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  • Samuel at Gilgal

    This year I will be sharing brief excerpts from the articles, sermons, and books I am currently reading. My posts will not follow a regular schedule but will be published as I find well-written thoughts that should be of interest to maturing Christian readers. Whenever possible, I encourage you to go to the source and read the complete work of the author.

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HEAVENLY MINDED MEN

C. S. LewisC. S. Lewis:

“If you read history, you will find that the Christians who did the most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next. The apostles themselves, who set on foot the conversion of the Roman Empire; the great men who built up the Middle Ages; the English evangelicals who abolished the slave trade, all left their mark on earth, precisely because their minds were occupied with heaven. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this.” (Mere Christianity)

CHILDREN AND THE CHRIST OF CHRISTMAS

Samuel A CainFor to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6 ESV)

You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. (Deuteronomy 11:18-19 ESV)

Christmas is a good time to share the Word of God with your children. Of course, as we see in Deuteronomy 11, every day and every moment is, in general, a good time to do this. So, what are your children learning about the Christ of Christmas this year? What are you teaching them? Is there more talk in your home about Santa Claus than Jesus? Continue reading

WHAT THE PUBLIC WANTS

C. S. Lewis

C.S. Lewis:

“A man who first tried to guess ‘what the public wants,’ and then preached that as Christianity because the public wants it, would be a pretty mixture of fool and knave.”

 

HALF-HEARTED CREATURES

C. S. LewisC. S. Lewis:

“If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith.  Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” (The Weight of Glory, 1-2)

C. S. LEWIS ON SIN

Screwtape LettersUncle Screwtape on small sins:

“You will say that these are very small sins; and doubtless, like all young tempters, you are anxious to be able to report spectacular wickedness.  But do remember, the only thing that matters is the extent to which you separate the man from the Enemy.  It does not matter how small the sins are, provided that their cumulative effect is to edge the man away from the Light and out into the Nothing.  Murder is no better than cards if cards can do the trick.  Indeed, the safest road to Hell is the gradual one – the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.  Your affectionate uncle, Screwtape.” (The Screwtape Letters, 56)

LOSE YOUR LIFE AND YOU WILL SAVE IT

C. S. LewisC. S. Lewis:

“Lose your life and you will save it. Submit to death, death of your ambitions and favorite wishes every day and death to your whole body in the end: submit with every fiber of your being, and you will find eternal life. Keep back nothing. Nothing that you have given away will be really yours. Nothing in you that has not died will be raised from the dead. Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.” (Mere Christianity, 226-227)

Pride and Humility

Satan Cast Down From Heaven“Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the Lord; be assured, he will not go unpunished.” (Proverbs 16:5 ESV)

Edwin Chapin wrote, “Pride is the master sin of the devil.” I think that most of us have some experience with the form of pride discussed in the verse above, but I know I am very familiar with pride. It is a meal that I have feasted upon many times. I have made mistakes because of the sin of pride. Pride has cost me some great opportunities. It has taken its toll on relationships as well.

I knew I was in trouble the very first time I read 1 Peter 5:5: “God resists the proud, and gives grace to the humble.” Then I read Proverbs 16:18, which says, “Pride goes before destruction, and an haughty spirit before the fall.” C. S. Lewis could have described my early life when he said, “A proud man is always looking down on things and people; and, of course, as long as you’re looking down, you can’t see something that’s above you.”

I can tell you exactly when God saved me from my atheistic lifestyle, but I believe I thought I was taking a consulting position with Him. I’m sure the angels were astonished by God’s grace to me. The Holy Spirit began to change me and continues His work some thirty-three years later.

Pride is very deceitful. It continues to plague our culture of self-worship. Pride is seen as an entitlement by many. We believe we should be treated with a level of respect we have not earned and worshiped in spite of the fact we are the created – not the Creator. Where pride and arrogance reign, men are consumed by the fear of losing status. On the other hand, God “leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble His way.” (Psalm 25:9) God’s way offers life eternal and greater contentment in the here and now. St. Augustine spoke wisely, when he said, “The sufficiency of my merit is to know that my merit is not sufficient.” The proud man will never enjoy the peace of God.

Samuel at Gilgal

In the Shadow of Evil

Shadow of EvilEven though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. (Psalm 23:4 ESV)

A radio program titled “The Shadow” officially premiered in 1937. Each show was introduced with the unmistakable lines: “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows!” Psalm 44:21 tells us that God also knows the secrets of the heart. “But as for those whose heart goes after their detestable things and their abominations, I will bring their deeds upon their own heads, declares the Lord God.” (Ezekiel 11:21)

Evil is not simply a “boogey man” of some sort; it is spiritual parasitic action. As C. S. Lewis said, “Badness is only spoiled goodness.” Evil choices and actions darken the mind and cloud sound judgment. The presence of evil leads to destruction, subversion and rebellion. The Scriptures also specifically warn us about the devil; “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. (1 Peter 5:8-9 ESV) However, the existence of the devil does not allow us to justify our sins by crying out “The devil made me do it!”

Evil is a grave matter. The slightest indulgence of evil in our habits may seduce the course of our lives to follow destruction. Evil leads to pride, lust, lies and crime. These are all traits of rebellion against God. The Bible tells us, “Woe unto them that call evil good and good evil.” (Isaiah 5:20) God declares, “I will punish the world for its evil. . . .” (Isaiah 13:11)

Karl Barth wrote, “Sin is not confined to the evil things we do. It is the evil within us, the evil which we are.” It is our thoughts and feelings. It is against this dark background that God’s great compassion is revealed to us by the cross. The cross of Christ fully answers the problem of evil. It is by the cross that God breaks the chains of sin and sets us free.

Child of God, do not despair – but rather persevere against the evil which comes against you. “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.” (Ephesians 6:12-13)

One of my favorite quotes is from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings: “It is not our part to master all the tides of the world, but to do what is in us for the succor of those years wherein we are set, uprooting the evil in the fields that we know, so that those who live after may have clean earth to till. What weather they shall have is not ours to rule.”

The proof of our faith, when confronted with evil circumstances, is perseverance and trust in God. Christians are not put into this world to avoid suffering. God gives them His strength to face the dark night of the soul. If you have not given your life to God, receiving the saving power of Jesus Christ, you are separated from God. Separation from God is separation from the love, peace, and joy that only God can give. However, if you live in Christ and allow Him to empower you with His strength, He will enable you to overcome evil in yourself and others. “Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called …” (1 Timothy 6:12 ESV) God has commanded us to “Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9 ESV)

Samuel at Gilgal

Politics And God

Quoting David J. Theroux:

We live in an increasingly secularized world of massive and pervasive nation states in which traditional religion, especially Christianity, is ruled unwelcome and even a real danger on the basis of a purported history of intolerance and “religious violence.” This is found in most all “public” domains, including the institutions of education, business, government, welfare, transportation, parks and recreation, science, art, foreign affairs, economics, entertainment, and the media.

A secularized public square policed by government is viewed as providing a neutral, rational, free, and safe domain that keeps the “irrational” forces of religion from creating conflict and darkness. And we are told that real progress requires expanding this domain by pushing religion ever backward into remote corners of society where it has little or no influence. In short, modern America has become a secular theocracy with a civic religion of national politics (nationalism) occupying the public realm in which government has replaced God.

For the renowned Christian scholar and writer C.S. Lewis, such a view was fatally flawed morally, intellectually, and spiritually, producing the twentieth-century rise of the total state, total war, and mega-genocides. For Lewis, Christianity provided the one true and coherent worldview that applied to all human aspirations and endeavors: “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” (The Weight of Glory)

Continue reading here. . . .

Only The Truth Will Set You Free!

Too many in our day have abandoned the idea of absolute truth – at least as far as morality is concerned. A culture which abandons absolute truth has adopted insanity as its god. Higher education, long ago, bowed its knee to the religion of personal truth. Our young adults have adopted the attitude, “Whatever seems to work for me is my truth.” Truth, however, does not change with the winds of public opinion, yet for the insane – truth changes with every new notion and draws its victims deeper into the abyss of chaos.

“The truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it. Ignorance may deride it. But in the end, there it is.” (Winston Churchill)

Truth is the foundation of order and knowledge. Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” (John 14:6) “For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world – to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” ((John 18:37) Jesus Christ offers the world a choice between truth and the insanity of a lie. You can embrace only one, because the lie is an unrelenting master who cannot dwell with the truth. You may take pride in your personal opinions and offer them as equal to any great philosopher or even the Son of God, but still the truth is absolute and only the truth can set you free from the insanity of lies.

The denial of absolute truth is not only self-contradictory, it is destructive and evil. We see the consequences of such worldviews in men like Adolf Hitler who said, “There is no such thing as truth either in the moral or the scientific sense.” Contrast this view with C. S. Lewis’ statement: “If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth – only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin, and in the end, despair.” The lies, the wishful thinking, and the despair of men are the chaos that provides the breeding grounds of men like Hitler, Stalin, Mao and many others.

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” (Romans 1:18) Do not waste your life in the make-believe world of your own vanity. There is nothing more beautiful than the knowledge and discipline of absolute truth. Understand clearly that when we do not defend truth, we suppress it. Learn at the feet of Christ who is Truth. For you and I are called to love God with our entire minds. Jesus said, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32)

Was Jesus Just A Great Moral Teacher?

C. S. Lewis

Quoting British author C.S. Lewis (1898-1963):

“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.”

CHRIST AND. . . .

When the Gospel, Christ as Savior, is taken for granted, we are no longer being constantly converted from our hypocrisy and self-centeredness to faith and love. The Apostle Paul, himself, knew that preachers could use the name of Jesus, but as something or someone other than the vicarious sacrifice for sinners. Michael S. Horton writes:

Christless Christianity does not mean religion or spirituality devoid of the words “Jesus,” “Christ,” “Lord,” or even “Savior.” What it means is that the way the names and titles are employed will be removed from their specific location in an unfolding historical plot of human rebellion and divine rescue and from such practices as baptism and Communion. Jesus as life coach, therapist, buddy, significant other, founder of Western civilization, political messiah, example of radical love, and countless other images can distract us from the stumbling block and foolishness of “Christ and him crucified.”

In The Screwtape Letters, C. S. Lewis has the devil (Screwtape) catechizing his minion (Wormwood) to keep the Christians distracted from Christ as redeemer from God’s wrath. Rather than clumsily announce his presence by direct attacks, Wormwood should try to get the churches to become interested in “Christianity and…”: “Christianity and the War,” “Christianity and Poverty,” “Christianity and Morality,” and so on. Of course, Lewis was not suggesting that Christians should not have an interest in such pressing issues of the day, but he was making the point that when the church’s basic message is less about who Christ is and what he has accomplished once and for all for us, and more about who we are and what we have to do in order to justify all of that expense on his part, the religion that is made “relevant” is no longer Christianity. By not thinking that “Christ crucified” is as relevant as “Christ and Family Values” or “Christ and America” or “Christ and World Hunger,” we end up assimilating the gospel to law. Again, there is nothing wrong with the law-the moral commands that expose our moral failure and guide us as believers in the way of discipleship. However, assimilating the good news of what someone else has done to a road map for our own action is disastrous. In the words of Theodore Beza, “The confusion of law and gospel is the principal source of all the abuses that corrupt or have ever corrupted the church.” When God’s Law (and not our own inner sentiment) actually addresses us, our first response should be, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner,” not the reply of the rich young ruler, “All this I have done since my youth.” (“Christless Christianity”)

C. S. Lewis On Tyranny

C. S. Lewis

Quoting British writer C.S. Lewis (1898-1963):

“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron‘s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”

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