Thought for June 22, 2018

“If He does not support us, not one of us is safe from some gross sin. On the other hand, no possible degree of holiness or heroism which has ever been recorded of the greatest saints is beyond what He is determined to produce in every one of us in the end. The job will not be completed in this life: but He means to get us as far as possible before death” (C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity).

That’s enough to keep us both humbled and honored.

Before you start to boast, remember that you have the capacity in you apart from grace to be as bad as any Hitler or Stalin.

Before you start to despair, remember that God is working in you such holiness (or even greater) than was ever found in any Mother Teresa or Florence Nightingale.

I have to remind myself every single day that apart from Jesus, I can do nothing. That anything good in me is God. Yet with God I can do all things.

 

 

Love and Happiness (and Peace)

“A car is made to run on gasoline, and it would not run properly on anything else. Now God designed the human machine to run on Himself. . . .There is no other. That is why it is just no good asking God to make us happy in our own way. . . God cannot give us happiness and peace apart from himself, because it is not there. There us no such thing” (CS Lewis).

Apart from God, nothing can make me happy.

Not a job, not a relationship, not a big house, not a new car, not all the money in the world.

In theory, it sounds so very simple, yet in practice, it can be a bit difficult to realize.

Maybe it’s all the commercials telling me how I can’t be happy and satisfied until I buy this product or that service or eat this food.

Maybe it’s my own human nature that constantly craves and desires and yearns for more stuff.

Whatever it is, I keep forgetting that only God can bring true peace and joy.

God, please keep reminding me that you are my true life. You are the only living water that satisfies, apart from all the broken cisterns in my life that hold only sand and ashes.

 

 

Under Construction

“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on: you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way the hurts abominably and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself” (CS Lewis, Mere Christianity).

There’s a building under construction in the square in downtown Franklin. I pass by it periodically and it still looks half finished. Lately, it looks as if little to no progress has been made on it.

Yet I know that sometimes the most important parts of construction are the parts that you really can’t see, like wiring and other stuff that probably only other people in building and construction would appreciate.

God is always at work in us, recreating and remolding us into His image. Sometimes, it feels like we look and act the same and there’s little to no difference in us. Maybe in those times God is working on those small but vital parts that will lead to bigger and more noticeable changes down the road.

Take heart. Don’t give up. God has promised to finish the good work He started in you and me. And God is never slow in keeping His promises.

 

Jonah’s Dilemma

As a volunteer for Room in the Inn, one of my favorite parts is sitting in on the Bible study with the homeless men. Not only do they get a warm place to stay, a soft bed, and a hearty meal, they also get to dive deep into the Word of God.

Tonight, the speaker talked about Jonah. The part that struck me was how Jonah’s reluctance to go when God called him to go was over how much he disliked the people of Ninevah. He knew what kind of people they had been, how merciless and cruel to their enemies– including the Israelites– and felt that they didn’t deserve the grace of God.

As I follow the social and political rhetoric on social media, it seems to me that most of us have a category of persons or people groups that we feel don’t deserve the grace of God. It could be those dastardly Republicans (or Democrats). It could be the LGBTQ community. It might very well be the Muslim peoples. Maybe it’s that Trump guy who currently holds the title of President.

I still believe that when you limit the grace of God, when you pick and choose who’s worthy of it, then you nullify the grace of God (if that were possible). It becomes about merit and earning God’s favor.

Grace by its very definition is the unmerited favor of God. No one deserves it, otherwise it would no longer be grace. Yet God still chooses to extend it to us in the person of Jesus.

Jonah actually got angry when those Ninevites repented and turned to God. The book ends with God asking Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry?”

Maybe we need to repent of our self-righteous judgmentalism and arrogant condemnation towards certain people and people groups and instead pray God’s mercy for them.

I’m not saying don’t call sin for what it is or speak out against evil in any form, but do so out of a spirit of love and gentleness, always extending the same grace that God extended you when you were His enemies.

One of my very favorite quotes is from C. S. Lewis and says that we forgive the inexcusable in others because we know that God has already forgiven the inexcusable in us.

That’s something to remember when you get ready to engage in the social media discussion on any topic.

Always choose mercy over judgment, grace over condemnation, and love over hate.

 

Another Excerpt from Narnia

But how could it be true, sir?” said Peter.

“Why do you say that?” asked the Professor.

“Well, for one thing,” said Peter, “if it was real why doesn’t everyone find this country every time they go to the wardrobe? I mean, there was nothing there when we looked; even Lucy didn’t pretend there was.”

“What has that to do with it?” said the Professor.

“Well, sir, if things are real, they’re there all the time.”

“Are they?” said the Professor; and Peter did not know quite what to say.

“But there was no time,” said Susan. “Lucy had had no time to have gone anywhere, even if there was such a place. She came running after us the very moment we were out of the room. It was less than a minute, and she pretended to have been away for hours.”

“That is the very thing that makes her story so likely to be true,” said the Professor. “If there really is a door in this house that leads to some other world (and I should warn you that this is a very strange house, and even I know very little about it)—if, I say, she had got into another world, I should not be at all surprised to find that the other world had a separate time of its own; so that however long you stayed there it would never take up any of our time. On the other hand, I don’t think many girls of her age would invent that idea for themselves. If she had been pretending, she would have hidden for a reasonable time before coming out and telling her story.”

“But do you really mean, sir,” said Peter, “that there could be other worlds—all over the place, just round the corner—like that?”

“Nothing is more probable,” said the Professor, taking off his spectacles and beginning to polish them, while he muttered to himself, “I wonder what they do teach them at these schools.”

“But what are we to do?” said Susan. She felt that the conversation was beginning to get off the point.

“My dear young lady,” said the Professor, suddenly looking up with a very sharp expression at both of them, “there is one plan which no one has yet suggested and which is well worth trying.”

“What’s that?” said Susan.

“We might all try minding our own business,” said he. And that was the end of that conversation.

From The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
Compiled in A Year with Aslan

Praying for Sutherland Springs

“Death opens a door out of a little, dark room (that’s all the life we have known before it) into a great, real place where the true sun shines and we shall meet” (C.S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces).

I’m having a really difficult time processing yet another mass shooting at a church. This time, it was First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs. The town has a population of about 400 and the church typically runs around 50 on any given Sunday.

That makes it especially heinous that a gunman walked in and opened fire on the congregation, killing 26 and wounding 20. I have no words.

Just when it seems that we’ve seen the worst kind of evil, something like this comes along and reminds all of us that this world is a broken place suffering under the crushing weight of original sin. Nothing’s the way it was supposed to be in the beginning.

I do know that the answer still lies at the foot of the cross. I know that Calvary still remains the best example of the worst kind of evil ever inflicted. God in Jesus took that evil upon Himself and in the process, defeated sin, death, and hell forever.

I know that tonight, God weeps with those who are weeping. I know that God in Jesus is no stranger to grief and sorrow, as Isaiah 53 calls Him a Man of Sorrows and Hebrews says that Jesus has experienced everything common to humanity, yet was without sin.

Because of that cross, my hope is that the Kingdom of God is breaking into this world, and that one day God will put everything right and turn this crazy upside-down world right-side up again.

In the mean time, we live with the unspeakable. In the midst of ultimate evil, there is still Immanuel, God with us. That remains our hope.

 

Grieving a Pet

“I will never laugh at anyone for grieving over a loved beast. I think God wants us to love Him more, not to love creatures (even animals) less. We love everything in one way too much (i.e., at the expense of our love for Him), but in another way we love everything too little.

No person, animal, flower, or even pebble has ever been loved too much—i.e., more than every one of God’s works deserves” (C. S. Lewis, The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume III).

I’m seeing a lot of people grieving over having to say a final goodbye to their beloved pets. Maybe it’s because I went through the same experience on June 21 when my Lucy crossed the rainbow bridge and took that piece of my heart with her.

Part of me still feels a little stupid for grieving over a cat when people have lost parents, siblings, and children. I don’t pretend to say that my losing a cat is anywhere close to the same as a parent having to bury a child. Still, a loss is a loss.

My heart goes out to all those who come home to silence. My prayers are with all of those who are missing the quiet presence of a pet who always seemed to be there when needed.

My own heart still hurts a little when I see videos of Lucy. I still wish that I could reach through the screen and grab her and pull her back to me, but I know that’s not really her. It’s only an image on a flat screen.

I do know that the present world is broken and that nothing works quite like it should. People die. Pets die. So much sadness and pain seem to be everywhere.

I also know that we who suffer loss and pain can better comfort others who go through the same. No one knows grief better than the grieving.

I further know that one day God will restore all creation to what it was originally designed to be. The last book of the Bible says He will wipe away every tear from our eyes and that there will be no more sorrow or pain or sickness or death or grief.

Until then, my prayers and thoughts are with you.

Another Narnia Moment

For those tired of all the politics and misinformation being bandied about and passing as news, I bring you a Narnia moment from The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. You’re welcome.

“‘Ooh!” said Susan, ‘I’d thought he was a man. Is he—quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.’

‘That you will, dearie, and no mistake,’ said Mrs. Beaver; ‘if there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly.’

‘Then he isn’t safe?’ said Lucy.

‘Safe?’ said Mr. Beaver; ‘don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ’Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you’ (C. S. Lewis, The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe).

 

A Narnia Moment Brought to You By WordPress

I’m sharing one of my favorite Narnia moments with you from The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe.

“‘They say Aslan is on the move—perhaps has already landed.’

And now a very curious thing happened. None of the children knew who Aslan was any more than you do; but the moment the Beaver had spoken these words everyone felt quite different. Perhaps it has sometimes happened to you in a dream that someone says something which you don’t understand but in the dream it feels as if it had some enormous meaning— either a terrifying one which turns the whole dream into a nightmare or else a lovely meaning too lovely to put into words, which makes the dream so beautiful that you remember it all your life and are always wishing you could get into that dream again. It was like that now. At the name of Aslan each one of the children felt something jump in its inside. Edmund felt a sensation of mysterious horror. Peter felt suddenly brave and adventurous. Susan felt as if some delicious smell or some delightful strain of music had just floated by her. And Lucy got the feeling you have when you wake up in the morning and realize that it is the beginning of the holidays or the beginning of summer” (C. S. Lewis, The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe).

 

What’s Next

“This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike ‘What’s next, Papa?’ God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children. And we know we are going to get what’s coming to us—an unbelievable inheritance! 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!” (Romans 8:15-17, The Message).

It was a very unassuming moment. There I was, standing in line for hot chocolate during the After Hours celebration of the last Kairos of 2016, uttering a small prayer.

“God, I’m ready for whatever’s next from You.”

It’s a loose paraphrase of the prayer Jesus prayed in the garden in the hours leading up to the awaiting agony of the cruxifixction. His words were, “Your will be done.”

One of the scariest moments is when you relinquish control. One of the most freeing moments is when you finally realize that you were never in control to begin with. It was and has always been God on the throne of the universe, working all things together for your good.

One of the biggest fears that many of us have isn’t that God’s not able to accomplish His plans in and for us. We’re just afraid of how painful those plans might be. And yes, I completely stole that from C. S. Lewis, though he probably said it better.

The truth as I am learning it is that my joy and God’s glory aren’t mutually exclusive. In fact, my joy is greatest when God is most glorified in the world– and in my own life.

So God, whatever you have for me, whenever you have it for me, wherever you have it for me, I’m ready. I know more now than ever that the safest and best place to be is smack dab in the middle of Your will.

Amen.