From the Morning Scriptures

Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest? Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.

–Luke 12:22-31 (TNIV)

Jesus is reminding us here to keep the Main Thing the main thing. What is the Main Thing? It ain’t riches or power or fame or any of the other human delusions. The Main Thing is having a relationship with Life. Without a relationship with God, none of us has real life. Sure, we have our temporary mortal existence and our bag of delusions, but the latter die when our bodies die.

Living in a world of instantaneous communication and fast-paced living accelerates our already sad tendency to be distracted. This, in turn, exacerbates our inability to keep the Main Thing the main thing. If you are really interested in keeping the Main Thing the main thing, then slow down. Become intentional in engaging in the means of grace–Bible study and prayer, regular worship and Christian fellowship. You will have to work hard at it but you will be working toward life, not death. And let’s face it. Aren’t the things most precious to us in this life the things that we had to work the hardest to obtain?

More from C. S. Lewis

Today concludes excerpts from C.S. Lewis, this week’s featured Anglican writer and theologian. See Monday’s post for more information on Lewis. Once again, note his incisive logic and ability to explain complex issues in a straightforward manner. I hope you have enjoyed and profited from his writings.

On the “good life”:

The idea of reaching “a good life” without Christ is based on a double error. Firstly, we cannot do it. And secondly, in setting up “a good life” as our final goal, we have missed the very point of our existence.

Man or Rabbit?

On preaching:

Our business is to present that which is timeless (the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow) in the particular language of our own age. The bad preacher does exactly the opposite: he takes the ideas of our own age and tricks them out in the traditional language of Christianity.

Christian Apologetics

On God’s Nature:

Not that I am (I think) in much danger of ceasing to believe in God. The real danger is of coming to believe such dreadful things about him. The conclusion I dread is not, “So there’s no God after all,” but, “So this is what God’s really like. Deceive yourself no longer.”

A Grief Observed

On the Trinity:

An ordinary simple Christian kneels down to say his prayers. He is trying to get into touch with God. But if he is a Christian he knows that what is prompting him to pray is also God: God, so to speak, inside him. But he also knows that all his real knowledge of God comes through Christ, the man who was God  that Christ is standing beside him, helping him to pray, praying for him. You see what is happening. God is the thing to which he is praying  the goal he is trying to reach. God is also the thing inside him which is pushing him on  the motive power. God is also the road or bridge along which he is being pushed to that goal. So that the whole threefold life of the three-personal Being is actually going on in that ordinary little bedroom where an ordinary man is saying his prayers.

Mere Christianity

Real Piety

We often hear the criticism that the Church is afflicted with piety, but the real trouble is that its piety is not deep enough! Since the materials are available, all that is needed is the recognition of where they are, and the will to employ them. An important contribution would be the liberation of the term “piety” from its present damaging connotations, reinstating it as a term of respect. We, indeed, still have a little piety; we say a few hasty prayers; we sing meaningfully a few hymns; we read snatches from the Bible. But all of this is far removed from the massive dose that we sorely need if we are to be the men and women who can perform a healing service in our generation. The seat of our disease, says Helmut Thielicke, “is not in the branches of our nerves at all but rather in our roots which are stunted and starved.” The eloquent German points out that Martin Luther prayed four hours each day “not despite his busy life but because only so could he accomplish his gigantic labors.” Luther worked so hard that a little desultory praying would not suffice. “To work without praying and without listening,” continues Thielicke, “means only to grow and spread oneself upward, without striking roots and without an equivalent in the earth.” Trees can grow well in rocky soil, as I can attest by looking out the window of my mountain writing cabin, but they do this only by finding crevices in the rocks where the roots are able to penetrate deeply.

–Elton Trueblood, The New Man for Our Time

Love–Possess It!

I see that when you praise love you shout out. But just as it pleases you when you praise love may it so please you that you preserve it in your heart. Love is praised by you; it pleases you. Well, have it, possess it! There is no need for you to steal it from anyone. There is no need for you to consider buying it. It stands available at no cost. Take hold of it, embrace it. Nothing is sweeter than love. If it is delicious to talk about, what is it like when it is possessed?

–Augustine, Commentary on the Epistle of John, 7.10.2

Basic Humility

Basically humility is the attitude of one who stands constantly under the judgment of God. It is the attitude of one who is like the soil. Humility comes from the Latin word humus, fertile ground. The fertile ground is there, unnoticed, taken for granted, always there to be trodden upon. It is silent, inconspicuous, dark and yet it is always ready to receive any seed, ready to give it substance and life. The more lowly, the more fruitful, because it becomes really fertile when it accepts all the refuse of the earth. It is so low that nothing can soil it, abase it, humiliate it; it has accepted the last place and cannot go any lower. In that position nothing can shatter the soul’s serenity, its peace and joy.

–Anthony Bloom, Living Prayer

George MacDonald on Pride

The man who is proud of anything he thinks he has reached, has not reached it. He is but proud of himself, and imagining a cause for his pride. If he had reached, he would already have begun to forget. He who delights in contemplating whereto he has attained, is not merely sliding back; he is already in the dirt of self-satisfaction. The gate of the kingdom is closed, and he outside. The man who does not house self has room to be his real self–God’s eternal idea of him. He lives eternally; in virtue of the creative power present in him with momently unimpeded creation, he is. How should there be in him one thought of ruling or commanding or surpassing! He can imagine no bliss, no good in being greater than some one else. He is unable to wish himself other then he is, except more what God made him for, which is indeed the highest willing of the will of God. His brother’s well-being is essential to bliss. The thought of standing higher in the favor of God than his brother would make him miserable. He would lift every brother to the embrace of the Father. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for they are of the same spirit as God, and of nature the kingdom of heaven is theirs.

Life Essential

Be Perfectly Natural and Perfectly Relaxed

It has been my observation that all great praying people are simple, relaxed people. Mrs. Thomas A. Edison once said to me, “Mr. Edison’s methods are just like yours. He is always perfectly natural and always perfectly relaxed. He feels that all of his discoveries have ‘come through him,’ that he is but a channel for forces greater than himself.” Always natural, and always relaxed! I do not like to see people work too hard at their prayers. Beware lest the zeal of thy house shall eat thee up. When one strains and labors over his dream he is too often carving ivory and not polishing horn. Don’t cut too deeply, don’t carve too hard, don’t paint the picture too much yourself. Get still awhile, and let God paint it through you. Wrote Gutzon Borglum, “When I carve a statue, it is very simple. I merely cut away the pieces that don’t belong there and the statue itself presently comes into view. It was there all the time.”

–Glenn Clark, I Will Lift Up Mine Eyes

John Wesley on True Religion

But true religion, or a heart right towards God and [humanity], implies happiness, as well as holiness. For it is not only righteousness, but also “peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” What peace? The peace of God, which God only can give, and the world cannot take away, the peace which “passes all understanding,” all (barely) rational conception, being a supernatural sensation, a divine taste of “the powers of the world to come,” such as the natural man [or woman] knows not, how wise soever in the things of this world, nor, indeed, can know it, in his [or her] present state, “because it is spiritually discerned.” It is a peace that banishes all doubt, all painful uncertainty, the Spirit of God bearing witness with the spirt of a Christian, that he [or she] is a child of God.

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Sts. Simon and Jude

O God, we thank you for the glorious company of the apostles, and especially on this day for Simon and Jude; and we pray that, as they were faithful and zealous in their mission, so we may with ardent devotion make known the love and mercy of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

About Saints Simon and Jude

Some ancient Christian writers say that Simon and Jude went together as missionaries to Persia, and were martyred there. If this is true, it explains, to some extent, our lack of historical information on them and also why they are usually put together.

Simon is not mentioned by name in the New Testament except on these lists. Some modern writers have used his surname as the basis for conjectures associating him, and through him Jesus and all His original followers, with the Zealot movement described by Josephus, a Jewish independence movement devoted to assassination and violent insurrection. However, there were many movements that were called Zealot, not all alike, and Josephus tells us (Jewish War 4,3,9) that the movement he is describing did not arise until shortly before the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD.

Read it all.

From the Morning Scriptures

And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.

Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say:
“Now have come the salvation and the power
and the kingdom of our God,
and the authority of his Messiah.
For the accuser of our brothers and sisters,
who accuses them before our God day and night,
has been hurled down.

They triumphed over him
by the blood of the Lamb
and by the word of their testimony;
they did not love their lives so much
as to shrink from death.

Therefore rejoice, you heavens
and you who dwell in them!
But woe to the earth and the sea,
because the devil has gone down to you!
He is filled with fury,
because he knows that his time is short.”

–Revelation 7:7-12 (TNIV)

In vivid apocalyptic language John tells us what God has done about the problem of evil. He has overcome it by the blood of the Lamb!

“But wait!” you say, “Evil has not been conquered. Take a look around you!”

True enough.

But we live in the “already-not yet” time. God has overcome evil through the cross of Jesus and will finish his redemptive work when Jesus returns again in power and glory. That, in part, is what the book of Revelation is all about. We have to trust God to be true to his word.

But we who profess to be Christians also have to get busy while we are awaiting our final redemption. We have to roll up our sleeves and start living as Kingdom people. The cross of Jesus Christ is the symbol of God’s justice–thanks be to God!–and we who profess to follow him must embody those values.

In practical terms, this means that we are to extend mercy when none is warranted because we have received mercy. It means we are to be deeply concerned about the most helpless in our society–and do something about it. I don’t know what your particular call is, but God does, and each of us needs to listen to him so that we know our marching orders.

The story of Revelation is about the End Times and the impending New Creation. It is a story of triumph, God’s triumph over evil through suffering, humility, service, and love–not the sappy, sentimental stuff, but a love that desires the best for its beloved and understands that these are the means by which we receive the best love has to offer.

If God loves his creation and intends to redeem it at the End Time, then we who profess to love God must do our part to help him bring about his Kingdom. Make no mistake. Only God can bring about his Kingdom fully. We cannot do so. But we can do our part by loving God and neighbor, by living the Kingdom values as manifested in the cross of Christ.

Are you ready and willing to do your part? If you are, it will be very hard and you will pay dearly for it. But God promises you that your suffering will be only for a season. There will be a better day, a better eternity awaiting you.

More from C. S. Lewis

Below are more excerpts from C.S. Lewis, this week’s featured Anglican writer and theologian. See Monday’s post for more information on Lewis. Today’s excerpts cover a wide range of topics. See if you can see Lewis’ characteristic logic and insight. Also look for his ability to make difficult things easier to understand.

On the devil:

Enemy-occupied territory  that is what this world is. Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say landed in disguise, and is calling us all to take part in a great campaign of sabotage. When you go to church you are really listening in to the secret wireless from our friends: that is why the enemy is so anxious to prevent us from going. He does it by playing on our conceit and laziness and intellectual snobbery. I know someone will ask me, “Do you really mean to reintroduce our old friend the devil–hoofs and horns and all?” Well, I am not particular about the hoofs and horns. But in other respects my answer is “Yes, I do.” I do not claim to know anything about his personal appearance. If anybody really wants to know him better I would say to that person, “Don’t worry. If you really want to, you will. Whether you’ll like it when you do is another question.”

Mere Christianity

On pride:

In God you come up against something which is in every respect immeasurably superior to yourself. Unless you know God as that and, therefore, know yourself as nothing in comparison, you do not know God at all. As long as you are proud you cannot know God. A proud man is always looking down on things and people: and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you.

Mere Christianity

On faith:

You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth or falsehood becomes a matter of life and death to you. It is easy to say you believe a rope to be strong and sound as long as you are merely using it to cord a box. But suppose you had to hang by that rope over a precipice. Wouldn’t you then first discover how much you really trusted it? Only a real risk tests the reality of a belief. Apparently the faith–I thought it faith–which enables me to pray for the other dead has seemed strong only because I have never really cared, not desperately, whether they existed or not. Yet I thought I did.

A Grief Observed

On religion:

Talk to me about the truth of religion and I’ll listen gladly. Talk to me about the duty of religion and I’ll listen submissively. But don’t come talking to me about the consolations of religion or I shall suspect that you don’t understand.

A Grief Observed