Category: Books

Expectations and Eternal Perspective

Since the ladies retreat in March I’ve been mulling over the topic of expectations and how it relates to faith. I’ve thought a lot about the subject and could spend days discussing all the different perspectives that I can see in the Scriptures, but the theme that I have found repeating itself remains the centrality of an eternal perspective.

Why would God not move and do the thing that we think would be good and right and glorifying to Him in the moment? He sees all of eternity and can evaluate with perfect knowledge whether that thing is the BEST thing or not. We don’t know whether a thing is really the best thing or not when held in light of eternity. We see only in the finite.

My own expectations and desires, as dear as they are to my heart, are still finite. I was re-reading The Weight of Glory by C.S. Lewis again the other night and once again I was left pondering the quotes below.

How many of my expectations and desires are simple little mud pies compared to what God really has planned for me? What will I miss if continue to focus on what I think I want in this life? If I fail to make the hard choices (over and over again) to lift my eyes up and look beyond the circumstances of the finite, then I lose sight of the hope, the true expectation, that will never disappoint and the eternal perspective that is so central to the Scripture.

“Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are halfhearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered to us, like the ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in the slum because he cannot image what is meant by the offer of a holiday by the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

“If a transtemporal, transfinite good is our real destiny, then any other good on which our desire fixes must be in some degree fallacious, must bear at best only a symbolical relation to what will truly satisfy.”

On a side note: I think that eternity, including teaching on heaven and the Kingdom, may be one of the most under-taught aspects of the Scriptures in the modern church. I understand the catch phrase that someone can be “so heavenly minded they are no earthly good,” however, what we often refer to as the apostolic hope, what we really believe about eternity, effects every aspect of our Christian life. We were made for more than this world and if you want to challenge yourself to awaken hope in your life I’d recommend doing a Bible study on the theme of the Kingdom and Eternal Hope, in both the prophets and the New Testament. For further reading I would also recommend Ted Dekker’s The Slumber of Christianity and, of course, C.S. Lewis’ essay The Weight of Glory. Below is another quote from the essay, not on the subject of expectations and desires, rather on the subject of how our views of eternity and the eternal nature of mankind impacts our life here and now, just for thought.

“It may be possible for each to think too much of his own potential glory hereafter; it is hardly possible for him to think too often of too deeply about that of his neighbor. The load, or weight, or burden of my neighbor’s glory should be laid on my back, a load so heavy that only humility will carry it, and the backs of the proud will be broken. It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and circumspections proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal.”

Expectations and Eternal Perspective

Since the ladies retreat in March I’ve been mulling over the topic of expectations and how it relates to faith. I’ve thought a lot about the subject and could spend days discussing all the different perspectives that I can see in the Scriptures, but the theme that I have found repeating itself remains the centrality of an eternal perspective.

Why would God not move and do the thing that we think would be good and right and glorifying to Him in the moment? He sees all of eternity and can evaluate with perfect knowledge whether that thing is the BEST thing or not. We don’t know whether a thing is really the best thing or not when held in light of eternity. We see only in the finite.

My own expectations and desires, as dear as they are to my heart, are still finite. I was re-reading The Weight of Glory by C.S. Lewis again the other night and once again I was left pondering the quotes below.

How many of my expectations and desires are simple little mud pies compared to what God really has planned for me? What will I miss if continue to focus on what I think I want in this life? If I fail to make the hard choices (over and over again) to lift my eyes up and look beyond the circumstances of the finite, then I lose sight of the hope, the true expectation, that will never disappoint and the eternal perspective that is so central to the Scripture.

“Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are halfhearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered to us, like the ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in the slum because he cannot image what is meant by the offer of a holiday by the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

“If a transtemporal, transfinite good is our real destiny, then any other good on which our desire fixes must be in some degree fallacious, must bear at best only a symbolical relation to what will truly satisfy.”

On a side note: I think that eternity, including teaching on heaven and the Kingdom, may be one of the most under-taught aspects of the Scriptures in the modern church. I understand the catch phrase that someone can be “so heavenly minded they are no earthly good,” however, what we often refer to as the apostolic hope, what we really believe about eternity, effects every aspect of our Christian life. We were made for more than this world and if you want to challenge yourself to awaken hope in your life I’d recommend doing a Bible study on the theme of the Kingdom and Eternal Hope, in both the prophets and the New Testament. For further reading I would also recommend Ted Dekker’s The Slumber of Christianity and, of course, C.S. Lewis’ essay The Weight of Glory. Below is another quote from the essay, not on the subject of expectations and desires, rather on the subject of how our views of eternity and the eternal nature of mankind impacts our life here and now, just for thought.

“It may be possible for each to think too much of his own potential glory hereafter; it is hardly possible for him to think too often of too deeply about that of his neighbor. The load, or weight, or burden of my neighbor’s glory should be laid on my back, a load so heavy that only humility will carry it, and the backs of the proud will be broken. It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and circumspections proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal.”

CSFF Challenge

I recently received a challenge from the CSFF Blog to tell ten people about three Christian Fantasy books that I think highly of. So here they are. I went overboard and listed more than three Christian Fantasy Books that I love.

My favorite Christian Fantasy Books –

1. Series: The Legends of the Guardian King by Karen Hancock The Light of Eidon, The Shadow Within, Shadow of Kiriath and Return of the Guardian King

2. Series by Kathy Tyers Firebird, Fusion Fire and Crown of Fire

3. Series by Stephen Lawhead The Search for Fierra and The Siege of the Dome

4. Series by Ted Dekker Black, White and Red

5. Arena by Karen Hancock

6. Gideon’s Dawn by Michael Warden

7. Perelandra by C.S. Lewis

If you are into youth fantasy some of my favorites that I would recommend:

8. The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis (of course)

9. The Dream Voyagers by T.Davis Bunn

And just in case I leave out some much talked about series, these are the series that I am have purchased which I’m looking forward to reading:

The Legend of the Firefish series by George Bryan Polivka
The Restorer series by Sharon Hinck

You can see more of my favorite books on Shelfari

Interesting thoughts

Here is a link to the first book in her Guardian King series.

Over the last couple of days she has posted some interesting and insightful blogs about the struggle between our fallen sin nature and our new life in Christ. You can read the posts at: http://karenhancock.blogspot.com/ or individual post links are below.

The posts start with Spiritual Schizophrenia, continue with Iconoclastic Arrogance and then go on to respond to a note from a reader in the post Planting Thoughts. I found the posts timely as I have been contemplating the struggle of the sin nature in comparison with who we are in Christ. Also it was nice to have Iconoclastic Arrogance described. I have often witnessed such behavior in book and movie characters and occasionally in people that I know and now I know what it is called.

Musings on themes found in Scarlet

Musings on themes found in Scarlet by Stephen Lawhead
King Raven Trilogy Book 2
(Click on the book image to see it at Amazon)

Lawhead excels at portraying Christianity in a way that is historically accurate and thought provoking. In Scarlet several elements gave me food for thought.

Christianity verses pagan religion

One of the things that I find fascinating when reading Lawhead is his ability to illustrate the way in which Christianity and Paganism mixed and developed in the cultures of England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. In the novel you see one sentence reflecting a tenant of Christianity and in the next you see pagan tradition set forth. It is an excellent picture of how these cultures saw the reflection of the Redeemer within their pagan religion and often accepted Jesus as the fulfillment that their traditions pointed to, without discarding many of the age old practices of their pagan faith. The character of Angharad the Banfaith exemplifies this blending of historical practice with faith in Christ. I personally would always like to see a clear change. In my reading of 2 Thessalonians chapter 1 this morning I saw how they forsook idol worship to turn to Christ, a clear cut change that all the area noticed. Yet, this is not the history of the cultures that Lawhead is writing about. There was a blending of Christianity with pagan religion and I feel that Lawhead is able to show this blending while distinguishing what is true Christianity and what rituals are left over from pagan cultures (for example: the ritual of the type of fur to sleep under for inducing visions).

True Christianity verses Christianity as a political tool

Lawhead did a masterful job of making contrast and comparison between true faith and religion that does not contain a true relationship with God. Some characters are corrupt but respected church leaders. Then you witness the political infighting within the church over the succession of the pope. In contrast, you have a lower clergyman whose true desire is to honor God and another clergyman who is willing to throw his lot in with a bunch of outlaws who are fighting for the downtrodden. Finally, you see the common man who appeals for his release “for the sake of Christ before whom we all must stand one day.” (Pg 212, Hardbound edition, copyright Stephen Lawhead) I enjoyed seeing these many contrast made in a way that fully fit the story and never seemed awkward or like forced caricatures.

The Plight of the Downtrodden

In the letter from Lawhead at the end of the novel titled, The Turbulent Times of William Scatlocke, the author states: “Will Scatlocke was, then, a man of his time. Denied his traditional way of life, with little or nothing to lose, he threw in his lot with Bran and his tribe of outlaws, who championed the cause of right and justice for those powerless to protect themselves.” (Pg 449, Hardbound edition, copyright Stephen Lawhead)

The theme of the powerless is another intensely Scriptural and completely applicable theme for modern day that breaks the heart. When we read of the fate of simple people whose lives were destroyed by a political twist it inspires the reader to cry for the lack of justice in the world. For us as believers today, we may not be able to stop the destruction of lives by the forces of nations but we can be examples of Christ to those broken, hurting and left powerless by forces beyond their control. Just as Will sets an example that inspires another character to leave the life he knows and the service of a corrupt leader to follow truth, we can be a light of truth and hope in our world.

Grace

I’ve been reading in the devotional Rise and Shine by Liz Curtis Higgs. See at Amazon

For copyright reasons I can’t just publish today’s devotional here so I’ll give you the synopsis…though she says it better.

Today’s story was about guilt and grace. Liz talks about speeding and watching a policeman turn on his siren and turn around, only to go speeding past her when she pulled over. The statement that stuck with me was:

“In truth, I’d just been spared while the one with the power to judge my actions attended to more pressing matter. In this is grace: God misses nothing, knows everything, and loves us anyway.”

I just wanted to share this encouraging thought with you today.

Swearing Fealty to a King

Swearing Fealty

I love to read. The words on the page couple with my imagination make the story 1,000 times more real than any movie portrayal. Yet, I rarely read anything not written for the Christian market anymore. I simply grew tired of being entertained by stories containing images that I should not put into my mind. But recently I picked up a fantasy series from the secular market based on the recommendation of one of my favorite authors. And I wasn’t disappointed. In fact, it is one of the most compellingly written series that I have read in years.

My favorite type of book comes from the fantasy genre. In fantasy, the battle of good against evil looms larger than life and everyday events and common people transform into heroes in the middle of an epic tale. In a sense it compares strongly to the Christian life. We know that our battle is not against flesh and blood, that a war in the heavenlies exists around us and that our prayers and simple obedience (or disobedience) influence the outcome.

One theme from these books that caught my attention focused on the life and responsibilities of a man sworn to a king. Once the main character gave his word, he stood bound by it. The king possessed the power to tell him what to do, where to go, who to marry or not marry. All of the choices that an individual takes for granted were subject to that oath. Much like a solider today is deployed without being asked. He gave his every consent to go anywhere at any time when he enlisted. In the Scripture Paul uses the analogy of a solider to express this point. He also uses the analogy of the slave and the bond servant. When we chose Christ, we gave Him our very lives. Our lives no longer belong to us to direct, but we stand entirely in His service to do whatever He calls us to do.

Now for us it remains a good choice, for we have a Holy and Righteous King that will always choose what is best. Our difficulty lies in not always perceiving the entire plan from our viewpoint in time. We, in our sinful nature, often want to go our own way and choose our own course. But we no longer hold that right. We pledged our service to our King when we accepted His offer of life.

In the middle of the second book one quote stood out. It stated, “Sometimes, it would be much easier to die for one’s king than to give one’s life to him.” I struggle in this area of my Christian walk. I entertain no doubt of the depth of my convictions, of my love for my Lord and King. However, continually laying down my wants, desires and comforts in order to serve Him as He directs comes with both struggle and the discipline of time.

True Christianity through a relationship with Jesus Christ presents two sides. His yoke is easy and His burden is light. Compared to the weight of the yoke of sin and the burden of death there exists no comparison. And we possess joy and peace and the comfort of a true friend to see us through life. There remains, however, the fact that we are called to carry our cross and I believe we too often overlook this facet of the Christian life. We gave our lives to a King and they are His to command. Whatever He wills, wherever He leads, we are compelled to follow His bidding by our oath and by our love for Him.

I love how novels often invite a new perspective into a common aspect of life. I appreciated a fresh look at this theme and the reminder of all that it entails for me as a follower of Jesus Christ.

The novels were The Farseer Series by Robin Hobb.

Nostalgia, Beauty and Longing

Nostalgia

The last couple of weeks I have been quite melancholy. It isn’t too surprising. Being introspective is very much a part of who God made me to be. And one of the things that I frequently reflect on is longing, that desire for something that lies just beyond your reach.

There are longings that are unhelpful at the least. I can’t say that I never get trapped by these, but there is another type of longing that is within every man. We were not created for this fallen world. God has placed eternity in our hearts and there are twinges of this truth within us.

This afternoon I was reading a sermon by C.S. Lewis called “The Weight of Glory.” It is a wonderful piece of writing and I would recommend that you read it. I could quote the whole of it as it gives so much to think about, but for now I would like to share a couple of excerpts from quotes that encouraged me today in regard to my longings.

“I am trying to rip open the inconsolable secret in each one of you – the secret which hurts so much that you take your revenge on it by calling it names like Nostalgia and Romanticism and Adolescence…the secret we cannot hide and cannot tell, though we desire to do both. We cannot tell it because it is a desire for something that has never actually appeared in our experience. We cannot hide it because our experience is constantly suggesting it, and we betray ourselves like lovers at the mention of a name. Our commonest expedient is to call it beauty and behave as if that had settled the matter. Wordsworth’s expedient was to identify it with certain moments in his own past. But all this is a cheat. If Wordsworth had gone back to those moments in the past, he would not have found the thing itself, but only the reminder of it; what he remembered would turn out to be itself a remembering. The books and music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. These things – the beauty, the memory of our own past – are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself, they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshippers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never visited.”

“Apparently, then, our lifelong nostalgia, our longing to be reunited with something in the universe from which we now feel cut off, to be on the inside of some door which we have always seen from the outside, is no mere neurotic fancy, but the truest index of our real situation. And to be at last summoned inside would be both glory and honour beyond all our merits and also the healing of that old ache.”

“At present we are on the outside of the world, the wrong side of the door….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.”

“Meanwhile the cross comes before the crown and tomorrow is a Monday morning. A cleft has opened in the pitiless walls of the world, and we are invited to follow our great Captain inside. The following Him is, of course, the essential point.”

Journey 3-30-06

When they came to the other disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and the teachers of the law arguing with them. As soon as all the people saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with wonder and ran to greet him. Mark 9:14-15

This verse caught my attention this week. Sandwiched between the transfiguration and the child with the demon it would be easy to overlook, but the word “wonder” caught my eye. The people were overwhelmed with wonder when they saw Jesus. It reminded me of a quote, a prayer, that I would like to share with you.

“Dear Lord, grant me the grace of wonder. Surprise me, amaze me, awe me in every crevice of your universe. Delight me to see how Your Christ plays in ten thousand places, lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not His, to the Father through the features of men’s faces. Every day enrapture me with Your marvelous things without number. I ask not to see the reason for it all; I ask only to share the wonder of it all.”

Rabbi Heschel (Quoted in Brennan Manning’s Ragamuffin Gospel)

May you see the wonder of the mystery of the love of Christ evident in your life today.

Journey 3-1-06

“Let’s get one obstacle out of the way quickly: our erroneous belief that God’s will for us is tighter, narrower, more constrained and certainly more boring than our own. We have allowed the thief of humanism to convince us that God’s will is sacrificial at best. God’s will for our lives is so much broader than ours that the two are incomparable.” Beth Moore, Voice of the Faithful, March foreword

I run in the path of your commands for you have set my heart free. Ps 119:32

I read this quote and this scripture within hours of each other and it set my mind to pondering. First, I reflected on the quote. How true it is that I often believe that God’s will for me is less (more difficult and less rewarding) than what I would have chosen, when in truth it is so much more wonderful, that I can’t even begin to imagine the fullness of it!

Then I thought about how I look at the Scripture and the Christian life. The Psalmist says that he runs in the path of God’s commands. I could envision when I used to turn my horse loose in the arena after she had been cooped up in a stall for days. She would run, exploding into action, as soon as I turned her loose. Her head high, tail extended, she would eat up the ground full of the joy of freedom. I think that perhaps my small view of God’s will for my life means that I generally walk, sometimes crawl and at best jog in the path of His commands. But I seldom RUN. But I want to run in the path of His commands, for the life and the freedom that He has given me is beyond measure.