Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Learning to Love the Liturgy

All his life he had struggled with ceremonial occasions -but he recognized this as a defect in himself, and greatly admired those friends of his who had the gift of ceremony. For there are times and seasons when ceremony is required of us...
He learned to love such ceremony when it was offered to him, even though he was not good at it...

"It delights me that there should be moments in the services of my own church when my priest stands and I kneel," he said. As democracy becomes more and more complete in the outer world and opportunities for reverence are successively removed, the refreshment, the cleansing, and invigorating returns to any quality which the church offers us become more and more necessary.

It is the eternal life that Jesus promises and for which we were made that requires us to play the great game of ceremony. And as he prepared to enter into God's presence, Lewis sought to overcome his awkwardness, and learn to participate in the solemn fun of proceeding from one world to the next.

-Alan Jacobs, The Narnian

Saturday, April 26, 2008

De Profundis

God's people receive only good things from God's hand - even when that good is packaged with the heaviness of a trial. When the dust settles, and even before - the goodnesses become evident. One such goodness is the singular way that God teaches His children through hardship.

Lately, I've been learning lessons. I've mellowed quite a bit about quite a few things. But conversely, I'm more stubbornly devoted to some things now, than I was before. Psalmnody is one such thing.

Have you ever tried quoting a praise chorus to someone in the midst of a bone-crushing trial? Not much remains but a sense of hollowness. Maybe it's the air, but hospitals have a way of taking the shine off a new praise song like few other things. Even the words of the greatest hymns, don't command my obedience with total authority - much less those written to produce as much foot tapping as genuine edification.

How should we face trials? How should we grieve and mourn? Today's church is bereft of solid answers or examples. But we don't have to reinvent the wheel - God has sung His reply.

In the Psalms we find praise, mourning, introspection, spiritual revelry, wrath, and repentence God's way. The limits of honest self expression, imprecation, and incredulity are established. Every emotion is formed and instructed by music - sinking in in such a way so as to avert the defenses; obedience is intuited.

I've been struck by the necessity of intimacy with the Psalms - knowing them in my bones - and so responding to trial Biblically. I'm ashamed at my ignorance of them as I try to lead my wife through Godly sorrow. Where are the Psalms are in today's church? If I'm such a stranger to them, so must be countless others.

This is a spiritual poverty.

The Problem of no Evil #2

In a world with no dragons, every princess would be safer - but then there never would've been a knight in shining armor.

If God had ordained a world with no evil - no one ever would have known about His mercy, His patience, or His justice and wrath. The evil for which I and we are responsible, is the means by which God makes these glories known. The fact that He is able to ordain my evil, and then make it into something good, causes me to revel in His wonder all the more now - and I can only imagine what it will do when I see these things come together on the last day. This is as much of an answer as the Bible affords, and it is sufficient.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Burning Bridges: Problem of Evil #1

"The flames of Hell will excite the reverential praise of Heaven."
-Charles Bridges

Not surprisingly, this statement was made by a man not on the current best-seller list. It speaks of God's sovereign goodness despite, or rather because of, our moral evil. Did God ordain evil? Of course He did. He has ordained whatever happens. But more than this, somehow our wholly-good God is better glorified because evil exists through His creatures. So it is not only not wrong for God to have ordained evil, it is positively immoral for Him not to, as it would diminish the glory He will ultimately receive.

Monday, April 21, 2008

As We are One ...

"I am a CHRISTIAN, a MEER CHRISTIAN, of no other Religion; and the Church that I am of is the Christian Church… I am against all Sects and dividing Parties: But if any will call Meer Christians by the name of a Party, because they take up with Meer Christianity, Creed, and Scripture, and will not be of any dividing or contentious Sect, I am of that Party which is so against Parties."

-Richard Baxter

[This is the source of the title of C.S. Lewis's famous book/lecture series]

True Living

Always preach the gospel; use words when necessary.

-St. Francis

Saturday, April 19, 2008

C S Lewis: the Unwilling Convert [and Calvinist?]

"You must picture me alone, night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet. That which I greatly feared had at last come upon me.

In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England. I did not then see what is now the most shining and obvious thing; the Divine humility which will accept a convert even on such terms.

The Prodigal Son at least walked home on his own feet. But who can duly adore the Love which will open the high gates to a prodigal who is brought in kicking, struggling, resentful, and darting his eyes in every direction for a chance of escape? The words compelle intrare, compel them to come in, have been so abused by wicked mem that we shudder at them; but, properly understood, they plumb the depth of the Divine mercy. The hardness of God is kinder than the softness of men, and His compulsion is our liberation."

-CSL, Surprised by Joy


C.S. Lewis never wrote anything more magnificent.

-Alan Jacobs, The Narnian

C S Lewis at his best

... other ages too have had their pet virtues and curious insensibilities... If you are tempted to think that we [moderns] cannot really be so very bad because we are, comparatively speaking, humane - if, in other words, you think God might be content with us on that ground - ask yourself whether you think God ought to have been content with the cruelty or cruel ages because they excelled in courage or chastity. You will see at once that this is an impossibility. From considering how the cruelty of our ancestors looks to us, you may get some inkling how our softness, workdliness, and timidity would have looked to them, and hence how both must look to God.

-CSL - The Problem of Pain

Gold Nugget

There are 2 tenets to atheism:
#1 God does not exist
and #2 I hate Him.

-Douglas Wilson in an interview w/ Covenant Web Radio

Friday, April 11, 2008

Tenderly Afflicted

Just to update everyone -
I know it's been a longtime since I've posted. Most of you know about my son being diagnosed w/ LCH.
Things have been quite busy since then. He is responding well to the treatment and is improving - by the goodness of our God.

Throughout it all, we have been upheld and comforted by a Fatherly Hand. We have been encouraged by many of you - so thanks be to God and thank you.
I have many thoughts cooking, but am in the middle of the Providence Sunday School series - so will try to post in a few weeks.

Follow along at: http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/justus