Blog Archives

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.

Time is Now Fleeting–Are We Passing on Moments to Teach Our Children About God?

Psalm 144 3-4

My favorite part of vacation is by far watching my babies sleeping. Every year, my heart feels a little ding as I notice tiny details that have snatched away their innocence and led them closer to being teenagers. They’ve suddenly become aware of things I wish they didn’t know, and we’ve had more and more discussions about sin and overcoming it.

Another favorite part of vacation is how we sometimes have a traveling church service, organized by my son, who is now nine. He chooses several songs from the book, decides who will pray and when, and writes his own little sermon. My daughter sings along in her sweet little voice. Moments like these, I feel a small twinge of success that we’re doing something right. But then, something worldly creeps into our lives, and I get worried all over again.

Recently it’s struck me how little time I actually have to teach them everything they need to know to grow up as faithful Christians.

Like many, we started our kids off in Bible class a week or two after they were born. Those early classes were nothing more than singing and holding shiny objects in front of them, but the message was clear–like Ma-ma and Da-da, God is someone important who loves you and that you need to love. We’ve worked on memorizing scriptures together, made sure to only miss services when it’s essential (like an ice storm), and even then, we usually have a devotional and worship at home. But also like many, we worry. There’s no guarantee that even with all this preparation our children will choose God’s way.

I’ve heard several people recently compare preachers to salesmen, claiming the analogy that we have to offer God’s truth as some kind of a promotional deal–Hey, for merely a little self-sacrifice and some dedication, praise, and worship, you, too, can have hope of heaven!

And as a teacher, I understand this. A bad lesson when well delivered can be a good sell, and a good lesson badly delivered can be a poor sell. While I don’t like the idea of reducing the gospel to some random product needing promotion, I do feel that some of us need to put a little extra effort into it, especially parents.

Just as some have said in education–parents cannot expect teachers to be solely responsible for delivering the content that will teach their children to love and respect God. And sadly, there’s a finite time we’ve been given to accomplish this task.

I’ve always loved the hymn “Softly and Tenderly,” but I’ve always been curious about opening line of the second verse–“Time is now fleeting, the moments are passing.”

Time is now fleeting. What does that even mean?

Time was fleeting, is fleeting, and will continue to be fleeting. Like it says in James 4:14, life is a vapor. So, to say it’s NOW fleeting is interesting. But I think maybe I understand.

When my babies were little, I didn’t think a lot about protecting them from sin. Their innocence shielded them. And even though time passed at the same fleeting rate, now, the stakes are higher. I have a new awareness of how few moments I actually have to teach them to avoid certain kinds of language and how to be loving and benevolent instead of selfish.

If only I could slow that time.

Well, I can’t do that, but I can choose how much of it I waste. We have to remember as parents that every conversation matters. Every incident in their life can be a teachable moment. We have to seize those moments and nudge them in the right direction.

I’ve heard some say that they don’t want to push religion on their kids so they don’t talk about it that often. They fear that shoving it down their throats will cause them to turn away from it. But this idea is in stark contrast to scripture, and frankly, I believe it’s the reason a lot of churches are losing their young adults.

Most of us are familiar with Proverbs 22:6, which tells us to train up a child, and Deuteronomy 6:7, where Moses instructed the Israelites to teach God’s laws diligently to children.

Hebrews 12:5-11 says:

And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?

“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him.

For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”

It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Three things to draw from this passage. One, if God treats us as sons, we should be treating sons (and daughters) like God treats us. He provides instruction, discipline, and guidance of how we are to follow His ways. Two, God expects parents to discipline and instruct their children, and this is to be respected. Three, discipline and instruction may be painful for all involved at first, but doesn’t that peaceful fruit of righteousness sound worth it?

When we make plans for their education, social engagements, sports activities, etc., we must not forget to plan for their spiritual growth as well. We can make no excuses–after all, it’s part of the God’s plan that we teach our children to be his followers.

Remember, as Proverbs 19:21 says:

Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.

Can We Accept God’s Forever?

Pedro Américo [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Pedro Américo [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Throughout history, rulers have come and gone. Some are forgotten, some are revered,  and some are despised. None are eternal. We’re a week from Election Day, and although the negative TV ads and junk mail propaganda are driving me crazy, I feel secure in knowing that every few years, we have the opportunity to choose new leaders for our community and nation.

I never get worked up over who wins an election because the terms truly aren’t more than a flicker of time. We aren’t stuck with these people forever.

Our Lord, on the other hand, endures. We are under his rule forever. And sometimes, I think we have a hard time accepting that. 1 John 5:3 tells us that his commands are not burdensome, yet I’ve heard some bemoan the fact that becoming a Christian means to turn our backs on sin forever.

“Does this mean I can never … again?”

“I can’t imagine going the entire rest of my life without …”

“Does God really expect me to completely shun sin for the rest of my life? All sin?”

Others feel as though grace gives us an out. After all, no one can be perfect, so if I lapse for a brief time and forget to follow Him, that’s just my human nature. Right? He promised to forgive me! Forever is just too long.

This idea is ridiculous. From Psalm 45:6, we know that God’s throne is forever and ever, and even more than that, He is a righteous ruler.

I Peter 1:22-25 says this:

Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever, because

“All flesh is as grass,
And all the glory of man as the flower of the grass.
The grass withers,
And its flower falls away,
But the word of the Lord endures forever.”

If His promises endure, then so should we.

The truth is, we’ve become such a wishy-washy, quitter society that we seem to have no endurance for anything. Don’t like the coach? Quit the team. Hate our boss? Quit the job. Someone else is faster? Drop out of the race. Spouse is annoying? End the marriage.

The God who created us deserves better. He deserves our faithfulness and persistence. And though we don’t deserve it, we have his guarantee:

Matthew 10:22 And you shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endures to the end shall be saved.

Hold Your Peace! The Lord Will Fight For You


It must annoy God, how we insist on continually carrying the weight of His world on our shoulders when He’s got things under control. Our worry surely grows tiresome, and our need for endless compassion and mercy must surely be a heavy demand. How grateful should we be that His grace endures?

Exodus 14:13-14 gives the words of Moses to his people:

Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.

I never noticed the following verses in context before, when the Lord asks Moses, “Why do you cry to me?” It’s almost like God says to stop whining. Trust me. I’ve got this.

I can think of numerous instances in Scripture where someone is given a message of “I’ve got this” from God. Consider stories like Jesus calming the storm, Peter walking on water, Zechariah laughing when he finds out he’s going to be a father. Every time someone’s worry or skepticism takes over, they get a gentle reminder that God is in control.

We always talk in church about how God is all-powerful, all-knowing, and ever-present. Why, then, is it such a stretch to believe in our hearts that He’s really in charge?

The problem arises when we try to choose the outcome. We don’t trust God to deliver the answer we want. But, we have to remember we belong to Him. He loves us, and we are His children. He knows what’s best for us, which may or may not be the outcome we desire. And He will fight for us. In fact, He’s already fought and won in His resurrection.

Consider I Peter 5:6-7:

Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.…

In a world full of evil deeds and bad news, we should pray for patience and humility, so we can wait for Him to exalt us such that it glorifies Him. We should humble ourselves under his mighty hand, rather than striking out rashly in fear over the acts of men. How often we forget that the battle belongs to the Lord.

Instead, we walk around trigger-happy, both with our words and retaliation.

So strive then, when the enemy rises up against you, to hold your peace.



All These Things–Does Materialism Creep Into Our Fiction?



It’s a challenge to live in a “gimme” society and shield our children from the wiles of materialism. Let’s be honest–it’s a challenge to shield ourselves. We’re continually surrounded by advertisements, samples, new technology, and a lot of times we worry more about how we’re going to obtain these treasures than we do about sharing our faith and living to please Him.

We read passages like Matthew 6:33 and Luke 12:27, acknowledge their truth, and then become distracted by earning an income and arranging to get more things.

Matt 6:33 Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you

Luke 12:27 Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say to you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.

It’s a temptation to let this carry over into our writing. After all, we often fantasize about things that fall under the pride of life–fame, fortune, luxury. Sometimes we give characters objects and experiences that we could never have and live vicariously through them. How many books, for example, base their premise on the celebrity falling for a Cinderella, or the underdog rising to the top?

Just as it’s important to consider modesty when describing how our characters dress, or prudence when deciding their actions, we should consider the avoidance of materialism and covetousness when placing objects into our settings.

Of course, we sometimes need our main characters to have such traits to show their growth. I’m not talking about that, but rather those background things that cement our characters in the settinig.

Do we, for example, set them at tables with an abundance of food, eating gluttonous meals and disposing of the leftovers? Do we dress them in the latest fashions and accessorize them with designer handbags and expensive shoes? Do they drive brand new cars and live in outlandish homes, or strive to fit into a luxury-seeking crowd?

Are their kitchens stocked with the finest china, or their walls covered in exquisite art?

What do our characters spend money on? When they go on dates, do they dine at the finest restaurants? Do they buy expensive coffee on the way into work every morning? Do they spend an hour covering their face in expensive makeup and styling their hair?

This is especially important when writing for teens. I watch them in my classroom every day, emulating everything they take in. They braid their hair like Katniss and get tattoos like Tris. One student can walk in holding the latest model cell phone, and four or five of them will have one in the next week.

IMHO, it’s important to show them that it’s okay to live in a modest home and watch a television instead of a theater/projection system. It’s fine to drive an older-model used car. Our characters can order from the 99-cent menu at McDonald’s as opposed to ordering the six-dollar bagel.

We should make an effort to have them occasionally giving as well as receiving. Maybe they take the leftovers from their family dinner to the elderly lady next door or sift through their closets to find clothes to donate to the needy.

Do you have any suggestions? What are some other ways we can clip materialism from our writing?

Do We Own Our Creative Genius?

For years, I’ve been teaching young children in Bible class to memorize Psalm 139:14:

I praise you, because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

I want them to write it on their hearts and never forget the words. There are no self-made men. There is no self-driven success. We are all made in His image, given the talents that He wishes us to have. As James 1:17 says,

Every good and perfect gift is from above.

Why, then, is it so hard to consider our creative genius as a gift from God? Why do we beat ourselves up over the lack of it, and doubt our ability to produce work of the quality it should be? A new friend challenged me on this today, on my fear that I can’t write anything “publish-worthy.” He said if it’s “God-worthy,” then it’s ready to be used. So true, and yet sometimes so hard to believe.

I know why I doubt, why we all doubt. Get behind me, Satan. I worry about the things of men instead of the things of God.

I recently watched a TED talk from Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, who spoke on this very thing. She talked of the tormented creative geniuses over the past five hundred years who believed their genius came from an internal source, and raised the question as to why creative greatness could not be a glimpse of God.

He is, after all, the great Creator–would it not please Him that we create our own beauty as well? He gives us the inspiration and tools, and we make beautiful music or art, though I think the Bible is clear that he wants us to use these gifts to honor Him. As it says in 1 Peter 4:7-11, we must do everything to the glory of God. If we do, then perhaps we will allow others to see Him through us.

Gilbert makes the point that perhaps our genius is something we hold onto for a short time, and then it moves on to someone else. She’s speaking metaphorically, of course, but how presumptuous of us to expect that we should be permitted to use our God-given talent to propel ourselves further and further into success over the course of our entire life.

So, my prayer today is to keep my focus on His message, that perhaps through the words on my page, someone might see Him more clearly.