Saturday, August 27, 2011

Affliction...Prepares An Ordinary Person For..An Extraordinary Destiny

"Affliction is often that thing which prepares an ordinary person for some sort of an extraordinary destiny." C.S. Lewis
I know in my life, I shrink from adversity. I run from it as fast as I can.  Yet, when I look back on my life, I realize that when I have truly grown, it is because of some trial.  Why is it so difficult to understand the benefits of affliction?

I once heard a preacher say that, “God will never use you until He has wounded you.”  The Bible sure seems to bear that out.  The “great” men of God were murderers, adulterers, back-stabbers, and cheaters (Jacob, Moses, David, Paul, Peter).  Those who have suffered great affliction are humbled by, recognize their dependency on God, and are thankful when God gives them a second chance.

It is very, very difficult, but we need to be people who are patient in the midst of afflictions, hopeful because God is using them to help us grow.  “Consider it pure joy my brothers, when you face trials of many kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance, and perseverance must finish its work in order that you may be mature and complete.” James 1:2-3.

If you have suffered a lot in life, take comfort in the fact that God is preparing you for, “some sort of an extraordinary destiny.”

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

It Is The Comparison That Makes You Proud

"Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man... It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest. Once the element of competition is gone, pride is gone." C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
I have never thought about pride this way, but it is true.  Pride does not settle on achieving something; pride is only satisfied once it has more than everyone else.

Why do we compete with each other?  James says, “What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you?  Is not the source your evil desires that wage war in your members?  You lust and do not have; so you commit murder.  And you are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel.”  James 4: 1-2.
There is a fundamental issue at work whenever we are being competitive. At its core, it is a disbelief that God will provide for our needs and our wants.  We need to remember that He is the source of all good things in our lives. All is grace.  We are not entitled to anything. When we truly understand that, we cannot be competitive because we come to realize that everything is a gift.

Pride is the original sin.  It is the enemy of love.  Competition is the source of pride. Competition and pride have no place in our lives as Christians.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

"Our Lord Finds Our Desires Are Not Too Strong, But Too Weak"

"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." C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory.
It seems strange to think about our desires being too weak, but when you think about it, what C.S. Lewis is saying is true. We give in to temptation because we do not have strong enough desires.  Thus, when we drink our sorrows away, we are taking the easy way out. When we give in to have relationship after relationship without any true commitment, we are giving in to momentary happiness in exchange for the deep love and joy of marriage.  Whenever we give in to temptation, we are settling for the mud puddle, when God wants us to be able to play at the sea shore.

I have been thinking recently that one of the most important characteristic that we must always have as Christians is the ability to have the long view about life.  When we have the long view of life, we are able to have a deep seated joy that is not based on circumstances. It is not based on circumstances because ultimately we know what the outcome is and that outcome is a holiday at the beach.

When are here on earth, we always have to have the long view and live with the next world in mind.  When we are struggling here on earth, we need to always keep in mind the benefits of suffering and our future glory.  When things are going well in life, we need to keep the future in mind and not be complacent.

The other aspect of this quote that is so important is that much of our suffering we would not consider suffering if we were able to see what God was doing.  We are content in our mud puddle making pies, when God wants to take us to the sea shore.  We kick and scream when He takes us away from the mud puddle because we are happy there, but He has so much more in mind for us.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

To Be A Christian Means To Forgive The Inexcusable

"To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you." C.S. Lewis, On Forgiveness in The Weight of Glory

Recently I have been asked to write about forgiving people who are difficult to forgive.  The person I was assigned to discuss was Casey Anthony, who, in all likelihood murdered her two year old daughter. Can I tell you the truth?  I struggle with being able to forgive her.  In my mind, she got away with murder, and not just any murder, but her own, innocent, defenseless child.

I think we refuse to forgive people for one of two reasons:

1.  We think we are better than the person:  This is what this C.S. Lewis quote speaks of.  While I may not be a murderer, I have done plenty of other evil things. All sin separates us from God.  None of us is righteous, not even one.  We all have worth, but none of us is more worthy than the anybody else in the eyes of God. We did not earn our forgiveness, so why should we think that other people have to earn forgiven?  This even applies to people like Casey Anthony.  Yes, she may have committed the inexcusable, but am I so different?

2. We have been deeply hurt: It is hard to forgive when we are deeply hurt.  We want the other person to have to pay for what they did. However, when we act as the judge and executioner, we are playing God. There is only one who can condemn, and it is God.  The beauty is that, in the end, God will exact justice. We just have to trust that in the end, He will defend us.  The ironic thing is that when we are deeply hurt, the longer we hold on to the pain by not forgiving, the slower it will be to heal.

Who do you have a hard time forgiving? 

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Stamp Of The Saint

“The stamp of the Saint is that he can waive his own rights and obey the Lord Jesus.” C.S. Lewis
We Americans are big on our rights.  Our Declaration of Independence even goes so far as to say that we all have “inalienable rights” of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”  As this quote from C.S. Lewis indicates, however, the more we pursue our “rights” the less likely we are to be obeying Christ.

Think about it.  The enforcement of one’s rights is inherently one of self-interest.  The Biblical mandate is one of humility.  Humility is not thinking poorly of oneself; rather humility is not thinking of one’s self at all.  Paul put it this way in his letter to the Philippians,
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,  not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: 
Who, being in very nature God, 
   did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; 
rather, he made himself nothing 
   by taking the very nature of a servant, 
   being made in human likeness. 
And being found in appearance as a man, 
   he humbled himself 
   by becoming obedient to death— 
      even death on a cross!"  Philippians 2: 3-8.    
Only when we give up self-interest can we serve with love, joy and kindness.  It is only when we give up our rights, that we become truly free from fear, anger, or bitterness.  We become patient with those around us, and are able to effectively serve without becoming burnt out or bitter.

I must be clear.  The Christian life is not one where we allow people to trample all over us.  Allowing someone to take advantage of you is not only bad for yourself, but is also bad for the person who is using you.  In that sense, we should stand up for ourselves.  But not allowing people to take advantage of us is much different than demand the enforcement of our so-called rights.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Christians Who Did The Most For The Present World Were Those Who Thought About The Next

 "If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this." C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity.

I do not know about you, but I often struggle with focusing on the eternal. I get to caught up in the world and what is going on around me.  I have been thinking today about how little I do has eternal consequences. In some sense, everything I do has eternal consequences, but little of what I actually do will "stand the test of time."  For example, if my mind was focused on the next world, would I watch as much TV as I do?  Would I care that the Dodgers lost last night?  Would I care about what I am going to have for dinner tonight?  Stop and think about all you have done today.  How much of it has an "eternal dimension" to it?

What is it about the next world that we can focus on?:

Our Father is in heaven (Matthew 6:9); our Savior is in heaven (Hebrews 9:24); our home is in heaven (John 14:2-4); our name is in heaven (Luke 10:20); our life is in heaven (Colossians 3:1-3); our heart is in heaven (Matthew 6:19-21); our inheritance is in heaven (I Peter 1:3-5); and our citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3:20).  If you stop and think about it, as Christians, everything that gives us our identity is not of this world.  

Please understand, I am not saying that all of us need to be involved in "ministry" all the time; rather, we need to learn how do our everyday lives with the eternal in mind.  When we do, it makes it much easier to love the person who is unlovely; makes it easier to be patient with the person who does not listen; makes us less anxious about things that trouble non-believers.  The emphasis on the next world, frees me from the burdens, expectations, and labels of this world.  As we learn to keep our eyes focused on the next world, it enables us to effectively be the hands and feet of Christ in this world.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

"Imagine Yourself A Living House"

"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." C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
God is in the process of making  you into something magnificent.  This is especially true if you have suffered a great deal in your life.  God will tear down the walls of  your life, and He will rebuild them into something that can house His glory.  We often wonder why God is allowing such great suffering in our lives.  The answer is actually quite simply, however; some of us have major walls to be torn down.  On the other hand, as a Christian, it is always worth it to endure the tearing down process because in the end, the beauty that is created is more magnificent than we could have imagined.   Often, we are content to be "a decent little cottage", however, this is the Christian equivalent to being lukewarm.  God wants to build something incredibly beautiful in you. For some of us that means extensive renovation.

This has certainly been true in my life. The past five years have been brutal.  Life has not gone at all like I would have hoped.  Yet, for having gone through it, I am a better man because of it.  I often wonder if we can grow at all as Christians without suffering.  It is through suffering that our faith becomes more mature, and we as people are refined as gold.

Peter put it this way:
"Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial among you, which comes upon you to prove you, as though a strange thing happened unto you: but insomuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings, rejoice; that at the revelation of his glory also ye may rejoice with exceeding joy."  (I Peter 4:12-13).
It is our natural inclination to feel like God has abandoned us or that He is punishing us when we are going through a particularly rough time.  This not the case, however.  The assurance we  have as Christians is that God is building us each into something beautiful that is worthy of His name and that He will always use our suffering for our benefit and His glory. It is difficult to always hold on to this truth. But, my friend, "Know you not that you are a temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?" (I Corinthians 3:16).  And if you are like me, in order to be a proper temple of the Spirit of God, major renovation needs to occur.  We should not be surprised, and as crazy as it sounds, we should be thankful.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Pain Removes The Veil...

"[Pain] removes the veil; it plants the flag of truth within the fortress of a rebel soul." C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain

There are times in life when we know why we suffer.  It is clear that we do something wrong and we have to pay the consequence for it.  Sometimes, however, the natural question is, "why?"  God is supposed to be a shield, yet it seems like He is anything but protecting us.  God is supposed to walk beside us, but sometimes it is like He is hiding His face.  I think a lot of times, the main reason that we suffer is because of our rebel souls.  Ever notice how those of us who are hard headed (I wonder if I should rather have written hard hearted) suffer more than others?  It is because our hearts are not submitted to God that God has to allow suffering in our lives.  A flag needs to be planted in our hearts.  

The other aspect of this is the veil that we often live with.  Until we suffer pain, we do not realize the extent of the black condition of our hearts -- how dishonest we are, or rebellious, or proud.  The crucible of suffering reveals the impurities like  nothing else.

Pain is truly a "necessary evil". I am not a masochists that seeks pain, yet we always need to remind ourselves that our pain serves good purposes.  If you are going through a rough time right now, submit yourself to God. Submission while gong through a hard time is difficult because submission involves trusting, and it is difficult to trust when our circumstances would indicate something else.  Yet, the sooner we submit, the less we will have to suffer.

Monday, August 1, 2011

If God Is Satisfied With The Work...

If God is satisfied with the work, the work may be satisfied with itself., C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory
Did you know that God is completely satisfied with you right now?  

Stop and let that soak in. There is nothing you can do right now that will make God love you any more.  It does not matter what your position in life is, what you are doing (or not doing).  This is what is meant by God's grace.  None of us deserve it.  He just freely give us His love.  It is hard to accept, frankly.  The "deep-down-in-the-soul" realization of that is life changing.  

You may say, "But there are things that I still do that are wrong."  Yes, that likely is the case.  Yet, even if we fix those things, while we are likely saving ourselves from heartache and pain, but we are not making Him love us more.  It does not matter what you have done in the past. It does not matter what happened to you.  This is a truth that we are generally taught from a very young age. Yet, how many of us truly, "deep-down-in-the-soul" believe it? If we truly believed it, the implications would be enormous.  

If you are like me, you work too hard to change yourself.  We are dissatisfied with who we are.  Yet, this is akin to the clay complaining to the potter.  God is completely satisfied with you, His creation.  We need to always be open to change and correction, yet change occurs from the working of the Holy Spirit on our lives, not from some sort of internal struggle or effort.  The harder we try to change, the more unlikely we are to change.  Again, our only role is to be open, to offer our hearts.  What will really change your life is the deep realization that God is completely satisfied you right now, in this moment, wherever you are, whatever you are struggling with, or whatever you have done.

Do  you believe that God is completely satisfied with you right now?