Archive for the tag “C. S. Lewis”

Singing the World Into Being

sunbeam-76825_1280The Lord didn’t snap his almighty fingers to bring the world into being. He didn’t fire up the diesel engine on his celestial bulldozer to carve out the floor of the Atlantic and heap up the Rockies. Nor did he make a deal with angelic contractors to blueprint, found, and shape everything from ants to galaxies. He alone did it, and he did it by simply opening his mouth and speaking. And at his speaking it was done. “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made and by the breath of his mouth all their hosts,” (Ps 33:6). As C. S. Lewis, in The Magician’s Nephew, has Aslan sing the world and all its beautiful intricacies into existence, so the Lion of the tribe of Judah, our Lord Jesus, hymns the heavens and earth into being.

In the beginning God created, and this Beginning is none other than his Word, his Son, our Savior and Lord. Jesus is the Genesis, the Alpha, the Beginning in whom and by whom the Father made the heavens and the earth. He is the strong Word that cleaves the darkness. He is God of God, Light of Light—the uncreated Light from whom all created lights beam and brighten our darkened world.

Jesus our Creator is Jesus our Redeemer. Two sides of the same coin. For God so loved the world that he created it by his Word. And by that same Word he recreated the world in a love that bleeds and cries and dies for you. From the cross forever beameth all his bright redeeming light. It breaks forth in conquering might, to shatter the darkness of our sin, to illumine our midnight hearts with the rays of Eastern dawn. On the cross and out of the tomb Genesis 1 happens all over again—better this time, as we are recreated by the very God who created us, and loved us to death and back.

Give us lips to sing Thy glory, throats to shout the hope that fills us. To Thee, our light-Creator, Light of Light begotten, and light-revealer, be Alleluias without end. For as you have made us, so you have more wondrously redeemed us in Jesus Christ.

*This reflection is part of a series of mediations on hymns that I presented at the “Day of Singing Boldly” at St. John Lutheran Church, Seward, Nebraska. It draws from the language of the hymn “Thy Strong Word” by Martin Franzmann.

Follow me on Twitter @birdchadlouis
Check out my podcast: 40 Minutes in the OT
You may also “like” my Facebook writings page

christ alone cover

What we need in our fragmented world, full of hurting people, is the love of Jesus Christ, who InfantPriestfrontcoverwelcomes home sinners with a grace that knows no bounds. My book Christ Alone: Meditations and Sermons, is packed with reflections that go that extra mile of grace. Again and again, they present the Christ who is crucified and risen for you. Please take a moment to check it out here. You may also be interested in my collections of hymns and poetry entitled, The Infant Priest, which you can purchase here. Both books are also available on Amazon, as is my booklet Why Lutherans Sing What They Sing (also on Kindle). Thank you for your prayers and support!

Advertisements

Hell’s Doors Are Locked on the Inside

doorslockedThere are some strange bedfellows in Christianity. These odds truths lie side by side, but leave us scratching our heads as we try to figure out how they belong together. For instance, how can Jesus be God and be man? Doesn’t He have to be either/or? No, for it is true that He is God and it’s equally true that He’s man. Along these same lines, how can the elements in the Lord’s Supper be bread and wine and be the body and blood of Jesus? Doesn’t it have to be one or the other? No, it is true that we eat bread and drink wine and equally true that we eat and drink the body and blood of Jesus. We try our best to understand and to explain these united truths, but in the end much remains mystery. And that’s fine by me because I know that my tiny mind cannot perfectly know everything that God knows fully.

The Greater Mystery of Heaven and Hell

But, for me anyway, there is an even more mind-blowing mystery. It is beautiful and terrible, comforting and shocking, all at the same time. This coupling of truths has to do with the two possible everlasting destinations of every human being. It is simply this: everyone who’s in heaven is there because God chose them to be, and everyone who’s in hell is there because they chose to be. Let’s take a look at these one by one.

Everyone who’s in heaven is there because God chose them to be there. We may choose the town in which we live, the resort where we vacation, the school our children attend. But heaven is very different. It is not a place we choose to be; it is a place God prepares for us, readies us for, chooses us for, and actively brings us to. Jesus told His disciples, “You did not choose me, but I chose you,” (John 15:16). Paul takes this divine choice as far back as possible when he says the Father “chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world,” (Eph 1:4). Since we are “by nature children of wrath” (Eph 2:3), “enemies of God” (Rom 5:10), and cannot by ourselves even say “Jesus is Lord” (1 Cor 12:3), God does 100% of the work of making us children of grace, friends of Christ, and those who confess Jesus as their Lord. It doesn’t matter how wonderful heaven is, sinners don’t want to be there. The only way they’ll want to be with God is for God to make the unwilling willing, His foes into His friends, His enemies into His own dear children. And that’s what the Father does for us in Jesus Christ. He chooses us in Christ, transforms us in Christ, and brings us to Himself in Christ. Everyone who’s in heaven is there because God chose them to be there in Jesus Christ.

Hell is by Choice

But everyone who’s in hell is there because they chose to be there. This seems rather ludicrous at first, for why would anyone choose to be in such a horrid place? But think of it this way: way too often in our lives, do we not find ourselves in the midst of pain and regret and loneliness and heartache because of the choices we made? No one forced us to do it; we elected to do what brought us nothing but pain. Thus if even in this life, we actively choose those horrid, emotional hells that we end up in, why are we surprised when it’s that way even after this life? As the Eagles sang, “we are all just prisoners here, of our own device.” Or as C. S. Lewis wrote in The Great Divorce,

There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done” and those to whom God says, in the end, “THY will be done.” All that are in Hell choose it. Without that self-choice, there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek, find. To those who knock, it is opened.

Hell was not even in the original blueprints for creation; it was an add-on. It was built for the devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41). It had, as it were, to be retrofitted for humanity because there were those who chose it over heaven. Though the Father did everything necessary to save them in Jesus Christ; though He sent His Son into the world not to condemn the world but to redeem it; though He desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth; indeed, even though God actively and willfully seeks out the lost, nevertheless there are some who steadfastly refuse to have anything to do with Him. And if they want nothing to do with God, then why should they want anything to do with God’s home? We do not even visit the homes of our enemies, much less pack up and move in with them. So it is with the enemies of God. They would rather “pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power,” (2 Thess 1:9). When God sends them to hell, it is indeed punishment, but He’s only giving them what they asked for. In the memorable words of C. S. Lewis, “the doors of hell are locked on the inside.”

A Beautiful and Comforting Truth

I said earlier that this coupling of truth is beautiful and terrible, comforting and shocking, all at the same time. But the beauty and comfort override the terror and shock, for if there is anything in all creation worthy of rejoicing over it is the fact that God the Father desires our presence in heaven with Him. And not only does He desire it, in Jesus He has prepared a place for us, done every single thing necessary to get us there. He loves us, He saves us, He calls us, He makes us His children. What more needs to be done? Nothing, nothing at all.

I don’t care who you are, or what you’ve done. God the Father, in Jesus Christ, wants you to be with Him, is calling you by name. Everything is ready. The celestial feast is prepared. Salvation is won. Christ stands there, smiling at you, loving you, forgiving you.

Hell is for the devil and his angels; heaven, in Jesus Christ, is for you.

ChristAloneCoverIf this reflection was a blessing to you, please take a moment to check out my book, Christ Alone: Meditations and Sermons. This is not a collection of feel-good, saccharine devotional material. It’s hard-hitting, Gospel-giving, Christ-focused writing that takes you to the cross of Jesus again and again as the only source of healing for us. Purchase your copy by clicking on CreateSpace or Amazon.

You may also be interested in my two other books. The Infant Priest is a collection of hymns and poems. These give voice to the triumphs and tragedies of life in a broken world. It is available at this website or on Amazon.com.  I also just published Why Lutherans Sing What They Sing. This booklet is a clear and concise explanation of the place of hymns in worship. To buy your print copy, click on the link here for CreateSpace or Amazon. It is also available as a Kindle edition here. If you wish to purchase bulk copies at a reduced rate for your congregation, Bible Class group, Board of Elders or Deacons, please send me an email at birdchadlouis@yahoo.com for more information. Thank you very much for your interest!

A Letter from Demon to Demon on the Art of Temptation

My Dear Shadowbrand,

I admire the zeal you have exhibited in your struggle to bring Joseph into the hands of Our Father below. I need not remind you, however, that zeal is never sufficient in and of itself. To zeal must be added cunning, and cunning must issue in success. In your file I see nothing but one dismal failure after another. Joseph stubbornly clings to the Enemy. He still waits for those dreams of his to come true.

This latest turn of events, however, presents you with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Press your advantage. If Joseph will ever be vulnerable, it is now.

As you know, Joseph recently interpreted the dreams of his fellow inmates, the cupbearer and the baker. The latter, I rejoice to say, is now firmly in our clutches; the former is free and serving again in the court of Pharaoh. In the weeks and months to come, one of our brothers will be hard at work on the cupbearer. That disgusting human tendency to repay kindness with kindness will be met with counterarguments such as, “Yes, but we all know those foreigners will lie about anything, including their innocence,” and “If he were truly a man of God, then he wouldn’t be in prison now, would he?” Over time, any inclination the cupbearer might have to speak a good word to Pharaoh on Joseph’s behalf will seem less and less of a moral necessity. With humans, it’s almost too easy to turn “maybe later” into “never.”

Here is where your task becomes of vital importance. To begin with, hope will be your most powerful weapon. Stir up in Joseph a lusty anticipation of impending release. With the dawning of each new day, whisper to him that today will certainly be the day when he is vindicated, when his good name is cleared of the trumped up charges of attempted rape. Lure him to hope like he’s never hoped before. Do this, I suggest, for at least the first month.

jailcellThen, once you have fattened Joseph with hope, gradually introduce him to a diet of doubt. Make him begin to count the days since the cupbearer’s release. Reacquaint him with the pains of prison life that he may have overlooked during his month of excess hope. At the same time, labor on his imagination. Let him think of the life of ease in the palace that is enjoyed by the cupbearer—the man he helped to free! Let the bitter irony of this man’s dream leading to his release, and Joseph’s dreams leading to his eventual imprisonment, grow more bitter by the day. Your goal, my dear Shadowbrand, is for Joseph to grow angry with the man whom he thought was his ticket to freedom; then to feed that child of anger until it grows into the adult of hatred; and finally to bring forth from hatred’s womb the offspring of revenge, spite, and mistrust.

But even if you accomplish these goals, you have only gone halfway. We are waging war, I need not remind you, on both the horizontal and vertical levels. It is not enough that he hates this man, the cupbearer. Joseph’s blade of hatred must penetrate all the way through this man and plunge into the Enemy himself. Gradually transform the image of the cupbearer in his mind from the Enemy’s emissary to his tease. Suggest that the Enemy was only tantalizing him, holding out hope as a mirage in this desert dungeon.

If you can move Joseph, emotion by emotion, thought by thought, closer to the conception of our Enemy as the Grand Deceiver, then with the mere push of a finger, he will plummet off his mountain of hope into the pit of despair. His dreams will seem nightmares from childhood. His faith will seem an irrational fixation upon a sadistic, celestial tyrant. His hope…well, he will have no hope, for in the religion of despair, hope has been excommunicated. The vacuum left by it is easily filled with bitterness over the past, selfish pity over the woes of the present, and a blank stare into the futile future.

Do not waste this opportunity, Shadowbrand. Our Father below is watching. I trust you will not disappoint him again.

Yours truly,

Azazel

This fictional epistle is, of course, patterned after The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis, whose literary gifts I do not pretend to match. In my studies of Joseph’s life, including the chapter in Genesis that is the basis for this article (40), I have often wondered at the temptations he must have faced. I suspect that the two years which elapsed from the cupbearer’s release until Joseph’s liberation were the most difficult of his life. For there are few sufferings harder to endure than to have one’s hope built up, only to see it dashed to the ground. But thanks be to God, who sustained Joseph, and still sustains us, that we might cling to His word of promise even in the face of the most diabolical of temptations to despair.

My thanks to Haleigh Morgan for the suggestion of “Shadowbrand” as the name of the letter’s recipient. 

ChristAloneCoverIf you enjoyed this reflection, then please check out my new book, Christ Alone: Meditations and Sermons. This is not a collection of feel-good, saccharine devotional material. It’s hard-hitting, Gospel-giving, Christ-focused writing that takes you to the cross of Jesus again and again as the only source of healing for us. Purchase your copy by clicking on CreateSpace or Amazon. And thank you!

 

InfantPriestfrontcoverThe poems and hymns in my book, The Infant Priest, give voice to the triumphs and tragedies of life in a broken world. Here there is praise of the crucified and risen Christ, dark lamentation of a penitent wrestling with despair, meditations upon the life of our Lord, thanksgiving for family, and much more. If you’d like to purchase a copy, you may do so at this website or on Amazon.com.  Thank you!

Post Navigation