“A Bleeding, Beating Hope” – A Prayer for Oxford

After the tragic events at the high school in Oxford, MI on November 30th last year, I noticed many high school students wrote poetry to give voice to their anger, pain, questions, and cries. Their writing revealed a deep struggle to understand and lament great suffering as those who have no hope. Prayerfully, this poem was written to teach, encourage, and ultimately point to Christ – who is the great source of our hope.    I’ve learned how poetry is such a powerful tool to serve others, as words may be richly arranged to (1) give language to the soul, (2) help bring our questions before the Living God who speaks to us, (3) awaken naturally dull minds to spiritual sight, (4) communicate glorious truths that encourage fearful saints to behold our awesome God, and (5) unite people toward great causes. The contents of this poem were chosen to tie the questions and cries that were heard behind the words of student poetry to the magnificent truths of scripture. 

“A Bleeding, Beating Hope” – A Prayer for Oxford


We are a people, poor and needy

Flesh is our clothing,

Death is certain.

We are a people, who in vain attempt to flee

An inescapable reality.

Enslaved by the fear of death,

Bitterly, we reap the consequences

Of placing our hope in what is transient.

No stable ground for untethered souls

Grasping after vapors which cannot hold,

Aching for an anchor so sure and deep,

A Shepherd who will call and keep.

In mercy we are made to face,

The paralyzing, wide embrace

– of desperation.

Voice is given to lament,

By Him who knows our frame.

He remembers we are dust,

The Man of Sorrows bore our shame.

Spirit searches hearts and minds,

It is He who causes us to cry:

Heal me and I shall be healed,

Save me and I shall be saved”.

Only He breathes life ‘pon the depraved.

A bleeding, beating hope arises

from the wasteland of despair.

Burning embers now aflame,

Rising safely on the wings

Of what cannot be shaken.

All pain bows to the Living God,

Who speaks and darkness dissipates.

Fearfully and wondrously immutable,

This trajectory is irrefutable –

Proud waves are reigned to smooth jagged stone.

Frozen ground is thawed by a heat that serves to heal.

All mysterious shall be at once made clear.

On that day–

When the skies roll back and the stars fall,

King of Kings will ride,

New creation will dawn.

Triumphant over the grave,

Alone He holds

The keys of death and hades.

This bleeding, beating hope

shall be made sight,

Captivated by Holy,

approachable light.

We shall behold our Savior’s face,

Sighing shall cease, only praise. by Emily Burrows

Of My Own Understanding

The mysteriousness of God’s designs are purposed to move and stir His children to seek him earnestly in prayer and submit to His wise and loving providences with faith-filled meekness. It is most natural for man, however, to scan His work and lean on his own understanding. Our heavenly Father has lovingly tailored each affliction to remove with careful precision the props we place under our hearts – that we may lean completely upon Him. It is He, who “knows all our ways” (Psalm 139:3) and “holds all our times” (Psalm 31:15).

God’s servant must not stubbornly resist His pruning work, or despise his discipline – but instead, surrender the tight grasp of our own fair designs, that we may joyfully embrace God’s will for us. May God teach us to seek Him as David did in Psalm 27, that in the face of great armies and false witnesses, he desired most to inquire in God’s temple and gaze upon His beauty. The stillness of our souls in waiting upon Him reflects a deep trust that God “does all things well” (Psalm 119:65). 

Of My Own Understanding


Anger, frustration, confusion, and despair

Roll overhead like dark clouds.

I attempt to lean

On the unstable crutch

Of my own understanding,

Leaving me painfully reaping

The consequences of placing trust

In what is seen.

Tailored affliction

Knocks the makeshift props

I had carefully placed under my heart,

That I may lean completely on

The Rock of Ages –

Who holds all my times,

And knows all my ways.

Seeming instability and insecurity

Cause me to deeply know

The anchor of my soul.

by Emily Burrows


“[J]ust as [I have] done nothing for [my] justification, so [I] need do nothing for [my] sanctification.” Watchman Nee (ref#387, p58). I need to do nothing but to live life ‘in CHRIST’—to work out what CHRIST has put in.

All my problems stem from unbelief. I choose to trust myself instead of GOD. As soon as I begin to work things out myself satan comes to help me. I get overwhelmed, discouraged, anxious, miserable, etc., because my inadequate flesh and my archenemy hands me failure. My unbelief, causing me to trust myself, brings me to a fruitless exercise of control.

In trusting myself as I walk toward complete sanctification I am preoccupied with gaining victory over my sin. But GOD’s way is to remove me, the sinner that is dealing with sin.

“God sets [me] free from the dominion of sin, not by strengthening [my] old man but by crucifying him. Such a discovery brings human striving and self-effort to an end” Watchman Nee (ref#387, p54)—if…if I believe by giving myself completely and constantly over to GOD’s rule satan will have no grounds to accuse.  

Belief in JESUS means I am ‘in CHRIST.’

“Some of us have tried very hard to get rid of [the]sinful life, but we have found it most tenacious; What is the way out? It is not by trying to kill ourselves, but by recognizing that God has dealt with us in Christ” Watchman Nee (ref#387, p43).

“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me”(Gal 2:20 ESV).

“A Christian is one who has been ‘crucified with Christ,’ who has died with Him, been buried with Him, risen with Him, ascended with Him, and is seated ‘in heavenly places’ with Him” Horatius Bonar (ref#326, p10).

“Christians [are] kept by being ‘in Christ,’ [by being] totally identified with him, [by] being actually his ‘spiritual body’ James Burton Coffman (ref#388).

“Chosen, called, quickened, washed, sanctified, and justified by God Himself, we are in no sense our own deliverers. The quarry out of which the marble comes is His; the marble itself is His, the digging and hewing and polishing are His; He is the sculptor and we the statue” Horatius Bonar (ref#326, p11).  My sanctification is all GOD’s work; I am just the marble He digs, hews, and polishes. This represents me working out my salvation.


“God richly provides us with everything to enjoy” (1 Tim 6:17 ESV).

“Happiness is every man’s desire; and none will come to Christ, unless they believe that it tends to their happiness” Richard Baxter (ref#225, Jan 18th).

“[You] may be rich today and poor tomorrow; [you] may be sickly today and well tomorrow; [you] may be in happiness today and distressed tomorrow, but there is no change with regard to [your] relationship to God. If [GOD] loved me yesterday, He loves me today. My unmoving mansion of rest is my blessed Lord. I am a pilgrim in the world, but at home in my God. In the earth I wander, but in God I dwell in a quiet habitation” Charles Spurgeon (ref#34, Feb 27th AM).

“He is not working to give us that temporary situational emotional high; he is working to produce something much better—eternal joy” Paul David Tripp (ref#190, Sept 7th).

“I can be calm and free from care

On any shore, since God is there.

While place we seek, or place we shun,

The soul finds happiness in none;

But with a God to guide our way,

‘Tis equal joy to go or stay.” Charles Spurgeon (ref#34, Mar 16th AM).

“What a privilege to possess God in all things while we have them, and all things in God when they are taken from us” John Newton (ref#322, p137).

“I have learned to be content (Phil 4:11). This statement implies that [the Apostle Paul] did not know how to be content at one time. Do not indulge the notion that you can be contented with learning, or learn without discipline. It is not a power that may be exercised naturally, but a science to be acquired gradually” Charles Spurgeon (ref#34, Feb 16th AM).

“O LOVE BEYOND COMPARE, Thou art good when thou givest, when thou takest away, when the sun shines upon me, when night gathers over me” The Valley of Vision (ref#76, p111).

“The Lord Jesus is a deep sea of joy: My soul shall dive in and shall be swallowed up in the delights of His company.” Charles Spurgeon

“The Holy Spirit gives us a new song of praise to the Lord” Charles F. Stanley (ref#230, p43).

“Sing aloud. Shout. Rejoice and exult with all your heart. The LORD your God is in your midst” (Zeph 3:14,17).


“To be holy is to be morally blameless. It is to be separated from sin and, therefore, consecrated to God. The word signifies ‘separation to God, and the conduct befitting those so separated’” Jerry Bridges (ref#244, p16).

The LORD encourages—He does not say I will not leave you but ‘I will smelt away your dross’ (Isa 1:25).

“It is the natural tendency of divine truth, when received into the heart, to produce holiness. The design of the whole plan of redemption was to secure the highest holiness and happiness of the creature; and when the gospel comes with the power of God unto the salvation of the soul, this end is preeminently secured. The renewed man is a pardoned man; the pardoned man becomes a holy man; and the holy man is a happy man. He who receives the doctrine of electing love in his heart by the power of the Spirit bears about with him the material of a holy walk; its tendency is to humble, abase, and sanctify the man. God alone has made him to differ from another. [H]e has received the free, distinguishing grace of God” Octavius Winslow (ref#135, Oct 22nd).

“[Y]ou yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Pet 2:5 ESV).

“[H]oliness is obedience to the will of God in whatever God directs. The holiness described in the Bible calls us to do more than separate ourselves from the moral pollution of the world around us. It calls us to obey God” Jerry Bridges (ref#244, p138). I can pretend I’m separating myself by obeying self-selected commands but that is much different than obeying GOD.

“[T]he grace of God is a seed that, however it lies hidden, will certainly in due time spring up, put forth itself, will bud and blossom and will bring forth rich fruit” Jonathan Edwards (ref#229, p115).

“Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2 ESV).


“’Work out your own salvation’ and ‘It is God which worketh in you’ (Phil 2:12-13)—are words which at once link human accountability and individual responsibility with divine power and accomplishment” Octavius Winslow (ref#135, Jan 19th).

“The killing of your flesh is your duty, but his work” Kris Lundgaard (ref#383).

“I daily need God’s work of mercy in order to do his work of mercy” Paul David Tripp (ref#190, Jan 26th).

“We are called. We are invited. But the responsibility to answer, the responsibility to follow, lies solely on us. T]he responsibility of yes—the choice of faith—lies completely in our hands. [W]e will never understand something until we live it out” Jarrad Gibler (ref#259).

“[B]ecome partakers of the divine nature” (2 Pet 1:4 ESV).

“A lifelong pattern of growth in Christlike character is expected of Christians. [T]hey share in [Christ’s] nature as they become increasingly like him” The ESV Study Bible (ref#125, p2418).

“I will go before you
    and level the exalted places,
I will break in pieces the doors of bronze
    and cut through the bars of iron,
I will give you the treasures of darkness
    and the hoards in secret places,
that you may know that it is I, the LORD,
    the God of Israel, who call you by your name.
I call you by your name,
    I name you, though you do not know me.
I am the LORD, and there is no other,
    besides me there is no God;
    I equip you, though you do not know me,
that people may know, from the rising of the sun
    and from the west, that there is none besides me;
    I am the LORD, and there is no other.
I form light and create darkness;
    I make well-being and create calamity,
    I am the LORD, who does all these things
” (Isa 45:2-7 ESV).


“I can say to myself that not only am I no longer under the dominion of sin, but I am under the dominion of another power that nothing can frustrate However weak I may be, it is the power of God that is working in me” Jerry Bridges (ref#244, p70).

“God’s strong hand is on you; [l]ive carefree before God; he is most careful with you” (1 Pet 5:6-7 MSG).

“[L]et yourselves be pulled into a way of life shaped by God’s life” (1 Pet 1:13-16 MSG).

“[H]e’s a good Father. But don’t forget, he’s also a responsible Father, and won’t let you get by with sloppy living” (1 Pet 1:17 MSG).

“Your life is a journey you must travel with a deep consciousness of God”(1 Pet 1:18-21 MSG).

“The more vile we are in our own eyes, the more precious he will be to us” John Newton (ref#322, p128).

“Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:18 ESV).

“Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death therefore what is earthy in you” (Col 3:2-5 ESV).

“’Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul’ (1 Pet 2:11). We do not receive our sanctification and are then delivered from these things. No; he tells us to abstain from them and to keep ourselves from them” Martyn Lloyd-Jones (ref#189, Jan 27th).

“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ” (1 Pet 4:10-11 ESV).

“Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly” (1 Cor 13:13 MSG).


“The Gospel announces that rest is only to be found in a knowledge of God, because God has made us, and He has made us in such a way that we never can know rest apart from Him” Martyn Lloyd-Jones (ref#189, May 21st).

“God, who got you started in this spiritual adventure, shares with us the life of his Son and our Master Jesus. He will never give up on you. Never forget that” (1 Cor 1:7-9 MSG).

“[J]ust as it is the same life and sap that abides in the vine and in the branches, so it is the same life, which in its surpassing glory and fullness dwells in the God-Man-Mediator, that is also in the weakest believer. It is the same spirit, poured out upon the head, and received by him without measure, that in measure is given to his people. [I]t is his life-giving power that creates it at the first, that preserves it, and that causes it to grow from grace to grace, and from grace to glory” Charles Ross (ref#241, p119).

“To live by the Spirit is to live both in obedience to and dependence on the Holy Spirit. There is a balance then between our wills (expressed by obedience) and our faith (expressed by our dependence)” Jerry Bridges (ref#244, p74-75).

“[Y]ou will see in the Scriptures the same operations are attributed to God and to man. God converts, and it is man that converts himself. God circumcises the heart, God gives a new heart; and it is man that should circumcise his heart and make himself a new heart” Louis Gaussen (ref#246, p9).

“We go through exactly what Christ goes through. If we go through the hard times with him, then we’re certainly going to go through the good times with him” (Rom 8:15-17 MSG)!

“[T]o accept [our] lot and rejoice in [our] toil—this is the gift of God. For [we] will not remember the days of [our] life because God keeps [us] occupied with joy in [our] heart” (Eccl 5:19-20 ESV).

“Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen” (Heb 13:20-21 ESV).


[W]e do not understand the proper distinction between God’s provision and our own responsibility for holiness. ‘What am I to do myself, and what am I to rely on God to do?’” Jerry Bridges (ref#244, p10).

 “God is always self-consistent and true to His way. He works only through man, but He demands things be done His way” Bob Sorge (ref#197, p14).

GOD said the following to Jeremiah and He also says this to us, His children: “[D]ress yourself for work; arise, and say to them everything that I command you. Do not be dismayed by them, lest I dismay you before them. And I, behold, I make you this day a fortified city, and iron pillar, and bronze walls. [T]hey will fight against you, but they shall not prevail against you, for I am with you, declares the LORD, to deliver you” (Jer 1:17-19 ESV).

“Ours is the duty, but His is the strength” Richard Steel (ref#225, April 18th).

“[T]he victory won by Jesus must be enforced by us. John Wesley wrote: ‘All this is indeed the work of God. It is God alone who can cast our Satan. But he is generally pleased to do this by man, as an instrument in his hand’” Doug Newton (ref#166, p91).

“[You] are responsible, although you have received all your strength from Christ to do it. [T]he sun works as an universal cause, and the tree as a particular cause. Christ works as an universal cause, and you work as a particular cause” William Bridge (ref#225, Oct 24th).

“He waits to work alongside man until man conforms to His way” Bob Sorge (ref#197, p15).

“[M]ay the LORD do what seems good to him” (2 Sam 10:12 ESV).

“[W]ork at living a holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord” (Heb 12:14 NLT).

“’Purse holiness, for without holiness no one will see the Lord.’ The word pursue suggest two thoughts: first, that diligence and effort are required; and second, that it is a lifelong task” Jerry Bridges (ref#244, p10).

“[H]e is unchangeable, and who can turn him back? What he desires, that he does. For he will complete what he appoints for me” (Job 23:13-14 ESV).


My Part in sanctification as it relates to Abiding in the God-head – Part 3

“Jesus said, ‘He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit.’ Our challenge is not to bear fruit, but to abide” Charles F. Stanley (ref#230, p63).

“It is impossible to abide in him, unless we are first of all in him—vitally united to him by faith. [O]ur first care must be to get an interest in Christ, and our continued care must be to abide in him” Charles Ross (ref#241, p122).

“[T]hat which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3 ESV).

“What does fellowship mean? To be in a state of fellowship means that we share in things. We are partakers or, if you life, partners—that idea is there intrinsically in the word. That means something like this: The Christian is one who has become a sharer in the life of God” Martyn Lloyd-Jones (ref#189, Sept 22nd).

“[W]hat is it to abide in Christ? It implies for one thing it’s a continued sense of need of him. [I]t implies also an abiding perception of Christ’s all-sufficiency and glory. Christians growing in poverty of spirit lies in this, that Christ is his. [T]o abide in Christ is to depend upon him—to trust in himto adhere to him to the end. And this union is mutual. [J]ust as truly as the soul is to abide in Christ, so Christ is to abide in the soul—Christ in the soul through the indwelling Spirit, and the soul in Christ by faith” Charles Ross (ref#241, p123).

“Jesus says: ‘Even as the Father hath loved me, I also have loved you.’ What, then, is the love wherewith the Father loves the Son? Not surely the love of pity and compassion, but that of complacency and delight. Of the like nature is the love of Jesus to his people. It is true indeed, that he loved them with a love of pity and compassion, when they were in their low and lost estate—when they were in the filthiness of sin; but it is also a most blessed truth that ever since he made them ‘his own’ by his effectual grace—ever since he clothed them with his righteousness and made them the temples of his Holy Spirit—he regards them with peculiar satisfaction and delight” Charles Ross (ref#241, p129).

“[I]t is this love of complacency and delight on the part of Jesus, in which we are exhorted to ‘continue,’ or rather to ‘abide.’” Charles Ross (ref#241, p130).

“Christians are not merely people who are a little bit better than they once were and who have just added certain things to their lives. Rather, they are men and women who have received the divine life” Martyn Lloyd-Jones (ref#189, Sept 22nd).