Glorious Frustration?

Weight of Glory

Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.
So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed
two days longer in the place where he was.
… Did I not tell you that if you believed
you would see the glory of God?
John 11:5-6, 40 ESV

The frustration that Mary and Martha felt towards Jesus over the illness and death of their brother, Lazarus, was shared by the disciples. For the disciples, there was the added irritation that not only, after three days, would Lazarus be dead, but also that Jesus would be putting himself, and them, at risk if they went to Bethany. Their courage was not in question even if their faith was, as Thomas showed when he said to the others, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” (John 11:16 ESV). How do we deal with our frustration at events and circumstances, at the behavior of others or even, at times, with the behavior of God Himself? This first of three brief posts on the theme of frustration comes from C. S. Lewis.

C. S. Lewis wrote: “The second enemy [of the scholar in war-time] is frustration – the feeling that we shall not have enough time to finish. If I say to you that no one has time to finish, that the longest human life leaves a man, in any branch of learning, a beginner, I shall seem to you to be saying something quite academic and theoretical. You would be surprised if you knew how soon one begins to feel the shortness of the tether, of how many things, even in middle life, we have to say, ‘No time for that,’ ‘Too late now,’ and ‘Not for me.’ But Nature herself forbids you to share that experience. A more Christian attitude, which can be attained at any age, is that of leaving futurity in God’s hands. We may as well, for God will certainly retain it whether we leave it to Him or not. Never, in peace or war, commit your virtue or your happiness to the future. Happy work is best done by the man who takes his long-term plans somewhat lightly and works from moment to moment ‘as to the lord’. It is only our daily bread that we are encouraged to ask for. The present is the only time in which any duty can be done or any grace received.”

From C. S. Lewis in The Weight of Glory.

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The Medicine we need?

Praying With Paul

 

I suppose we would all say, in our pain, that our great need is for the pain to stop. A doctor, on the other hand, may tell us that our great need is to take the (sometimes nasty) medicine that he will prescribe, because he knows that the pain will not stop otherwise. This second of three brief posts on the theme of What We Really Need also comes from Dr. D. A. Carson.

 

Dr. Carson wrote: “We quickly learn that God is more interested in our holiness than in our comfort. He more greatly delights in the integrity and purity of his church than in the material well-being of its members. He shows himself more clearly to men and women who enjoy him and obey him than to men and women whose horizons revolve around good jobs, nice houses and reasonable health. He is far more committed to building a corporate “temple” in which his Spirit dwells than he is in preserving our reputations. He is more vitally disposed to display his grace than to flatter our intelligence. He is more concerned for justice than for our ease. He is more deeply committed to stretching our faith than our popularity. He prefers that his people live in disciplined gratitude and holy joy rather than in pushy self-reliance and glitzy happiness. He wants us to pursue daily death, not self-fulfillment, for the latter leads to death, while the former leads to life.”

From Dr. D. A. Carson in ‘Praying With Paul’.

What I really need…

Praying With Paul

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
Matthew 7:7-11 ESV

I realize now that the childish lists I used to make each Christmas never contained anything I needed, and that, of all the things I wanted back then, few, if any, survive today. Blessed with caring parents, I barely needed even to ask for anything I really needed (love, of course, and care; food, clothes, and shelter). But I was quite sure that I could ask, if I felt a need, and trust them to answer with my best interests at heart (that’s why I never received the air rifle I asked for so often). This first of three brief posts on the theme of What We Really Need comes from Dr. D. A. Carson.

Dr. Carson wrote: “If God had perceived that our greatest need was economic, he would have sent us an economist. If he had perceived that our greatest need was entertainment, he would have sent us a comedian or an artist. If God had perceived that our greatest need was political stability, he would have sent us a politician. If he had perceived that our greatest need was health, he would have sent us a doctor. But he perceived that our greatest need involved our sin, our alienation from him, our profound rebellion, our death, and he sent us a Savior.”

From Dr. D. A. Carson in ‘Praying With Paul’.

The measure we give….

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“For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” Luke 6:38 ESV

As a nervous child in the second grade I was terrified of my teacher’s outbursts of temper even when they weren’t aimed at me. Not all the rebukes of Scripture are aimed at all of us, all the time. But like the child I was then (and like the man I have become) I am guilty enough, often enough, to have learned that warnings (particularly the warnings of Scripture) are best never ignored. This final brief post on the theme of charity also comes from C. S. Lewis…

C. S. Lewis wrote: “For many of us the great obstacle to charity lies not in our luxurious living or desire for more money, but in our fear – fear of insecurity. This must often be recognised as a temptation. Sometimes our pride also hinders our charity; we are tempted to spend more than we ought on the showy forms of generosity (tipping, hospitality) and less than we ought on those who really need our help.”

From C. S. Lewis in Mere Christianity.

Why this waste?

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‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’
Matthew 25:40 ESV

Then, in Matthew 26, a woman is accused (by the disciples) of wasting ‘very expensive ointment’ to anoint Jesus with. Jesus saw it differently, ‘…she has done a beautiful thing …’ Perhaps the best clue to our own giving may be found if we imagine what we would do if we met Jesus in need, and doing that for the needy we meet. This second of three brief posts on the theme of charity comes from C. S. Lewis…

C. S. Lewis wrote: “I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give. I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare. In other words, if our expenditure on comforts, luxuries, amusements, etc., is up to the standard common among those with the same income as our own, we are probably giving away too little. If our charities do not at all pinch or hamper us, I should say they are too small. There ought to be things we should like to do and cannot do because our charities expenditure excludes them. I am speaking now of ‘charities’ in the common way. Particular cases of distress among your own relatives, friends, neighbours or employees, which God, as it were, forces upon your notice, may demand much more: even to the crippling and endangering of your own position.”

From C. S. Lewis in Mere Christianity.

Giving: as good as we get?

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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 ESV

For all of us, we children of a loving heavenly Father, charity – a parable of Grace – may be the one point of family resemblance that the least of us (think of that widow’s mite) can most powerfully and effectively express. This first of three brief posts on the theme of charity comes from C. S. Lewis…

C. S. Lewis wrote: “In the passage where the New Testament says that everyone must work (Ephesians 4:28) it gives as a reason ‘in order that he may have something to give to those in need’. Charity – giving to the poor – is an essential part of Christian morality: in the frightening parable of the sheep and the goats it seems to be the point on which everything turns. Some people nowadays say that charity ought to be unnecessary and that instead of giving to the poor we ought to be producing a society in which there were no poor to give to. They may be quite right in saying that we ought to produce this kind of society. But if anyone thinks that, as a consequence, you can stop giving in the meantime, then he has parted company with all Christian morality.”

From C. S. Lewis in Mere Christianity.

Plus One?

 

God's Words

 

For where two or three are gathered
in my name, there am I among them.’
Matthew 18:20 ESV

 

Some people set an extra place at the table for Jesus, the unseen guest at every meal and the silent listener to every conversation. (Whether such an idea is attractive or not may say much about us.) Of course it is true, in a way, of any Christian home, and, in a way, it is true of every table, every conversation, everywhere, but, particularly, in the fellowship of the Church. This final brief post on the theme of Fellowship also comes from J. I. Packer…

J. I. Packer wrote: “Third, fellowship is a gift of God. The NEB translates Paul’s benediction in 2 Corinthians 13:14 as follows: ‘The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and fellowship in the Holy Spirit, be with you all’ – and this is probably right. It is only where the Holy Spirit has been given, where men are spiritually alive and anxious to grow in grace themselves and help others to do the same, that fellowship becomes a possibility; and it is only as the Holy Spirit enables us to speak to others, and others to us, in such a way that Christ and the Father are made known through what is said, that fellowship is made a reality.

“When we seek to enjoy fellowship together, we should do so in prayerful dependence on the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Trinity, whose office it is to reveal Christ to us; otherwise, our talk with each other will be empty and profitless, and the goal of fellowship – fuller acquaintance with our common Lord – will not be achieved.”

From J. I. Packer in God’s Words