Friday, January 29, 2010

Christina Rossetti Part Two

Christina Rossetti never married. She was not without her suitors, but they were not acceptable because of her strong love for her Saviour. One refused to leave the Catholic Church; a second was agnostic; a third was a married man. Christina paid the full emotional cost of these unrequited loves, yet she realized that suffering is used by God in our lives to cause us to bear more spiritual fruit.

Although today He prunes my twigs with pain,
Yet doth His blood nourish and warm my root:
Tomorrow I shall put forth buds again
And clothe myself with fruit.

The following prose demonstrates that God's love was sufficient:

She whose heart is virginal abides aloft and aloof in spirit. . . Her spiritual eyes behold the King in His beauty; wherefore she forgets, by comparison, her own people and her father's house. Her Maker is her Husband, endowing her with a name better than of sons and daughters... She loves Him with all her heart and soul and mind and strength; she is jealous that she cannot love Him more; her desire to love Him outruns her possibility, yet by outrunning enlarges it. She contemplates Him, and abhors herself in dust and ashes.

Christina desired to love God fervently, with all of her heart, soul, mind and strength. Yet she was all too aware that her best efforts were mediocre, and that her heart was hard and cold and small.

What Would I Give
by Christina Georgina Rossetti

What would I give for a heart of flesh to warm me through,
Instead of this heart of stone ice-cold whatever I do!
Hard and cold and small, of all hearts the worst of all.

What would I give for words, if only words would come!
But now in its misery my spirit has fallen dumb.
O merry friends, go your own way, I have never a word to say.

What would I give for tears! Not smiles but scalding tears,
To wash the black mark clean, and to thaw the frost of years,
To wash the stain ingrain, and to make me clean again.

How her poetry resonates with me! I have the worst of all hearts. I never have a word to say that's wise and good and pure. I, too, am black and stained with sin. I am lost and undone without my Saviour, Jesus.

A Better Resurrection
by Christina Georgina Rossetti

I have no wit, no words, no tears;
My heart within me like a stone
Is numbed too much for hopes or fears.
Look right, look left, I dwell alone;
I lift mine eyes, but dimmed with grief
No everlasting hills I see;
My life is in the falling leaf:
O Jesus, quicken me.

My life is like a faded leaf,
My harvest dwindled to a husk:
Truly my life is void and brief
And tedious in the barren dusk;
My life is like a frozen thing,
No bud nor greenness can I see:
Yet rise it shall--the sap of spring;
O Jesus, rise in me.

My life is like a broken bowl,
A broken bowl that cannot hold
One drop of water for my soul
Or cordial in the searching cold;
Cast in the fire the perished thing;
Melt and remould it, till it be
A royal cup for Him, my King:
O Jesus, drink of me.
It's all about Jesus. Christina Rossetti knew that. She knows it still.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Christina Rossetti

Christina Rossetti is one of my favourite poets. She began writing poems when she was a teenager, and wrote an average of a poem a month for the remainder of her 64 years. A deep thinker, she was spiritually minded and introspective. A recurrent theme in her writing was that of human frailty contrasted with divine faithfulness.

O Lord, I cannot plead my love of Thee:
I plead Thy love of me:
- The shallow conduit hails the unfathomed sea.

God is the one Who keeps us. We only love Him because He first loved us.

The contrast between God and man is demonstrated in the third line. In contrast to the immeasurable, immense ocean, we are nothing but a little dip in the road for the water to run into the sewer.

Isaiah 55:9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Christina was astute enough to recognize and battle her worst enemy: self.

Who Shall Deliver Me?
by Christina Georgina Rossetti

God strengthen me to bear myself;
That heaviest weight of all to bear,
Inalienable weight of care.

All others are outside myself;
I lock my door and bar them out
The turmoil, tedium, gad-about.

I lock my door upon myself,
And bar them out; but who shall wall
Self from myself, most loathed of all?

If I could once lay down myself,
And start self-purged upon the race
That all must run ! Death runs apace.

If I could set aside myself,
And start with lightened heart upon
The road by all men overgone!

God harden me against myself,
This coward with pathetic voice
Who craves for ease and rest and joys

Myself, arch-traitor to myself;
My hollowest friend, my deadliest foe,
My clog whatever road I go.

Yet One there is can curb myself,
Can roll the strangling load from me
Break off the yoke and set me free.

I, too, need my God to harden me against myself - this coward with pathetic voice who yearns for rest, and peace, and joys. Thank the Lord, He is the One who breaks my yoke and sets me free. We have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous, and He is the propitiation for my sins. I cannot plead with God because of my great love for Him. But because of His great love for me, I boldly approach the throne of grace.

Three things may give boldness in prayer. We have a Father to pray to, and the Spirit to help us to pray, and an Advocate to present our prayers.

God’s children should in all their troubles run to their heavenly Father, as the sick child in 2 Kings 4: 19: ‘He said unto his father, My head, my head.’ So pour out thy complaint to God in prayer. ‘Father, my heart, my heart; my dead heart, quicken it; my hard heart, soften it in Christ’s blood. Father, my heart, my heart.’ Surely God, who hears the cry of ravens, will hear the cry of his children! –Thomas Watson

More on Christina will follow.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


I had to go to London today to get all of our personal effects from the smashed van. All I can say is Wow...

The van was smashed. It didn't roll sideways. It went into the ditch backwards then somehow turned and flipped over back to front. The back of the van did all the flying, Daniel said.

If anyone had been in the passenger seats, they would have had their heads crushed.

Elena had wrenches flying about her; a glass jar of applesauce hit the windshield by her head. A glass jar of jam shattered on the window beside her face.

And yet, no injuries.

The VERY heavy pressure-washer stayed put, because Daniel learned the hard way that if it tips over, there are problems. He, responsible young man that he is, strapped the pressure washer to the frame. It stayed put. PTL!

We went to the crash site to have a look. All along the road there were fenceposts and telephone poles, except for where the accident occured. Just 400 feet before the crash site, there was an extremely steep ditch... and even though there was a good sized ditch where it all happened, there was lots of snow to cushion the van and lessen the impact.

I am truly, truly thankful. My kids are okay.

They're fine.

The van is NOT. Fine, that is.

Daniel was on his way home from London and inadvertently turned onto Ilderton Road. He travelled only a few moments before realizing that he turned too soon, then took his foot off the gas pedal, coasting for a bit. Deciding simply to continue on until he could make a left turn, he slowly put the gas pedal back on.

The van fish-tailed. Dan gulped, and corrected. Perhaps he over-corrected a bit, or perhaps the freezing rain had caused so much ice to build up that it was a lost cause. Either way, he ended up skidding BACKWARDS into a steep ditch. The van flipped one and a quarter times, coming to rest on the passenger side.

It's toast.

But Daniel and Elena are fine.

For that, I am very thankful. Vans can be replaced. Kids cannot.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010


Just a tumour. Or two, or three. A scope revealed that the bleeding my husband has been experiencing is due to some tumours where there ought not to be tumours.

"We'll take them out," the doctor said.

"Then we'll check again. You'll have to come in every three months or so..."

So, what do I say when my world comes crashing down?

What time I am afraid, I will trust in you.

And what do I do when I find out that my worst case scenario is happening?

I nag. "Don't smoke. No sugar for you. Drink lots of water with lemon."


I trust. Yes I do. But I'm gonna be nagging, too.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Come Thou Fount - Verse 5

O that day when freed from sinning,
I shall see Thy lovely face;
Clothed then in blood washed linen
How I’ll sing Thy sovereign grace;
Come, my Lord, no longer tarry,
Take my ransomed soul away;
Send thine angels now to carry
Me to realms of endless day.

So here we come to the last verse. This hymn was written by Robert Robinson, who lived from 1735-1790. According to the brief bio on the link I provided, the latter part of his life was difficult. Oh, how he wished in his later years to be the man who penned those words! He died young, at 55.

I went searching, and found this more extensive biography. I love how he wrote his conversion story in the flyleaf of one of his books in Latin:

"Robertus Michaelis Mariaeque Robinson filius, natus Swaffham, comitatu Norfolkiae, Saturni Die Sept 27.1735. Renatus Sabbati Die, Maii 24, 1752 per predicationem potentem Georgii Whitefield, et gustatis Doloribus renovationis duos annosque septem absolutionem plenam gratuitamque, per sanguinem pretiosum Jesu Christi, inveni (Tuesday, December 10, 1755) Cui sit honor et gloria in secula seculoru, Amen".

I also discovered alternate words for the last verse:

Rescued thus from sin and danger,
Purchased by the Saviour's blood,
May I walk on earth a stranger,
As a son and heir of God.

O that day when freed from sinning,
I shall see Thy lovely face;

Like me, Robert Robinson seems to have gone through times of depression due to his own sin. The thought that one day there'll be no more sin, and it will be removed as far as the east is from the west and cast into the deepest sea gives me great joy.

Believers still struggle with sin, but they have hope that one day they will be completely free. Meanwhile, they press on with joy, knowing that Christ in us is the hope of glory.

John MacArthur expands on this in his sermon, Free From Sin, Part 1:

"Being, then, made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness."

The apostle Paul was not saying that Christians are free from sinning or the temptation of sin. He was saying that those who are truly saved are free from the tyranny of sin. We are for the first time in our lives, slaves of righteousness. Before a person comes to Christ, he can do nothing but sin. Even an unbeliever's good deeds fall into the category of sin because they're not done for the glory of God. When men do good deeds just because they want to be good men, that's tantamount to pride. Sinful men don't even know they are slaves to sin.

Believers, however, have been made free from sin, and have become the servants of righteousness. Only those who believe in Jesus Christ are truly free from sin, for only Christians can choose whether to sin or not. We are free to do right for the first time in our lives. That's the essence of Christian liberty. Those who contend Christian liberty gives us the freedom to sin don't understand true Christian liberty. The servant of sin has no choice but to sin, while the servant of righteousness is the only human being who has the freedom to do right for the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31).

So, we press on, struggling against the temptation to sin. We have the freedom to do right for the glory of God!

One day, all this will be behind me, and I will gaze on the lovely face of Jesus. I'll stand there, clothed in righteousness, in linens white as snow, singing about the grace and the glory of God.

Come, my Lord, no longer tarry,
Take my ransomed soul away;
Send thine angels now to carry
Me to realms of endless day.

John MacArthur, in Part Two of his sermon, Free From Sin, wrote:

There is nothing else to say to the world other than to offer them the gift of salvation in Jesus Christ. To be made free from sin and guilt and to inherit eternal life, that is true freedom. Instead of having things to be ashamed of, a saved person is filled with thanksgiving to God. Instead of anticipating eternal death, a believer anticipates eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Result of Grace

German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer said that cheap grace "amounts to the justification of sin without the justification of the repentant sinner who departs from sin and from whom sin departs. Cheap grace is not the kind of forgiveness of sin which frees us from the toils of sin.... Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ.... [Costly grace] is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him.... When [Martin Luther] spoke of grace, [he] always implied as a corollary that it cost him his own life, the life which was now subjected to the absolute obedience of Christ.... Happy are they who, knowing that grace, can live in the world without being of it, who by following Jesus Christ, are so assured of their heavenly citizenship that they are truly free to live their lives in this world" (The Cost of Discipleship [N.Y.: Macmillian, 1959], pp. 47, 53, 60).

Amen, Lord. Come quickly! But while you tarry, let me live a sanctified life. Let me not fall into a pattern of cheap grace, but let me walk on earth a stranger, as a son and heir of God.

Rescued thus from sin and danger,
Purchased by the Saviour's blood,
May I walk on earth a stranger,
As a son and heir of God.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Come Thou Fount - Verse 4

O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.

O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!

Every day, I am forced by the Spirit of God, and by the truth of His word, to see how great a debt I owe to the grace of God. Were it not for His Amazing Grace, I'd be lost and undone. Daily, He reminds me, "I love you. I forgive you. I look at you and see the righteousness of my dear Son." I owe Him everything!

Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.

What a picture! God's goodness is like a chain around my leg that keeps me from wandering. I cannot leave, because He keeps me.

John 10:27 "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me,1 is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand."

Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;

Romans 7:19 For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. My heart is deceitful above all things. God knows I am prone to idolatry, to selfishness, to pride. I don't like the discipline of the Lord at times. I've spent months in the "wilderness", in rebellion against a Holy God. Yet, like the Hound of Heaven that He is, He would not let me go.

Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.

The Holy Spirit is an earnest, a seal... a promise given to us to assure us that we will be praising God in His courts. Even though we're prone to wander, God keeps us by His grace and seals His promise with the Holy Spirit.

Ephesians 1:11 In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who works all things after the counsel of his own will: 12 That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ.
13 In whom you also trusted, after that you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that you believed, you were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, 14 Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of his glory.

Praise God!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Come Thou Fount - Verse 3

Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandering from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger,
Interposed His precious blood;
How His kindness yet pursues me
Mortal tongue can never tell,
Clothed in flesh, till death shall loose me
I cannot proclaim it well.

There's no doubt that this hymn was written by a person who understood that salvation is a work of God in the heart of man.

Jesus sought me when a stranger,

The Christian life is often depicted as a journey; we are sojourners, strangers in the land. As strangers here, we hold the things of this world loosely, because we look forward to our real home in heaven.

Psalm 39:12 “Hear my prayer, O LORD,
And give ear to my cry;
Do not be silent at my tears;
For I am a stranger with You,
A sojourner, as all my fathers were.

Matthew Henry comments,

Afflictions are sent to stir up prayer. If they have that effect, we may hope that God will hear our prayer. The believer expects weariness and ill treatment on his way to heaven; but he shall not stay here long : walking with God by faith, he goes forward on his journey, not diverted from his course, nor cast down by the difficulties he meets. How blessed it is to sit loose from things here below, that while going home to our Father's house, we may use the world as not abusing it! May we always look for that city, whose Builder and Maker is God.

Wandering from the fold of God

We're like sheep who have gone astray. Yet Jesus, the good Shepherd, goes after His sheep, those strangers who would prefer to go their own way. He seeks them until He finds them, then He rejoices.

Isaiah 53:6
We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

John 10:11
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

Matthew 18:12
"What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off?

He, to rescue me from danger,
Interposed His precious blood;

It is a rescue! We are heading in the wrong direction, bent on destroying ourselves through selfish pursuits and idolatry, and Jesus swoops in and rescues us. That's what He did when He came to earth - it was a rescue mission! That's why He is called the Saviour - He saved us from our sin and its wages, death.

He did it by becoming the Lamb without spot or blemish. Without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin. God required that an atonement be made, and Jesus willingly did it. That means I don't have to pay the price I owe for my sin. Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

1 Peter 1:18 knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.

How His kindness yet pursues me
Mortal tongue can never tell,
Clothed in flesh, till death shall loose me
I cannot proclaim it well.

Jesus is the Hound of Heaven who pursues relentlessly. Go here to read a story of a soldier, pursued by God.

Yet my mortal tongue cannot explain the glories of His grace well. That's why the hymn-writer asked in the first verse that God would tune his heart to sing His praise. I am clothed in flesh, and as such I am limited.

Romans 7:24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!

Thanks be to God, indeed. Thanks be to Jesus, who sought me when I was a stranger, who rescued me from certain danger, who pursued me even though I purposely tried to hide from Him, and who has showed me kindness, even though I never deserved it.

Thanks be to God, indeed.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Come Thou Fount - Verse 2

Sorrowing I shall be in spirit,
Till released from flesh and sin,
Yet from what I do inherit,
Here Thy praises I’ll begin;
Here I raise my Ebenezer;
Here by Thy great help I’ve come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home.

Sorrowing I shall be in spirit,
Till released from flesh and sin. . .

Life is tough. In some ways, it's tougher for a Christian who wants to please God, because it is glaringly apparent that most of what he does is not pleasing to the Judge of All the Earth.

So, we sorrow when we contemplate our sin and our flesh. We strive to do right. We make lists of things to do, and write resolutions of things to change, so that we can feel better about ourselves.

The truth is that when we do these things, we are in danger.

The Irish Calvinist talked about this on his blog. He spoke of Jonathan Edwards, a giant of the faith, who made many resolutions as he walked through life, striving to live a holy, passionate life before the God he loved.

The Irish Calvinist writes,

We Like Measurable Standards
However, (and here is my concern) the propensity of the human heart to attach itself to rules and regulations for righteousness is an ever intimidating and sobering reality. We want to be active doing– so that we feel like we are– something. And the scary thing for me as both a pastor and someone who wants to pursue holiness is that we see the rules and don’t see the gospel.

I must repeat that: We want to be active doing so that we feel like we are something.

Yet from what I do inherit,
Here Thy praises I'll begin...

But the truth is that we are already something if we have been purchased by the blood of Christ. We are His children! We are rooted and grounded in Christ. God is refining and changing us, making us like His dear Son. Thank God, our salvation doesn't depend on us. God is the One who is holding us in the palm of His hand, and He will never let us go.

If you are one of those people who fall into the trap of doing so you feel like you are something, you need to change your way of thinking. You may lack obedience and discipline, but your obedience and discipline is not going to make God love you more, even if you were very obedient and perfectly disciplined. God loves you on the basis of what Jesus accomplished, not on what you do or do not do every day.

I used to derive a false sense of security by checking off a list in my mind each day. I based my Christian life on my accomplishments rather than on a relationship with God. The checklist was a source of pride and satisfaction - see what a good little Christian I am? I did this. I did not do that.

I still operate by using lists. However, I don't see my accomplishments as a way to please God. I am not working my way to heaven in my much-doing. I have learned to rest in Jesus. I have learned to see my sin more clearly, and see God's grace more gratefully, and walk in the power of the Holy Spirit more fully.

Here I raise my Ebenezer;
Here by Thy great help I've come...

What's an Ebenezer? Dr. Gregory Neal explains:

"Literally speaking, an Ebenezer is a "stone of help," or a reminder of God’s Real, Holy Presence and Divine aid. Spiritually and theologically speaking, an Ebenezer can be nearly anything that reminds us of God’s presence and help: the Bible, the Sacramental Elements, a cross, a picture, a fellow believer, a hymn – those things which serve as reminders of God’s love, God’s Real Presence, and God’s assistance are "Ebenezers.""

A stone of help. A rock of remembrance. Here by Thy great help I've come. I am nothing apart from Christ. He is the One who has given my life purpose, and focus, and meaning. He is the One who is my Helper.

And I hope, by thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home.

This world is not my home, I'm just passing through. God is pleased to lead me safely on the path towards the Celestial City. In His good pleasure, He chose me to be His child and to be redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. I am safe in Him.

It's all about Jesus, people.

The Irish Calvinist says we can learn from Jonathan Edwards - not to make lists and resolutions, relying on them instead of on Christ. No, Jonathan Edwards was passionately in love with Jesus - he praised Him constantly in his writing and in his living.

"We could certainly could learn a lot from Edwards in context…stare long at Christ, his person and work, and then dip you pen in the inexhaustible fountain of grace and respond to it with a Christ-centered, cross-boasting, pride-smashing, personal resolution to live for the glory of God…because it is right and he is worth it."

Keep on singing the praises of God. Keep on living for the glory of God. Because it is right and he is worth it!