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.

 

 

Laudable Linkage

A collection of good reading online

I had some ideas for a blog post about the results of Jesus’ resurrection. But when I began to research it, I found several posts that already did a better job than I could have:

Here are a few more good reads discovered this week:

It Is Finished. An imaginative account of what the betrayal, trial, and crucifixion of Jesus might have looked like from Satan’s point of view.

React vs. Respond. This was a helpful distinction.

A Few Short Truths regarding how teaching Biblical sexuality is not hate and does not incite to murder.

When America Put the Bible on Trial, HT to Challies. A look at the Scopes trial and its effects 100 years later. “Liberalism believes that you can hold on to cultural influence by compromising your convictions. And in so being and doing, it is a fool’s errand. For one, the world or culture is not interested in compromise. Nothing short of wholesale endorsement will suffice. Second, compromising the Bible’s truthfulness and trustworthiness destroys the foundation and the superstructure of Christianity itself. The church does not stand over God’s word. Culture or ‘progress’ does not have the final word on matters.”

Losing Forgiveness, HT to Challies. “It is apparently fine to be concerned about a deceased horse, while being part of a baying crowd that seeks to destroy a man. In our rush to virtue signal, or to vindicate our own omniscient appraisal of a situation, we lose perspective—we lose sight of the person.”

While I Was Still a Marxist Christ Rescued Me, HT to Challies. Wonderful account of the conversion of Marvin Olasky, editor in chief of World Magazine.

Leading in Prayer, HT to Challies. This is some good advice for when you’re asked to lead in public prayer. Though it’s for a particular slot in a particular church’s service, it has some good general principles for any gathering. I especially like the part about not making political points or preaching mini-sermons during prayer.

The Louvre Just Put Its Entire Art Collection Online, HT to The Story Warren.

I hope you have a wonderful weekend remembering the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ for you.

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)

Laudable Linkage

Here my latest round-up of good reads online. Many are about the pandemic, but a few are not.

On Easter. I had never seen this poem by John Updike before, but I really like it.

Celebration of the Resurrection’s Not Canceled. “We may forfeit long-celebrated Easter activities and traditions. But if we miss celebrating the resurrection, we end up missing the greatest celebration of all time. He is risen!”

Corona Virus Could Kill Consumer Christianity. “Because coronavirus has rapidly taken away the excesses of church, all the bells and whistles, all the nice-to-haves we’ve come to see as must-haves. What remains are bare essentials: Jesus, the Word, community, prayer, singing. What remains is the reality that the church can never be vanquished: we are Christ’s body and will live eternally with him. Things are suddenly spartan in how we do church—but what we are remains as vibrant as ever.”

What Might God Be Doing With the Coronavirus? Lots of good possibilities listed.

Along the same lines, Do We Really Want to Go Back to Normal? HT to Challies. “But the truth is, whatever will become ‘normal’ on the other side of the coronavirus crisis will not be the old normal. It will be something new. We are not going back. So here’s the question I hope we will begin to ask instead: Do we really want to go back to normal? Was the old normal good?”

100 Days that Changed the World, HT to Challies. A timeline of how quickly the virus spread.

Hard Times Are Coming. “We can trust God and be completely convinced that what He does is good and right, yet still hope to avoid tragedy, pain, suffering, hard times. The real testing of our faith comes when those hard times hit.”

We’re All Children Now, HT to Challies. A recent tragedy reminded the writer how little control we have in life. But that helps us acknowledge our need, like the children Jesus said we should be like to come into His kingdom.

The Art of Remembering How Good You Really Have It.

A Strong Conscience or Immaturity? HT to Challies. It’s hard to tell sometimes. But the person who doesn’t do a questionable thing is not always the “weaker brother.”

The Record Keeper. I love this picture of Matthew using his gift of record-keeping to tell others about Christ. I don’t know why I never made the connection between his record-keeping as a former tax collector and his gospel account.

Remember the Wonders. A neat way God answered a young son’s prayer.

Covid-19: Anxious About Money? “‘Your heavenly father knows that you need them [life’s essentials].’ Since you are especially valuable to your Father, he knows and remembers what you need. Your needs are impressed on his heart.”

And along the same lines, HT to The Story Warren, this is a sweet song inspired by Matthew 6:

Happy Easter!

Happy-Easter-Resized-Blog

The strife is o’er, the battle done;
The victory of life is won;
The song of triumph has begun: Alleluia!

The powers of death have done their worst;
But Christ their legions hath dispersed;
Let shouts of holy joy outburst: Alleluia!

The three sad days are quickly sped;
He rises glorious from the dead;
All glory to our risen Head! Alleluia!

He closed the yawning gates of hell;
The bars from heaven’s high portals fell;
Let hymns of praise His triumphs tell! Alleluia!

Lord, by the stripes which wounded Thee,
From death’s dread sting Thy servants free,
That we may live, and sing to Thee: Alleluia!

Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

~ Author unknown, translated by Francis Potts

(Graphic courtesy of Jenn at Clean and Scentsible)

Laudable Linkage

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I don’t usually post these two weeks in a row, but I came across several good reads this week, and some pertain to Easter.

Ten Things You Should Know About the Cross, HT to Challies.

What If Jesus Really DID Rise From the Dead?

Despite Loving Christian Parents, I Left the Faith, HT to Proclaim and Defend. Good tips for parents at the end.

When a Member of Your Church Is Dying, HT to Linda.

Should I Bring My Kids to a Funeral? HT to Story Warren.

The Blessing of a Good Example, HT to Challies.

9 Things That Quiet, Awkward Introvert Wishes You Knew, HT to Linda.

Are home renovations necessary?  HT to Linda. Nothing wrong with home renovations, but all the flip and fix shows popular now can make us discontent.

Allelujah!

Happy-Easter-Resized-Blog

The strife is o’er, the battle done;
The victory of life is won;
The song of triumph has begun: Alleluia!

The powers of death have done their worst;
But Christ their legions hath dispersed;
Let shouts of holy joy outburst: Alleluia!

The three sad days are quickly sped;
He rises glorious from the dead;
All glory to our risen Head! Alleluia!

He closed the yawning gates of hell;
The bars from heaven’s high portals fell;
Let hymns of praise His triumphs tell! Alleluia!

Lord, by the stripes which wounded Thee,
From death’s dread sting Thy servants free,
That we may live, and sing to Thee: Alleluia!

Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

~ Author of the words is unknown
Author of the music is
Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina

 

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Hallelujah! He Is Risen!

He Is Risen!

 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. 1 Corinthians 15:19-22

 Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this? John 11:25-26

Absent From the Body, Present With the Lord

My pastor, who has been battling pancreatic cancer the last few months, passed away last night.

It’s been hard to know how to pray the last few weeks as we’ve seen the effects of cancer continually decimate his body. We wanted him to have as many days with his family as possible, but we didn’t want him to have to suffer any more than necessary. My youngest son has frequently prayed that Pastor “would have as many good days as possible,” which I thought was probably the best way to pray in addition to asking for God’s will and grace for him and his family and all those who loved him.

As people arrived for prayer meeting last night, a few men were stationed at the church doors and would go out to greet people individually as they approached the building to let them know Pastor had passed away just a short time before. That was probably the best way to handle it rather than waiting for everyone to come in and then starting the evening with a shock moment, or having someone who didn’t know accidentally overhear it mentioned in the conversation of someone who did. This way everyone had a moment to react, absorb the news, and collect their thoughts for a moment before going in, and we could start the service more or less on the same page. One of our assistant pastors led us in singing a song Pastor Tom had requested often lately, “O The Deep, Deep Love.” Another of our men shared some Scripture, someone prayed, people in the congregation were given opportunity to  share Scripture that was comforting to them, we broke up into smaller groups to pray, and we sang “O The Deep, Deep Love” one more time.

O the deep, deep love of Jesus, vast, unmeasured, boundless, free!
Rolling as a mighty ocean in its fullness over me!
Underneath me, all around me, is the current of Thy love
Leading onward, leading homeward to Thy glorious rest above!

The comforting and sharing have continued through the night and into this morning on Facebook. It has been a great blessing to me, and I am sure to many others, as we’ve shared with each other through this journey, particularly in the last several hours. This extension of community has been both comforting and edifying as I’ve seen photos and read various thoughts, memories, Scriptures, and bits of song that people have shared.

I’ve only known Pastor Tom for four years. Two main things stand out to me about himself as a person and his ministry. One, he continually led (even gently pushed) us to be deeply grounded in the Bible and in our relationship to God: to see Him in the Scriptures, not to “surface” read the Bible or pray in cliches. He constantly encouraged us to make it real and make it deep. Secondly, he had a true pastor’s heart. He deeply cared for his people, would be with them through any trial as much as he could. When we came forward at the end of a service to join the church, my mother-in-law was with us in her wheelchair. He got down on one knee to speak to her face to face and tell her how he wanted to be her pastor. When my husband was facing his kidney surgery (they joked about being in the “one kidney club” – Pastor also had a kidney removed when he was younger), we had told him that I’d probably be more comfortable getting lost in a book while waiting than having someone outside the family with me – then I’d feel pressured to keep a conversation going. He understood. But he showed up at the hospital in the early hours just as we arrived and signed in, and we had a few minutes to chat and pray before we were called back. That meant a lot to both of us.

Two verses came to mind as we shared during prayer meeting last night. One was shared with me when my mother passed away and it ministered to me greatly then: Psalm 119:76: “Let, I pray thee, thy merciful kindness be for my comfort, according to thy word unto thy servant.” This, among other things, is what I pray for Pastor Tom’s family. I am so thankful he was able to walk his two older daughters down the aisle at their weddings this summer and that they were all able to be there when he passed. Though we “sorrow not, even as others which have no hope” (I Thessalonians 4:13), we do sorrow, “Sorrowing most of all …that they should see his face no more” (Acts 20:38) until we join him there. I know I felt it was much too soon when my mother passed away in her 60s: I can imagine that feeling is even more magnified when a father and husband passes away in his early 50s. Even trusting that this is God’s will and plan and rejoicing that he is with his Savior and out of pain, it still hurts in a way that only God can heal. Death is called an enemy (I Corinthians 15:26), and though its sting is removed and it’s “swallowed up in victory” (I Corinthians 15:54-57), grief is wrenching, and I pray for His special kindness and comfort for them and our church in the days and months to come.

The second was the verse I did share last night: not long before His own death, Jesus prayed, “Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24). That’s where Pastor Tom is now – with Him who loved him since before he was even born, where he is, beholding His glory. Though we miss him, we rejoice and look forward to joining him there.

Craigs

I once scorned ev’ry fearful thought of death,
When it was but the end of pulse and breath,
But now my eyes have seen that past the pain
There is a world that’s waiting to be claimed.
Earthmaker, Holy, let me now depart,
For living’s such a temporary art.
And dying is but getting dressed for God,
Our graves are merely doorways cut in sod.

 Calvin Miller

When you sailors see the haven before you, though you were mightily troubled before you could see any land, yet when you come near the shore and can see a certain land-mark, that contents you greatly. A godly man in the midst of the waves and storms that he meets with can see the glory of heaven before him and so contents himself. One drop of the sweetness of heaven is enough to take away all the sourness and bitterness of all the afflictions in the world. ~ Jeremiah Burroughs

“Come. See the Place Where Jesus Lay”

egrgrave2

Come, see the place where Jesus lay,
And hear angelic watchers say,
“He lives, Who once was slain:
Why seek the Living midst the dead?
Remember how the Savior said
That He would rise again.

”O joyful sound! O glorious hour,
When by His own almighty power
He rose and left the grave!
Now let our songs His triumph tell,
Who burst the bands of death and hell,
And ever lives to save.

The first begotten of the dead,
For us He rose, our glorious Head,
Immortal life to bring;
What though the saints like Him shall die,
They share their Leader’s victory,
And triumph with their King.

No more they tremble at the grave,
For Jesus will their spirits save,
And raise their slumbering dust
O risen Lord, in Thee we live,
To Thee our ransomed souls we give,
To Thee our bodies trust.

— Thomas Kelly

(Full version is here.)

Wishing you a blessed Easter, filled joy, hope, and love because of what our Lord has done for us.