Month: July 2013

“We Have Cause to Be Uneasy” and The Quotable *Mere Christianity*

As so often happens, my wife received a phone call from a friend asking questions about her faith and how one can trust that the Bible as true.

The time was 10:00pm, and since I was in a place to consider sleep, I reached for my Kindle and thought to browse the “Theo”(logy) section for some titles that might be of use to my wife’s discussion.

First, I saw Dr. R.C. Sproul’s “Can I Trust the Bible?” and as great as it is, I did not find that for which I was hoping. I was about to give up when I saw that classic title: “Mere Christianity” — always worth a read. Lewis didn’t say what I was looking for either, but I was hooked.

The first paragraph which my eyes came across — when I skipped around the work’s natural order — was worth highlighting. (That in itself is noteworthy, considering how unpleasant highlighting can be on the oldest, most basic Kindle). Once the highlighting was completed, I realized the next paragraph was a continuation of the genius that was the previous paragraph. [Spend another 30 seconds highlighting the next paragraph.] Not too long thereafter, lo and behold: another highlight-worthy passage. We could almost underline or highlight the whole book…

Thus, here they are — probably over-quoted but worth the re-read again and again — from the first book’s fifth chapter. (NOTE: this is in not meant to be a comprehensive list of the work’s best quotes. These are the paragraphs that captivated me in my ten minute gander, before provoking me to rise again and share them on the blog.) Now…

You may have felt you were ready to listen to me as long as you thought I had anything new to say; but if it turns out to be only religion, well, the world has tried that and you cannot put the clock back. If anyone is feeling that way I should like to say three things to him.

First, as to putting the clock back. Would you think I was joking if I said that you can put a clock back, and that if the clock is wrong it is often a very sensible thing to do? But I would rather get away from that whole idea of clocks. We all want progress. But progress means getting nearer to the place where you want to be. And if you have taken a wrong turning, then to go forward does not get you any nearer. If you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about turn and walking back to the right road; and in that case the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive man. We have all seen this when doing arithmetic.

When I have started a sum the wrong way, the sooner I admit this and go back and start over again, the faster I shall get on. There is nothing progressive about being pigheaded and refusing to admit a mistake. And I think if you look at the present state of the world, it is pretty plain that humanity has been making some big mistake. We are on the wrong road. And if that is so, we must go back. Going back is the quickest way on.

Of course, I quite agree that the Christian religion is, in the long run, a thing of unspeakable comfort. But it does not begin in comfort; it begins in the dismay I have been describing, and it is no use at all trying to go on to that comfort without first going through that dismay. In religion, as in war and everything else, comfort is the one thing you cannot get by looking for it. If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth– only soft soap and wishful thinking to being with and, in the end, despair. Most of us have got over the prewar wishful thinking about international politics. It is time we did the same about religion.

Psalm 50: God Shines Forth

              The Mighty One, God the Lord,

       speaks and summons the earth

        from the rising of the sun to its setting.

Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty,

       God shines forth.

(Psalm 50:1-2 ESV)

© 2013 Clint R. Boyd.

© 2013 Clint R. Boyd.

God “speaks and summons the earth.” Right off the bat, The Mighty One, God the Lord, speaks and summons. He is the boss, but what kind of boss is he?

Well, we get a picture — of the sunrise and sunset. The Psalmist is saying that this speaking and summoning is done from dusk ’till dawn, but with the words sunrise and sunset comes a memory of a splendid sight for those who’ve seen the sun rise and/or set. For any who haven’t had working eyesight to see a sunrise or sunset, this must be calling upon the one of the greatest faculties of the human mind: imagination.

Either way, clearly we are invited to get a greater understanding God by mentioning him directly after the sun’s radiant rising and setting:

“God shines forth.”

He is not a gloomy God. This is not Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. The Lord Almighty is righteous, Holy, and just, always loving and using honest weights and scales (Proverbs 16:11). He is not an oppressor. He is the Great Giver. That’s why He doesn’t need anything from us, nor can we provide much for him past adoration, worship, trust, and thanksgiving.

“I will not accept a bull from your house

or goats from your folds.

For every beast of the forest is mine,

       the cattle on a thousand hills.

I know all the birds of the hills,

       and all that moves in the field is mine.

If I were hungry, I would not tell you,

       for the world and its fullness are mine.

Do I eat the flesh of bulls

       or drink the blood of goats?

Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving,

       and perform your vows to the Most High,

and call upon me in the day of trouble;

       I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.”

(Verses 9-15)

Thankfulness is how I should feel and be toward God. You and I were created to glorify and ENJOY Him — to bask His radiance, mercy, and forgiveness — forever. All of that is made possible, of course, by Jesus Christ, who was slain for that purpose, then resurrected: the greatest news in the history of mankind.

Future Glory and Forgetting the Past

This morning I read in Genesis the forty-first chapter and noticed something new to me: Joseph forgets his past suffering, because God has blessed him so greatly. Are we all capable of receiving such blessing that we might be able forget all of the past pain?

Here are the verses in which I learned about Joseph forgetting the old misfortunes:

Before the year of famine came, two sons were born to Joseph. Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera priest of On, bore them to him. Joseph called the name of the firstborn Manasseh. “For,” he said, “God has made me forget all my hardship and all my father’s house.” The name of the second he called Ephraim, “For God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.” (Genesis 41:50-52, ESV)

How beautiful it is that God did not only make Joseph fruitful and happy, but God did so for Joseph in the same place Joseph was in during his worst period of suffering.  Moreover, it was so good that Joseph forgot about the slavery he was in before the sunshine came.

The apostle Paul adds insight here:

“For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:17-18, ESV, emphasis added)

By the way, if you haven’t read The Weight of Glory, by C.S. Lewis, the book is well worth the time and money.

Lewis writes therein, “At present we are on the outside of the world, the wrong side of the door. We discern the freshness and purity of morning, but they do not make us fresh and pure. We cannot mingle with the splendours we see. But all the leaves of the New Testament are rustling with the rumour that it will not always be so. Some day, God willing, we shall get in.”

Paul adds again, “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. (Romans 8:18, ESV)

One day, God will right all the wrongs and bless you who would be in Christ out of this world and into a far, far better one that is unimaginably fantastic, yet — real.  That is not to say this one is to be tossed out and forgotten just yet.  Uncertain as we are as to how long it shall take us to get to the next world, it is our duty to make this one as much like the next as possible.

Match Point Opening Scene: Luck vs. Greatness

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. (Genesis 50:20, ESV)

Last night Linli and I watched a movie given to us by a dear friend who asked us to pass it along after we watched it: Match Point. She probably asked us to pass it along not because the message is the best, but more likely because not many people will want to watch it more than once. By no means is it a “feel good” film, but Match Point is interesting and definitely provocative. I will not go into more detail, but I do want to share the opening scene because I think it is beautifully done.

The movie’s themes, aside from commenting on the dichotomy of love/lust and marriage, strongly revolves around fate having a greater role than ability.

I love reading, listening to, and watching artist’s explorations of the ancient question: how much of life is in our control?

One verse in the Bible that I believe gives us insight, despite how many Christians will disagree, is the one at the top of this post, and below:

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. (Genesis 50:20, ESV)

The NIV even translates the word as “intended” rather than “meant.” There is a large difference between this idea, that God not only knew it was going to happen but moreover meant that it take place, is quite different from the common, “oh, God will use it for good, even though you meant it for evil.” True, he will, but this verse, often misquoted, says that he meant it for good, and I do not believe that He makes mistakes.

http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/ask-pastor-john/how-can-i-believe-that-god-is-in-control-when-something-bad-happens#/listen/full 

*By the way, I do not recommend the aforementioned movie to everyone. To the Christian strong in faith, I do. To those easily offended, I do not. Indeed, the taking of the Lord’s name in vain several times in the movie is hard to hear, but for some, the movie may provide insight without causing them to sin. The film is rated R for “some sexuality.”

Letter to Friends and Family: On Some of My Faith, Mistakes, and Redemption

Dear friends,

This is a joyful message, but I’ll (try to) be brief. I’m guessing many of you, over the last few years, perhaps beginning just before my first trip to China, noticed a change in my Facebook personality. Fewer are the posts linking you to an obscure music video, and more are the posts related more to matters of faith, especially, Jesus, the Christ.

Have I been converted? This time a better would might be, reclaimed.

If you knew me in high school (most of the intended audience here fall into this category), you might recall that, though I had my (completely embarrassing, regretful) moments of bad behavior, I was not considered wild. Then came college, and thought I still don’t think I would be considered wild by my many folks’ definition of the word, I got off track before I even got started at MTSU. I hurt many of friends during that time, and I have lost sleep over it in the past, I assure you.

And “it happens,” but that’s no excuse. (I owe my friends better). My years in the wilderness–that is, a very liberal university–consisted of more bad times than good, in my own heart, spiritually. Not because of the atheistic teachers, no. More like, my own behavior was causing my spirit to whither. That is not to say I do not treasure the friends I’ve made at MTSU or the memories I made at Screamin’ Jacks gigs and so forth. I love them. However,I was “searching for myself” at a very expensive cost, spiritually and relationally.

Fast forward–it was not marriage that brought me to Jesus. That is, I am not merely “settling down” after getting married, and becoming more “into” church, or whatever that means. No, no, and (wait for it)–no.

Actually, one day during a yoga spell I went through, I was on the floor of my bedroom at Bilbro Ave. and  must have began to pray. I realized how unfruitful my first couple of years at MTSU had been. I felt like I had wasted so much of my time, my health, and frankly, my parents’ money. So, I prayed for the Lord to “make me into the man he created me to be.”

Enter Jesus-freak mode. I began chasing God via Christian routes. While the first few years of college were spent looking for him in all of the other main forms of religion, now I had almost come full circle. What were the odds that I was born in the right place at the right time to know who He really is? Well..

I finished my circle, as it were, probably not long before that prayer on the floor at Bilbro, when I sat down with my dear older friend (like a brother), who told me that he was moving to Africa for several years to do mission work. In a way, at that table, I must have experienced a moment of grace, or perhaps just an epiphany of “what was I thinking?–of course Jesus is the way.”

That was about five years ago, and perhaps I’ll explain more of what the last five years have been like, soon. For now, I express my regret and apologies to friends and family I’ve hurt by living for the wrong reason, namely, to make much of myself (instead of Christ).  I ignored many of my dearest friends and family in order to escape reality. That is not to say I am perfectly wise now, of course, but I like to think I make a lot better decisions than I was making for a while there. So, I want to express joy and thanksgiving, because God has been really, really good to me, and having time to read a letter like this on Facebook, WordPress, or wherever, he’s been really good to you, too. The fact that we’re breathing right now–is a gift.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28, ESV)