Welcome to Hell

Truthfully, my first read through C.S. Lewis’ book, The Great Divorce, was simply for enjoyment. I did hope that perhaps a little theological wisdom would seep into my mind as I read the pages for entertainment.

It wasn’t until more than halfway through the book that I even realized Lewis was struggling to depict Heaven, a reality beyond comprehensible reality. It wasn’t until this, my third reading, that I understood the mysterious place of origin.

The narrator finds himself in a dismal town, all but deserted save for a crowed of people waiting to board a train. Curious and disillusioned with the present, he wanders into the queue of people. Perhaps the destination will prove more interesting than this God-forsaken place.

Ah, and the story unfolds, for the narrator is indeed in the most God-forsaken place. They stand in Hell, but by some sheer mercy, he and anyone who will board the train, will be instantly transported to Heaven. There, they must decide whether to stay in Heaven or return to the familiar land of Hell where they began.

Seems like a no-brainer right? Given the choice, Heaven or Hell, I can hardly imagine anyone who would opt for the latter. Even the most convinced of atheists, when presented with the question (purely hypothetically, of course) would chose Heaven. But Lewis begs to differ.

As the crowd jostles for priority seating, arguments necessarily arise. The inconvenience of waiting, the need to politely step aside for others or ignore an unintentional elbow, gets everybody crotchety.

Listen:

I was now next to a very short man with a scowl who glanced at me with an expression of extreme disfavor and observed, rather unnecessarily loudly, to the man beyond him, ‘This sort of thing makes one think twice about going at all.’

‘I’m a plain man that’s what I am and I have got to have my rights same as anyone else, see?’

A moment later two young people in front of him also left us arm in arm…it was clear that each for the moment preferred the other to the chance of a place on the bus.

And it’s true, that’s a little what Heaven is like. There is only one way there, through Jesus Christ, and we have one choice, either to ride upon His righteousness and be accepted into Heaven through Him alone, or, to walk away.

Now the choice doesn’t seem so cut and dry, does it? Must we really abandon our RIGHTS! in order to go with Jesus? Must we really prefer Him over the other loves of our souls?

On Monday last week, God began pressing into me deeply, the truth that there is no god besides Him. Like pressing His thumb into a seal, He led me over and over to verses that declare His uniqueness. Finally, on Friday I strung all the the references together – a beautiful strand of wisdom. (Proverbs 1:9)

I have had so many gods besides my Lord. So very many times, I have stood at the bus stop and then been distracted by a tantalizing fragrance, an interesting conversation, a glittery bauble, a second-rate toy, my rights, my better idea, my preferred relationship. Then, for a moment at least, I left the platform and scurried to find whatever struck my fancy.

Please do not think for a second that I am suggesting you can lose your salvation. By no means. I am secure in Christ, but if I am honest, there have been many times that my heart has strayed from pure devotion to Him.

Praise the Lord, that He has never left me. Praise the Lord that He patiently waits for me to come running back when my cheap lover failed me. He is so good. But that I would never be distracted again! There is no love, no joy, no peace anywhere as there is near my Savior.

He is coming and He is not slow. “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9

But there remains only one way. “Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:16

And I can promise you, that there is but One God, whose glory, whose reward far surpasses all other temporary fascinations.
“How great you are, O Sovereign LORD! There is no one like you, and there is no God but you, as we have heard with our own ears. And who is like your people Israel–the one nation on earth that God went out to redeem as a people for himself, and to make a name for himself, and to perform great and awesome wonders by driving out nations and their gods from before your people, whom you redeemed from Egypt?” 
2 Samuel 7:22-23

For additional references to God’s uniqueness and surpassing value: Micah 7:18,
Ex. 15:11, Zeph. 3:17, Ps. 113:5-6, Ps. 71:19, Ps. 86:8

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What’s in a 3 letter word?

What we want, if men become Christians at all, is to keep them in the state of mind I call “Christianity And”. You know – Christianity and the Crisis, Christianity and the New Psychology, Christianity and the New Order, Christianity and Faith Healing, Christianity and Psychical Research, Christianity and Vegetarianism, Christianity and Spelling Reform. If they must be Christians let them at least be Christians with a difference. Substitute for the faith itself some Fashion with a Christian coloring. Work on their horror of the Same Old Thing.

I really feel like in order to post this, I should expound upon it. How can I legitimately imagesexpress prose on my blog, even giving full credit, without at least sharing my two cents. C.S. Lewis makes it all but unnecessary, but I’ll try (:

This is an excerpt from Lewis’ book, The Screwtape Letters. We have been thumbing through it here for over a month, sampling and mulling on his wisdom. I am curious what effective means of time travel Lewis employed. Otherwise, how on earth could he have summarized the perilous place of Christians today?

And it is a perilous place. I do not mean to minimize the very real physical danger that brothers and sisters in Christ face daily throughout the world. But in my own little segment of the globe, a far more insidious threat is a tiny three letter word: and.

And… is in the titles of sermons, on front edges of debate. And… is the fuel of doctrinal discord, the carcass attracting scavengers to converge on hopelessly dead arguments. And… is the tinted glasses we wear when reading the inerrant word of God, it colors the pages and slants the text to address our pet issues. And… somehow manages to cripple mercy in its efforts to travel between our hearts and hands, it is the mother of all causes to the detriment of all substance. And… makes philosophers out disciples.

What is your and?
In my circles I have discussed Christianity and dialectical behavioral therapy, Christianity and antidepressants, Christianity and war, Christianity and divorce, Christianity and fitness, Christianity and beauty… fill in your blanks.

But Lewis redeems this tiny word, and, by the end of one short letter by Screwtape to his worthless nephew Wormwood. What does God do with: and?

God has made humanity capable of relishing conflicting experiences and passions at the same time.

He has balanced the love of change in them by a love of permanence. He has contrived to gratify both tastes together on the very world He has made, by that union of change and permanence which we call Rhythm. He gives them seasons, each season different yet every year the same, so that spring is always felt as a novelty yet always as the recurrence of an immemorial theme.

We must carefully tend our and. Unguarded, it can heap greed upon desire, lust upon pride. Unattended, it will lead us to add law to grace, conditions to love, reason to favor.

In the first place it diminishes pleasure while increasing desire.

images2But, used in like context as our Creator, it will teach us to deepen our faith through sunrise and sunset, our assurance in birth and death, our hope in grace and truth.

 

 

 

“For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” John 1:17

Is time on your side?

What really, really ticks you off? I mean, what really gets under your skin?

Is it the guy who cuts you off in traffic? I just realized, with the threat of a snow storm here tomorrow, that I actually get angry at the weather for slowing down the progression of my plans for the week.
Does the repairman who wants a 10 hour window of time for his appointment drive you nuts?
How about waiting in the only open checkout line while five bored-looking employees saunter outside for a smoke break?

Now you will have noticed that nothing throws [a human] into a passion so easily as to find a tract of time which he reckoned on having at his own disposal unexpectedly taken from him. [It] anger[s] him because he regards his time as his own and feels that it is being stolen.

It occurs to me that perhaps the most common and pervasive lie among men is that we honestly believe our time is our own.

The man can neither make, nor retain, one moment of time; it all comes to him by pure gift; he might as well regard the sun and moon as his chattels.

Guilty as charged.

Not only is this a prolific lie, but at Predatory Lies, the goal is to, “uncover the lies that destroy our lives.” Is this lie all that destructive, really?

It doesn’t seem like it. I mean, we might stress less if we actually understood that all of our striving and fretting and hurrying accomplishes nothing.
We might present the Gospel more winsomely if we weren’t thinking about how the person’s question really came at a bad time.
We might not mourn over death as much as we do if we believed that our time is not our own and that what time we do have is a gift from a benevolent Father, from whom all good gifts come. (James 1:17)

The misconception that time is our own leeches the joy, value and posterity from our lives. “Lord, teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”
Ps. 90:12

All quoted wisdom in this article, aside from Scripture, is courtesy of C.S. Lewis in The Screwtape Letters.The Screwtape Letters.  

Here I Stand.

Round the corner, confront the lion.
March, mouth gaping. Spring is crying.
Sobbing from skies still dull and gray,
Pushing valiantly the clouds away.
Behind her warmer sunshine creeps.
Mid huffs and wheezes, a soft wind speaks.
It tells of fresh and new and green,
Beauty as if never seen.
Each year, I’m awed at lovely spring,
My heart, her merry tune still sings,
Since last year…
And wish her well and bid her hurry.
To best ole’ winter, in his fury.

Earlier this week, I told you that I intend to keep going with our conversations about The Screwtape Letters and the One Word, Naked. I plan to keep my promise.

However, last week was Ligonier Ministry’s annual National Conference. I wasn’t able to attend, but I received an email allowing me to listen to the entire conference online, after the fact.

I grew up hearing about Martin Luther. I read my history books dutifully, and passed the tests. Then, as most kids do, I promptly brain-dumped all the information other than his name and connecting it the Protestant Reformation. I got a refresher today from one of the speakers, Steven Lawson.

Lawson’s sermon was titled, “Here I Stand.” Personally, I felt as if much of what he said was redundant, but I was captured by the words he read directly from Martin Luther’s Here I Stand speech at the Diet of Worms. It rang of such conviction, such confidence in the truth, that it seemed almost to me, second to Scripture, to be the actual definition of truth. In fact, Luther’s entire point is to define truth as Scripture. I am compelled to share this with you today.

“Since your most serene majesty and your high mightinesses require from me a clear, simple, and precise answer, I will give you one, and it is this: I cannot submit my faith either to the pope or to the councils, because it is clear as the day that they have frequently erred and contradicted each other. Unless therefore I am convinced by the testimony of Scripture or by the clearest reasoning, unless I am persuaded by means of the passages I have quoted, and unless they thus render my conscience bound by the word of God, I cannot and I will not retract, for it is unsafe for a Christian to speak against his conscience. Here I stand, I can do no other; may God help me. Amen.”
http://www.specialtyinterests.net/lutherwords.html

Lastly, Max McLean has produced a fantastic rendering of Luther’s speech, and it is available on YouTube. It is a 3 part production, but I am inserting only part 2 here.
Part 2 contains all of Luther’s speech. Parts 1 and 3 are intro and background information.
– – – Forgive me friends, the code for embedding this video is not working. You can still follow this link here. 
consider.

Sick in Modern Idolatry

Setting Captives Free, is an almost overwhelming resource – or better said – collection of resources. I was introduced to it by another woman struggling through her husband’s addiction to pornography. Little did I know that God intended to use it to address my lingering love of my eating disorder.

Setting Captives Free offers online courses that address sexual purity, eating disorders, substance abuse, gambling, Bible study, self-injury and more. Listing Bible study as a category seems a little deceiving because the entirety of each program is laced with Scripture and the conviction that Jesus Christ is the only source of freedom from these behaviors – more accurately – sins.

Within each category, there is a listing of 3-6 individual courses focused on that issue. Currently, I am studying In His Image.

The goal of this 60-lesson course is your complete and final freedom from anorexia and bulimia.

The course is written by Setting Captives Free founder, Michael Cleveland and Kim Schmidt, who writes from personal experience. Here is a link to Kim’s brief bio, but she shares many more details of her story throughout the course.

Personally, for years through many treatment programs and professionals I was taught that my eating disorder and battles with food and exercise addiction were a “disease,” implying that it was something that happened to me without my choice. Not really. Yes, Satan is our diabolical enemy who prowls about like a lion seeking to destroy God’s creation, especially those in His Image (humans.)

However, especially as one who knew Jesus long before I ever began to idolize food and exercise, my descent into this hell was nothing short of sin. Like ancient Israel, I walked away from a loving, all-powerful God, into the arms of a tangible “king.” I wanted a god I could control. In deeper self-evaluation, I discovered that the driving force behind my eating disorder was a desire to prove myself independent, needless – that I was not weak like others – I didn’t even need food. In essence I wanted to believe that I was my own god and self-sustaining.

What an ugly picture. God is using this study, In His Image, to burn away my dross. Praise Him that in the midst of my sin, I was no less saved by the blood and grace of His son, Jesus Christ in whom I believed. But I also praise Him that He would not allow me to spend the rest of my earthly life wallowing in pathetic worship of a false and powerless god.

Shhhh…It’s the Quietest Gospel

The Quietest Gospel. Kind of self explanatory, but Wax explains there are a couple angles. For the sake of baiting you to read the book, I’ll only explain the version that I struggle with the most.

The conservative version maintains the appearance of prophetic speech by speaking out against certain sins. But it often reduces the gospel announcement by relegating its implications to personal fulfillment in a way that makes the church irrelevant to public discourse. (pg. 140)

Flight into the invisible is a denial of the call. A community of Jesus which seeks to hide itself has ceased to follow Him. Dietrich Bonhoeffer (quoted on pg 140)

The problem is I observe plenty blatant sins in my daily life. It’s easy enough (though sometimes I wimp out even still) to declare that am pro-life and abortion is wrong, that taking God’s name in vain is a sin, that stealing is wrong and so is sexual immorality and lying and abuse and sorcery and… you get my drift. Many people, priding themselves on morality, would support these assertions. However, the true Gospel calls me to more than that.

Where is a Christian living out the bold apostolic Gospel that defies evil even when to do so will cause pain? Where is the Christian willing to take the true Gospel for all its political assertions, for its nitty-gritty implications on everyday life? I suggest to you that there aren’t many living in the United States.

It is frequently heard from our pulpits, “Just preach the gospel.” I have heard many Christians say, “I don’t really say much about my faith, I just hope people see Jesus in my life.” That’s not the Biblical Gospel.

Old Testament prophets like Isaiah, Amos, and Ezekiel had no trouble holding together the proclamation of good news with the prophetic call to care for the poor and needy, to stop economically unjust practices, and to return to a heartfelt worship of God.” (pg. 145)

I think on a smaller scale of other examples of a quietest gospel: when we’re afraid to raise our hands in church or kneel in worship because of what others may think; when we don’t give money to that homeless person because we don’t know their real motives; when we don’t tell the truth about where we’ll be on Sunday morning when asked to make other plans. Anything sound familiar?

This morning I began my quiet time as usual with my journal open on my lap. Suddenly, after a few pages of drivel and standard prayer requests, the Holy Spirit dug deep into my heart. He asked me, “Abby, if there were no hell, would you love me?”

What?

“If there were no eternal consequence to sin, no fiery hell to be avoided, would you love me? Or would you say, ‘A little longer, I’ve almost got it right down here;’ or, ‘I’m actually enjoying this for now.’ How passionate is your love for me? Is it greater, louder, more fulfilling than your comfort, your reputation, your self-esteem?”

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up. After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin. Hebrews 12:1-4

If Only it Were that Simple

Monday, I began reviewing the website, Simple Steps.

If only recovering from an eating disorder was as simple as two steps. It’s a grand promise, a glorious assumption, a wonderful wish.

Background:

Been there… Done that. I developed anorexia when I was 14 years old. I fought for my life, gave up on my life, cried in misery, sought expensive help, was prayed over, cast-out, pleaded with, coached, counseled, recovered, relapsed, fed, fed too much, and more. The first round of this multi-approach therapy lasted about six years. In that time I was inpatient twice for separate three-month stints.

At age 20, God finally shook my world a little, just enough to rattle the loose marbles in my head; they fell loosely into place. I married at age 22, but then my husband deployed for a year. I balanced on the edge of a healthy weight, with moderately healthy behaviors until the next move.

Suddenly, all of the simple techniques I had finally mastered in order to teeter on the recovery balance beam, weren’t so simple anymore. In spite of every best intention, I slid quickly back down the slope toward hours of exercise and the  well-proved, food-fear diet.

So, my first qualm with Simple Steps, is the premise. It’s not easy. Personally, from years of experience and in-depth observation of multiple case studies, a website is insufficient to address even the deadly symptoms of an eating disorder, much less the deeper roots and causes.

I read a few of the success stories on Simple Steps. Rachel seemed to agree with me about the difficulty of overcoming an eating disorder.

“You would think such a scare is enough to kick start action but trying to recover at home without real support and guidance is difficult for not only a sufferer but family as well. I felt powerless and hopeless, as did my parents and little brother. In fact we felt lonelier than ever as though we had been sent into battle blind.”

You have to read Rachel’s story, because she ultimately comes to a very different conclusion.

But here’s the clincher of my first day’s review of Simple Steps. It’s not simple. Recovery is much more than gaining lean muscle mass and beginning to follow a regimen. For an anorexic, that prescribed meal plan may seem like a savior, but it’s simply stepping out of one cage and into another.

He Sees You When You’re Sleeping…

Not having ever believed in Santa Clause, I never really considered how creepy it might seem to a kid that some short, fat, elderly elf is watching them ’round the clock. In fact, I snickered behind those kids’ backs, wondering how they could buy into such an obvious lie. Seriously, flying reindeer? little elf minions? How did they explain the fact that even the meanest, rotten kids usually got gifts from someone?

I’m probably stoking a fire here that I am not prepared to put out, but please join the discussion understanding that I don’t have kids myself and I’m not telling you what you should or shouldn’t do. But, as a Christian – what do you tell your children about Santa Clause? I’ve heard some argue that to endorse Santa is to tell your children a bold-faced lie. I’ve heard others declare that you’re robbing your children of fun and fantasy to reveal the truth about the jolly old elf. Can you combine Jesus and Santa?

The undeniable truth is that Jesus does watch you – 24/7, while you’re sleeping and awake, sitting and standing, running or hiding.

Ps. 139 says, “Where can I go from your Spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven you are there! If I make my bed in the depths you are there! If I take the wings of the dawn and dwell in the midst of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast.”

But there’s a very good reason that God watches you! Your life depends on it!

He will not let you stumble;
the one who watches over you will not slumber.
Indeed, he who watches over Israel
never slumbers or sleeps.
The LORD himself watches over you!
The LORD stands beside you as your protective shade.
The sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon at night.
The LORD keeps you from all harm
and watches over your life.
The LORD keeps watch over you as you come and go,
both now and forever. ~ Ps. 121:3-8