You asked for a Loving God?

Problem
In The Chronicles of Narnia, by C S Lewis, Lucy and the others are surprised to hear that the Great Lion, Aslan, is not a tame lion. ‘Of course he isn’t safe’, says one character, ‘but he’s good.’ And it is Aslan’s wildness, as much as his goodness, that sees them through. Aslan’s love is big enough to include his ferocious care for his loved ones (and even his anger at times). This final brief post on the theme of Love and pain also comes from C. S. Lewis…

C S Lewis wrote: “When Christianity says that God loves man, it means that God loves man: not that He has some ‘disinterested’, because really indifferent, concern for our welfare, but that, in awful and surprising truth, we are the objects of His love.

“You asked for a loving God: you have one. The great spirit you so lightly invoked, the ‘lord of terrible aspect’, is present: not a senile benevolence that drowsily wishes you to be happy in your own way, not the cold philanthropy of a conscientious magistrate, nor the care of a host who feels responsible for the comfort of his guests, but the consuming fire Himself, the Love that made the worlds, persistent as the artist’s love for his work and despotic as a man’s love for a dog, provident and venerable as a father’s love for a child, jealous, inexorable, exacting as love between the sexes.

“How this should be, I do not know: it passes reason to explain why any creatures, not to say creatures such as we, should have a value so prodigious in their Creator’s eyes. It is certainly a burden of glory not only beyond our deserts but also, except in rare moments of grace, beyond our desiring…”

From C. S. Lewis in The Problem of Pain

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Cruel to be kind?

Problem
“The real trouble” (says C. S. Lewis) “is that ‘kindness’ is a quality fatally easy to attribute to ourselves on quite inadequate grounds. Everyone feels benevolent if nothing happens to be annoying him at the moment. Thus a man easily comes to console himself for all his other vices by a conviction that ‘his heart’s in the right place’ … though in fact he has never made the slightest sacrifice for a fellow creature.” This
second of three brief posts on the theme of Love and pain also comes from C. S. Lewis…

C. S. Lewis wrote: “There is kindness in Love: but Love and kindness are not coterminous, and when kindness [in the sense given above] is separated from the other elements of Love, it involves a certain fundamental indifference to its object, and even something like contempt of it. Kindness consents very readily to the removal of its object – we have all met people whose kindness to animals is constantly leading them to kill animals lest they should suffer.

Kindness, merely as such, cares not whether its object becomes good or bad, provided only that it escapes suffering. As Scripture points out, it is bastards who are spoiled: the legitimate sons, who are to carry on the family tradition, are punished [Hebrews 12:8].

“It is for people whom we care nothing about that we demand happiness on any terms: with our friends, our lovers, our children, we are exacting and would rather see them suffer much than be happy in contemptible and estranging modes.

If God is Love, He is, by definition, something more than mere kindness. And it appears, from all the records, that though He has often rebuked us and condemned us, He has paid us the intolerable compliment of loving us, in the deepest, most tragic, most inexorable sense.”

From C. S. Lewis in The Problem of Pain

Love hurts?

Problem
‘Love hurts’ sang the Everly Brothers in 1960, a sentiment taken up by others (Roy Orbison, Nazareth (named for the town in Pennsylvania USA), Jim Capaldi and Cher to name a few). ‘Love is just a lie, made to make you blue’, they sang, ‘I know it isn’t true, no it isn’t true’. Well, that’s not true, though it may sometimes feel like it. It’s certainly not true that the Love of God is a lie; though we find that even with Him, Love is never without pain. This first of three brief posts on the theme of Love and pain comes from C. S. Lewis…

C. S. Lewis wrote: By the goodness of God we mean nowadays almost exclusively His lovingness; and in this we may be right. And by Love, in this context, most of us mean kindness the desire to see others than the self happy; not happy in this way or in that, but just happy.

“What would really satisfy us would be a God who said of anything we happened to like doing, ‘What does it matter so long as they are contented?’ We want, in fact, not so much a Father in Heaven as a grandfather in heaven – a senile benevolence who, as they say, ‘liked to see young people enjoying themselves’, and whose plan for the universe was simply that it might be truly said at the end of each day, ‘a good time was had by all’.

“Not many people, I admit, would formulate a theology in precisely those terms: but a conception not very different lurks at the back of many minds. I do not claim to be an exception: I should very much like to live in a universe which was governed on such lines. But since it is abundantly clear that I don’t, and since I have reason to believe, nevertheless, that God is Love, I conclude that my conception of love needs correction.”

From C. S. Lewis in The Problem of Pain

What God wants….

Utmost

And while he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head.  
Mark 14:3 ESV

 I remember a debate, years ago, about whether, in Christ, we are ‘saved to serve’? Well, yes and no. When we are genuinely saved, we will serve, because ‘faith without works is dead’. Yes, we are saved by faith alone, but no, faith is never alone. As a child, faith taught me, ‘Jesus loves me…’. Only later did I begin to think I needed to (or even could) do something more to earn or to keep his love. The right response to love is love, though love, like faith, is never alone. This final brief post on the theme of our abandonment to God also comes from Oswald Chambers…

Oswald Chambers writes…. “Have I ever been carried away to do something for God not because it was my duty, nor because it was useful, nor because there was anything in it at all beyond the fact that I love Him? Have I ever realised that I can bring to God things which are of value to Him ….? Not Divine, colossal things which could be recorded as marvelous, but ordinary, simple human things which will give evidence to God that I am abandoned to Him? Have I ever produced in the heart of the Lord Jesus what Mary of Bethany produced?

“There are times when it seems as if God watches to see if we will give Him the abandoned tokens of how genuinely we do love Him. Abandon to God is of more value than personal holiness. Personal holiness focuses the eye on our own whiteness; we are greatly concerned about the way we walk and talk and look, fearful lest we offend Him. Perfect love casts out all that when once we are abandoned to God.

“We have to get rid of this notion – ‘Am I of any use?’ – and make up our minds that we are not, and we may be near the truth. It is never a question of being of use, but of being of value to God Himself. When we are abandoned to God, He works through us all the time.”

From Oswald Chambers in My Utmost for His Highest

A Self (less) Giver?

Utmost

 

Christmas seems long past. Some gifts go on giving; gifts and givers remembered happily together.
O. Henry’s story, The Gift of the Magi, (a young husband sells his cherished pocket watch to buy his wife a comb for her beautiful hair – the young wife sells her hair to buy a chain for his watch) impressed me, even as a child, as an illustration of giving, and of love. This second brief post on the theme of our abandonment to God also comes from Oswald Chambers…

“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

“Salvation is not merely deliverance from sin, nor the experience of personal holiness; the salvation of God is deliverance out of self entirely into union with Himself. My experimental knowledge of salvation will be along the line of deliverance from sin and of personal holiness; but salvation means that the Spirit of God has brought me into touch with God’s personality, and I am thrilled with something infinitely greater than myself; I am caught up into the abandonment of God….

“Abandonment never produces the consciousness of its own effort, because the whole life is taken up with the One to Whom we abandon. Beware of talking about abandonment if you nothing about it, and you will never know anything about it until you have realised what John 3:16 means; that God gave Himself absolutely.

“In our abandonment we give ourselves over to God just as God gave Himself for us, without any calculation. The consequence of abandonment never enters into our outlook because our life is taken up with Him.”

From Oswald Chambers in My Utmost for His Highest

Bundles of joy?

SpurgeonMy times are in your hand… Psalm 31:15

If men rise up to pursue you and to seek your life, the life of my lord shall be bound in the bundle of the living in the care of the Lord your God.
1 Samuel 25:29 ESV.

Abigail’s assurances to David in 1 Samuel 25 may also be taken as a comfort to us in Christ. Perhaps the image of being ‘bound in the bundle of the living in the care of the Lord (our) God’ was fresh in David’s mind when he wrote ‘My times are in your hand’. This second brief post on the theme of our times also comes from C. H. Spurgeon…

Charles Spurgeon said, ” Whatever is to come out of our life is in our heavenly Father’s hands. …. The ultimate results of His work of grace upon us, and of His education of us in this life, are in the highest hand.

“We are not in our own hands, nor in the hands of earthly teachers, but we are under the skillful operation of hands which make nothing in vain. The close of life is not decided by the sharp knife of the fates, but by the hand of love.

“We shall not die before our time; neither shall we be forgotten and left upon the stage too long. Not only are we ourselves in the hand of the Lord, but all that surrounds us. Our times make up a kind of atmosphere of existence, and all this is under divine arrangement. We dwell within the palm of God’s hand. We are absolutely at His disposal, and all our circumstances are arranged by Him in all their details. We are comforted to have it so.” 

From a sermon delivered by Charles Spurgeon on Sunday morning May 17th, 1891 at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington.

Remember God?

Knowing God cover

J.I.Packer wrote in Knowing God – “Look at Isaiah 40 … God speaks to people whose mood is the mood of many Christians today – despondent…despairing… people against whom the tide of events has been running for a very long time…”. The only solution to these moods (because they rise when we forget God) is a renewed vision of God, particularly of His Greatness. This second of three brief posts on the theme of the Majesty of God also comes from J.I. Packer…

J.I.Packer writes… 2. “‘Why do you say, O Jacob and speak, O Israel, My way is hidden from the Lord, and my right is disregarded by my God?’’ (Isaiah 40:27 ESV). This (second) question rebukes wrong thoughts about ourselves. God has not abandoned us any more than he abandoned Job. He never abandons anyone on whom he has set his love; nor does Christ, the good shepherd, ever lose track of his sheep. It is as false as it is irreverent to accuse God of forgetting, or overlooking, or losing interest in, the state and needs of his own people. If you have been resigning yourself to the thought that God has left you high and dry, seek grace to be ashamed of yourself. Such unbelieving pessimism deeply dishonours our great God and Saviour.”

From J.I.Packer in Knowing God.