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  • JOY IS THE SERIOUS BUSINESS OF HEAVEN

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Bible Talk, Culture, Theology

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    Confession:  I love heavy dramas.

    I love Breaking Bad and House of Cards.  I enjoy several shows on HBO and also many heavy movies.  It’s not that I don’t like comedies or lighter fare (I really do!), it’s just that I’m Reformed and these shows validate total depravity.

    But I need to laugh.  I need to enjoy the lighter side of life, enjoying fun for fun’s sake, and reveling in the God who is the epitome of joy.  While we have a moral obligation to act happy* for the sake of others, we have a moral obligation to embrace joy and happiness even in the darkness.

    Joy, as CS Lewis once noted, is the serious business of heaven.

    As Christianity Today wrote concerning the ascendency of Jimmy Fallon to The Tonight Show, Fallon brings fun, silliness, and joy to the cynical side of comedy.  Instead of hammering people and laughing at them, Fallon reminds us to laugh at ourselves.  And that is pretty refreshing!

    As the Preacher in Ecclesiastes reminds us, there is a time for anything and everything.

    There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

        a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,

        a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,

        a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,

        a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,

        a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,

        a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,

        a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.

    Friends, let’s remember to laugh even if we are serious about total depravity.

    —–

    *see Dennis Prager for more on this.

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  • THANKFUL FOR A BROKEN LAMP

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Church Fathers, Wisdom Wednesday

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    The leg lamp

    “The whole is from him, the giving of these things and of those; for no achievement finds its source in us… Not then so as to deliver humankind from darkness only did he show his love toward him.  It is a great thing indeed to have been delivered from darkness; but to have been brought into a kingdom too is far greater.”

    -Chrysostom

    Have you ever broken something?  Perhaps you might have knocked over someone’s vase or smashed their car.  Maybe you broke someone’s trust or heart.  I’ve also broken many things throughout my life, including rules and my word.  Things both trivial and tragic.

    In Scripture, we are told that humanity has broken things, we’ve broken boundaries and laws that God set up for our own good.  It’s like how one day my wife and I will set up gates in our house to keep Lucy from crawling or running straight down a flight of stairs to a world of hurt.  Similarly, God offered humanity life and beauty, and we instead push down the gate to escape down the stairs.

    CS Lewis wrote about a beautiful lamp that was broken.  At a party (perhaps it was you or I) this lamp was knocked over on accident, and it shattered on the floor.  Mortified, I certainly know what the next step would be.  In an utter state of horror and embarrassment, I would declare to the host, “I am soooooooooooo sorry!  Please forgive me.”  Knowing that it is a priceless lamp, one that was passed down from her late grandmother, there is simply no way to make amends for that crash other than to crassly offer to pay for a new lamp.

    Lewis went on though, and said that while we can be forgiven for the lamp, somebody had to pay for its repair or replacement.  The repairs simply needed to be paid for; even if the host tells us we are forgiven.

    The ancient preacher John Chrysostom reminds us that if we place our hope and trust in the risen Jesus, we will be led out of darkness.  But it doesn’t stop there at forgiveness or grace, instead he goes further.  We are then brought into the family, into the Kingdom of God and are made co-heirs with Christ.  While Jesus paid for the broken lamp, of sorts, on the hillside of Jerusalem so long ago, we are given new life.

    Friends, I am thankful that Jesus paid it all, though sin had left a scarlet stain, he washed it white as snow.

    What else are you thankful for?

    Photo: Kevin Dooley via Compfight

  • THERE ARE NO ORDINARY PEOPLE

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Story, Theology

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    Ode to Cartier Bresson

    Walking the streets of San Francisco this week brought to mind this passage from C.S. Lewis.  Enjoy!

    Excerpt from the essay “The Weight of Glory

    It may be possible for each to think too much of his own potential glory hereafter; it is hardly possible for him to think too often or too deeply about that of his neighbor.

    The load, or weight, or burden of my neighbor’s glory should be laid daily on my back, a load so heavy that only humility can carry it, and the backs of the proud will be broken.

    It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare.

    All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations.

    It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics.

    There are no ordinary people.

    You have never talked to a mere mortal.

    Nations, cultures, arts, civilization—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat.

    But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.

    This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn.

    We must play.

    But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously—no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption.

    And our charity must be real and costly love, with deep feeling for the sins in spite of which we love the sinner—no mere tolerance or indulgence which parodies love as flippancy parodies merriment.

    Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses.

    The Weight of Glory (HarperOne, 2001), pp. 45-46.

    Photo: Thomas Hawk via Compfight

  • QUIT TRYING TO GET EVERYTHING RIGHT, PT 1

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Culture, Growth

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    The Passage of Time

    I’m going to make a statement that will make some of you cry heretic and others will cry with joy.  I think you should stop trying to get everything right.

    I’m sure that I’m not the only one who is tired of the conservative and liberal labels.  As I have written previously, sometimes we have to use secret passwords to tip off other Christians that we’re in.  Words like blessed, Christ follower, and such.  Can anyone else relate?

    While there is incredible importance to rooting ourselves in the Christian faith and not some poseur one, simply being theologically conservative is not enough.  There are plenty of pastors who might affirm all the big points of Christianity and still preach on how you can become a better you or that you need to just try a little harder by giving x amount of money to them.  Answering all the questions right is not the big point to the Christian life.

    Quit with the Nostalgia

    Living in the perpetual mindset of dwelling in the golden times of Christian America or some other nostalgic time is not enough.  While some progressives will close their eyes to the past, some false conservatives will find peace solely in the past.  Nevertheless, it is very important to have tradition without turning into blind followers of traditionalism.  Historian Jaroslav Pelikan once noted along these lines,

    Tradition is the living faith of the dead; traditionalism is the dead faith of the living.  Tradition lives in conversation with the past, while remembering where we are and when we are and that is is we who have to decide.  Traditionalism supposes that nothing should ever be done for the first time, so all this needed to solve any problem is to arrive at the supposedly unanimous testimony of this homogenized tradition.

    Quit forgetting the past

    Dwelling in the past will not make things better.  However, forgetting or jettisoning the past all together will only make things worse.  We need those who have gone before us, we need to listen to their collective wisdom.  Rejecting them simply because they’re old and dead is not wise and the height of arrogance.  After all, thinking yourself better than those who’ve gone before you makes you guilty of “chronological snobbery,” as C.S. Lewis would say.

    Venturing forth into the future years is all we can do, rooted in the wisdom of those who have gone before us.  But don’t stop there, think about becoming reformed.  But more on that next time.

    How do you use the past?

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  • THERE ARE NO ORDINARY PEOPLE

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Growth, Theology

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    Excerpt from the essay “The Weight of Glory”

    C.S. Lewis:

    It may be possible for each to think too much of his own potential glory hereafter; it is hardly possible for him to think too often or too deeply about that of his neighbor.

    The load, or weight, or burden of my neighbor’s glory should be laid daily on my back, a load so heavy that only humility can carry it, and the backs of the proud will be broken.

    It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare.

    All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations.

    It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics.

    There are no ordinary people.

    You have never talked to a mere mortal.

    Nations, cultures, arts, civilization—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat.

    But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.

    This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn.

    We must play.

    But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously—no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption.

    And our charity must be real and costly love, with deep feeling for the sins in spite of which we love the sinner—no mere tolerance or indulgence which parodies love as flippancy parodies merriment.

    Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses.

    The Weight of Glory (HarperOne, 2001), pp. 45-46. (h/t Justin Taylor)

  • SO YOU WANT TO BE A WRITER?

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Story

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    I found a couple of posts on writing this past week and wanted to share it here.

    This is by Justin Taylor and I found it helpful: C.S. Lewis’s Writing Style and Advice

    Kevin DeYoung’s take on CS Lewis’ grasp of language and how aspiring writers can learn from it: The Power of the Poached Egg 

  • THE FOLLY OF PHILOSOPHY

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Growth, Theology

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    CS Lewis’ The Great Divorce presents a very unique tale about the afterlife. It is one that is told in a refreshingly new way, dispelling the preconceptions that 21st Century humanity often bring to the table. Harps, clouds, flames, and pitchforks aside, Lewis brings something different to the theological subject. He highlights and personifies the things that so often hinder people from capturing the purpose of human existence. The plight of humanity can be addressed and remedied, and Lewis offers this hope within his writings. The personifications within this book can hopefully free you and I from the pitfalls of life (and I hope you read this short, hard-hitting story). Wherever you find yourself on the journey of life, know that there is hope for better days.

    Lewis has an especially interesting character that speaks to me. As someone who enjoys philosophy and ideological debates, I can say with certainty that arguing can be fun. Debating ideas and jousting ideologies can be very stimulating, but ideas are also very dangerous. Ideas change the world and can inspire good or evil. The character in chapter five of The Great Divorce is a man who falls into this philosophical category. A solid person (read: a citizen of the bright, solid world) meets a friend from his former life who is nothing but a shadowy ghost (read: a citizen of the gray lands). The ghost came to this idyllic Eden on a trip and meets his friend and begins to converse. Towards the end of the conversation came an interesting exchange:

    ‘Listen!’ said the White Spirit (The solid person). ‘Once you were a child. Once you knew what inquiry was for. There was a time when you asked questions because you wanted answers, and were glad when you had found them. Become that child again: even now.’

    ‘Ah, but when I became a man I put away childish things.’ (replied the ghost)

    ‘You have gone far wrong. Thirst was made for water; inquiry for truth. What you now call the free play of inquiry has neither more nor less to do with the ends for which intelligence was given you than masturbation has to do with marriage.’

    Inquiry was made for truth. What a stunning statement to be made in a rootless, postmodern world! There is truth in the world and there is a necessity to find that truth. Not truths or a devout, honest opinion that this ghost would propose in The Great Divorce. Philosophy and theology has an ultimate goal. Philosophizing for the sake of philosophizing should not occur. Philosophizing for the pursuit of truth and clarity, that is the proper vehicle. (The ghost, funny enough, was an Episcopalian minister. He boldly denied the Resurrection and even organized a theological paper presentation!) Philosophy is a great subject and vehicle of pursuit. But that search must always be towards truth and clarity. And yes, that is my devout, honest opinion.

  • HARD WORDS AND A TOUGH PATH

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Growth, Liturgy

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    The great Christian message of Jesus is not perfect happiness as we usually consider it.  It is not about the personal acquisition of wealth or land.  Instead, the main thread that runs through Christianity is to “give up yourself and you will find your real self.”  CS Lewis wrote this and went on to explore the paradox of submitting oneself to this type of death presently in the hope of life eternally.  This death (not literally “you have died of dysentery” death…), in a manner of speaking, will ultimately bring about the arrival of life, both now and forever.  The new life that we experience, this “real self” as Lewis suggested, will be manifested in this life.  The Spirit brings new life for those who are in Christ.  Paul reminds us,

    You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

    Romans 8:9-11

    The perceived loss of one’s present life is really the gaining of a greater life.

    The Christian narrative is truly one wrought with seemingly paradoxical statements.  Our life is marked by crucifomity, being made into the image of the crucified Christ which often means suffering.  How painful it is to realize this!  I would much rather be comfortable in my faith and ignore this, but that is simply not so.  My hope and prayer is that those in Christ might realize that we are truly at home when we learn this act of obedience.  As Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote in The Cost of Discipleship, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”  Indeed this is a tough thing, but where else can we go?  For it is only in Christ that the words of eternal life are offered.

    Let us believe and hold fast to them throughout the Lenten season and beyond.

  • C.S. LEWIS AND THE NATIVITY

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Liturgy

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    Among the oxen (like an ox I’m slow)
    I see a glory in the stable grow
    Which, with the ox’s dullness might at length
    Give me an ox’s strength.

    Among the asses (stubborn I as they)
    I see my Savior where I looked for hay;
    So may my beastlike folly learn at least
    The patience of a beast.

    Among the sheep (I like a sheep have strayed)
    I watch the manger where my Lord is laid;
    Oh that my baa-ing nature would win thence
    Some woolly innocence.

    -C.S. Lewis

    (h/t The Mockingbird Blog)

  • STEPHEN HAWKING, GOD AND THE UNIVERSE

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Bible Talk, Culture

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    “In his latest book, he said the 1992 discovery of a planet orbiting another star other than the Sun helped deconstruct the view of the father of physics Isaac Newton that the universe could not have arisen out of chaos but was created by God.”

    From AP story found here.

    I wanted to post a few thoughts after reading about Hawking’s new book.

    First, science observes the natural world.  God is assumed in this case (within the loosely knit understanding of the realm of Christianity-Judaism-Islam) to be supernatural.  God is beyond nature and is transcendent in His role with the universe.  Science, by its very nature, can neither know God nor observe God since it is out of its sphere of research.

    Secondly, I do not understand why another similar planet out there in the cosmos would pose such a problem.  CS Lewis (and myself) would respond, so what?  Even if there was intelligent life on other planets, how does that remove God from the picture?  It would not shake my faith at all if an abundance of planets beyond the Milky Way orbited stars similar to our Sun and contained intelligent life.  Indeed the thing that would remove my faith would be the discovery of the body of Jesus (I Cor 15:12-19) and that has not been done and frankly will not.

    Certainly conservative Christians are partially to be blamed for trying to solve everything and denying even the existence of dinosaurs.  Why would it make a difference if the universe was a billion years old and had old lizards walking around?  Why would it make a difference if there were people orbiting another star?  Perhaps God still revealed Himself to those people.  Perhaps this planet is viewed with as much love as ours.  Lewis’ Perelandra ties into this nicely, exploring that God could have made people on different planets and still loved them.  Of course He came and redeemed this fallen world.  What if other worlds had never fallen?  This does not contradict the Christian faith.

    Thirdly, where did the matter and laws come from?  If they have always been here, lying in the box of the universe… wait, that box never existed or has always existed… Yikes, that is quite a faith statement!

    In closing, Lewis also would suggest in God in the Dock that we answer the brilliant scientist with a question and I would like to end with it.  Since you believe that gravity and other laws are sufficient for spontaneous life out of nothing, what sort of universe would it look like if there was a God Mr. Hawking?