Tag Archives: C. S. Lewis

Blues and Better

Post-Christmas Blues

At some point in your life you have probably experienced the “blues” after Christmas. You know, those sad, melancholy feelings that come after all the expectations of Christmas day are over? They’re the “now what?” feelings.

Well, it took a while, but sometime this afternoon I began to feel depressed and kinda sad. In one way I was glad everything was over, but then I was also sad that there was nothing more to look forward to.

Next on the list? Clean house, clean carpet, paint a cabinet, plan sermons, clean a garage, wash windows and blinds, and wonder how to repay what we just borrowed to make people happy for one day.

Post-Christmas Perspective

But if you have experienced the blues after Christmas, be thankful. Being sad that the expectations of this world only bring temporary happiness is a good thing – actually, it’s a great thing! It means that there is something else…something more…something better…something that won’t get old the next day…something that will leave you never having to wish for anything ever again.

C. S. Lewis wrote, “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”

The post-Christmas blues are just reminders that I haven’t made it home.

“I’ll Rise”

Several years ago I wrote a song talking about a place better than this one, a place called Heaven. This year, standing beside a Christmas tree and surrounded by crumpled wrapping paper, my daughter wanted to sing it.

You can believe that this world is all that there is, and that’s OK. If you are right, then an infinity of nothingness won’t bother either of us. However, since no experience in this world, even the best Christmas present, can satisfy for long, I am going to assume there is better place, somewhere beyond the “blues.”

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Slovenia

Narnia?

If you have ever read The Chronicles of Narnia series by C. S. Lewis, then you should be able to imagine what a real Narnia would look like. In the fictional Narnia there were beaches, green countrysides, forests, and mountains. Essentially, there was just about every kind of natural beauty in one place, and from Cair Paravel one could see almost everything.

Well, I have never been to Slovenia, but from the pictures I have seen, and from all that I have recently read, this little European country could be the nearest to a real Narnia anyone could ever find. Just go to Slovenia’s official tourism website and look at all the pictures! They are absolutely beautiful!

And if you remember descriptions of Narnia, tell me, doesn’t this description of Slovenia sound almost like the imaginary paradise?

Slovenia is the only country in Europe that combines the Alps, the Mediterranean, the Pannonian Plain and the Karst. The changing landscape is constantly surprising, time and again. You can have one eye on the sea, then look in the other direction and be surrounded by high mountains. Heading up into the forests, you can see the green plains below you. From upland meadows your view stretches into river gorges. This proximity of opposites and contrasts is a hallmark of the country. – from http://www.Slovenia.info

Real World

But no matter how beautiful Slovenia is, she is still a nation of people that live in the real world. Hidden amid all the beautiful scenery is a people that have been through many years of turmoil and governmental changes. As a matter of fact, it was only in 1991 that Slovenia officially gained its independence from the former Yugoslavia. Up until then it had always been under the control of somebody else.

However, according to the U.S. Department of State website, the Republic of Slovenia is now a “vibrant democracy” with democratic roots that go back over 1,000 years. Believe it or not, it is said that the way “Slovene farmers contractually consented to be governed by the Duke [of Carinthia] influenced Thomas Jefferson’s drafting of the Declaration of Independence.”

Unlike many small countries, Slovenia is not exactly poor. They are doing well with their economy and have good trading relations with the rest of the world.

Real Need

But Slovenia does have one need, if nothing else. Slovenia needs to hear about the freeing grace of Jesus Christ. The International Mission Board reported recently that in the capital city of Ljubljana (pop. 300,000) there is only one Baptist church. Most other churches are either Catholic or Orthodox, but there doesn’t exist much evidence of personal faith.

I have had a few hits on my blog from Slovenia, but I would love to see more. But even more than visits to my blogs, my prayer is that more people in Slovenia would echo the words of John 12:21, “Sir, we would see Jesus.”

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“What Must I Do…?”

The Philippian jailer (Acts 16:30) asked Paul and Silas a question that is still asked today, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” In response that question, I have written the following, simple post and included it in a permanent page, Eternal Life. Please, take the time to read it, then consider what you read. This is what I believe, and I’ve staked my eternity on it.

“Now is our chance to choose the right side. God is holding back to give us that chance. It won’t last forever. We must take it or leave it.” – C. S. Lewis

My Story

One day, when I was a boy, I took the chance. I placed all my eggs in one basket. The fate of my eternal soul, as much as I could grasp the idea, was place in the control of a Man I had never seen in person, nor had heard with my ear, but I believed loved me and died for me.

Today, as a man, I can use words I never knew back then, such as justification, atonement, and propitiation. But the simple truth that led me to surrender my heart and soul to this Man can still be explained with simple words…words written thousands of years ago… “For God so love the world, that He gave…

What did God give?

Do you know what a gift is? Sure you do. It is something you give to another when you care. It is something you give with no expectation of payment in return. It is best when it is something that required some sacrifice, but it was a joy to purchase. It means even more when you know the gift was something needed, but unexpected.

A gift is something that is received. I have a friend that has no more family, so for Christmas he goes out and buys things for his self, wraps them, and places them under a Christmas tree. On Christmas morning, all alone, he opens them. How sad is that? Those are not real gifts – he bought them!

According to God, as written in His Word, the Bible, eternal life is a gift. That’s right, a gift. In the letter to the Romans we read that the “gift of God is eternal life…” (Romans 6:23). God is offering it to you for the taking. He is offering it to you for free! But it wasn’t cheep. It cost Him a whole lot – it cost him his Son.

God loved the world so much, that He gave his only begotten Son…” (John 3:16). Why did God give his Son? Well, so that you and I could be rescued from the eternal penalty we owe for our sins – our breaking of God’s laws. Our lies, our lusts, our broken promises, you name it: all of these things are sins. Each one deserved separation from a holy God. But God “so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son (Jesus), that whosoever [puts his whole faith] in Him, would not perish (be separated from God), but have eternal life.

Why did He give it?

All men and women have broken God’s laws. And even though you may have not actually committed murder, or robbed a bank, or abused a child, James 2:10 (RSV) says, “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it.” So, you see, we need a Savior. We need the Gift that God is offering. Won’t you accept it?

The whole verse in Romans (6:23) goes like this: “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord.” This is why C.S. Lewis said those words above. Eternal life is a gift, but it will not be offered indefinitely. You see, all of us will die, one day. Hebrews 9:27 says that it “is appointed unto man once to die; but after this, the judgment.” One day we must either give an account for our lawbreaking, or rest in the fact that our account has already been settled by putting our faith in Jesus.

“From death to life”

Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life” (John 5:24 NIV).

Jesus also said, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him” (John 3:36 NIV). And to those that put their faith in Jesus, he said, “I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any [man] pluck them out of my hand” (John 10:28 NIV).

The Apostle John wrote, “And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 John 5:11-12 NIV).

The Invitation

What can I say about the greatest gift ever, especially in a thousand words or less? I can’t cover all the bases, answer every question, or defend every point – but I can offer you Jesus.

Have you been searching for meaning, for hope, for unconditional love, for eternal life? Give your heart to Jesus. Make Him the Boss of your life. Confess your sins to Him, repent of the things that caused Him to have to die so that you could have life, and cross over “from death to life.” For “whosoever shall call upon the name [Jesus] of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13).

You could even pray a prayer, in your own words, similar to this: “Dear Jesus, I believe you are God’s Son, and that you died for me, and rose again, that I might have eternal life. I know I have sinned, and I confess. I also confess that I cannot earn heaven on my own. I need You! Please take my life. I give freely give it to you. Be my Lord, and my God. Amen.

If you prayed this prayer, honestly, and from your heart, then I would love to hear about it! I am sure many others would love to hear about it, too! If you accepted God’s gift of eternal life, let the world know in the comment section below.

If you would like to talk with someone, there is a phone line open 24 hours a day. Call 1-800-NEED-HIM (1-800-633-3446). Someone will be happy to show you how to be sure you have eternal life. Don’t wait.

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Review of “Riven”

Cover of "Riven"

Cover of Riven

Without giving too much away, let me share my thoughts about Riven, a novel by Jerry B. Jenkins.

Earlier this year I attended a pastor’s conference at Tennessee Temple University. As a special gift, all pastors in attendance were given a free, hard-cover copy of Riven. Evidently, someone at the seminary pulled a few strings.

I don’t read too many fiction novels. Most of my time is tied up in other types of reading material, for the time being. But every once in a while one has to take a vacation from non-fiction and feed the imagination. In an essay entitled “Christian Apologetics” C. S. Lewis wrote, “Reality even seen through the eyes of many is not enough. I will see what others have invented…” Fiction feeds the imagination as does buying new colors for your Crayon box. Sometimes it helps to draw with something other than “black and white.”

The Characters

The main characters in this book are a pastor and his wife, Thomas and Grace Carey; their spiritually estranged daughter, Ravinia; and last but not least, a trailer park hooligan with potential, Brady Wayne Darby.

There were other characters that came and went in this novel, but the ones mentioned above figure most into the plot of the story. Each are fleshed out in the first 3-400 pages, leaving the last hundred-plus pages to bring all the background together in a fitting conclusion.

Jenkins does a good job in making the reader feel sorry for everyone in the story, including the bad guys. This is not unjustified, however. The effects of sin, whether committed by self or by others, is a sad thing to witness. Brady Darby is the type of guy that takes a good opportunity and destroys it, while Rev. Carey is just a guy that continually suffers for the “calling.” Ravinia is someone who suffers from her own choices, but also lives in bitterness because of what “church people” have done to her mom and dad. You just can’t help wanting everything to turn out right.

Character Development

Now, I am not a professional writer, by any stretch of the….wait, what am I saying?!! OK, so I do write a little, but I am not on the same level as Jerry Jenkins – you’re free to disagree, however. That being said, I feel the story could have been a little more condensed, at least concerning the Brady Darby character. Because of the time span covered in the book (20+ years), and even though we get the sense of his heart and true intentions, the character development seems lacking. Maybe it’s because of the so many other characters in story that draw one’s attention. Essentially, the story’s breadth, covered in such a few pages (relative to the time line), had a watering-down affect.

The other main character, Rev. Thomas Carey, was more often than not portrayed as a melancholy soul. He was a preacher/teacher/pastor that was never able, until the end, to see any real fruit from his labor. He was frustrated and bitter at times, yet he never gave up on God; even though his faith was strained. However, what I felt missing from his character was intensity. Maybe real life is a slow, down-hill coast to the pharmacy for refills of Prozac; but, this character had so much more to offer. The depth of his struggles and the heights of his victories were never really felt, at least not until the end – and even that was limited.

I think that one of the things that limited the ability to contrast the characters of Darby and Carey was the choice by Jenkins to not use profanity in the text. Granted, Riven is not supposed to be a titillating romp through the bowels of hell; but, in a world where vulgarity is commonplace, especially for those of us who have ministered in prison settings, this fictional work seemed too fictitious. Honestly, it felt like Jenkins used too much Clorox, thereby leaving the story with only a cognizant sense of contrast between good and evil; nothing guttural.

The Story

The story of Riven is that of two opposite characters who live their lives seperately, only to be bound together in the end by a common love for Christ. This love for Jesus leads one of the characters to do something completely unthinkable and unprecedented. Any more than that, which I know is not a lot, could ruin the ending for you. And that’s the key to this whole book – the ending. You have to read the whole story to appreciate the end, and end which should bring emotions to the surface of any true Christian.

Conclusion

Buy the book, even though I didn’t have to, and read it. If you don’t get anything else out of Riven, you should gain a new appreciation for the mercy and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ – His side was “riven” for us.

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The Real Problem with the Problem of Evil

One of the most common reasons for denying the existence of God is the problem of evil in the world. Just ask any group of atheists to give their top ten reasons for unbelief and surely one will claim as number one, “If there is a God, then why is there so much evil in the world?” For many, this is the pièce de résistance of rebuttals. How could a good God be real and allow all the suffering in the world to continue unabated – assuming He is even good? The eighteenth century philosopher, David Hume described the problem this way in Dialouges concerning Natural Religion, 1779:

“Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? then he is impotent. Is he able, but not willing? then is he malevolent. Is he both able and willing? whence then is evil?” (Stackhouse 1998, 11)

So, the “problem of evil,” and its source, has been an issue of philosophical debate for centuries.  The existence of evil in the world, along with unanswered questions, has even become evidence enough for some to even embrace atheism.  Therefore, because so many philosophers and theologians have tried for ages to reconcile the existence of God with the existence of evil, I dare say that nothing I write will be new.  But, if anyone were to challenge my belief in God, along with my faith in Jesus Christ, with the argument that the problem of evil constitutes proof God does not exist, then I would possibly respond with arguments based on the following thought: without the existence of God, there should be no evil to be a problem, and that’s the real problem with “the Problem of Evil’

What exactly is “evil?” Now, that may sound like an absurd kind of question to ask, but if the existence of evil is the evidence that is supposed to expose my faith as a fraud, at best, or even a lie, then what is it?  Is it something tangible? Is it metaphysical? Is ittheoretical? What is it, exactly? Does it have any particular form? How can it be distinguished from what is called good? On what do the atheists and agnostics base their definition of this thing called “evil?” Amazingly, the answers are not all the same, nor in some cases even grounded in reality. However, it is imperative to understand that we must define this God-killer, because its definition will determine our conclusions and help to clarify our assumptions. When C. S. Lewis was an atheist, for example, his “argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust.” (Lewis 1989) There he had it, or so he thought. God could not exist because so much evil exists. But how did he arrive at “this idea of just and unjust?” Lewis said, “A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line.” (Lewis 1989) “Tell me,” I would say, “what is evil, and how do you recognize it when you see it?

To start, evil must be understood to be an adjective. Evil is a description of something that is not good. Evil is not a thing. The word “evil” only describes the thing, the thought, and the action. Technically, “evil” does not exist, only what it describes. Some people say that they cannot believe in God because why or how could a good God, if He was perfect, create evil? They think of evil as something that must have not existed until God made it. But evil “isn’t a kind of molecule or a virus…infecting or affecting everything it encounters.  There was no time when God said, ‘Let there be evil,’ and there was evil.” (Stackhouse 1998)  As John G. Stackhouse put it, “evil becomes a noun only in the abstract.” Additionally, in his book Can God Be Trusted, Stackhouse says of evil:

“An action can be evil, or an event can be evil, or a quality can be evil, or a being can be evil. And we can lump all these particular evils together in our minds and come up with a category ‘evil.’ We can even go on to discuss it as if it were a particular thing, so long as we do not forget that we are always dealing with a category or group of particular evil things, not a thing itself.” (Stackhouse 1998, 31)

So then, if evil is a description, how is it that we come to use the adjective, or as Lewis put it, the “crooked line,” without first having some idea of what is a “straight” one?  Defining what is good is as important as defining evil. To know what is evil, we must first have some assumption as to what is not evil. The crazy thing is that if God does not exist, and man is nothing more than a collection of random matter, both good and evil are purely relative – their existence is based purely on one’s perspective.  So, in other words, the one who says that there is no God, based on the existence of evil, is literally basing his belief on pure opinion, not on anything objective; therefore, in order to bring an accusation against the goodness of God, one must have a base line. What is the standard by which we determine what is good and what is evil?

Some use Man as the baseline. They compare God to the standard set by what is thought to be good behavior in this world. They rationalize that if God is real, at least according to monotheistic dogma, He must be all-powerful, perfectly good, and the supreme example of love, kindness, and providential care. Because it is preached that God is a better Father than earthly fathers, Mark Twain took it upon himself to write:

The best minds will tell you that when a man has begotten a child he is morally bound to tenderly care for it…[yet], God’s treatment of his earthly children, every day and every night, is the exact opposite of that, yet those minds warmly justify those crimes…when he commits them.” (Tonie Doe Media 2007)

So then, according to Twain, God could not exist because if He did, He would act consistent with our understanding of what a good and loving earthly father would do.  In other words, if God cannot, in all His perfection, behave better toward His children than the most common man, His credentials are therefore revoked, and He must cease to exist.  However, this is so illogical. Who are we to say that God, if He is perfect, and we are imperfect, ever treats His children poorly? Do the protesting cries of a toddler who has had poison taken from his grasp carry more weight than the decision of the earthly father to take it away? How, then, are we to automatically assume that the infantile tendencies of finite man are wiser than the infinitely Mature?  Using Man as a baseline for what is good and evil is pure arrogance.

In reality, the problem of evil is really a problem for the atheist. He, who denies the existence of a Creator and accepts only the realities of evil in the world, essentially has nothing about which to complain.  Everything should be just fine and dandy, but it’s not.  The atheist knows that evil things happen to good people, as well as bad.  He sees the hurt, feels the pain, and begs for justice. The reality of evil in the world causes men to cry out for justice; for things to be made right. This is a problem, though, because knowing that a crooked line is not straight hints at the fact that a Line-drawer exists.

Of course, there are others who take a different approach. They claim that God does not exist except in the evil intentions of his followers to control others through guilt. They claim that God is just a fabrication of priests to keep mankind from behaving “naturally.” They say that nature is good, and if anything, God is evil for trying to get man to behave contrary to the very way he was created to behave. One guru said, “It seems that for those who worship God, the opposite to God is not that which is ‘evil,’ but that which is natural.” He said of animals, comparing them to men, “They don’t worship God, they don’t go to church, they don’t have any theology.  They don’t have any feeling of guilt, they are simply natural.” (Osho 2009)  In other words, if there is evil in the world, it is because our belief in God has inflicted it.

But for the majority of the hurting world, pain is real, loss is real, and evil is manifested daily.  Many see the things that happen to innocent people, especially children, and wonder, “If there is a loving God, why doesn’t he do anything about this?”  These people, many of which hold on to hope as long as they can, finally succumb to their doubts and conclude that the only way to explain away the pain is to admit that it is just part of life, part of the natural world, part of what makes us human; alone, in our quest to make life easier, free of pain, free from evil; alone, without God. These are the ones, I believe, that lure more away from the faith than any Darwinist.  They are the ones who have seen evil face-to-face and cannot fathom a God who would allow it to continue.  And because their experiences are so painful and tragic, the devout are left speechless and without explanation. Ellie Wiesel is a good example.

Wiesel was a teenager when he saw his family murdered in the Nazi death camps.  But it was only after witnessing one particular act of horror – the slow, hanging death of a young boy – that he turned away from his faith in God. In the book Night, his Nobel prize-winning autobiography, Wiesel said he heard a man behind him ask, “Where is God now?” As he stood there, being forced to stare into a pitiful, wide-eyed, swollen face of a dying child, a voice within replied, “Where is He? Here He is – He is hanging here on the gallows…” (Wiesel 1982) Because there was no justification, even in the big scheme of things, Ellie Wiesel’s God died with the executed boy.  But as sad as it is, without God, who can say what happened to that boy was any worst than the slaughter of an animal?  Are we not all just animals – some more evolved than others?

To me, the problem of evil is not a problem for the believer, but for the non-believer.  Aside from the theological arguments about the character of God, without God, to turn Hume’s question around, “whence then is evil?” Without God, evil is relative to one’s desires and personal pleasure.  Does it really even matter whether or not God could do anything about evil in the world when the whole question is moot if He didn’t exist?  With God, evil is defined as that which is against His law, that which stands opposed to His standards, and that which describes all who take pleasure in such rebellion. Without God, evil is just a matter of opinion. That is the real problem of evil.


Works Cited

Lewis, C. S. “Atheism.” In The Quotable Lewis, by C. S. Lewis, 59. Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1989.

Osho. The God Conspiracy: the path from superstition to superconsciousness. New York: Osho Media International, 2009.

Stackhouse, John G. Can God Be Trusted. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.

Tonie Doe Media. In The Atheist’s Bible, 129. New York: Harper Collins, 2007.

Wiesel, Ellie. Night. New York: Bantam Books, 1982.

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