A Confession of Praise

A study Bible footnote unexpectedly intersected with thoughts about Thanksgiving.

I’m not a Hebrew scholar by any means. But the ESV Study Bible noted that the Hebrew word todah could be translated as “make confession” or “give thanks or praise,” depending on the context. The footnote goes on to say, “Some overlap of these meanings is not surprising because rightful confession is itself a kind of worship of God” (p. 820).

We don’t usually connect confession of sin with worship and praise, but the one does lead to the other, doesn’t it? Once we’ve confessed sin to the Lord and rested in His grace and forgiveness, we overflow with joy and thankfulness.

“Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit” (Psalm 32:1-2).

But I began to wonder at another connection.

I was taught that confession of sin means saying the same thing God says about it. In other words, we don’t downplay our sin. We’re honest about it. We don’t say, “Oh, I just told a little fib.” No, to adequately confess sin, we have to call it what it is and own up to it: “I lied.”

So I wonder if giving thanks or praise carries that same connotation. When we praise God, we’re agreeing with what He says about Himself. It’s not that He needs the affirmation, but we need to recognize Him for who He is. And when we do, we can’t help but praise Him. And the more we behold Him, the more our cares and concerns melt away, because we remind ourselves He is more than able to handle any need we have.

Confessing also seems to carry the connotation of personal experience. I might share or rejoice in what God has done in someone else’s life. But if I am confessing, whether it’s sin or praise, I’m sharing what God has done in my life.

In Psalm 95:2, todah is the word translated thanksgiving: “Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!”

Many of the psalms combine confession of sin, thankfulness for God’s grace, amazement at His greatness, and confession of His people’s personal experience of His provision, protection.

Psalm 145 is a beautiful example of this. Part of it says:

One generation shall commend your works to another,
    and shall declare your mighty acts.
On the glorious splendor of your majesty,
    and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.
They shall speak of the might of your awesome deeds,
    and I will declare your greatness.
They shall pour forth the fame of your abundant goodness
    and shall sing aloud of your righteousness.

The Lord is gracious and merciful,
    slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
The Lord is good to all,
    and his mercy is over all that he has made.

10 All your works shall give thanks to you, O Lord,
    and all your saints shall bless you!
11 They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom
    and tell of your power,
12 to make known to the children of man your mighty deeds,
    and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
    and your dominion endures throughout all generations.

Psalm 65 does as well:

Praise is due to you, O God, in Zion,
    and to you shall vows be performed.
O you who hear prayer,
    to you shall all flesh come.
When iniquities prevail against me,
    you atone for our transgressions.
Blessed is the one you choose and bring near,
    to dwell in your courts!
We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house,
    the holiness of your temple!

These thoughts brought to mind Ron and Shelly Hamilton’s song, “Worthy of Praise”:

My heart overflows with praise to the Lord
I will lift up my voice to the King
He brought me out of the pit of despair
And taught my heart to sing


Worthy of all my praise
You are worthy of all my praise
I bow at Your throne
And I worship You alone
Lord You are worthy
Worthy of praise

I wish you all a wonderful Thanksgiving filled with food, family, and praise for Him who is worthy.

(I often link up with some of these bloggers.)

Why Is the Resurrection of Jesus Christ Important?

Why is the resurrection of Jesus Christ important

Easter Day! Time for new, springy clothes, a ham dinner, brightly colored eggs, and chocolate bunnies.

And the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection.

I’m not against those other things. I enjoy them all. But I do fear that the resurrection gets lost in the shuffle except for a special church service and hymns.

Even as Christians, sometimes we’re so used to the resurrection, we forget how special, how life-changing, how dynamic it is.

Or we might be comforted by the resurrection when a loved one dies, but we don’t think it affects everyday life much.

So I thought I’d spend some time thinking about just why the resurrection of Christ is important.

The resurrection of Christ proves His deity.

Set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 1:1b-4).

He has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead (Acts 17:31).

The resurrection of Christ validated what He said. He foretold many times that He would rise after three days in the grave. Here are just a few:

From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised (Matthew 16:21).

As they were gathering in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him, and he will be raised on the third day.” And they were greatly distressed (Matthew 17:22-23).

And as they were coming down the mountain, he charged them to tell no one what they had seen, until the Son of Man had risen from the dead (Mark 9:9).

The resurrection is part of the gospel. When Paul spoke of sharing the gospel, the resurrection was an integral part of it.

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).

That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.” But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification (Romans 4:22-25).

Without the resurrection, we’re still in our sins.

And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied (1 Corinthians 15:17-19).

I’ve heard some say to the unsaved, “If I’m wrong and you’re right, I’ve lost nothing. But if I’m right and you’re wrong, you’ve lost everything.” But that’s not what the Bible says. “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.”

Since Christ was raised, we know we will be, too.

But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive (1 Corinthians 15:20-22).

For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18).

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live” (John11:25).

Since we will all be raised, we will see our loved ones again.

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14).

The resurrection removes death’s sting. Death is still grievous. It is still an enemy (1 Corinthians 15:26). But knowing that we’ll live again afterward and can meet God forgiven, cleansed, and accepted takes away death’s sting.

When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O death, where is your victory?
    O death, where is your sting?”

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15: 54-57).

Because Jesus died and rose again, Satan is defeated.

In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him (Romans 11-15).

Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery (Hebrews 2:14-15).

The “rulers and authorities” mentioned in the last verse are thought to refer to Satan and his minions, the unseen “rulers of darkness.”

God’s power in the resurrection is the same power with which He works on our behalf.

That you may know . . . what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. (Ephesians 1:19-23).

Because of the resurrection, we can walk in newness of life.

We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life (Romans 6:4).

For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace (Romans 6:10-14).

Jesus’ resurrection gives hope and meaning to our suffering.

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us (Romans 8:18).

Because He died and rose again, we come to a throne of grace.

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4: 14-16).

Because Jesus rose again, He is interceding for us.

Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us (Romans 8:34).

Because of the resurrection, we can be steadfast. After spending 57 verses talking about the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15, Paul says, “Therefore”—because of all that he said in those 57 verses—

Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58).

In Isobel Kuhn’s Nests Above the Abyss, she says the Lisu “have no hope beyond the grave.” She had heard their wail “for the dead and my heart could hardly stand the hopelessness of their agony.” One five-year-old child screamed incessantly when his beloved neighbor died and he understood death for the first time. When he became a young man, he admitted, “after that awful introduction to the fact of death, he could not come upon a grave on the mountainside without getting cold all over.” This, Isobel says, is “a typical scene.” Another “cried so hard and so long he was ill for days” upon learning about death. Some who bury loved ones “sometimes weep themselves blind, and some lose their minds.” Some harden themselves by trying to forget their dead loved one.

That first five-year-old boy grew up to become an evangelist. One time he related his story, then told how he heard one of the missionaries speak on John 11:25, where Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.”

“As she explained that verse, suddenly the truth of it broke in on my understanding, and the fact of eternal life, a life after death, a hope beyond the grave, shone before me. I was thrilled through and through; faith and acceptance of the Saviour were born right then in my soul. It was that verse on the resurrection that brought me to Christ; and I have a feeling that I am not the only Lisu to become a believer because of this truth. All of you who were led to become Christians by the resurrection doctrine, hold up your hands.” Ans all over the building hands shot into the air and the glowing joy on their faces told its own story (pp. 16-18).

May those of us who have heard of the resurrection all our lives be impressed anew with its truth, its hope, its victory. May we come to love and appreciate it now more than ever. May the resurrection impact us not just at Easter, but every day.

And may those who have not yet believed do so soon.

(I often link up with some of these bloggers.)

Lamb of God

But he was pierced for our transgressions;
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
    and with his wounds we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
    we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.

Isaiah 53:5-6

Years ago I heard a story about a guest preacher who was just getting ready to board his train after speaking at a church. A man hurried to him, saying he had been in the meeting and was anxious about his spiritual state. Could the preacher take time to talk to him?

The preacher’s train was the last of the night, and it was about to leave. All he had time to tell the man was to read Isaiah 53:6, and then to go in and the first “all” and come out at the last “all.”

The man was puzzled, but when he went home. he looked up Isaiah 53:6: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” As the man read the passage several times, understanding dawned. He was a sheep gone astray, stubbornly following his own way. But Jesus took his iniquity. If he trusted in Jesus, he would be saved and forgiven.

I don’t know if this is a true story, but the point it makes is true.

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous,
that he might bring us to God (1 Peter 3:18).

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son,
that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).

Stricken, smitten, and afflicted,
see him dying on the tree!
‘Tis the Christ, by man rejected;
yes, my soul, ’tis he, ’tis he.
‘Tis the long-expected Prophet,
David’s Son, yet David’s Lord;
proofs I see sufficient of it:
’tis the true and faithful Word.

Tell me, as you hear him groaning,
was there ever grief like his,
friends through fear his cause disowning,
foes insulting his distress?
Many hands were raised to wound him,
none would intervene to save;
but the deepest stroke that pierced him
was the stroke that justice gave.

If you think of sin but lightly
nor suppose the evil great,
here you see its nature rightly,
here its guilt may estimate.
Mark the sacrifice appointed,
see who bears the awful load;
’tis the Word, the Lord’s anointed,
Son of Man and Son of God.

Here we have a firm foundation,
here the refuge of the lost:
Christ, the Rock of our salvation,
is the name of which we boast;
Lamb of God, for sinners wounded,
sacrifice to cancel guilt!
None shall ever be confounded
who on him their hope have built.

Thomas Kelly, 1804

Isaiah 53:6

(I often link up with some of these bloggers.)

Happy Christmas!

Matthew 1:21, Christmas, Jesus our Savior

I wish all of you a wonderful Christmas resting in the greatest gift of all,
the Savior who provided for our salvation.

“She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus,
for he will save his people from their sins.”

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:

“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
    and they shall call his name Immanuel”

(which means, God with us).

Matthew 1:21-23

Celebrating His Coming by Neglecting His Presence

Several years ago, a couple from our church invited us to their home for dinner.

I had long admired the wife. She was one of those people about whom I wondered, “How does she do all she does?” She had the same number of children I did, close to the same ages. She was active in several church ministries. She sewed for herself, her daughter, her home, and for other people. Her home was not only clean every time I saw it, it was nicely decorated.

Meanwhile, I felt I was barely keeping my head above water as a wife and mother. I concluded that God gave people different capacities. Maybe she was a ten-talent person, while I . . . was not.

As we enjoyed our visit at this couple’s home, the wife often popped up to go check on or do something. I understood that. As a hostess, you have to check on the kids or the potatoes or whatever. But her forays away from us seemed excessive. I wondered if we caught them at a busy time, and if so, why they didn’t reschedule. I mused that maybe she was the type of person who couldn’t sit still for very long, and maybe that’s how she got so much done.

I am not so needy a guest that I want 100 per cent of the hostess’s time and attention. But I confess to feeling just a little neglected.

As a child, I often saw a plaque in peoples’ houses which contained words about Jesus being the unseen guest of the home. Some time after I became a Christian, I understood that when we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, He is not just an occasional guest. He is with us all the time. He is Lord. It’s His house.

Through our church’s Bible reading program the last few years, I’ve particularly noted God’s desire and effort to be with His people. First, He walked with Adam and Eve in the garden. When they sinned, they broke fellowship with Him. When He delivered Israel from Egypt, He instructed them to build a tabernacle. Later, after they settled in the promised land and David was king, he wanted to build a temple. Both tabernacle and temple had a heavy curtain between the holy place and the most holy place. No one could just barge in there. Only the high priest could enter once a year with a sacrifice for the people’s sins. When Jesus died on the cross, that curtain was torn in two, signifying that the ultimate sacrifice had been made and the way was now open to God. His kingdom was within those who believed on Him. Someday, when He comes again, we’ll dwell with Him as we never have before.

God desires our fellowship, to the point of sacrificing what was dearest to Himself. This season of the year, we run amok doing so many sweet and lovely things fraught with nostalgia, ostensibly for the sake of remembering the birth of His Son. Yet, in a sense we leave Him sitting at the table, neglected. It’s not that He needs us. He loves and and desires our fellowship. And we need Him.

Yes, He is with us all the time. With even our closest human relationships, much of our time and conversation together occurs while doing something else: shopping, cooking, working in the yard, etc. But even in those relationships, we sense a need to sometimes just stop, lay everything else aside, focus on and listen to each other.

How much more should we spend that focused time with our Lord? Yes, we can talk with Him all through the day, thanking Him for a good parking place or a good sale or a beautiful sunset, telling Him the concerns on our hearts, singing along with the hymns on our playlist. But sometimes we just need to sit with Him, spend time in His Word, listening, learning, worshiping. loving.

We are prone to celebrate the fact that He came by neglecting Him now that He is here. We need wisdom in the use of our time, simplifying, maybe laying some things aside. But most of all we need to remember who and what we’re actually celebrating. Let’s not neglect His presence. Like Mary, let’s choose the good portion, sitting at His feet and listening.

(I often link up with some of these bloggers.)

A Perfectly Ordinary Thanksgiving

I was working through a couple of blog post ideas, trying to decide which to use. Then I remembered this was Thanksgiving week.

“Hmm,” I thought. “I should probably say something about Thanksgiving.”

But what could I say that I hadn’t already said? What new angle or twist could I come up with?

Then I thought—does Thanksgiving really need an angle? Can’t we just—be thankful?

But what if we’re not feeling so thankful?

Well, thanksgiving isn’t a feeling. It’s an action, an act of the will. And once we start giving thanks, it’s not long before we feel thankful.

If you’re not feeling so grateful this week, maybe you could read some psalms, like 100 or 103 or 107 or 145.

Or you could sing or read some hymns, like “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” or “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing.”

Or you could recount your Ebenezers, those times in your life you especially saw God’s hand at work.

Or you could make a list of simple blessings: a beautiful sunset, a warm home, friends and family, food to eat, and so on.

Though we should be thankful every day, Thanksgiving is a good reminder that we do have a lot to be thankful for. I’ve found that once I get started looking for things to be thankful for, it’s hard to stop.

It’s fine to create a Thanksgiving feast (we will) or try some new ideas to spur thankfulness (we have) or set out Pinterest-worthy decorations or or try some Thanksgiving-ish crafts (done those, too).

It’s also fine to eat out or use paper plates or grill hamburgers or make sandwiches.

But simply giving thanks to the Giver of all good things often gets lost in the shuffle of everything else. Whatever else we do, may giving thanks to Him be our main focus.

Here’s both a hymn and a thankful list! It’s beautifully sung by the Sacred Music Services‘ men’s chorus.

I wish all of you a wonderful Thanksgiving Day, someone to share it with, something good to eat, some time to rest, and some time to “give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!” (Psalm 107:1).

(I often link up with some of these bloggers.)

Have mercy on your pastor this Mother’s Day

When the COVID pandemic first began, I saw a lot of blog posts and articles pleading with people to be compassionate towards their pastor because he had likely never shepherded people through such an occasion before. It would take time to discern the best course of action in response to ever-changing information, and he had people on opposite sides of every fence involved.

Pastors face a similar dilemma on Mother’s Day, no matter whether this is their first pastoral Mother’s Day or their 50th. They will likely have people in all these circumstances in their congregations:

  • women who desperately want to have children, but God has not granted them yet
  • women who love their children but are tired and discouraged
  • women who are in despair over their parenting failures and need guidance
  • women who have no desire to be mothers
  • women who are single by choice or by circumstance
  • women whose children are wayward and breaking their hearts
  • women whose children have died
  • people whose mothers were not honorable
  • people who are estranged from their mothers
  • people whose mothers have died
  • people who don’t even know they need a Savior

Anna Jarvis probably had no idea she was creating such a minefield when she sought a simple way to honor her mother.

I’ve seen posts on Facebook already indicating that Mother’s Day shouldn’t be observed in church because it’s not a national holiday. Prophets and preachers in the Bible spoke about current events, and honoring parents is a biblical teaching. So it’s not wrong to observe the day. But whether that observation should be just a passing acknowledgment, or the whole service should be built around it, is up to each pastor’s leading of his particular congregation.

Whether pastors let the holiday go by unobserved and carry on with whatever book or series they are preaching through, or they choose to honor mothers in some way, someone is going to be offended.

Can I urge us as Christian women to be mature in response to whatever path the pastor chooses to take? To remember that love “does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful” (1 Corinthians 13:5). To understand that there are different needs among the congregation? No one sermon will meet them all except as it points us back to the only Savior who can help and heal and provide grace.

“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable” (II Timothy 3:16-17). Whatever God lays on the pastor’s heart to preach this Sunday, if it is based on the Word of God, it will be profitable for us.

Let’s pray for our pastors to preach the message God wants him to preach that day. Let’s pray for grace for our particular triggers, seek to get from the message what God has for us, and seek to encourage others rather than focusing on self.

(I often link up with some of these bloggers)

Preparing for Easter with C. S. Lewis

Preparing for Easter: Fifty Devotional Reading from C. S. Lewis. is a compilation of selections from his writings.

C. S Lewis is one of the most quotable Christians to have lived, maybe second to C. H. Spurgeon. In fact, I have a book titled The Quotable Lewis. So any book of quotes by him will have value.

By the title of this book, you’d expect an arc of quotations on the subject and application of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection, leading up to Easter Day. If there was such an arc, I didn’t detect it. The book just seemed more like a random collection.

Of course, the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ touch everything in the Christian life, so, in one sense, any subject within Christendom could be related. Yet many selections in this volume didn’t seem to fit the theme. For instance, one had to do with the value of myths. Did the compiler feel that any part of the true Easter story was a myth? Or was he applying this quote to the bunnies and eggs part of Easter? I don’t know.

The book is set up to begin about six and a half weeks before Easter, with the last reading for Easter Day. The readings aren’t numbered in the book, but I numbered them in my notes. I was confused when I ended up with forty-seven. Then I remembered some day’s readings contained two short selections. So, as the title says, there are fifty readings, but not over fifty days. I started a week late, so I ended the Sunday after Easter.

Some readings are familiar quotes, such as those from the Narnia series or Mere Christianity. Others are from more obscure sources, like private letters. I’m always amazed at how literary Lewis sounds even in a letter. I wonder if he was a perfectionist who made several copies of a letter until it sounded just right? Or did such prose just flow from him? I remember reading somewhere that his books did not need much editing, so perhaps the latter is true.

Though some of the selections were easy to grasp, some suffered from the loss of their context.

I was also reminded that, though I love much of what Lewis wrote, I don’t agree with him on every little point of doctrine. I have several of those places marked, but I don’t think I’ll list them all here for the sake of time and space.

So, all told, I was more than a little disappointed in this volume. Nevertheless, as I said, there are always rich nuggets in his writing. Here are a few I found:

Our model is the Jesus, not only of Calvary, but of the workshop, the roads, the crowds, the clamorous demands and surly oppositions, the lack of all peace and privacy, the interruptions. For this, so strangely unlike anything we can attribute to the Divine life in itself, is apparently not only like, but is, the Divine life operating under human conditions (p. 7, originally from The Four Loves).

I think that many of us, when Christ has enabled us to overcome one or two sins that were an obvious nuisance, are inclined to feel (though we do not put it into words) that we are now good enough. He has done all we wanted Him to do, and we should be obliged if He would now leave us alone. As we say, ‘I never expected to be a saint, I only wanted to be a decent ordinary chap.’ And we imagine when we say this that we are being humble. But this is the fatal mistake. Of course we never wanted, and never asked, to be made into the sort of creatures He is going to make us into. But the question is not what we intended ourselves to be, but what He intended us to be when He made us. He is the inventor, we are only the machine. He is the painter, we are only the picture. How should we know what He means us to be like? (p. 14, originally from Mere Christianity).

We may be content to remain what we call ‘ordinary people’: but He is determined to carry out a quite different plan. To shrink back from that plan is not humility: it is laziness and cowardice. To submit to it is not conceit or megalomania; it is obedience (p. 15, originally from Mere Christianity).

A continual looking forward to the eternal world is not (as some modern people think) a form of escapism or wishful thinking, but one of the things a Christian is meant to do. It does not mean that we are to leave the present world as it is. If you read history you will find that the Christians who did 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 (p. 58, originally from Mere Christianity).

If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing. If that is so, I must take care, on the one hand, never to despise, or be unthankful for, these earthly blessings, and on the other, never to mistake them for the something else of which they are only a kind of copy, or echo, or mirage. I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find till after death; I must never let it get snowed under or turned aside; I must make it the main object of life to press on to that other country and to help others to do the same (pp. 60-61, (p. 58, originally from Mere Christianity).

If the new Self, the new Will, does not come at His own good pleasure to be born in us, we cannot produce Him synthetically (p. 72, originally from Present Concerns).

The world is so built that, to help us desert our own satisfactions, they desert us. War and trouble and finally old age take from us one by one all those things that the natural Self hoped for at its setting out. Begging is our only wisdom, and want in the end makes it easier for us to be beggars (p. 72, originally from Present Concerns).

God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing (p. 80, originally from Mere Christianity).

Keep back nothing. Nothing that you have not given away will be really yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever 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 (p. 212, originally from Mere Christianity).

One of the most poignant passages to me was a letter from Lewis to a Warfield Firor about facing the ramifications of aging (including compulsory retirement and rheumatism) and letting those “begin . . .to loosen a few of the tentacles which the octopus-world has fastened on one” and remind that “what calls one away is better” (pp. 138-139). (A portion of the letter is here.)

Though I doubt I’ll reread this book in coming Lenten seasons, I was blessed by some of its pages. I was also encouraged to reread Mere Christianity some time and to look up The Letters of C. S. Lewis.

 

 

Easter Teaches Us of New and Better Life

Several years ago, we got word that a lady in our former church had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. She had been one of the merriest people I’d ever known. When we went back to that town for a visit, it was hard to see her in the church lobby looking confused and suspicious.

When our former pastor announced he had pancreatic cancer a few years ago, I was stunned that God would take someone in his prime with an active ministry and love for people who was doing so much good. Our pastor admitted he was going to have to take by faith that what God had for him in heaven was going to be so much better, because what he had on earth up til that time was pretty good.

I wondered why God would let one of His beloved children end up in pain or confusion.

But then I remembered this was not their end. Alzheimer’s and cancer were just stopping places in their long journey home. God promised that their sufferings would produce and eternal weight of glory.

 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

We get so caught up in the things we have to and want to do, our families, our ambitions, that we forget this world isn’t all there is.

We look forward to heaven . . . some day. But when we get there, we’ll probably wish we could have come sooner.

C. S. Lewis wrote to a friend of the unpleasant effects of aging: “the growing realisation that there were a great many things one wd. never have time to do,” studies one could never take up, facing retirement and “the infernal nuisance (to put it no higher) of patching up some sort of new life somewhere,” and so on. “I am therefore (with some help from the weather and rheumatism!) trying to profit by this new realisation of my mortality. To begin to die, to loosen a few of the tentacles which the octopus world has fastened on one.” He acknowledged that a good night’s sleep or a pleasant day would likely dispel his gloomy mood. But, he went on to say:

One ought not to need gloomy moments of life for beginning detachment, nor be reentangled by the bright ones. One ought to be able to enjoy the bright ones to the full and at that very moment have the perfect readiness to leave them, confident that what calls one away is better. . . (Letters of C. S. Lewis, October 15, 1949).

It was said of those in the “hall of faith” in Hebrews 11 that they desired “a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city” (verse 16).

I admit I am too caught up in the bright moments of this life. God kindly breaks in and turns my attention up and away to that world to come. “Eternal glories gleam afar . . .”

I’ve found a Friend, O such a friend! All pow’r to Him is given,
To guard me on my onward course, and bring me safe to heaven.
The eternal glories gleam afar, to nerve my faint endeavor;
So now to watch, to work, to war, and then to rest forever.

James G. Small, “I’ve Found a Friend, O Such a Friend

Easter speaks to me of many things—redemption, forgiveness, new life, and more. But this year it reminds me that this world and its pleasures and problems are temporary. We’re going to spend a lot more time in eternity than we did here. Are we ready?

Jesus came to earth as the Son of God, God in flesh. He lived a perfect life in our place because we never could. He died to take on the punishment for our sin so we wouldn’t have to. When we repent of our sin and believe on Him as Lord and Savior, His righteousness goes on our account: God sees Him instead of us.

Forgiveness of sin, His presence, His peace, his help, His grace—and heaven too!

Do you know Him? Are you ready for eternity?

(Sharing with Inspire Me Monday, Hearth and Soul, Scripture and a Snapshot, Senior Salon, Tell His Story, InstaEncouragements, Recharge Wednesday, Let’s Have Coffee, Share a Link Wednesday, Heart Encouragement, Grace and Truth, Faith on Fire)

Merry Christmas! Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery

I wish for you and yours a special time of wonder remembering God’s love for us and showing His love to each other.

Come behold the wondrous mystery
In the dawning of the King
He the theme of heaven’s praises
Robed in frail humanity

In our longing, in our darkness
Now the light of life has come
Look to Christ, who condescended
Took on flesh to ransom us

From “Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery” by Matt Papa, Matt Boswell, Michael Bleecker