All of God’s Roses Have Thorns
You know that old saying–if it looks too good to be true, it probably is? I’ve found this to be the case so many times in life, especially when it comes to sin. There’s a reason why certain forbidden things taste good, smell good, and feel good–Satan plays to all of our senses, and he’s a master at his craft.
Sometimes, he makes sin look so good that we have to really stop to take serious time and consider whether or not the opportunity is truly as good as it looks. Can we trust something that has no visible flaws? Would Satan perhaps offer us a “rose” that has no thorns?
Look at all of God’s creation–everything He made has “imperfections,” and I’m convinced this is by design. Even the most perfect ceramic piece has a tiny nick. The lovliest flower has a slightly misshapen petal. Perhaps it’s a gentle reminder that there’s only one thing on this Earth that’s ever achieved perfection, and that’s Christ.
God appreciates beauty, but he never intended us to worship it. Have you ever considered how many beautiful things He’s created that are harmful or deadly?
Take the swan, for example. It’s hard to find a lovlier creature. The double-swan heart is a common image in many romantic scenes. But occasionally, you’ll hear of someone who drowned or died because of one of their viscious attacks.
And the poison dart frogs. Beautiful, radiant colors. In fact, the brighter and prettier they are, the more toxic their secretions.
There’s jellyfish, and any number of beautiful caterpillars who leave behind a nasty sting. And let’s not forget the flowers, many of which have fragrant aromas disguising deadly toxins.
So, back to the imperfections. Like all his creations, God created humans with imperfections. If God had wanted us to be perfect roses, he would have made us with no thorns. Instead, he gave us choice, knowing that in doing so, we would also be tempted to succumb to our flaws.
But in permitting us that choice, he recognized our need for a savior. He gave us Christ, to help us take our thorns and transform them into perfection–His perfection. Perfection that only comes from living in Him.
If you are living without Christ, you are living with the constant pain of your thorns. Repent, and seek Jesus today!
Matthew 11:28-29 says,
Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
Between working childcare for a Young Adult Weekend at a local church camp, moving dirty volleyball light posts, walking barefoot on a dirty wood floor, and changing a car battery, I’ve had to work double-time this weekend to scrub off a myriad of black spots. Some of them, I didn’t think would ever come clean. Others caught my eye after I thought the scrubbing was finished, and I had to start again. Three showers later, I think I’m finally to a point where there are no more dirty spots to scrub.
This happens sometimes when I paint, too. I’ll clean up and change, run to the grocery, and someone will point at the spot I’ve missed on the back of my elbow. “Someone’s been painting!”
Spots on mirrors, spots on windows, spots on the wall–everywhere we look, we find dirty places that need cleaning. And don’t even get me started on my kids!
It’s so easy to become spotted without meaning to. And it’s so easy to miss spots when we’re scrubbing.
This reminds me a lot of my walk with God. I stumble into sin before I’ve realized it, and sometimes it takes more than a scrub or two to get things back to good.
Maybe it’s walking into a furniture store and coveting things I know I can’t afford. Or possibly it’s an argument with a friend that festers into a week-long war. It might even be less sinister than that, and just the omission of something to grow my faith because I didn’t feel like it.
The world constantly intrudes in our lives, brushing up against us and dusting us with sin.
But James 1:27 says:
Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.
Remember this today, when you’re scrolling through your Facebook feed and seeing all the hoopla about what celebrities are divorcing and who’s worthy of gossip. I know I need to!
Have a blessed day!
I Don’t Read My Bible Anymore… But I’m a… Christian?
The Bible shown above (Attributed to: Michaela McNichol, Library of Congress), is the one Abraham Lincoln held for his oath of office in 1861. A little Wikipedia research and this article from CBS News told me it was not the Bible Abraham Lincoln carried with him to his inaguration. The story is he arrived in Washington in the middle of the night on the edge of the Civil War, separated from his own Bible, and had to use a borrowed one. A clerk of the US Supreme Court brought one he kept for official use.
How sad, the fate of this Bible, with its crisp, unturned pages, wasting its life away in a drawer somewhere. And yet, how many of our own Bibles do the same?
The truth is, there are very few people who read the Bible from cover to cover. Some purpose to read the Bible every year, and they may or may not reach that goal. Others are content to sit in church and listen to someone read a few verses to them. My suspicion is there are a lot of “Christians” out there who seldom move past the cover.
Question, friends. If we, as Matthew 4:4 tells us, live not by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God, will we not die if we choose not to partake? Will we be like the Saducees in Matthew 22, and have God tell us we are mistaken, not knowing the scriptures or power of God?
I’ve found that although it’s a challenge to sit and read pages of the Bible at a time in our busy society, it’s rather easy to read an excerpt here and there. I found little stickers, and placed verses on all my light switch plates. I have pictures hanging in my home with Bible verses written as a caption. You can hang a calendar that provides a scripture to read each day of the month. There are apps and CDs that will read the Bible to you in the car. Sites like Bible Gateway will send you a verse of the day. Even if you cannot find the time to sit and read page after page, you can still find ways to encounter God’s words throughout your day.
Every year, I renew my goal to memorize 100 Bible verses. I do this for Lads to Leaders, but mostly to provide an example for my children about how important God’s words are and how we must write them on our hearts. My goal for this year is that my children learn them, too. Join us! We’re starting with the Beattitudes, Matthew 5:1-12.
5 And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him. 2 Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying:
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn,
For they shall be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek,
For they shall inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
For they shall be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful,
For they shall obtain mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart,
For they shall see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers,
For they shall be called sons of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. 12 Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
One Flew Over the Laundry Pile
Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of blogs about defiant children, just further evidence of a problem I’ve observed in my years at a high school teacher. It stuns me how many parents are completely perplexed by the behavior, and how little confidence they have in their own ability to assume authority of their household.
What scares me is that we’re turning our kids into mental patients. We’re telling all of them there’s something wrong that needs to be fixed when a lot of times, we’re that something wrong that needs to be fixed.
I’ve seen an alarming number of parents in recent years go “Nurse Ratched” on their children, taking the attack and shame route. Then, by the time they reach my class at age 16 or 17, they start to rebel in full force. Nurse Ratched starts seeing them as a McMurphy and they almost get to a point where they hate their own children. They’re willing to do anything to get the behaviors to stop, no matter the cost to the kid. Cut them off at the pass. Emotionally lobotomize them.
I can’t tell you how many conversations I’ve had with parents of students who are not coming to school and failing classes that they are “out of ideas” or they “have no clue where to start.” And then, at SIXTEEN or SEVENTEEN, they head to a doctor and beg them for meds to control what they should have handled years prior.
The conversation goes something like this. “They were A students in Middle School, almost like the perfect kid. I don’t know what’s wrong with them.”
I want to just lean across the table and scream at them. You went wrong. You quit on your kid. You stopped paying attention and started playing Farmville 24/7. You started leaving them at home by themselves so you could run out to bars and latch onto strange men or women. You didn’t stand up and demand respect when they were younger.
But instead, I offer tutoring and go home that night to pray for them.
In no way do I believe I’m a perfect parent. In fact, I need to do a ton of growth myself. But I do believe that my efforts to be a godly parent are making a difference in my children, and they could make a difference in yours.
I came across this great post today: 20 Important Bible Verses for Parents
A few key summary points:
- Children are a blessing and we’re to love them (Psalm 127:3-5)
- Children should be taught to memorize verses and know God’s word (Deuteronomy 4:10)
- Parents are commanded to train their children (Proverbs 22:16, Ephesians 6:4)
- Parents are commanded to discipline their children (Proverbs 29:15)
Bottom line, it’s our responsibility as parents, and it’s our fault if we fail at it. God has given us all the tools. We have to stop making excuses, pleasing/satisfying ourselves at their expense, and do the job we were put on this Earth to do–raise up families to honor, love, and glorify God, and to spread his gospel to every creature.
Meme-Based Religion and the Status Bible
Sometimes it scares me how impatient we’ve all become, and how few people seem to take time anymore to stop and smell the roses. But the things we do take time for…always Facebook, right?
According to this NBC News article from 2013, smartphone users check their Facebook pages an average of fourteen times every day. That’s the average. The article goes on to mention that 79% of users check their phones in the first fifteen minutes of their day.
Think about how different the world might be if those same people checked their Bibles first thing or opened their Bibles fourteen times every day.
I think there are a lot of Christians out there who live busy lives and take comfort in being able to post a Bible verse or a religious-themed meme. We do so with good intentions–it’s an easy way to “share Christ” with everyone who follows us in their news feed. But what are we really sharing? It’s Cracker Jack Christianity. Dig through the sticky muck on our newsfeed and pull out a cheap imitation for the real thing. But at least people are reading Bible verses, right? Well, yeah. Right.
And this is a big however…
According to several studies, there are a lot of Christians out there not reading their Bibles very often anymore. Take this article from the Huffington Post, for example (April 2013). They cite a survey from the American Bible Society claiming that only one in five Americans read their Bibles on a regular basis. It said that fifty-seven percent only read their Bibles three or four times per year, and that the same percentage of young people ages 18-28 read their Bibles three times or less per year.
What this means is for many, the only access they have to Scripture is whatever random verse they see on someone’s Facebook wall. They might base their faith entirely on that, thinking they’re okay when they’re not. And like Psalm 119:105 says, the Bible is a light to our path–without it, we’re just walking blindly in the dark.
This is what prompted me to write Cavernous. It’s a what-if book, considering the idea that our obsession with social media might lead to the next big political revolution. First, a presidential assassination, and then a planned effort that leads to the secession of several states. And a group of extremists who recruit through their Facebook page lead several states into secession to form their own country.
Is that so far fetched? How many blog posts have we shared without looking to see what the writers really stand for? How many memes have we passed on without looking at the names of the original poster? I for one have seen Christians post pictures from users or groups with inappopriate names on multiple occasions and they probably didn’t even notice.
What if–we like the pages, we sign on via the comfort of our own homes, and then suddenly we find ourselves in the middle of a great divide?
Suppose a new political leader came along who didn’t agree with three verses in I Corinthians–so he has them removed and reprinted. And he didn’t like part of Romans, and he couldn’t leave in the verses that address his favorite sin… and suddenly we have a Bible that doesn’t reflect God’s true plan of salvation. And we might not realize it because WE HAVEN’T READ OUR BIBLES LATELY!
It would never happen, right?
But think about it, thoughout history, political leaders have had influence on printing the Bible. The King James version, for example, was commissioned by King James IV and the church of England. And these days, anyone can self publish whatever drivel they feel like.
In Cavernous, one of the themes is to not only read Scripture, but to write it on our hearts. The main character, Callie, is able to stand up to the political leaders because of her Biblical knowledge. I’m not sure I could do that myself, which is why this is a message for me as much as anyone else. These days, it’s so easy to read the Bible. There are even phone apps that will read it out loud to you. None of us have an excuse to rely on statuses and memes to give us our daily Biblical nourishment.
Rant over 🙂 Back to writing!
Write from the Heart, Write on the Heart
A friend asked a few days ago what drives me to write Christian young adult fiction and not mainstream. Though I’ve touched on this topic in another post, one thing I didn’t mention is my deep concern that many people claiming to be Christians are not reading their Bibles anymore. They’ll say, “Oh, I saw that in a blog post,” or “I read about it in a book.”
For me, there’s only one Book, THE Book, that serves as the source of my faith. Blog posts and commentary are only manmade opinions, just as this one is. And if I’m to have a platform, that’s it. Read your Bible. More than that, write its words on your heart–Memorize Scripture. Anything I write now, or in the future, will have that message somewhere within its pages.
I drew inspiration for my work-in-progress, Cavernous, from several different sources. One was Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, which to me, is one of the scariest concepts–the banning of books.
In Cavernous, several US states have seceded to form their own country, the Alliance of American States. Adrian Lamb, the leader of this new nation, has printed his own Bibles, keeping only the Scripture that suits him. And sadly, many of the so-called Christians in the Alliance have not read the Bible enough to even detect that parts are missing.
Just like firefighter Montag in Fahrenheit 451, who becomes the “back-up copy” of the book of Ecclesiastes, my protagonist, Callie, carries Scripture in her heart. Thus, she’s able to resist Alliance brainwashing, since she knows what pieces are left out.
This morning, I read from Deuteronomy 11.
13 ‘And it shall be that if you earnestly obey My commandments which I command you today, to love the Lord your God and serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul, 14 then I will give you the rain for your land in its season, the early rain and the latter rain, that you may gather in your grain, your new wine, and your oil. 15 And I will send grass in your fields for your livestock, that you may eat and be filled.’ 16 “Take heed to yourselves, lest your heart be deceived, and you turn aside and serve other gods and worship them, 17 lest the Lord’s anger be aroused against you, and He shut up the heavens so that there be no rain, and the land yield no produce, and you perish quickly from the good land which the Lord is giving you.
18 “Therefore you shall lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.19 You shall teach them to your children, speaking of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. 20 And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, 21 that your days and the days of your children may be multiplied in the land of which the Lord swore to your fathers to give them, like the days of the heavens above the earth.–Quote from NKJV, accessed from BibleGateway.com
Verses 18 and 19 could well be my mission statement. Lay up God’s words in your heart and soul, keep them in front of your eyes, teach them to your children, speaking of them continually, write them where people can see them.
Through the Lads to Leaders/Leaderettes program, my husband, children, and I have participated in an event called “Centurion of Scripture.” The goal is to memorize 100 Bible verses in a year. It seems a daunting task until you push up your sleeves and start learning verses, but after that, it’s actually pretty easy. Think about what a better life we’d all have if everyone wrote the words of God on their heart.
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