Christianity 201

August 6, 2014

Excerpts from Mere Christianity

Occasionally we take a break and do a day of quotations from a top Christian author. Today, all the quotations are not only by the same author — C. .S. Lewis — but from the same book, Mere Christianity. These are all from the GoodReads website and at the end is a link so you can read more.  The scripture verses are not part of the quotations or the website, but have been added by me afterwards!


 

C. S. Lewis“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 that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any 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 being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”

And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
 II Cor. 3:18


 “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
Matthew 16:16

“A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means. This is an obvious lie. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is… A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later. That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness. They have lived a sheltered life by always giving in.”

“When a man is getting better he understands more and more clearly the evil that is still left in him. When a man is getting worse he understands his own badness less and less.”

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
James 4:7


“[To have Faith in Christ] means, of course, trying to do all that He says. There would be no sense in saying you trusted a person if you would not take his advice. Thus if you have really handed yourself over to Him, it must follow that you are trying to obey Him. But trying in a new way, a less worried way. Not doing these things in order to be saved, but because He has begun to save you already. Not hoping to get to Heaven as a reward for your actions, but inevitably wanting to act in a certain way because a first faint gleam of Heaven is already inside you.”

As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”
Luke 9:57


“I remember Christian teachers telling me long ago that I must hate a bad man’s actions but not hate the bad man: or, as they would say, hate the sin but not the sinner. …I used to think this a silly, straw-splitting distinction: how could you hate what a man did and not hate the man? But years later it occurred to me that there was one man to whom I had been doing this all my life — namely myself. However much I might dislike my own cowardice or conceit or greed, I went on loving myself. There had never been the slightest difficulty about it. In fact the very reason why I hated the things was that I loved the man. Just because I loved myself, I was sorry to find that I was the sort of man who did those things.”

All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.
Isaiah 64:6


“God made us: invented us as a man invents an engine. A car is made to run on petrol, and it would not run properly on anything else. Now God designed the human machine to run on Himself. He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other. That is why it is just no good asking God to make us happy in our own way without bothering about religion. God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there.”

Such hope never disappoints or deludes or shames us, for God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit Who has been given to us.
Romans 5:5 (AMP)

Here’s the link to the quotations.  There are eight pages.  Choose a couple that I have not selected here, read them slowly to get an idea of what they’re about, and then ask yourself, what scripture verse might I attach to Lewis’ thoughts on this subject?

June 3, 2014

Devotional Potpourri

From the blog, Deeper Christian:

I have found over these last two months, that even despite incredible busyness, intimacy with Jesus and time in the Word does NOT have to wane. It doesn’t need to be diminished. Granted, it may look different than it normally does, but intimacy with Jesus does not need to be an up-and-down roller coaster experience – it truly can be consistent, steady, and ever-increasing!

I came across a tremendous quote by T. Austin-Sparks the other day, which I want to leave you with. May Jesus ever be the centrality of your life!

The mark of a life governed by the Holy Spirit is that such a life is continually and ever more and more occupied with Christ, that Christ is becoming greater and greater as time goes on. The effect of the Holy Spirit’s work in us is to bring us to the shore of a mighty ocean which reaches far, far beyond our range, and concerning which we feel—Oh, the depths, the fulness, of Christ! If we live as long as ever man lived, we shall still be only on the fringe of this vast fulness that Christ is.

Now, that at once becomes a challenge to us … These are not just words. This is not just rhetoric; this is truth. Let us ask our hearts at once, Is this true in our case? Is this the kind of life that we know? … Is that true in your experience? That is the mark of a life governed by the Holy Spirit. Christ becomes greater and greater as we go on. If that is true, well, that is the way of life.


From  a review of C. S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity at the blog Stray Thoughts:

From the chapter “The Practical Conclusion”:

[The Christian] does not think God will love us because we are good, but that God will make us good because he loves us.

From the chapter “The Great Sin”:

Pleasure in being praised is not Pride. The child who is patted on the back for doing a lesson well, the woman whose beauty is praised by her lover, the saved soul to whom Christ says, “Well done,” are all pleased and ought to be. For here the pleasure lies not in what you are but in the fact that you have pleased someone you wanted (and rightly wanted) to please. The trouble begins when you pass from thinking, “I have pleased him; all is well,” to thinking, “What a fine person I must be to have done it.”

That was immensely helpful to me. I don’t know if anyone else experiences this, but sometimes when you receive a compliment, then you feel a rush of pleasure, that feel guilty for that pleasure and feel you need to redirect the attention to the Lord, and in trying to do so sound awkward and overly pious. For that reason, when someone, say, sings a solo in church that I enjoyed, I try to tell them it blessed my heart rather than just “I enjoyed your song this morning.” Though I mean the same thing by both sentences, the second one makes people feel awkward and self-conscious. This thought did help me to understand it’s not wrong to feel pleasure in pleasing someone else or accepting a compliment.

From the same chapter:

Do not imagine that if you meet a really humble man he will be what most people call “humble” nowadays: he will not be a sort of greasy smarmy person, who is always telling you that, of course, he is a nobody. Probably all you will think about him is that he seemed a cheerful, intelligent chap who tool a real interest in what you said to him….He will not be thinking about humility: he will not be thinking about himself at all.


From the blog, Cindy By The Sea:

The weather is finally warming up here in Northern New Mexico and I had the opportunity to go out walking along the river yesterday afternoon…

I have a favorite spot where the water spills over some rocks creating a mini rapids of sorts. I sat for a while yesterday watching a trio of ducks and a piece of wood that was caught up in the fast-moving water. It made an interesting contrast and brought several thoughts to mind as I watched.  The wood  circling round and round in a never-ending cycle — bobbing into the current and back out again — unable to release itself permanently from the currents strong grasp – this in contrast to the ducks, who smart enough to stay out of the faster moving water paddled freely and placidly about.

It occurred to me as I watched from my position along the bank how like that piece of  wood I often am. They don’t call it drift wood for nothing. Without arms to swim or feet to paddle, the wood is completely at the mercy of the current. And without a change in water speed or depth, the wood would continue in that same cycle perhaps forever – or until the summer runoff subsides and the water level drops leaving the wood exactly where it was but this time stuck – stuck in the mud and going nowhere.

As I was doing my Bible reading this morning, I thought of these words from the apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 3:17  –

 “…. where the spirit of the Lord is there is freedom”. 

Yes, freedom!  And, as trite as that may sound it is exactly true.  For in and of ourselves, we are powerless to change much about our lives and the situations we find ourselves in. We can try this and try that but, it is only by God that we will find permanent release and change that will last. A thought I hope that will stay with me the next time I find my self “caught in the current” of life.  Less reliance on me and more on the one who has the power to effect a permanent change – after all, it is he who controls the water does he not?

I love how God speaks to us through the simple things, don’t you? It has made a difference in my day today – I hope it has in yours.


 

From 2003, the final newsletter of Elizabeth Elliot:

I bid you farewell with words from a hymn written by Anna L. Waring in 1850:

Father, I know that all my life
Is portioned out for me,
And the changes that are sure to come
I do not fear to see;
I ask Thee for a present mind,
Intent on pleasing Thee.

I would not have the restless will
That hurries to and fro,
Seeking for some great thing to do
Or secret thing to know;
I would be treated as a child
And guided where I go.

Wherever in the world I am,
In whatsoever estate,
I have a fellowship with hearts
To keep and cultivate .

October 25, 2012

Seeing God Face To Face

NIV Ex. 33: 18 Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory.”

19 And the Lord said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. 20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.”

God artistic license grantedThe inspirational gospel singer Sandy Patti once had a song out called “We Shall Behold Him.”* Have you ever wondered what that might be like when we first see him, as the song says, “face to face in all of his splendor?”

In his earthly body, Moses returned from Mt. Sinai severely sunburned — so to speak — after being in close contact with God. In the New Testament, when Jesus became “transfigured,” he appeared in dazzling white.

Exodus 33 says that no man — i.e. no human being in their present state — can look at God and live. The image and presence of God is simply too much. However, the Bible in Deuteronomy suggests something else. Even Moses in other encounters spoke face-to-face with God.

Still; lying in bed the other night unable to sleep, I wondered about the whole subject of what will strike us the first time we do in fact behold Him. Usually the verse is quoted that suggests that God made us to look like Him. I have a hard time taking this literally. In fact, in one period of my life, I was convinced this would be better interpreted that “God made us out of his imagination.” I still believe there are fewer similarities than most of us think.

What if C.S. Lewis’ depiction of God as Lion is more accurate than what many of us have in mind: “He’s not safe, but he’s good” — referring to Aslan, the Lion, in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe?

Or what if God is able to shape-shift or transform or morph into a second form, or many different forms? (Well, of course “is able” isn’t the question…)

I just wonder if some day, as we stand there and God makes His first appearance to us if we will just stand there going, “Holy mackerel;” or “Holy smokes;” or… well I know I’ve probably got the “Holy” part right.

I can guarantee it won’t be a Wizard of Oz moment with God simply being a man — who looks like us — behind the curtain. The concept scares the hell out of me. Literally. It’s supposed to.

So what do you think God looks like?


skydome*I always thought “We Shall Behold Him” would be best performed at the Rogers Centre (aka Skydome) in Toronto or any other stadium with a retractable roof. (At night, of course.) As the roof unexpectedly unlocks and begins to divide into two sections, a powerful soprano begins the lyric of the first verse, “The sky shall unfold…” Even more cool if at that exact moment God makes the whole sky light up like it was daytime. He could do that.

(The picture is a daytime shot with the roof partly opening or closing. )

November 21, 2011

So Which Christian Authors Rank Highest on Your “Don’t Like” List?

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In the Christian blogosphere, many blogs are characterized by the number of authors, churches and movements they are opposed to, rather than the ones they like.  And in an age where clicking a “like” button is all consuming, I suppose that’s actually a little backwards.

I’ve often expressed passion here for certain authors, but am extremely unlikely to devote a blog post to condemning an author; while for some blogs, this is their entire reason for being.

So I wade into this one with fear and trepidation, but I think it’s important to not only be aware of who or what movements are influencing us, but also how these authors or movements are casting influence.

For that reason, I was very intrigued with an article by C. Michael Patton at Credo House, Why Do We Love C. S. Lewis and Hate Rob Bell? (A sentiment I don’t share, by the way.)

Some answers Michael put forward:

  • re. C. S. Lewis: “…With all of these foibles, I seriously doubt any evangelical church would take a second look at his resume were he to apply for a pastorate at their church today. In fact, this list alone would be enough for many to call him a heretic. However, we still love him. We still read him. We still defend him. We still hand out his books by the dozens to friends and family who are struggling with their faith.”
  • re. Rob Bell: “…From what I have read and seen, he seems to have far fewer theological problems than C.S. Lewis. In fact, on paper, he is probably more evangelical than C.S. Lewis. He might even make it through the interview process at most evangelical churches. He, like Lewis, has written many works about the Christian faith… However, evangelicals don’t like Rob Bell. He is not beloved. “
  • re. C. S. Lewis: “…You see, while C.S. Lewis has a great deal of theological foibles, his ministry is defined by a defense of the essence of the Gospel. The essence of who Christ is and what he did are ardently defended by Lewis, saturating every page of his books. His purpose was clear: to defend the reality of God and the Lordship of Jesus Christ. All other things set aside, this is what you leave with every time you read Lewis. The problematic areas are peripheral, not central…”
  • re. Rob Bell: “…However, with Rob Bell, the essence of who Christ is and what he did seems to be secondary. One has to look for those things as they weed through his defenses of non-traditional Christianity. Whereas Lewis’ ultimate purpose is to define and defend “mere” Christianity, Bell’s “mere” Christianity is but a footnote to a redefined Christianity. Bell’s focus is to challenge, question, change, reform, and emerge from traditions that bind us. Traditional apologetics, orthodoxy, and foundations are brought into question from beginning to end. Christ’s reality, deity, exclusivity, and the hope of the Gospel proclaimed receive an occasional footnote (if at all) from Bell.”

Patton’s central thesis:

  • “Another way to put this is to say that in the ministry of C.S. Lewis, the central truths of the Christian faith are the chorus of his songs, with the occasional problem in the stanzas. However, with Bell, the chorus of his song is filled with challenges to traditional Christianity and if you listen really closely to the stanza, you might get an occasional line of orthodoxy.”

Sample of reader comments:

  • …Who says “we” like C.S. Lewis. As a Fundamentalist Baptist C.S.Lewis was not a genuine Christian. He was a Heretic. Bell is an impostor and not a genuine Christian either. These men do not represent Biblical Christianity but a counterfeit type.
  • Lewis’ writings bear fruit among non-believers. For example, I have a relative who was a non-believer, and he credits Lewis as having a big role in convincing him of the Christian faith. Lewis gets a lot of rope because of examples like that. We’d rather a person become a believer and perhaps disagree with us on certain doctrines, than for that person to not become a believer at all.
  • It’s always interesting to read the Evangelical take on people like Rob Bell or Brian McLaren. For me, if people like that did not exist, I would be unable to be a Christian. I have never been able to subscribe to Evangelical Christianity, nor do I want to. C.S. Lewis was a great discovery for me years ago because he was like a breath of fresh air in a “traditional” faith that didn’t provide answers to questions I was asking, nor support for those questions. Since, I have graduated to greater “heresy” even than Rob Bell, and I find my faith and my life and my thinking all enriched as a result.
  • I appreciate the writings of Lewis and Bell because they say the same things I am thinking, or ask the same questions I am asking. It is their transparency and honesty at the risk of offending what is “true” or the “right answer” that draws me in. When I read “A Grief Observed,” with Lewis’ description of God behind a locked door, this cold, foreboding silence from Heaven was exactly the experience I had with God. Likewise, in “Love Wins,” Bell asks questions he has asked as well as questions others have asked him. It is an invitation and a conversation many of us want to have. That struck a deep resonance with me.

Read the whole article and add your comment at Parchment and Pen blog.

January 9, 2011

The People That You Meet

For the past few weeks, I’ve been working my way through a copy of the DVD Curriculum, The Truth Project from Focus on the Family featuring Dr. Del Tackett.   I’m watching some of the episodes out of sequence, so yesterday I watched the conclusion to the series; in which one of the participants in the series paraphrases C. S. Lewis:

Every person you meet is an eternal being.   You have never met a mere mortal.  Everyone you’ve ever come into contact with, argued with, traded with is either an immortal horror or an everlasting splendor.

“You have never met a mere mortal.” Wow. Strong words. But certainly consistent with the idea that God created us as spiritual beings made to respond to Him, or made for eternity.

Something to consider.

But when you think about it, that’s what new life and new birth have bought us and brought us: Transition from being on the road to immortal horror, to the way of being everlasting splendor.

At his blog, Dr. Tackett considers this in greater depth:

I don’t know what it is within the heart of man that loves a new beginning, but we do. Yes, there are times when a new beginning carries some fear because of the unknown that lies ahead or because we don’t like change and are just very comfortable with the old. But, in most cases, we like the fresh beginning.

The new year often stirs within us a motivation to start anew with goals and objectives that, in many cases, have gone unmet in years past. It almost gives us the privilege of “closing the book” on the failures and disappointments of the past and setting out with no bricks in our backpack. We almost feel lighter!

Of course, the reality is that just because the second hand sweeps past the 12 at midnight on December 31st, there isn’t some magical wand that brings fairy dust down upon your life. No genie appears to undo your past or miraculously change your circumstances. If you have a boatload of debt on New Year’s Eve, you will wake up to that same debt on January 1st.

Ugh! The reality of reality!

Wouldn’t it be grand if all things bad went away when the clock struck midnight at the end of the year? Can you imagine what your sleep would be like that night? Can you imagine what it would be like waking up the next morning, knowing that all the debt was gone, all the regrets and failures of the past were gone, all the ugliness and pain and grief and misery…gone!

Wow! Wouldn’t that be something!

But, alas, there are no magic wands and there are no genies.

But there is One who is in the business of making things “new”. For those who are His, there will come a day when we will go to sleep and awake to a true New Beginning.

But even in this life, He makes things new.

Millions have experienced the joy of a new creation, when the sins of the past are truly forgiven.

He creates us anew.

He gives us…
…a new heart (Ezekiel 36:26)
…a new birth (1 Peter 1:3)
…a new spirit (Ezekiel 11:19)
…a new song (Psalm 40:3)
…a new name (Isaiah 62:2; Revelation 2:17)
…a new life (Acts 5:20)
…a new self (Ephesians 4:24)
…a new way into the holy place (Hebrews 10:20)
…a new covenant. (Hebrews 9:15)
…and He creates a new heaven and earth (Isaiah 65:17; 2 Peter 3:13)

The Scriptures close out with the great declaration from Jesus, “Behold, I am making all things new.”

That is a New Years Day that will make all our new years pale in comparison!

But there is a continual “newness” that God gives to us:

“Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23)

Every day, there is a newness for those who are in Christ. If that reality were understood by our faint hearts, we would arise each morning with the joy and “freshness” that befits the child of the King who is in the business of taking old things and making them new.

May your New Year truly be a New Day every day.

May 20, 2010

He Just Wants Our Presence

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I found this on a church website page titled “Worship” for The Bridge in Markham, Ontario, just north of Toronto.   It makes a point that I’ve believed in for quite some time now…

C.S. Lewis said that “it is in the process of worship that God reveals Himself to us”. The God of the universe, the Creator of all, longs to reveal Himself to those who would fall before Him losing themselves to find Him. God Himself invites us, through his Son, to revel in His presence…to fall at His feet…to climb up into His lap. That’s the beauty of worship. It doesn’t dictate how we come before Him…it just asks us to come. We can dance for joy…cry out in pain…celebrate his grace…or be silent and still. We simply come as we are bringing all the circumstances of life with us.