Help My Unbelief

I hear all the great promises,
I know that they are true
I know all things are possible
For those who trust in You

Lord, I believe! 
O help my unbelief!
Lord, I need You
To give me some relief!
I feel the hardness of my heart
And know it should not be,
I fall down at Your mercy, Lord,
O help my unbelief!

Now my eyes have grown accustomed
To walking in the dark
I need a lamp to light the path
And guide my wand’ring heart

Lord, I believe! 
O help my unbelief!
Lord, I need You
To give me some relief!
I feel the hardness of my heart
And know it should not be,
I fall down at Your mercy, Lord,
O help my unbelief!

One day I’ll be completely changed
And freed from all my sin
I’ll no longer war against
This unbelief within

Lord, I believe! 
O help my unbelief!
Lord, I need You
To give me some relief!
I feel the hardness of my heart
And know it should not be,
I fall down at Your mercy, Lord,
O help my unbelief!

1-14-2016

Children’s Lessons

There is something about a child that is essential for entrance into the kingdom of God. It is not their innocence, for they are not innocent! They are little sinners just like we are big sinners. Nor is it their purity or that they are sweet. Again, they are sinners with Adam and Eve’s and your and my DNA running throughout their being. …

Children are helpless. Their lives are in the hands of another. Yet, even at a tender age, they seem to be filled with hope and expectation. They don’t know all they need, but they know they need the help of another, and they are hopeful they will receive it. They come small, helpless, and powerless. They have no clout or standing, and they bring nothing but empty hands. This is appropriate since only empty hands can be filled! …

By their display of trust and absolute dependence on another, children point the way to entrance into God’s kingdom. Children have the capacity to enjoy a lot but explain a little. They live by faith and dependence. They must trust another to survive.

Jesus picked up the children. What a picture of amazing gospel grace! He is tender and affectionate to those who bring nothing to Him but their need.

— Danny Akin, Exalting Jesus in Mark, 214-215.

2015 Reading List: Not By Sight

Bloom, Jon. Not by Sight: A Fresh Look at Old Stories of Walking by Faith.

Not by Sight is a collection of short meditations on what walking by faith probably looked and felt like for a number of people in the Bible. What must it have felt like for Joseph to struggle with Mary’s news? What could it have felt like to be one of the Jews who met the repentant Zacchaeus?

Not by Sight is the product of a faithful imagination engaging with the realities of walking with Jesus. Jon Bloom writes with a novelist’s creativity and a pastor’s heart. This is not deep theology in the sense of inaccessible academia; this is deep theology in the sense of rubber-meets-the-road, Jesus-is-worth-it living.

The aforementioned story of Zacchaeus is probably my favorite chapter in the book. It’s told from the perspective of Judah, an imagined victim of Zacchaeus’ past fraud who receives back four times what he was cheated out of. Judah is understandably wary of him; he is a professional liar and thief, after all. But the way Bloom narrates the tale, the glory and power of the gospel shine through beautifully.

Zacchaeus explains to Judah that Jesus opened his eyes to see the evil of loving money and the good of loving Jesus. He tells Judah,

But as I sat in my home with Jesus and His disciples, who have nothing–nothing but God–I have never seen happier people in my life! And as Jesus spoke, it was like His words were alive. My heart burned with a longing for God I had never felt before! And with deep shame that I traded Him for money.

Then it hit me like a cedar beam: I’m poor, not rich! They had God; I had a dead idol: money. They were rich; I was no more than a beggar. They were free. But the only doors money ever opened for me led to lonely dungeons. My world, as I had known it, fell apart.”

Then, when Judah’s wife asks what the bag is that Judah’s holding, he tells her,

A tax refund.

A what?

I think we need to go hear Rabbi Jesus.

Rabbi Jesus? Why?

I think we’re poor.

It’s a masterful use of imaginative storytelling to show the power of the gospel, both for Zacchaeus and the genuineness of his repentance, but also of the gospel’s heart-persuasiveness to appeal to those who may think they’re okay.

It’s a great book, especially for devotional and thoughtful reading. I read it far faster than a daily devotional reading, mostly because it was too good to stop.

Thankful (Duodora)

I’m so thankful
The list of Hebrews Eleven
Includes Gideon,
Ignoring all his
Wooly, dewy doubts,
The hushed chopping down of Asherah poles,
But points our gaze instead to active faith.

I’m so thankful
Though Gideon I am
He is still faithful
He is still the same
He still accepts all
My stumbling, faltering, and failing faith
Gives me His righteousness and takes my place.

2-16-2016

Herbert and the Debtor’s Ethic

I’m working through Jim Scott Orrick’s A Year with George Herbert: A Guide to Fifty-two of His Best Loved Poems. I read “The Thanksgiving,” which Orrick describes this way:

Herbert vows that he will use Christ’s gifts to praise Him and to give Him thanks. … The poet proposes a love contest between the Lord and himself. “I know,” he acknowledges, “that You are the king of grief. In view of the cross, there’s no disputing that. I know I cannot repay You by offering You my grief. But perhaps I can repay You for Your love and get one-up on You by using all Your gifts not for my benefit, but for yours.”

Orrick’s typically helpful and insightful analysis notes that Herbert is under no delusions of possible success, and the poem conveys this well. Herbert is not advocating the Debtor’s Ethic–the idea that our good works and obedience as Christians is motivated by “repaying Jesus.” No one seriously thinks that’s possible, but it’s the thought that counts, so the Ethic goes.

The Bible never puts forth the Debtor’s Ethic as motivation, either. But it does spend a lot of time encouraging believers to obedience and good works. In fact, Herbert’s “strategy” for the contest sounds a lot like what the New Testament expects of those who are in Christ.

The Gospel is, by definition, good news. “Work harder” isn’t good news, and so neither the Scriptures nor Herbert offer it as such. Rather, what is offered is this:

For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift–not from works, so that no one can boast. For we are His creation, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:8-10 HCSB).

We can undertake Herbert’s “contest” as he does, with no actual intention of competing, but rather out of amazed wonder and gratitude that we are able to render to Jesus anything at all. It’s a miracle that we actually want to give Jesus anything other than a clenched fist and a middle finger, and so we do. And even what we offer is so weak and shot through with sin and brokenness that it’s a miracle He takes it and makes it holy and acceptable, just because He loves us.

Let’s enter the contest, then, and give up competing entirely.

31 (Arnold)

I know You are a Rock,
A fortress in the hills;
You guard me as I walk,
I trust Your sovereign will.
How many are the snares and schemes laid out for me!
I find no one to aid,
No friend supports me here
Sin’s burden on me laid
With no relief, I fear.
Through sorrow, anger, shame, O help my unbelief!
No warehouse can contain
The goodness You have stored
For those who call Your name,
Who wait upon the Lord:
Your faithful love has answered my despairing cry!
Be what I know You are:
A refuge for my soul,
Be near when You feel far,
Restore me to Your fold.
With all Your faithful ones, I’ll love You till I die.

1-14-2015

Return on Investment (Veltanelle)

Haggai 1

Come now, come think with me about our ways,
About all that we gain
When panels–only for our house–we raise
While His in ruins has lain.
So can we really say, “Not now, not yet;
The mortar of my own house isn’t set”?

We plowed our fields and sowed seed far and wide,
But little have we reaped;
No feast of food, no drink has satisfied–
Instead, left incomplete.
Our money’s stored in bags that all have holes;
For all our labor, we have naught to show.

The faithful God delights so to be pleased
And in us glorified
When we His voice and prophets’ words do heed
And trust Him to provide.
The empty pleasures of this world forsake
And with His joy our souls’ deep thirst will slake.

1-9-2015

Not in Vain (Dorsimbra)

Your trusting in the LORD is not in vain.
He sees, remembers all your sacrifice.
He hears your cries of joy and deepest pain;
His strength and grace in Your need He supplies.

He loves to bless with gifts
Those who trust in Him!
He gives them their hearts’ desires
And loves to hear them sing!

No army force nor education taught;
No sum of money nor celebrity:
In Yahweh’s name alone we make our boast–
Your trusting in the LORD is not in vain.

12-11-2014

Psalm 13 (Crescendo)

How long?
How long, O LORD?
Have You forgotten me?
Will You not answer me a word?

Hear me!
Consider me!
Restore light to my eyes;
Don’t let my foes stand mockingly!

But I,
I will trust You,
Your faithful love to me;
I look for and sing my rescue.

12-4-2014

*I’ve named this form “Crescendo” because each stanza builds in volume (both in syllables and intensity). It’s iambic meter, and each successive line adds an iamb.