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New Blog Announcement!

Hello readers! I’ve been blogging here at Come to Christ, since 2009. The Lord has been so good to me, and has done so much work in my heart these past five years through this avenue. I am starting up a new blog that I want to let you know about, at www.PoetryRenascent.com. I want you to know that I intend to keep Come to Christ running, but I want to make this new blog a higher priority, which means I will be posting on here less often.

A few reasons why I’ve started a new blog:

I’ve been writing poetry since I was around twelve years old, and it has played a crucial role in my life. Even as an unbeliever, poetry seemed to force me to be honest with myself about the condition of my soul, and in truth, that process had much to do with my coming to Jesus Christ. When I was saved around the age of eighteen I committed that my writing was to be first, and foremost, for the glory of God.

There are many reasons I’ve started up a poetry blog. I’ve faced many physical difficulties in my twenties, one of them being with my wrists. Pumping out lengthier articles (and attempted novels) doesn’t fare too well with my body most days. A few weeks back I confessed to the Lord I felt like I was constantly being driven into a corner; so I prayed that if I be in a corner, may He blow the roof off of it and let me see more glory and more beauty than I would ever be able to see in open fields.

I don’t know if that makes sense to you, but trust that it makes perfect sense to me.

Also, may it be said, that poetry is the form of writing that brings me the greatest sense of delight and satisfaction. I have long lamented that I was born in the wrong century and that “no one seems to care about poetry anymore.” Well, I feel challenged that perhaps that is not true.

Lastly, I recently read “Seeing Beauty and Saying Beautifully,” by one of my favorite writers and preachers, John Piper. I suggest you read it too as it mightily encouraged me in poetic pursuit.

What I hope (key word being hope) to accomplish with this blog:

1. I want to hone my own writing skills and bless first the Lord, then people with my poetry.

2. I want to read more stuff by poets and hymn writers of old. Then I want to share the best of it with you.

3. Of course I’m also happy to share poems or review poetry books by people far more accomplished then myself who have already published! Feel free to let me know what’s out there!

4. I want to share my love of hymns with you and try to feature modern artists who promote that same aim.

5. I want others to join me! I am hoping to receive and share some excellent, little-known or unknown poetry from other writers. Beyond that how awesome would it be if we could collaborate? I like to dream about musicians, and videographers, and photographers, and actors, and poets all collaborating together- but perhaps I dream too much?

Well, it doesn’t hurt to dream does it? In the meantime I’ll try to stay faithful to my meager efforts, as the Lord allows me to. I hope you will take time to visit my new website and perhaps share, subscribe, or follow on Facebook!

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Blessings,
Charlene Nelson

hem

Hem Me In

He had hemmed me in
Behind and before,
Drew the lines that fall
But I thought to soar
Past sunsets that looked
Like bars might prove more.

Pastures green, like plain
Bread, stale and dry
Rolled on for days; Streams
Meandered nearby-
My eyes gazed elsewhere,
I refused to lie.

“Pleasant places, these,”
Said a lamb. I nod,
Pretend, but o’er the
Valley there’s a broad
Place with less restraints-
To please! But not God…

Oh, but there to taste
To spread like wild vine!
Should such a pleasure
Be deprived of mine?
Can sweet fruit not grow
Among fainter lines? Continue reading

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To Know Him

To know the inscrutable
Eternal God,
This is where my heart
Must trod.
To know Him near and wholly mine
This piece of clay the great Divine.

An awesome task with shudder
To with miry
Hands raise diamonds to
Fiery
Sun, while mucking there the glassy
Cuts might make such brilliance brassy.

It is with trepidation
Lowly, trembling
Men find station with
Their King.
Before His word they groping ask
“Who is sufficient for such task?” Continue reading

sheep

The Unveiling is Not Cruel

Did you think
To put you in a furnace
Would not scorch your skin?

To come out gold
With easy glee
And not the surfacing of sin?

Or that boiling water hot
Would like a warm bath
Scathe you not?
Like sinking in so comfortably
To fire should come easily?

Oh, perhaps some seasoned saint
Could stand unflinching at a cross-
I doubt it.

There was man- Him without dross
Who fell face down before His cross,
An angel sent to strengthen there
The Son of Man weighed down with care.

Surprised?
By this: The Man of Sorrows
Pausing, praying at the cup?
What an awful load to bear
And what a sip to sup.

But you,
You know your lot is small
Compared to Jesus
Or to Paul,
‘Tis not a stake,
Or stones, or whips
Or hungry nights and sinking ships.

“Some men by worthy trials be
Cast low,
But who should pity me?”

So in your little furnace flame
A crying up-reaching
Burns with shame,
You see you are a smoldering wick,
Should wrath be kindled
Hasting quick? Continue reading

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5 God-granted Realities for War

I said here that I would share more on God-granted realities for waging war against sin, stating that “You can’t begin to war against your flesh today without remembering and walking in the new realities that have been granted to you in salvation.” So here we go. If you are in Christ these spiritual realities (among others) have been made true of you:

1. Your sins are forgiven.

Here’s the one truth that is at the very core of gospel application for believers: You have been forgiven. It is such a basic truth of Christianity, but I wonder if sometimes we neglect to think about it because of that. “As far as the east is from the west so far does He remove our transgressions from us (Psalm 103:12).” “But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, He sat down at the right hand of God… ‘I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.’ Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin (Hebrews 10:12,17,18).”

There’s simply nothing left to do to atone for your sins. Jesus Christ’s perfect offering was complete. He paid your penalty in full. If you neglect to remember, glory in, and appropriate that forgiveness to yourself in continuing with repentance and faith, then you are going nowhere spiritually. Here, at the cross, is your foundation, your core, your wellspring – Never trade Christ’s offering in for works-righteousness or faithless, ongoing penitence that forgets to find a cleansing flood in Jesus. If we are saved “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace… Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” (Hebrews 5:16, 10:22).”

2. Your old self has died with Christ, and slavery to sin is over.

Romans 6:6 “We know that our old self was crucified with Him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.”

This is to say that sin’s reign and rule in you and over you is dead. You are no longer bound to defeat. Sin is still at war within you (Romans 7:23), but Christ has freed you from its’ dominion and supplied you the means to continually put it to death. What He has done for you in bearing your sins and dying your death has robbed sin of its’ power (Roman 8:2, 1 Corinthians 15:56-57). His faithful work to sanctify you will continue through to glorification (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).

3. You have been made a new, living creation.

2Corinthians 5:7 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

Ephesians 2:1-7: “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages He might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”

The old person was spiritually dead and unable to discern spiritual things. He had no appetite or love for God, but rather hated Him. He conformed after the world, followed Satan, and acted according to sinful passions that ruled him.

The new creation has been made alive to God, with a new capacity to love God, obey Him, and please Him. He has been set free from Satan’s dominion, and enabled to follow after Christ instead of the world’s system. The new creation no longer has to obey sinful desires, but has been freed to live righteously.

4. You have obtained a new position before God.

This point naturally flows out of the last. As a new, born again creation, you are no longer “by nature children of wrath.” Rather, you have been adopted as sons and daughters of God.

Ephesians 1:4-6 “…In love He predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.”

Romans 9:25-26 “As indeed he says in Hosea, ‘Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’ and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’ And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ there they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’”

I should note here what should be obvious- the new position you have been granted before God is one that brings you into an intimate relationship. “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’(Romans 8:16)”

5. You are a temple of the Holy Spirit.

Apart from the work of the Holy Spirit none of these other spiritual realities would be possible. Without the Spirit’s work and power you certainly would not have been born again (John 3:7-8, John 6:63), nor could you wage war against your flesh and gain victory over sin (Romans 8:13). This is something I want to give more thought and study to, and hopefully address this spiritual reality more thoroughly soon.

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The Christian Life Is War

Before you came to Christ you were spiritually dead. Among other things, there was one thing you had no ability to do: wage war against yourself (see previous article for more on that).

Trying to grow spiritually apart from Christ looks like chopping down one idol only to swiftly replace it with another. It looks like propping yourself up on the backs of other people, and when they fail you everything falls apart. Parting from sin feels like putting a knife to your own heart. Perhaps you turn to self-help books, and build a great facade, but inside, there is nothing but empty deceit (Colossians 2:8). Spiritually you are headed nowhere but closer and closer to death.

Pretty depressing isn’t it? But it is not so for the redeemed! Believers have new spiritual realities, as they have been “born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God (1Peter 1:23).” That “word is the good news that was preached to you (1Peter 1:25).”

You believed in the gospel with faith, and have been “born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (1Peter 1:3).” Your hope is alive, and your hope is a person, who is always faithful and ever present.

Nevertheless, the Christian life is war. It is war that we declare primarily against ourselves, against the sin that remains in our flesh. We must wage this war every single day. If we don’t engage the flesh wins out.

I think of Jesus’ words to the disciples as they slept through Christ’s turmoil in Gethsemane: “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak (Matthew 26:41).”

Galatians 5:17 expresses this so well: “The desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.”

There is a sense in which the same old reality remains: You cannot wage war against flesh in the flesh. Paul said “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out (Romans 7:18).” Notice that Paul qualifies his statement by saying “that is, in my flesh.”

So then, we have an enemy within. The good news is that God’s word teaches us that Jesus Christ died and was raised so that “we too might walk in newness of life (Romans 6:4).” This abundant “newness of life” is something we have been granted, and something we must “walk in.”

How can you walk in a reality that you are not remembering? Paul acknowledge that he could not live out Christianity in his own flesh. Do you know what that means? It means that this is not a battle to be fought by personal resolve and willpower alone. Why? Because your flesh has no strength to obey. Neither can it be silenced just by grieving its’ reality and hating its’ presence. To quote a great hymn “Could my zeal no respite know, could my tears forever flow, these for sin could not atone…”

You can’t begin to war against your flesh today without remembering and walking in the new realities that have been granted to you in salvation. Sorrow over sin and resolutions will quickly drive you low if you fail to cast yourself on His promises. Stay tuned for my next article (God willing)- which will be on God granted realities for waging war.

broken glass

When Your Profession Has No Power

Shortly after I had asked “Jesus to fill the God shaped hole in my heart” at fifteen years old, I went to a Christian bookstore for the first time. I came out with a Teen Study Bible and a poster for my bedroom. Finding a poster that I wouldn’t be embarrassed of was hard work; A lot of flipping past rainbows, butterflies, and kittens was involved. I found one poster that appealed to me, black with scrawled writing on it, and a scratchy, blood streaked cross. This is what it said:

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” -Matthew 16:24-25

I cannot tell you how many times that poster glared at me. Or maybe I was glaring at it. It sounded hardcore, intense, life changing. It didn’t reflect the soft peddled message of Christianity I had heard, neither did it reflect my experience. That poster stared me down, hanging above my own reflection in the bedroom mirror, and kept on telling me to do something that I had no power to do.

Deny myself. Lose my life in order to save it- In order to find it. The commandments of God weighed heavy on my soul and there was no ability in my flesh to carry them out in a way that would please God. I was supposed to go out my bedroom door and die to self. Live for God. Obey commands that were only burdensome, and only death to me.

Romans 7:10-11 “The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. For sin, seizing and opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me.”

That is the condition of a spiritually dead person hearing the commandments of God, feeling the weight of His law, and recognizing that at the very core of your being you cannot fulfill them. I couldn’t make that sin-loving person in me die in order that I might live. I could not, in the weakness and corruption of my flesh, deny myself and follow after Jesus Christ. For that dear friends, I needed to be truly born again, not of the flesh, but of the Spirit (John 3:6-8).

2 Timothy 3:2-5 talks about people who inwardly hate righteousness while loving self, money, and pleasure, all the while “having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.” They might look alright on the outside, at least to a distant spectator. But there is no effectual power in their lives. No power to obey God, live righteously, or overcome sin. In their hearts, there is no desire even to do so.

If you are somebody like I was, then I have good news for you. “The letter (that is the written law) kills, but the Spirit gives life (2Corinthians 3:6).” If the law has produced death in you and you have seen that you have no ability to fulfill it (and fulfill it you must, James 2:10), then the law has done its work in you. Perhaps, you have been living as a false convert like I was. Maybe you’ve attended church since childhood but have never received forgiveness for sins, a new heart and Spirit, and in Christ the promise of eternal life. Or maybe you don’t care about God and you don’t even pretend to. I don’t know.

If you don’t have a saving relationship with Jesus Christ, then at this point I’ll refer you to a series I did a few years back called “An Appeal to the Modern Mind,” which discusses salvation at length. Or, if you only have a bit of time part 4 of that series: How Does Jesus Make Entrance Into His Kingdom Possible?

If you are a believer, chances are part of you still resonates with some of the struggle I described. Though we are no longer slaves of sin (Romans 6:6), our new reality still includes a daily war with our remaining sinful man, or flesh. As Galatians 5:17 explains “The desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.”

I want to write some more about that war and how to wage it, so check back in soon. God bless.

thorn

A Thorn To Bless

What will I do with satan’s thorn
Lodged deep in weakest access point?
No pill to take
No treatment makes
It well, no method has supplied
A cure,
Steps stumble; Backward falls
The soldier, boldly with a limp
But limping on
He goes, he goes,
A carefully crafted grin
All turmoil within.

Paul called his a tormentor,
Assailant of the flesh,
A harassing messenger
Its’ agent being death.

What wickedness with cruel intent
Should drive the thorn so deep?
What does he gain
From this my pain?-
But not my soul to keep.

God, the guardian of my soul-
He does not sleep.
No armies march past Him
While I do weep. Continue reading

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A Word on Worship Styles

Note: From the start I want to clarify that when I use the word “style” I am not referring to words, or lyrics. By the word “style” I mean varying instruments or sounds, as well as the posture or outward appearances of worshippers. Words, particularly words of truth that honor God, matter immensely, but that is a whole other topic.

Few topics can get Christians more heated up then worship styles. Some churches pride themselves most emphatically and almost solely on having “great worship.” If they visit a church that doesn’t use drums and the worshipers don’t raise hands, they might say something like “the sermon was great, but it’s too bad the worship is dead.” Or even “It’s really too bad the Spirit’s not there.” You might think I’m joking but sadly I’ve heard it with my own two ears.

On the other hand, organ only, hymn only, Psalter only (etc, etc) church goers can see concert clips of people jumping up and down, hand raising, clapping (etc,etc) and think there’s a lack of reverence and nothing happening other than an ecstatic, hyper-emotional, rock fest.

I guess the question we should all ask ourselves is this: Does God want us judging one another’s worship styles? Should we dissect the way, or style, in which another person offers praise and thanksgiving to God, specifically in song?

I don’t think so. Here’s why: Continue reading

flower

O Love That Will Not Let Me Go: A Hymn For The Weary and Discouraged

One of the reasons I love this hymn, written in 1882 by George Matthison, is for its rich poetic content. If you like, here is the story surrounding the hymn. The lyrics deserve to be read slowly, and you will find Chris Rice’s version of the song below.

“O Love that wilt not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in thee;
I give thee back the life I owe,
That in thine ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be.

O light that followest all my way,
I yield my flickering torch to thee;
My heart restores its borrowed ray,
That in thy sunshine’s blaze its day
May brighter, fairer be.

O Joy that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to thee;
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
And feel the promise is not vain,
That morn shall tearless be.

O Cross that liftest up my head,
I dare not ask to fly from thee;
I lay in dust life’s glory dead,
And from the ground there blossoms red
Life that shall endless be.”

A verse that comes to my mind is Psalm 119:25 “My soul clings to the dust; give me life according to your word.” The composer is a weary soul, a flickering torch, in pain, in rain, laying down in the dust, feeling as though this life’s glory is dead. But he knows what he needs. And he knows that what he needs will not be found within himself. He knows there is another source. Continue reading