Posts Tagged ‘C.S. Lewis’

challengePresident John F. Kennedy, in his speech accepting the Democratic nomination in Los Angeles (on 15 July 1960) said, ‘We stand today on the edge of a new frontier … but the new frontier of which I speak is not a set of promises – it is a set of challenges. It sums up not what I intend to offer the American people, but what I intend to ask of them.’

Life is a set of challenges, problems and hassles. We sometimes imagine that if we could just deal with the immediate challenge that we are facing, all our problems would be over. But life is not like that. If we resolve one problem, others are just around the corner.

The temptation is to see these challenges as preventing us from carrying out the ministry God has given us. In actual fact, dealing with the problems is the ministry. As one former Bishop of Kensington put it: ‘These are not the problems associated with the ministry, they are the ministry.’

The Bible is true to life. The psalmist faced pain and distress. Paul faced false accusation and the frustration of being kept in prison on trumped up charges. The kings in the Old Testament faced battles and a massive building project challenge.

As I read the passages for today, I am reminded that the relatively minor challenges, problems and hassles that I face are nothing compared to what the people of God have faced in the past, and still face around the world today.

1. Talk to God about the problems

Psalm 81:1-7Are you in a time of testing? God sometimes allows us to be tested, as he allowed his people to be tested by the waters of Meribah (v.7, see Numbers 20). But he does not want you to face the tests and challenges of life alone. You can talk to him about your problems.

God says, ‘I removed the burden from their shoulders … In your distress you called and I rescued you’ (vv.6a–7a). Or as The Message puts it:

‘I took the world off your shoulders,
freed you from a life of hard labour.
You called to me in your pain;
I got you out of a bad place’ (vv.6–7a, MSG).

We are reminded of the importance and power of prayer. Whatever situations or difficulties you may face, you can bring them to God in prayer.

God removed their burdens and rescued them in their distress. The psalmist starts, therefore, with worship, celebration and joy: ‘Sing for joy to God our strength!’ (v.1).

Lord, thank you that you are my strength and joy as I face challenges and problems in life. Thank you that you remove the burden from my shoulders. Thank you that I can call on you in my distress and that you rescue me. Lord, I call on you today to rescue me from …

2. Trust that God is in control

Acts 25:1-22Faith means trusting God. ‘Faith’, as C.S. Lewis wrote, ‘is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods.’ It is hard to trust God when everything seems to be going wrong.

Luke records Paul’s trial in a very objective and unemotional way. This must have been an extraordinarily frustrating time for Paul. This great leader of the church, evangelist and teacher is locked away, apparently unable to exercise the ministry to which he has been called by God. He is in custody, enduring the physical constraints and discomfort of imprisonment, such as poor diet and lack of hygiene.

Serious charges are brought against Paul (25:1–7). He defends himself by pointing out that he has done ‘nothing wrong’ (vv.8,10). But Festus was more interested in what people thought (v.9) than in what was right. He was more concerned about popularity than justice. In the end, Paul appeals to Caesar (v.11).

When King Agrippa arrives, Festus discusses Paul’s case with him. Festus says, ‘When his accusers got up to speak, they did not charge him with any of the crimes I had expected. Instead, they had some points of dispute with him about their own religion and about a dead man named Jesus whom Paul claimed was alive’ (vv.18–19).

This reminds us that the resurrection of Jesus should always be at the heart of the message we proclaim. The only accusation that could be made to stick was that Paul was preaching that Jesus was alive, yet numerous other accusations and false charges had been brought against him.

For Paul, in the midst of all these difficulties and frustrations, it must have been very hard to see what good might possibly come out of all the dishonesty, delays and dithering in his trials. Yet, as always, God was at work for good. As Paul himself wrote, ‘We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose’ (Romans 8:28).

First, in the short term, it resulted in an opportunity for Paul to speak to Agrippa. After hearing all about Paul, Agrippa said to Festus, ‘I would like to hear this man myself’ (Acts 25:22). In times of frustration and hassle we never know when opportunities may appear, but sometimes they do.

Second, in the medium term, it resulted in Paul being sent to Rome. Paul had expressed his desire to go to Rome to preach the gospel (see Acts 19:21, Romans 1:15, 15:23), and the Lord himself had spoken to Paul saying that he would testify in Rome (Acts 23:11). It was because of what took place in Paul’s defence of himself that he was eventually sent to Rome.

Third, in the long term, 2,000 years later, vast numbers of people have read Paul’s story and been encouraged to know that he too faced false imprisonment, accusations and criticism. I suspect that Paul would have been astonished in the midst of all these difficulties to know how much good was going to come of them.

Lord, thank you that you are with us whenever we face accusation and criticism, from colleagues at work or the press or wherever else it might be. Thank you that through all of these frustrations of life you work together for the good of those who love you and are called according to your purpose (Romans 8:28).

3. Take the opportunities that God gives you

2 Kings 12:1-14:22In the middle of this rather depressing history of the kings of Israel and Judah, there is an incident in the life of Elisha that encourages us to take every opportunity that God gives us, to be persistent and never give up.

Leaders are a mixed bag. Some do ‘evil in the eyes of the Lord’ (13:2,11). Some do ‘right in the eyes of the Lord’ (14:3).

God is extraordinarily gracious and when Jehoahaz, who did evil in the eyes of the Lord, ‘sought the Lord’s favour … the Lord listened to him’ (13:4). Whenever you seek the Lord’s favour he listens to you.

In this list of Israel’s leaders Joash was probably the best example. He ‘did what was right in the eyes of the Lord’ (12:2), even if it was only for part of his reign.

Joash took on a building project. Like many building projects, it took far longer than he expected: ‘But by the twenty-third year of King Joash the priests still had not repaired the temple’ (v.6). The king calls a meeting and asks, ‘Why aren’t you repairing the damage done to the temple?’ (v.7).

They do eventually get on with the work. They collect the money they need (v.11). They all acted with complete honesty (v.15) and progress was made.

Of course, today God’s temple is no longer primarily a physical building but the people of God. Our money and effort should go into building up the people of God – in number (evangelism), in maturity (discipleship) and in care for the community (social transformation). However, sometimes we need buildings for this and it is not wrong to spend money on the infrastructure of church when necessary.

As well as the challenge of buildings, the people of God faced the challenge of battles. In particular, in this passage we see how they had to face Aram. Elisha says to the king of Israel, ‘Get a bow and some arrows … Take the arrows … Strike the ground’ (13:15–18). The king ‘struck it three times and stopped’ (v.18c). Elisha said, ‘You should have struck the ground five or six times; then you would have defeated Aram and completely destroyed it. But now you will defeat it only three times’ (v.19).

Challenges will be with us throughout our lives, believe me. I know this. So hold on to the above promises from God, and know that God will never leave or foresake you.

Lord, as we face battles ahead, give us a determination not to give up but to persevere and carry through to the end.

It shall greatly help you to understand Scripture if thou mark not only what is spoken or written
– but of whom
– and to whom
– with what words
– at what time
– where
– to what intent
– with what circumstances
– considering what goeth before
– and what followeth
Author: John Wycliff
I can seldom read scripture now without tears of joy and gratitude
Author: Hudson Taylor
(After losing his beloved wife, Hudson Taylor wrote in his journal) Love gave the blow that for a little while makes the desert more dreary, but Heaven more homelike
Author: Hudson Taylor
Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.
Author: C.S. Lewis
Five minutes after you die you’ll know how you should have lived.
Author: Leonard Ravenhill  
If I might be the means of saving one soul I should prefer it to all the riches and honor in the world
Author: Asahel Nettleton  
In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.
Author: Jesus Christ  
What is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?
Author: Jesus Christ
If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me.
Author: Jesus Christ
There are only two days on my calendar… today and the day of judgment
Author: Martin Luther  
Some people do not like to hear much of repentance; but I think it is so necessary that if I should die in the pulpit, I would desire to die preaching repentance, and if out of the pulpit I would desire to die practicing it.
Author: Matthew Henry  
A woman rushed up to famed violinist Fritz Kreisler after a concert and cried: “I’d give my life to play as beautifully as you do.” Kreisler replied, “I did.” Even nature teaches us that results require long, hard, patient, careful work. The Christian life is no different.
Author: Anonymous
No one can come to me unless the Father draws him.
Author: Jesus Christ
Only Christ could build a bridge to God with only two pieces of wood.
Author: Anonymous  
Very few people have the grace of being special without also being aware of that specialness. But in Heaven the lowest Christian will be a king, and he can enjoy all the honors of royalty without vanity or pride.
Author: Michael Phillips
Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason-I do not accept the authority of popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other-my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise. God help me. Amen.
Author: Martin Luther  
Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee.
Author: Jesus Christ
Upon a life I did not live, upon a death I did not die; another’s life, another’s death, I stake my whole eternity.
Author: Horatius Bonar
Oh! how amazing it is that people can talk so much about men’s power and goodness, when if God did not hold us back every moment, we should be devils incarnate!
Author: David Brainerd  
Is what you’re living for worth Christ dying for?
Author: Epitaph of Leonard Ravenhill  
Though He Slay Me, Yet Will I Trust in Him
Author: Job
I love to live on the brink of eternity.
Author: David Brainerd
Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee.
Author: Asaph  
You know they boasted about the Titanic, that it was the one ship that could not be sunk. Somebody said ‘God Almighty can’t sink this ship’ You can be pretty sure when somebody says something like that it’s going to sink on it’s first voyage. But there is one ship that isn’t going to sink.. and that’s the church
Author: Zac Poonen

rightI gave them up unto their own hearts’ lust: and they walked in their own counselsPsalm 81:12

Sin results in separation from God. But here we are also reminded that it means being joined completely to our own desires and schemes.

At first glance, this might not sound so bad. While we certainly don’t want to be separated from God, the thought of being married to our own desires and plans doesn’t seem to be much of a penalty. Isn’t that more like a dream come true?

In reality this is judgment; this is punishment. Those who persist in sin and rebellion, God leaves to their own lust and allows them to walk in their own counsels. But notice that it does not say that the lust is fulfilled, or that the plans prosper.

When God gives a person up to his own lusts, his lusts consume him without end, because there is no true or lasting or deep satisfaction apart from God. It is to forever hunger, without ever being filled.

Similarly, the person who is left to her own counsel finds that she is like a blind person at the street corner, without a guide. She is free to walk any direction she pleases, but there is danger and destruction on every side.

As C.S. Lewis explained, there are two kinds of people in the end — those who say to the Father, “Thy will be done,” or those to whom the Father says, “thy will be done.” The great punishment for sin is getting our own way.

prideOnly by pride cometh contention– Proverbs 13:10This powerful verse brings arguments to an agreeable conclusion, lost tempers to a cool self-examination, and finger pointing to a swift end.

Only by pride is there contention, or conflict. Arguments and fights do not come because one person is right and another is wrong. They only come by way of pride.

No matter how loudly we may shout our innocence, no matter how cleverly we may defend our cause, no matter how furiously we may justify our position — only by pride comes contention. Do you pretend that you are free of pride? Can you honestly argue that the problems in your life are all because of other people’s pride?

As C.S. Lewis said, “[Pride] is one vice of which no man in the world is free.” For this reason, every conflict in every home requires strenuous and honest self-examination, from husbands, wives, parents, and children alike.

What have you done to contribute to the current tension in our lives? What could you have said differently to avoid giving offense? How have you allowed your pride to escalate what could have been a productive discussion or honest disagreement? How have you disregarded God‘s role for you in your life?

If each member of society spends concerted time and sincere energy in searching his or her own heart and motive and conduct, the confession of pride will be universal within the home. No one is guiltless; everyone has pride.

With this confession, with this realization, however, comes great hope. There is a solution! As each one in the home humbles themselves before God, the strife in the home will slowly but surely dissipate. When pride is gone, the tension will be gone.

Let it then begin with you.

“Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them.”—Luke 15:4

There’s a famous saying among Jewish rabbis: “Whoever saves one soul, saves the whole world.” Its wisdom is deeper than what is called “common sense.” It is deeper than the famous Zen saying, “Imagine the sound of one hand clapping,” which is designed to jar a person into moving beyond the limits of reason.

Some people are “numbers people,” and their contribution to the orderly functioning of society and the body of Christ is indispensable. But in order to understand Jesus’ story of the shepherd who leaves a flock of 99 to search for just one lost sheep, we must remember how God made each of us in his own image.

Glenn Tinder of the University of Massachusetts speaks about the infinite value of one human being because we are made in God’s image. And C. S. Lewis criticized the vulgarity of those who seek to make us feel as insignificant as dust because the universe is so huge and we are so small.

Missionaries treasure this parable because they must sometimes work years in a stubborn land to lead one lost person to Christ.

Never allow yourself to think that you count for nothing. Christ died to rekindle the spark of the image of God placed within you that makes you human.