to us?

Into this vacuum step multiple para-church ministries with solutions that guarantee results.  If you’re looking for signs and wonders, they’re out there.  For a re-enactment of the healing ministry of Jesus? just do this. For increased enthusiasm in the pew, try this video course… But is the solution to get out and DO something?!  Must we formulate a method anyone can follow and then start promoting it with great enthusiasm and just a sprinkling of guilt-inducement?  A one-size-fits-all strategy, is this even Biblical? 

Methods of evangelism have come and gone throughout modern church history-- embraced, flogged, and laid aside with limited success. Each has its own twist.  Some have been more grounded in Scripture than others. But what seems to be missing so often, is true converts with an insatiable appetite for the Word of God AND a love for their Savior that compels them to obedience.  The two go hand-in-hand and are two of the most compelling evidences of true conversion--new appetites that lead to transformed actions! “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” II Cor.5:17  Only the Holy Spirit can produce these results.   Man can conjure imitations.  Jannes and Jambres, the magicians that opposed Moses, could do many of the things he did. II Tim.3:8  Scripture forewarns that miracles will be done in Jesus’ name without His sanction or favor and will deceive many Mt.7:22,23.  Paul’s letters are replete with cautions about teachers who will distort the gospel, preach another Christ, and offer another Spirit.  (eg II Cor.11)

How do we discern truth from error?  How do we avoid setting ourselves up for deception without becoming universal nay-sayers and perennial skeptics?  It is crucial that we must monitor our values and expectations.  They will  have a pre-disposing influence on us—whether for truth or for error.

What we most want to hear, to see happen, or to experience will be what we seek. In short, to the extent that our desires are rooted in the temporal, expecting satisfaction in our lifetime, to that extent we can expect to be lured by ‘this lifetime’ guarantees.

Think of it this way, if we are desperate to see God ‘do something’ (dramatic) in our day, if we are insistent that a great revival is just around the corner,  if we are eaten up with discontent over the quality of life we are experiencing and sure there is a quick fix out there for us…these expectations will pre-dispose us to  welcome whatever and whoever seems promising.  We will be more readily deceived by appearances and more open to pursuing unsound teachings when our expectations are rooted in discontent with our present situation and distrust in God’s sovereign purposes in everything.. It is imperative that we ground our expectations in the Word of God or they will lead us into temptation and deception.  Paul warns of times when people will want their ears tickled and seek out teachers who will tell them the things they most want to hear II Tim.4:3Our desires must be constantly in check, even our most ‘spiritual’ desires, to see if they really align with the Word of God. Are we demanding temporal relief that God has not promised?  Do we expect more to happen in our lifetimes than is warranted?  And have we learned the secret of contentment in Christ and what He chooses to provide? 

Well, as you can see, I don’t believe the diligent study of the Word of God is at all in conflict with  radical, intentional discipleship.  And I do believe strongly there is a place for critical Biblical analysis of any ministry that claims our attention and seeks to propel us to action, no matter how ardent and  well-intended its agenda.  This is not a role for the skeptic but for the lover of Truth. Love of the truth, even when it disrupts our most cherished values, will protect us from deception.

Could the ardent Bible scholar use some prompting to make sure his/her head knowledge translates into real live discipleship?  Absolutely.  Are there cautions for him/her in the Word of God as well?  Certainly.   More on that next time (hopefully).

We have much to learn from each other in the Body of Christ, lest in our haste to fulfill our individual callings we disparage another’s gifts and calling and miss out on what they have to offer us.  We are after all in this Body together. 


But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. To this he called you through our gospel so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.…So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter.  Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace,  comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.  (2Th 2:13-17 ESV)

Jesus: “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.  The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.” John 17:20-23

There is one body and one Spirit…one hope that belongs to your call, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all…But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Eph.4:7 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. I Cor.12:4-7

October 4, 2013

Clearing Streams…


I’ve been thinking lately of my life as an obstructed streamlet. As a kid our house adjoined a small woods through which a stream trickled carrying run-off from the surrounding farmland to the small lake where we skated in the winter and might catch a fish or two in the summer. Every year leaves would fall and rot and clog the flow of water to the lake.  I appointed myself the task of dragging the leaves and muck away so the water could run freely. In company with my dogs and a stick it was a happy pastime.

Now, at this stage in my life, this lull between stages actually,  I am taking stock of the baggage I've hauled around for all these years, both literally and figuratively. I'm not only cleaning out drawers and whole rooms for better utility and greater beauty but I'm looking at long-held habits-- ways of thinking, acting and reacting. Habitual burdens that make life heavy and clog my streams. And I am thinking the time is now, if ever they are to be jettisoned—these fears I haven’t challenged and the pride that fuels them. These endless reasons why this or that is not feasible and really not a good idea after all...  I long to be done with them. 

What am I waiting for?  Why do we cling to our baggage instead of checking it through to never-never-land!  What would it take to drag all this muck out of the stream so it can run freely. 

If I wait till I have ‘ME’ all figured out

     my fears, doubts and foibles

ironed out---solved---vanquished

    my purpose in life clearly charted and understood….

All questions answered

All uncertainties clarified.

When then will I begin…

to try my hand at the things I am drawn to

to serve in love according to my design


                a living sacrifice


                        imperfect, weak, and ineffectual in glaring ways,

BUT chosen, appointed, useful, and declared ‘just right’

because of Jesus—who died on my behalf

                             ---who lives to intercede for me (and you)

Who infuses my mind with truth,

                 my heart with desire,

          my hands with strength,

that is equal to His purposes for my life.

        Not equal to my ideals perhaps,

                   nor to my envies

            nor to my every whim or compulsion

But equal to His calling and intents—

            His image overlaid on my uniquely created personhood.

He is prepared to take me ‘as is’,

   His servant,

           for His own glory.

What am I waiting for?


A scene from my childhood comes back to me now.  I have long had this compulsion to be more dedicated, more holy, more ‘something-I-don’t-seem-to-be’, more pleasing… In this instance I recall I had plunked down with my journal in a quiet place in the wood, not far from that streamlet I had cleared, and I was considering what it would mean  to be a ‘bondservant’. Marked for life, by one’s own choice, as the slave of a cherished Master.  Paul called himself ‘a bondservant of Christ’.  I wanted to be that too.  My reasons may have been more a prideful compulsion to please, than a pure love of my Master.  I remember being sober and fearful to trust Him with my life.  But I wanted to trust.  Little knowing what this would entail in the years still ahead of my young-teen self, I wrote out my commitment in words that day, pledging to be a bondservant of Christ.

And here I am, all these years later, still clearing leaves from streams, still sensing His Spirit beckoning me to trust Him to complete the good work He has started--to make of me all He has designed for me to be. But I find it is He who has done the serving. He who has been committed to me through the thick and the thin of my professed love.  And I know it will be His doing if living water is to flow through my streamlet or burdensome baggage yet be jettisoned from my life.  It is good to be bonded to such a Master!

With living words He woos me to more effectual service:

“Walk by my Spirit and you will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh... Whatever you do, do it as unto me. Abide in me. Walk in my yoke. It's easy. It's light….”

He beckons me to lay aside every weight to which sin clings so closely-- these weights of expectation. These ‘should’s. These demands for things to be other than they are.  Unbelief and discontent with His provision cling closely to these weights. He calls me to lay them aside and run with endurance the race marked out for ME. (Heb.12:1) Not another's race, but mine.

To trust God to complete the work he’s begun in us, this is the ‘obedience of faith’.(Rom.16:26) To live in confident hope of a yet-to-be-revealed righteousness, this is our salvation (Gal.5:5).  And for our every need, our every weakness, our every propensity for sin Jesus’ blood intercedes and grants us free access to God’s mercy and His grace. (Heb.4:14ff)  What more do we need? 

What pleases God?  Jesus does.  He in me and I in Him,  this is enough. (Jn.15:4) Here may I rest my case, beside the quiet streams…

  1. Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
    Let me hide myself in Thee;
    Let the water and the blood,
    From Thy wounded side which flowed,
    Be of sin the double cure,
    Save from wrath and make me pure.

  2. Not the labor of my hands
    Can fulfill Thy law’s demands;
    Could my zeal no respite know,
    Could my tears forever flow,
    All for sin could not atone;
    Thou must save, and Thou alone.
  3. Nothing in my hand I bring,
    Simply to Thy cross I cling;
    Naked, come to Thee for dress;
    Helpless, look to Thee for grace;
    Foul, I to the fountain fly;
    Wash me, Savior, or I die.

  4. While I draw this fleeting breath,
    When my eyes shall close in death,
    When I rise to worlds unknown,
    And behold Thee on Thy throne,
    Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
    Let me hide myself in Thee.

--Augustus M. Toplady, 1740-1778


 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Mat 11:28-30 KJV)

“… being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phl 1:6 NKJV)