Genuine love will always compel action. There is no such thing as stagnant, vibrant love. For love to remain kindled hot and strong, it must actively honor its object. I cannot love Christ and live in contradiction to His commands. I cannot love other people and be indifferent towards them. The test of authenticity for love is to look at the sacrifices it compels.
John 15:13 Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.
1 John 4:9 By this the love of God was manifested, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him.
1 John 5:3 For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensone.
I used to think that Martin Luther King Jr. Day was ridiculous, dismissing it as yet another display of white-guilt motivated “political correctness.” But the truth is that Martin Luther King Jr. provided leadership and a voice to a movement that desperately needed to happen. And before we minimize the importance and magnitude of what he did, let’s remember that somebody shot him for it.
We’re not a colorblind society. I don’t even think there can be such a thing as a colorblind society. To deny racial differences in an attempt at “equality” is to deny something that should be celebrated. True equality is found by understanding that differences are to be enjoyed, not feared or denigrated. The world would be a far less enjoyable place without the warm relational attitude of Latin America, the energetic celebrations of Africa, or the fiery strength of the Irish.
Martin Luther King Jr. certainly was no theological role model. He disbelieved that Jesus was God incarnate. He refused to accept the bodily resurrection. But we’ve never made theological perfection a requirement for men we admire. We can and should be thankful for men who accomplish great things even though they do not know God. George Washington was a rational humanist, General George Patton a profane man who thought he was a reincarnated Carthaginian general. But by common grace they did much to be celebrated.
Let’s quick to celebrate what Martin Luther King Jr. did. While racial harmony must never become our focus in this life, our focus must make racial harmony part of this life. As long as humanity exists short of the new heavens and new earth, tension will exist between those who look different from one another. I hope our love for God and His presence in our hearts will make us eager and passionate about fighting the ever-necessary battle against racial prejudice.
When there are many [text messages], transgression is unavoidable,
But he who restrains his [fingers] is wise.
Proverbs 10:19 [edited]
Over the last three months, I’ve been working with a local artist to put the story of Christmas into an illustrated poetry book format. I’m excited to share the finished product with you here. May Christ be exalted and magnified for His birth, for His death, for His resurrection, and His coming renewal of all things.
Part One: The Town
Anticipation was the rule
In Nazareth for soon a jewel
A favored daughter would be wed
To Him whose ancestry thread
Wove round amongst the kings of old
The righteous Joseph, ever bold
To do the right and shun the wrong
Though poor, his moral compass strong
“A perfect pair” the women said
As wizened husbands nodded heads.
But soon the happiness was cast
Aside before the stormy blast
Of presumed infidelity
And then to cover up her free
And loosened living she would claim
Some wild tale that God became
A child. And stranger still that he
Condemned to live in cuckoldry
Would stand beside his fiancée
Expecting all of us to play
The fool with him. So mock and scorn
Them and the child to be born.
And so the favored couple went
From being loved to being bent
Upon the anvil of the town
Their reputations trampled down
Before all except the Lord.
Part Two: The King
Away from Nazareth a jar
Containing royal scrolls was passed
From hand to hand until at last
The census words were handed down
To every city, village, town.
For Caesar hoped to know how great
His empire had become. Not late
Or early was his heart bestirred
For God would keep His holy Word
And overrule the heart of one
So powerful to move His Son
To Bethlehem where prophecy
Foretold the Child’s infancy
And so it was no accident
When Mary, Joseph rose and went
From all they’d ever seen and known
To Joseph’s old ancestral home
Behold the rising tide of cost
That Jesus had already tossed
Upon the tranquil lives of them
Whose faith compels their love for Him.
For comfort in this life was not
To be his parent’s earthly lot.
The Magi’s wife stared through the sand
That choked the empty road and planned
For yet another lonely meal
That night. Far away in Israel
Or somewhere in between he must
Under the ever-swirling dust
Be coming home. For two long years
Her ritual had been-with tears-
To gaze across the parting way
And then to pause and kneel and pray
To Daniel’s God. Within his book
Of prophecy were truths that took
Their hearts away from blocks of stone
And gave them to the King enthroned
On high. And as she prayed and poured
Her loneliness out to the LORD
A weary figure turned upon
Her eyes shone like the dawn
But his were not as she recalled.
They spoke of joy and grief, appalled
By Herod’s great atrocity
But with the sight that Christ would be
Far great enough to take and splice
Eternal joy from sin and vice.
He held her close and told her of
The King who’d left His throne above,
Of angels, and of shepherds’ fright
Turned into faith by such a sight,
And of his own much longer quest
Through desert sands and mountain crests
To see the child.
The Magi turned
And softly asked: “One question’s burned
A path inside my heart and mind
These last two lonely years. I find
No room in my affections for
Doubt that what I’ve done is good
If forced to choose again I would
Still make that trip. Would you as well
Still choose to be alone and sell
Two years for me to see the Christ?
It is an awful, bitter price
For you to pay without reward.”
She smiled back: “You have adored
And worshipped God by traveling
With joy-filled heart to go and bring
Your gift to Him. But you mistake
To think that all He’s done is take
From me. Though God may part me from
The one I love its always done
And I would never trade
My closer sight of Him, though paid
in lengthy trials and distress.
I want, I want the Father’s best.”
Part Four: The Heart
We celebrate our Savior’s birth
Incarnate Deity on earth.
And Christ would later say He came
To save mankind and to proclaim
His love. But love that’s for our best!
The kind that shows us Him in tests.
When Christ would occupy a life
He causes peace and causes strife
For we would underestimate
The depths of our own sinful state
And so would cry when He brings pain
To purge the hidden faults that stain
The joy of the elect in Christ
For trials are His sweet device
To part us from our tiny view
Of Him to see His mercies new
And grander than before.
Will pass to dry bewildered tears
And grace cries out within the gall
“Our joy in Christ is worth it all.”
For Christ remains in all He does
The severest grace that ever was.
Text: Copyright (c), Nate Brooks 2009
Illustrations: Copyright (c), Matthew Covington 2009
Here are a couple of pictures from my Christmas with my family. I woke up one morning to a five-foot tall snowdrift on our porch. I shoveled more snow over a thirty-six hour period than I’d shoveled in my entire previous 23 1/2 years of life.
This is our across the street neighbor’s front porch. After finishing our own front porch, the Brooks men and others helped dig out his front door. The house next to his had no snow on the porch whatsoever.