DayBreaks for 9/22/16 – Only If We Despair

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DayBreaks for 9/22/16 – Only If We Despair      

From the DayBreaks archive, 9/19/2006:

Copyright © 2006 Christianity Today. September 2006, Vol. 50, No. 9, Page 118

“But it is important for Christians not to confuse the existence of bad news with our reaction to the bad news—and here it is useful to look at The Screwtape Letters.

“C. S. Lewis’s famous novel was conceived and written during World War II, when so much looked bad. One of the most striking moments in the story arrives when the inexperienced junior devil, Wormwood, chortles over the horrors of war. Screwtape sternly admonishes his nephew not “to forget the main point in your immediate enjoyment of human suffering.” In war, says the senior devil, people die. But hell gains nothing from mere human misery and death, he warns. It is the state in which people die that matters.

“Lewis is not suggesting that we celebrate our suffering or that we stand blind to the suffering of others. His point, rather, is that Christians should not mistakenly think that bad news here on earth means Satan is winning. Men have done terrible things to each other ever since Eden. The horrors of war—like the other pains and scars of life—pose a challenge to faith. Lewis suggests that what truly matters is how we meet that challenge: the battle, that is, in the spiritual realm.

“As the writer of Hebrews said to discouraged believers, “Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the Cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Heb. 12:1-3).

“Lewis’s vision of Satan is far more useful and scary than Hollywood’s. The film industry loves making movies about hell. In these high-budget visions of the underworld, demons usually emerge to do bad things to people, causing death and destruction here on earth. The hero either slays them or works some mystic incantation that sends them back, after which life on earth returns to what it was before. The demons are just like other Hollywood bad guys: terrorists, serial killers, the ruthless rich out to rule the world. In these visions, the bad thing about Satan is that he wants to do bad things to us here and now.

“C. S. Lewis’s marvelous imagination, by contrast, should remind us that this vision is dangerously wrong. The terrible tragedies that befall the world work to Satan’s benefit only if we despair. Suffering, as Screwtape reminds his nephew, often strengthens faith. Better to keep people alive, he says, long enough for faith to be worn away. The death of a believer is the last thing the Devil wants.”

Galen’s Thoughts: Sometimes I’m tempted to think that Satan loves misery and death.  I’m not sure that’s right.  After all, I rather doubt that Satan licks his chops when he contemplates his own fate in eternal hell.  So Lewis’ point is a good one: he only relishes death of humans when they die without Christ.  He’d much rather that we as believers stay alive long enough to give him more time to beat us up, to wear down our resolve and surrender to the suffering of this world, blaming it on God with the result being that we reject Him.  I don’t know about you, but I, for one, don’t want to give Satan that satisfaction.  How much better that we spend our time, not in thinking that the suffering is what matters, but that the souls of men and women are what truly is important.

PRAYER:  We are a depressed and discouraged society.  The enemy even attacks us from within the sheepfold, Lord!  But help us stay focused on the ultimate realities with which we are faced.  Help us to realize that our despair plays into Satan’s hands.  May we find comfort and assurance and sustenance beside You in green pastures beside the still waters.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

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DayBreaks for 5/20/16 – In the Coffin of Your Selfishness

DayBreaks for 5/20/16 – In the Coffin of Your Selfishness

NOTE: Galen will be out of the office and traveling next week. 

From the DayBreaks archive, May 2006:

I’m a rather risk-averse person.  I don’t climb sheer rock walls (with or without cables!), I don’t jump out of airplanes that are perfectly functioning, I don’t wrestle alligators or dive with sharks.  I suppose some folks (maybe most) would think that my life is pretty dull and boring because I don’t knowingly take life-risking chances.  So be it.  I can live with that!

But it’s another matter when it comes to spiritual things.  We are all given only one life to spend – and spend it we shall, one way or another.  We’ll live our life based on certain sets of assumptions about reality, meaning, purpose, the existence or non-existence of God and life beyond the grave.  The conclusions we reach about such things are based on what kind of risk we are willing to take.  If you don’t believe there is a God, chances are you’ll live much differently in this world than if you do believe in Him.  I know that if I didn’t believe He exists and has revealed Himself to us, I’d live much differently than I do.  Different things would rise to the top of my priority list than currently reside there.

We do, however, all need to take some risk.  I know people who have lost their spouse several years ago but they cannot seem to break free from their cave of grief and they isolate themselves from the people and events of the world.  They decide not to risk ever being hurt again.  C. S. Lewis, in The Four Loves, wrote: “Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken.  If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal.  Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness.  But in that casket – safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change.  It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.

Lewis is right.  When we withdraw and seek to avoid the entanglements that being a fully-functional human requires, we may be able to avoid pain – but only because our hearts turn to stone.  And perhaps, that is a pain that we carry inside and never admit to ourselves. 

I don’t want a heart that doesn’t beat, that doesn’t pulse with life and send it coursing through my being, nourishing not just me, but those I can interact with.  If you’ve withdrawn because of the pain you’ve experienced because you gave your heart away once upon a time, take the risk to rise up out of the “coffin of selfishness” and live again.  Jesus gave himself over and over, in love, to anyone he met who needed love – even those who were the most unlovely.  And he was the perfect human – knowing pain, but also knowing the greatest joy any human has ever experienced.  Our withdrawal from life puts us at the center of our own little universe, and that’s a place that only God should hold.

PRAYER:  Father, create in us a new, clean heart, one that is willing to risk living the life abundant.  For those pains we carry we seek your healing, for the fears that keep us locked in our own selfish coffins – alone and dejected – we ask you for courage to begin to live the life that Jesus died to give us, loving others as he did.  In Jesus’ name, Amen

Copyright 2016, Galen C. Dalrymple. All rights reserved.

 

DayBreaks for 9/18/15 – Something More Than Mere Kindness

DayBreaks for 9/18/15: Something More than Mere Kindness

From the DayBreaks archive, September 2005:

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about happiness and God and His purposes, about suffering and evil and how that all fits together with God. And one of the common thoughts that I’ve run into is that God didn’t create an evil world…He did create beings with the potential for evil and He had to if He were to have a creation in which real love could exist. You can’t coerce love or it isn’t love – it’s intimidation, or something other than love by definition. No, love must be freely chosen and freely given and received. And for that to happen, the choice for sentient beings had to be made available.

And yet we sometimes have a very distorted idea of God. We sometimes wish, in the middle of our sinning, that we wish God would approve of what we’re doing, that He’d give it His big heavenly stamp of approval. C.S. Lewis put it this way in The Problem of Pain: “What would really satisfy us would be a God who said of anything we happened to like doing, ‘What does it matter so long as they are contented?’ We want, in fact, not so much a Father in Heaven as a grandfather in heaven – a senile benevolence who, as they say, ‘liked to see young people enjoying themselves,’ and whose plan for the universe was simply that it might be truly said at the end of the day, ‘a good time was had by all.’” We somehow think that such would be what a God of love would be like – kind and benevolent.

Lewis goes on and draws a difference between love and kindness. Love, he says, is “something more stern and splendid than mere kindness…Kindness, merely as such, cares not whether its object becomes good or bad, provided only that it escapes suffering…If God is Love, He is, by definition, something more than mere kindness. And it appears, from all the records, that though He has often rebuked us and condemned us, He has never regarded us with contempt.”

It is possible to be kind but full of contempt. It is not possible to be loving and full of contempt. Love, God’s love, insists on making us better than we are (although He loves us just as we are) because it is what is best for us. Kindness isn’t worried about making someone better – only about doing some kind deed to minimize discomfort.

As you think about how you relate to others, are your relationships more concerned with kindness or with love?

PRAYER: I am thankful for Your kindness, Lord, but even more thankful for Your love! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

© 2015, Galen C. Dalrymple. To email Galen, click here: E-mail Galen.